Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zucchini in Full Bloom!!

Zucchini is one of summer's most popular bounties. Home gardeners know it is so easy to cultivate, so plentiful and hardy, in addition to being healthy, it's a great savory dish! I thought it would be refreshing to surf the blogs for some innovative and interesting spins on what everyone else does with zucchini!

Overly enthusiastic gardeners harvest zucchini in bushels. Even our super markets, produce markets, and farmer's markets are spilling over with summer squash! What to do with all that bounty? Cooking With Michele has a great way to make buckets of zucchini disappear in a truly delicious fashion... Baked Zucchini Chips! Slow baking seasoned zucchini slices that can be stored in a container for an oh so healthy snack is a great way to savor summer zucchini!

The summer flavors of corn and zucchini are a match made in culinary heaven. I particularly love this recipe because it has just the right balance of seasonings that don't overpower the delicacy of the corn or the zucchini. And who doesn't love the texture that something fried can yield! This recipe for corn and zucchini fritters is brought to us by the courtesy of Palate/Palette/Plate and they call them Summer Fritters and this recipe has a genius ingredient of chopped chick peas that give the fritter structure, served with a dollop of Greek yogurt for summer produce in all its glory! Definitely one to try!

Shredded zucchini has found its way into cakes, muffins, biscuits and quick breads...experienced cooks well aware of the added moisture and texture it brings to baked goods without masking flavor. No better representation that these Zucchini Cheddar Drop Biscuits, brought to us by A Cozy Kitchen and what a way to greet a Sunday morning with cheddar/zucchini biscuits...although we don't have to limit this to breakfast. These biscuits will delight the table at any meal. Simple and straight to the point. Whip them up in minutes!

Thanks to Prairies on Petals we have a great recipe for "fried" zucchini sticks, actually baked zucchini fries. Zucchini does the same thing egg plant will do SUCK UP OIL! It can ruin itself and create a greasy mess. This is oven "fried" but this smart cook added sesame seeds to the bread crumbs for added crunch and bolster the "crisp" factor in the oven. Some cayenne pepper and parmesan cheese add a pop of flavor. I used a misto to disperse the oil over the "fries" before they went into a screaming hot (480ºF) oven. On another note, Prairies and Petals has some amazing photography and that alone is worth a trip to this website.

Well here's another take on a fritter, The Zucchini With Garlic Fritter. Zucchini marries well with garlic and parmesan cheese...Oops, this recipe doesn't call for parmesan cheese, however, I managed to add 1/2 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese, reduced the flour down to 1/4 cup, then doubled the chopped garlic. It bumped this recipe up a few notches! I loved using this photo though because it shows that these fritters are not flat like pancakes. Thanks to Sugar 'n Pickles for the inspiration to adapt the recipe and they were inspired by Suni Vijayakar...etc., etc., etc. This is so much more interesting than a "cake" because the chunky texture of the zucchini is a big part of the appeal, when blended with garlic and cheese this wins all the way around.

And no collection of zucchini recipes would be complete without the queenly blossom! Prized by chefs, restaurants and home cooks, the blossom is fragile, temporary and utterly worth saving, cooking and relishing! These Zucchini Flowers Stuffed With Bocconcini and Lemon are stuffed with a fresh unripened cheese studded with lemon zest and fresh herbs, and as the author attests, worth all the effort!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jan's Chess Pie

It always seems like the simplest of dishes, with the least amount of ingredients, when handled deftly can yield the most superlative dish! Layering several sophisticated flavors to yield a complex dish is an art in an of itself, but sometimes a crutch for a lack of faith in the utter beauty of simplicity.

I think of that often when I remember my first taste of Chess Pie. It was simply referred to as a Coconut Egg Pie by my friend Jan. She is a very good cook and made the assembly of this pie look effortless and the resulting product was sublime! The taste was buttery, sweet, rich! There was no custard preparation on top of the stove, ingredients are mixed, poured into pie shells and popped into an oven. It is hard to mess up this pie. I am fascinated with old school southern pies, made with just a handful of ingredients because so often pantries were simpler in their staples. I love the ideas of Chess Pies, Shoefly Pies, Peanut Butter Pies, Lemon Pies...simply the best. After tasting Jan's I decided to make a couple of these pies, using her recipe which had a not so common ingredient: sharp cheddar cheese!

A plain chess pie has a mixture of eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, buttermilk (sometimes milk & vinegar), corn meal, salt & an uncooked pie shell. The variations to those ingredients can include: coconut, lemon, and chocolate. I wasn't sure with the addition of cheddar cheese if the pie needed any thickener, but I added the corn meal nonetheless, it was the only variation to Jan's original recipe.

Ingredients Preheat Oven 425º

Yield: 2 pies
2 uncooked pie shells
10 large eggs
3 cups sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, melted
1 t. salt
3 T. cornmeal
2 cups grated coconut
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Combine all the ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells, place on baking sheet and cook in oven at 425º for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350º for 40 minutes, until golden brown and set in the middle. (no jiggles)

The pie is just that simple and just that delicious, enjoy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

TOURING The Food Blogs: Black Eyed Peas

Many thanks to The Family Kitchen for that natural photo of the celebrated pea! Everyone knows that many culinarians, foodies, cooks, and folks who just love to eat relish a bowl of black eyed peas in the New Year for good luck. Good luck or not, black eyed peas are a love it or hate it dish. These peas have a very very distinctive taste, marked with an earthiness that marries well with aggressive seasonings, other vegetables, smoked meats and the ubiquitous slice of southern corn bread. Everyone has their favorite recipe for black eyed peas, but this is a versatile and often overlooked bean that can be delicious in a variety of preparations. For your viewing pleasure, let me take you on a tour of the blogs and how a variety of experienced cooks treat the noble black eyed pea! And if you are wondering what the mystique is about Hoppin' John, simply cook up a batch of rice and place the black eyed peas of your choice over the steaming rice, and voila...you've got Hoppin' John!
Hoppin' John

This picture and a link to the origins of Hoppin' John comes from Hungry Memphis: A Very Tasteful Food Blog


Our vegetarian and healthy version comes from The Country Tart Right on time for all of you who need a flavorful dish to help you stay on your New Years Resolutions and still pack a bunch of flavor! The Country Tart is a wellness and nutrition coach who can keep you on a resolution for 2011 to eat better. What better way than with a low fat, high fiber dish like black eyed peas. Packed with tons of flavor to compensate for omitting those fatty meats, she's seasoned them with chipotle, adobo, paprika, cocoa, turmeric, coriander, cumin and added extra virgin olive oil to help them slide down!

Truly Southern

The quintessential southern version of black eyed peas comes with a 3 punch: Black eyed peas, collard greens and pork, brought to us by Project Foodie Here is the ham hock in all its glory, paired with the sturdy collard green to round out this New Year's dish. The bonus with this version is that there are great instructions for cleaning and trimming collard green, taking out the spine and rolling the leaves to be cut chiffonade style...exactly the way I do it. Collards need slicing and chopping before cooking, it promotes tenderness.
...and more Southern

Even though the recipe for the black eyed peas is stunning, well seasoned and meticulous in detail, the photography is absolutely "must see!" Anyone who can make a ham hock look picturesque is worthy of a nod, and this nod goes to Pollywig.com This is another version of the three punch...black eyed peas, collard greens and ham hock. Another version with slightly different approach and seasoning. Check it out you will be stunned!

Black Eyes & Corn Bread

The perfect accompaniment to black eyes is some corn bread. This version by The Hungry Texan seasons the black eyed pea with salt pork and jalapeno pepper, and freely admits that even if you don't do scratch cornbread (recipe included) Jiffy works just as well for some. But just to cover all the bases a really good recipe for cornbread accompanies the recipe for some down home black eyed peas!

Budget Black Eyes

If your New Year's resolution was to trim the budget, here's a convincing story that the black eyed pea could keep you on track, and still give you a well seasoned dish. Thanks to Budget Bytes here's a tasty recipe with the costs included, so you can't argue with that logic!