Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dirt to Table Experience: Summer Squash Sauté

Usually by this time in the summer harvest you are leaving baskets (plastic bags in my case) of summer squash on your neighbors doorstep, ringing the doorbell and departing quickly.  Squash can be the summer gift that keeps on giving and giving, and giving...You get the picture.

This summer not so much. We harvested a bucket or two but not much more. I blanched and froze a fews quarts of yellow squash for later.  My husband then took a few remaining fresh squashes and prepared this side dish, a mix of yellow squash and zucchini, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Finishing touches were Parmesan cheese and almonds folded in at the end to make for an absolutely delightful summer side dish.

Summer Squash Sauté
Serves 4
Recipe from Bon Appetit

2 lb. summer squash and/or zucchini, cut into matchsticks (note: best done by a mandolin or food processor)
1 tsp. kosher salt plus more
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

Place squash in a colander set in the sink or over a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp. salt.  Let squash stand 10 minutes, then squeeze well to remove as much excess moisture as possible (do not rinse).

Meanwhile, toast almonds in a large dry skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate; let cool.

Heat oil in same skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.  Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Fold in Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.  Fold in almonds.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Carolyn Binder

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Quick Elegant Appetizer: Crispy Polenta Bites with Arugula Tapenade

Would you believe that it only takes about seven minutes to put together this elegant and delicious appetizer.  Open up a bottle of wine, invite a friend(s) or not and enjoy.

Crispy Polenta Bites with Arugula Tapenade
Serves 8
Recipe from Food and Wine

One 16-ounce log of prepared polenta, at room temperature
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped arugula
2 tablespoons chopped olives
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 radishes, very thinly sliced

1. Trim the polenta's rounded edges to create a rectangle; halve lengthwise.  Spread the panko on a plate.  Press both sides of the polenta in the panko to coat.  In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the  oil.  Cook the polenta until crispy, 2 to 3 minutes per side; add 1 tablespoon of the oil after flipping.

2.  Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil with the lemon juice, arugula and olives.  Season with salt and black pepper and toss.

3.  Cut the polenta into 16 pieces.  Top with the radishes and arugula tapenade.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Kim Sargent
"Summer Tomatoes"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Learning to Preserve: Easy Jalapeño Jelly

My gardening skills and ability to preserve my harvest are novice but, I am learning fast.  I shied away from preserving because I thought it was too complicated, and time consuming.  It can be time consuming but it is surprisingly easy.  Honestly, I find it relaxing.  It allows me time to just focus on the process and the volume of jars filled with garden goodness at the end is my prize.

Preserving fresh garden vegetables or fruits are superior in quality and taste. It is better than almost anything you can pick off the shelf at your local grocery store.  More importantly, you can enjoy your garden harvest or your farmer market special all year.

I planted extra jalapeños and other varieties of hot peppers this season with the idea of preserving them in salsas, hot sauces, and in jam and jellies.

My vision last summer was to take a crack at making jalapeño jelly with the idea of spreading it on a block of cream cheese and using it as a glaze for pork, seafood and chicken.  I like to keep things simple and started out with an easy to prepare jalapeño jelly recipe.  My first taste was on my morning toast and it was quite tasty.

Easy Jalapeño Jelly
Makes about five 8-ounce (250 mL) jars
Recipe from Ball Complete Book of  Home Preserving

12 oz (350 g) jalapeño peppers, stemmed seeded and deveined
2 cups (500mL) cider vinegar, divided
6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar
2 pouches (each 3 oz/85 mL) liquid pectin
Green food coloring (optional)
Note: I did not add food coloring 

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.

2.  In a blender or a food processor fitted with a meta blade, puree peppers and 1 cup (250 mL) of the vinegar until smooth.

3.  In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine pepper puree, remaining 1 cup (250 mL) vinegar and sugar.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.  Stir in pectin.  Boil hard, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Remove from heat, stir in food coloring, if using, and quickly skim off foam.

4.  Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) head space.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5.  Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Kitchen Ninja

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Weeknight Wonder: Vietnamese Pork Chops

Shallots, brown sugar, fish sauce, rice vinegar, freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt makes for a beautiful Vietnamese style marinade 

Fire up the grill or heat a large skillet

Serve up and enjoy these tasty pork chops 

Vietnamese Pork Chops
Serves 4
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pia or nuoc nam)
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4- 1" thick-cut bone-in pork chops (about 2-1/2 lb.).
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Lime halves for serving

Whisk shallots, brown sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and pepper in a shallow dish.  Using a fork to pierce pork chops all over (to allow marinade to penetrate faster) and add to marinade in dish.  Turn to coat.  Cover and let pork chops marinate at room temperature, turning occasionally, 20 minutes.

Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess (reserve marinade for sauce).  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly season pork chops with salt.  Cook until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  Let pork chops rest 10 minutes before serving.

Note: I grilled the pork chops with excellent results.

Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes.

Serve pork chops with reduced marinade and lime halves.

Do ahead: Chops can be marinated 1 day ahead. Chill, turning bag occasionally.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Photo by Tomatoes on the Vine

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday Supper: Jamaican Me Crazy Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken has been on my mind for months.  I was looking for time and an opportunity to try my hand at making an authentic jerk marinade.  I was expecting the marinade to be more complicated and was surprised to see that the ingredient list was lengthy but it was a throw together in one-bowl marinade.

No doubt there are a million variations to make jerk marinade and this is only one version with still a hundred ways to reshape even this one recipe.  At the end of the day this was a great introduction to having a very pleasurable experience.  The heat from the hot chiles shines through on the back end with a slow steady build, that never overpowers the other naturally intense flavors.

It was a good time to turn the music up loud, bring together family and friends and serve a great summer meal.

Served family style with pigeon peas and rice, carrot salad, fried plantains, plenty of Red Stripe Lager beer and  Sauvignon Blanc wine from Cakebread Cellars.

A perfect crowd pleasing meal 

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Serves 8
Recipe from Saveur

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup ground allspice
3/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup peanut oil or canola oil
1/3 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup minced ginger
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 Scotch Bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed and mined
2-3-4 lb. chickens, each quartered

1.   Combine sugar, allspice, scallions, oil, pepper, salt, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, garlic, and chiles in a bowl.  Add chicken; toss to coat in jerk marinade.  Cover with plastic wrap; chill at least 6 hours.

2.   Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium.  (Alternatively, heat a case-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.)  Add chicken, skin side down;  cook, turning once, until marinade forms a crust on the outside, about 8 minutes.  Cover grill;  continue cooking until cooked through, about 40 minutes.  (Alternatively. transfer chicken to a foil-lined baking sheet: bake in a 350 degree oven until done.)