Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5-Minute Farmers Market Summer Cucumbers

I'm loving cucumbers right now.  We've had them every other night for the last few weeks.  And ... I have a confession to make.  I serve them the exact same way each time.  It's fast, it's easy, it's delicious.  Why mess with perfection?

Here's what I do:

 5-minute Summer Cucumbers

2 small summer cucumbers from the garden or farmer's market
olive oil
champagne vinegar
pink himalayan sea salt
fresh ground pepper
dill (fresh is best but dried works just fine)

Just slice up the cucumbers and put them on a pretty plate.  Drizzle with good olive oil and champagne vinegar.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, pepper and dill.

Fresh, delicious. fast and easy!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thinking Italian with the late summer harvest: eggplant...tomatoes...basil

I picked up a couple of eggplants from the farmer's market yesterday along with the usual armload of summer tomatoes and basil.  There's a reason the Italians combine these flavors together.  Not only do they taste wonderful with each other, but they all come to harvest at the same time, making them a summer farmer's market natural.

I also picked up this gorgeous torpedo onion and some locally grown garlic.

Here are the two small eggplants I chose.

Of course, I tossed it all in a pan and cooked it up.  The results...a delicious summer evening side dish.

Summer Eggplant Saute'


2 T olive oil
1 torpedo onion or regular sweet onion chopped
2 small eggplants peeled and chopped into 1/4-1/2" pieces
1 garlic clove
1 t Himalayan pink salt crystals
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t Valle del Sol chilli powder
4 tomatoes choppped
2 T butter
2 T fresh chopped basil

Put the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onion.  Saute' at medium heat until the onion starts to turn translucent.  Add the remaining ingredients and continue to saute' until all vegetables are soft.  If needed add an extra tablespoon or so of water to the pan.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Peppers from the Farmer's Market

Jimmy Nardellos at the local Farmer's Market

This past month we've been really enjoying the skinny mild red peppers called Jimmy Nardellos that have been showing up at our local farmer's market.

Slim, Red and Mild

They are perfect for the summer BBQ season.  We just coat them in a little olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper ... and onto the grill they go!

Long, slender and succulent.  Just off the BBQ!

And More Peppers... 

Shishito Peppers

This week we picked up some Shishito peppers from this lovely new farmer at the Tahoe City market:

New to Our Local Market

Her display was very charming and included a take-home recipe.

This is the recipe she provided:

Shishito Peppers with Miso vinagrette

1 pound shishito peppers
sea salt
1 T rice vinegar
1 T miso paste
1 t sesame seeds
3 T cooking oil (canola)

Grill the shishito peppers on a BBQ grill on medium heat until softened with just a few grill marks.  You don't want to blacken them.  Alternatively, you can toss them in a bit of oil and roast them in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with sea salt after roasting.  

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Drizzle over the grilled or roasted shishito peppers.  Eat whole--stem, seeds and all!!

Shishitos and Jimmy Nardello's on the Grill

Although the recipe looked great, I didn't have miso paste on hand so we simply tossed ours on the BBQ with some Jimmy Nardellos.  Again, these were delicious in simple olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

And you know what...we did eat them whole.  Stems, seeds and all!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I'm Cooking with Tomatoes These Late Summer Days

Fat, gorgeous, red and beefy.  
Tomatoes seem to be everywhere these days.  I'm finally getting a few off my vines!  At the farmer's market yesterday, the growers were asking me for extra Project Mana crates and stuffing them full of ripe and juicy tomatoes to give to the hungry.  Even the supermarkets have beautiful organic and heirloom tomatoes in August. 

Fifteen gorgeous but broken tomatoes from the farmers market

Last week I received a tomato bonanza at the farmers market.  After picking up the vendor donations of full-to-bursting crates of every kind of gorgeous produce for Project Mana, I noticed my favorite tomato lady walking toward the trash can with a saggy carboard box full of slightly smashed tomatoes.  Now folks, these were not your ordinary tomatoes, but a beautiful, colorful mix of ruby red, orange and summer golden heirloom tomatoes perfectly ripe and plump. These turned out to be all the tomatoes that customers had dropped on the ground during that day's market.  Hey, I'm not proud, especially when it comes to  beautiful produce.  Plus, I know how to use a faucet!  I asked her if I could have the boxful and she gave it to me, but only after extracting a promise that I would cook up something wonderful with it. 

Well, wonderful is what I did.  This simple packed with summer flavor and gorgeously red smashed tomato soup became a family meal for both my household and Debbie's crew who were visiting down at their Tahoe cabin.  And it couldn't be easier to make.  Grab yourself a basket full of the ripest possible farmer's market tomato seconds and make up a batch for your family.  My lot raved about this soup.

Smashed Tomato Soup (Sooooooo easy!)
By the way, I served this with organic chicken sausage, sliced fresh farmer's market cucumbers and delicious homemade pear and ginger muffins

·        1 onion chopped
·        15 mixed variety smashed or very ripe tomatoes, cores removed
·        generous handful of fresh roughly chopped basil
·        salt and pepper
·        balsamic vinegar

Simply saute the onion in a generous dollop of olive oil.  When translucent drop in the 15 tomatoes and smash them up further with a wooden spoon.  Add basil and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until tomatoes are softened and heated through.  Puree most of the soup in a food processor leaving some unprocessed to create a hearty texture.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle in balsamic vinegar to taste. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Zucchini Like Crazy

Farmer's Market in Tahoe City--on the Lake!

Well, it's zucchini season and the tables at my local farme'rs markets were laden with it this week.  If you're growing it in your garden, you're probably ready for some good zucchini recipes to help you deal with the surplus. 

Fresh Summer Squash--Ready for Easy Cookin'

My husband loves zucchini and all the summer squashes.  He's often begging me to serve them for dinner.  Most nights, I just prepare them simply and let their natural flavors stand out.  For zucchini, I slice it thin, sauté in olive oil until slightly golden and then splash on a little fresh lemon juice and maybe sprinkle on Parmesan. Fabulous!

For the crooked neck and patty pan squashes, I cut them into bite size pieces, toss them into a sauce pan and simmer them in about an inch of water.  When they are tender and drained, I add a little butter and Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Seasoning Salt (available at Trader Joe's) which, for some reason, really enhances their flavors to the max.  So simple, and yet, really undeniably delicious!
Do I have squash recipes for special occasions?  Of course I  have some tried and true recipes that I've collected over the years!  These are all winners and you can confidently serve them to guests.  Or, if your zucchini cup runneth over and you're simply looking for new ways to sell yet another squash dinner to the family, these recipes are sure to please. 
Zucchini Noodles With Pesto
This is a recipe I have been making since the 1980's and everyone always loves it. It is even prettier if you mix both green and yellow zucchinis.  The recipe comes from "Great Cooking--The Best Recipes From Time Life Books".  By the way, my Slow Food cooking group is planning an Italian night dinner next month and I have been asked to create the menu.  You can be sure that this recipe will be included.

To serve 4:
·        4 small zucchini trimmed but not peeled
·        1 t salt
·        1 c packed fresh basil leaves plus 1 basil sprig for garnish
·        1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
·        2 garlic cloves chopped coarse
·        1/2 c olive oil
·        1/2-1 t fresh lemon juice
·        freshly ground black pepper
·        2 T unsalted butter
·        3 plum tomatoes, diced
·        1/2 cup small Mediterranean-style black olives
To make noodles out of the zucchini, first cut them lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick.  Stack half a dozen slices at a time and cut them lengthwise into thin strands.  Place the zucchini noodles in a colander, sprinkle them with 2 t of salt, and toss until evenly coated.  Set them aside to drain for 20 minutes.  (You could also use a mandoline to prepare the noodles, if you have one.)
To prepare the sauce, first combine the basil leaves, Parmesan, garlic and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a food processor or blender and purée.  With the motor running, add the remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until the sauce is smooth.  Sprinkle in lemon juice, a drop at a time, to taste.  Add a few grindings of pepper, then transfer the sauce to a large serving bowl.
Squeeze the zucchini dry in paper towels.  In a heavy 10-12 inch skillet, melt the butter over moderately high heat.  When the foam subsides, add the zucchini and sauté for three to five minutes or just until tender.  Add the zucchini to the bowl with the sauce and toss together gently but thoroughly.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cool the zucchini and serve surrounded by the tomatoes and olives and garnished with a basil sprig.
(Cheaters tip:  Costco makes a great Pesto!  You can substitute it in the recipe and save yourself the trouble.  You didn't hear that from me.)

Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
This wonderful recipe comes from Alice Waters.  I have prepared it with yellow crooked neck squash and topped it with bread crumbs and Parmesan, adjusting the cooking time to over an hour.
Serves 6
·        1 yellow onion
·        olive oil
·        salt and pepper
·        1 small bunch thyme
·        1 bunch fresh basil
·        6-8 medium slicing tomatoes
·        10 small green or yellow zucchini
·        Balsamic vinegar
Peel and slice thin the onion and sauté it in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Season with salt and pepper; add the leaves of the thyme and basil, stripped to their stems and chopped.  Cut out their stem ends and cut the tomatoes into 1/4 slices.  Trim the zucchini and cut them into 1/4 inch thick slices on the diagonal.
Spread the onion and herbs on the bottom of a 9 x 12" gratin dish or glass baking dish.  Make a row of partially overlapping tomato slices.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and if the tomatoes are not very sweet, with a sprinkling of the balsamic.  Overlap the first row of tomato slices with zucchini slices, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Continue making alternate rows until tomatoes and zucchini are used up.
Press down on the vegetables slightly, drizzle a little more olive oil over, and bake, uncovered for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are fully cooked and the gratin has started to brown.  If the top appears to be drying out while it bakes, tip the dish slightly and collect juices in a spoon to moisten the top. 
Gluten Free Zucchini Bacon Tomato Quiche
This is a recipe of my own devise.  I like to buy the Whole Foods brand gluten-free crusts to make this an easy meal, but if you like to make your own crust, I recommend the Gourmet Magazine standard patê brisée recipe which I have used for all my homemade pie crusts, for years.  Debbie, by the way, prefers the Silver Palate pie crust recipe which I think is also very good.

·        1 Whole Foods Gluten Free Crust, holes poked in and baked until just slightly undercooked
·        green onions
·        fresh rosemary chopped fine
·        3 eggs (add more eggs for a larger pie tin)
·        3T buttermilk
·        4-5 T cream
·        2 medium zucchini sliced
·        yellow farmer's market or garden quality cherry tomatoes
·        1/4 mild white onion
·        4 pc's bacon
Sauté the bacon until crisp and remove from pan.  Add the sliced white onion to the pan and sauté until tender.  Remove onion and add zucchini to pan and sauté in remaining bacon drippings. 
Mix together beaten eggs, buttermilk and cream.  Add sliced green onions, yellow tomatoes, rosemary, bacon and sautéd onions and zucchini.  Pour contents into crust and bake until firm. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Figs have arrived in the markets!

Summer figs are in the markets now.  I confess that I am a fig lover, but I have noticed that not everyone knows what to do with figs.  Of course, you can eat figs fresh off the vine like any other summer fruit--just pop them in your mouth and chew.

Figs are an alkalizing food, balancing
a diet rich in meat and refined foods.

I think they're best, however, dressed up just a teensy bit with some other favorite flavors.  Keep it simple, though.  Figs have such a distinctive and strong flavor that there's no need to over-complicate things.

One of my favorite quick and easy things to do with figs is to cut them into bite size chunks, load them into a small bowl and top them with chopped walnuts.  Figs and walnuts together must be an ancient culinary combination, wouldn't you think?  

Walnuts are rich with Omega 3s

Anyway, there's no need to monkey with thousands of years of happy eating.  Try this and you'll agree that the two flavors are very complimentary.  Sometimes, if I feel like treating myself,  I'll top the figs and walnuts with a little dollop of ice cream or yogurt or even a handful of granola.
Equally simple but absolutely knock-your-guests'-socks-off, is this fabulous fig appetizer recipe from one of Debbie and my favorite chefs, Hugh Carpenter.  I used to take cooking classes from Hugh when I was living in LA.  Now he lives and teaches right in the heart of the wine country.  This recipe for Grilled Figs Stuffed With Blue Cheese came out of his "Fusion Food Cook Book".  I think it's a lot of fun to have the grill going when guests arrive.  You can even enlist their help in stuffing the figs and rolling them in the pancetta.  Then everyone can stand around the grill with a cocktail and mouths watering waiting for this to be gently heated through.  Think soft melty cheese inside and the pancetta perfectly crisped on the outside.  This is making my mouth water as I write!

Grilled Figs Stuffed With Blue Cheese
serves 4 as a side dish or appetizer
·        12 fresh figs, not fully ripe
·        4 walnuts
·        1/4 lb blue cheese at room temperature
·        1 Tablespoon cognac
·        1/4 lb pancetta, thinly sliced
·        1/4 c balsamic vinegar
Cut the figs in half only halfway.  Toast the walnuts in the oven and cool, then chop.  Place the walnuts, blue cheese and cognac together in a small bowl and using the back of a fork, blend together until evenly mixed.  Stuff the figs with the cheese mixture., then wrap the pancetta around the figs and secure with a toothpick.
If using a gas barbecue or indoor grill, preheat to medium (350 degrees).  If using charcoal or wood, prepare a fire.  When the coals or wood are ash-covered or the gas barbecue or indoor grill is preheated, brush the grill with oil.  Brush the figs with balsamic vinegar, then place the figs on the grill. Cover and cook about 2 minutes, rotate half a turn and cook another 2 minutes.  Serve at once.

By the way, the blue cheese cognac and walnuts are divine together, but I've made this with goat cheese and I've also used bacon.  It's all good! Just get figgy with it.

Slow Foodies has moved to Wine Country Foodies on Blogger

Sue Pipal and Debbie McAfee
USA, Tahoe and Sonoma, California
Sue lives in Tahoe where the growing season is so short, almost nothing can be grown locally. Debbie lives in Sonoma where the year round abundance is world renown. Sue struggles to find a reasonable supply of delicious fresh food. Debbie literally has fresh food falling out of the trees in her pasture. What do we have in common besides being sisters? We both love to eat. We both love to cook. And we both love to scour the countryside for wonderful fresh produce, home-made cheeses, fresh baked pies, home-pressed olive oils. If this makes your mouth water, this blog is for you. Join us on our adventures with food, fabulous food!