Tags: Summer

Halibut with Summer Vegetables

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In an effort to lose the last ten pounds of baby weight my diet has taken on biblical proportions of fish and vegetables, results pending.  Luckily it’s the season for fresh produce and everything tastes at its peak, especially if you buy it organic (wink).  In this dish roasted eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, shallots, capers and thyme provide a savory bed for a tender piece of halibut.  You could easily put the vegetables in a foil packet on the grill as well, whatever your heart and stomach desire, in either case you will be dining on an incredibly light and healthful dinner. Enjoy.

Oven Roasted Halibut with Summer Vegetables 1 pound Halibut 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 tablespoon dried Mediterranean oregano Juice of 1 lemon 1 White eggplant 1 purple eggplant 1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise 1 yellow zucchini 1 green zucchini 2 shallots diced 2 tablespoons capers 1 clove garlic finely minced 3 sprigs of thyme Olive oil Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dice all vegetables and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme sprigs, minced garlic and capers.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Alternatively you can place the vegetables in two packets of foil and place on grill until tender).  Once vegetables are cooked turn the heat up in the oven to 425 degrees Season the Halibut with salt and pepper on both sides.  Whisk together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and oregano, pour over halibut.  Cook the fish immediately as the lemon juice will break down the flesh if left to marinate.  Cook in the oven at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. (Alternatively you can grill the fish as well)

Serve over the vegetables glass of white wine optional, but recomended.

French Toast for Dinner

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I’m not sure what I expected, but being a working mother is so much harder and so much easier than I thought, let me explain…

When I do a rundown of all the logistics and particulars that need to be in place in order for the day to function properly I feel a big yawn stretching the sides of my mouth.  When did life become so complicated? And then just as I whisper the question to myself and look for a blanket for which to hide beneath, I hear George laugh and the melody rushes blood through my veins and once again I am awake, alive, and ready to proceed with whatever the day may bring.

In an effort to spend as much time as I possibly can with my amazing little guy I have enjoyed creating culinary shortcuts and quick meals that leave us healthy and satisfied with plenty of extra minutes to listen to that laugh.

This savory French toast is a prime example.

Savory French Toast with Herbs de Provence and Roasted Tomatoes
1 day old whole grain baguette
3 eggs
2 tablespoons herbs de Provence
2 cups of milk
½ cup grated cheese (parmigiano, asiago, whatever you prefer)
6 Roma tomatoes
Butter for frying
Olive oil for caramelizing
Salt and Pepper for tasting

For the Tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Slice Roma Tomatoes in half and gently remove the seeds with a teaspoon.  Place face up on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 30- 45 minutes until the sides are gently caramelized and the tomatoes have eliminated most (BUT NOT ALL) of their moisture

While tomatoes are roasting you can cuddle, play or finish doing the laundry!

For the French Toast:
Slice the baguette into 2 inch pieces.  In a Large bowl whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, grated cheese and herbs de Provence.  Submerge the bread slices into the milk and egg mixture and let sit for 10- 15 minutes.

Heat butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Adding only a few at a time fry the soaked bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until the slices are browned.  Serve the toast with tomatoes on top and a salad on the side to round out your super quick and super easy dinner. Enjoy.

Tomato Riche

Fall is just around the corner, each morning it provides a sneak preview of its impending arrival for an hour or two.  It’s my favorite time of year- I tend to celebrate with a long run before the humidity wipes clean the evidence of the changing season- when I return Paul is walking in from the garden carrying tomatoes up to his chin.  Each year it’s the same, we wait patiently, are even psyched out for a week or two, scratching foreheads wondering if we did something wrong and then without warning they arrive in bulk.  We plant three kinds,

1. Grape
2. San Marzano
3. Brandywine, an heirloom variety from the late 1800’s- its flavor is truly unparalleled, and though the fruit itself looks a little lumpy and strange, I have honestly never tasted anything like it.

Each of these varietals has a purpose, the grape tomatoes are usually slow roasted and pureed for soup, the San Marzano are for Sunday sauce, and the Brandywine are so perfect just by themselves that it’s rare for me to do much more than drizzle a bit of olive oil over them and serve them as a salad.

Last week however I decided to mix it up, if each of these tomatoes was so good on their own, together they could be unstoppable, like the Avengers! (Too much?) I prepared a simple sauce to top a package of linguini I had stashed in the cupboard.  I started with good olive oil, and added some anchovies to melt away in the hot pan; a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and my tomato trio simmered away just long enough to cook the pasta.  Topped with fresh parsley and basil, this was one of the best sauces we’ve had all summer.

Tomato Riche Sauce

Ingredients

2 Brandywine tomatoes
2 cups Grape tomatoes
4 San Marzano tomatoes

*The purpose of this dish is to use what is fresh and what you have in your own garden or what you find in the farmers market, seasonal, honest ingredients- please don’t go on a wild goose hunt searching for specific tomatoes- you will muddy the farm to table simple recipe and drive yourself crazy, no fun there…*

4 filets of anchovies
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic chopped
Fresh parsley
Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation:

Put a large pot of water up to boil with a handful of sea salt-

While the water is heating up, chop the tomatoes so they are all roughly the same size.  In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium high, add the anchovies and allow them to melt into the oil so that no chunks or pieces remain.  This will only take a minute or two-the back of a wooden spoon can be used to coax them into melting -add the garlic and sauté until softened, next add all the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer while you cook the pasta – I used linguini- Once the pasta is cooked, reserve two cups of the starchy water and drain well.  Toss the linguini with the sauce adding the pasta water as needed.  Continue to toss with fresh parsley and torn basil leaves, if using red pepper flakes you can add them now as well.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

Happy Birthday Paul, Breakfast Edition

Happy Birthday to the most wonderful Husband in the world! (I’m referring to my very own) To begin the celebration, I woke early to prepare his  favorite breakfast, peach pancakes.  Perfect for the season, and prepared with wholesome wheat flour and oats, these fluffy buttermilk pancakes are the best way to begin a brand new year.

Peach Pancakes

Ingredients:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
3 tablespoons of raw cane sugar (you can also use agave just be sure to mix it with the wet ingredients instead of the dry)
3 cups buttermilk (I used low fat with fantastic results…I’m just saying)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
2 eggs beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
1 cup of oats
1/2 cup crush walnuts (optional)
2 very ripe peaches sliced and diced
More butter for melting
Maple syrup for serving

Preparation: 

The night before- combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and powder in a large bowl.  Next combine the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, butter and spices, mix the wet ingredients into the dry just so everything is moistened.  Lumps are ok-don’t over mix your batter!!

In the morning, heat a griddle pan to 375 degrees or a skillet to medium high heat.  Melt butter onto the griddle or skillet and ladle a half cup of batter on top.  Sprinkle the oats, peach slices, and walnuts if using onto the uncooked side of the pancakes.  Turn the pancakes when they begin to bubble and cook on the opposite side for an additional two minutes.  Continue until all of your delicious pancakes are made.  Serve with REAL maple syrup, a smile, and a birthday wish.  Enjoy!

Always On Hand Item # 2: Bread Crumbs

This is my first kitchen memory. I am about four years old, standing on a lime green stool tucked between the kitchen countertop and my Grandfather’s shoulders,which are hunched over to my pip-squeak height.  My Pop-op has covered the counter with tea cloths and placed the heels of last Sunday’s bread on top of them.  With his hands he crushes the quarter loaves into dust and then opens his palms wide as though he just performed a magic trick.  This makes me smile, giggle and eventually roar in voluminous laughter.

My paws are not quite as hefty as my Grandfather’s were, so I rely on a food processor for home made breadcrumbs.  My only preference is that the crumbs be unflavored, I can season them up later depending on what I am making.  For the recipe below, I turned plain old’ crumbs into a crunchy, seasoned oreganata to top some  locally caught fluke a friend of ours dropped off after a particularly fruitful catch.  The oreganata can also be used to top shrimp, clams, roasted tomatoes, or broccoli florets just to name a few, use your imagination, and as always enjoy.

For the Breadcrumbs

Any bread with do, though we typically use leftover loaves of seedless Italian or semolina.

Pre heat oven to 200 degrees- Even if the loaves are very dry and stale I usually like to let them sit in the oven for thirty minutes or so to really dry them out.

Using a food processor crumble as much of the bread by hand as you can to break up the pieces a bit, pulse on low until you have the texture of coarse sand.

If you don’t have a food processor you can also use a hand grater to crumb the loaves- Works just as well and really builds up those forearms.

For the Oreganata

Ingredients:

½ cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Zest of half lemon *Optional but especially good if using on seafood*
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt to taste

Preparation:

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium sized bowl combine the breadcrumbs with the herbs, lemon zest and olive oil, using your fingers of a fork to ensure that the breadcrumbs are evenly moistened.

Over medium heat in a non stick frying pan toast the breadcrumbs for three to five minutes, stirring constantly and be careful not to burn.

Your oreganata is now ready to top a fresh piece of fluke or anything else your heart and stomach desires.

 

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

 

Linguine with white clam sauce was on the menu  every single Friday of my adolescent life.  Slippery noodles smothered in garlic and olive oil and then topped with a generous serving of fresh littleneck clams.  The only accompaniment was a large piece of warm Italian bread, torn at the table by hand, to sop up all the briny broth that collected in the bottom of the bowl.

In the summer, the sweetness of the clams is enough to knock you over.  Close the grill for a night and celebrate the coming weekend with an enormous bowl, enjoy.

Ingredients

1 pound Linguine
4 cloves garlic-thinly sliced
1 yellow onion finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 dozen little neck clams *CLEANED*
1 bottle clam juice
1 pint chopped fresh clams
1 head of broccoli rabe (optional but delicious)
Freshly torn parsley, Basil and oregano
2 tablespoons butter to finish the sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Preparation

For the clams- you will need to soak in ICE COLD water, in twenty minute increments, 2-3 times in order to ensure they spit out every grain of sand.  Once this is done rinse under water and set aside in a colander.

For the broccoli rabe- (if using) bring a large pot of sea salted water to boil and add the trimmed head of broccoli rabe.  Cook until tender about 8 minutes and transfer to an ice bath * a medium sized bowl placed in a larger sized bowl floating with ice and cold water-this will stop the cooking and ensure perfectly tender broccoli rabe.

…OK lets get going

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add the olive and onion and sauté until softened, add the thinly sliced garlic and continue to cook for a minute longer.  At this point you can add the chopped clams and clam juice and simmer for ten-twelve minutes.

Put your pasta water up to boil with plenty of sea salt.  Cook the linguine according to package directions, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid.

Next take your extra, squeaky clean whole clams and add to the pot cover and continue to cook until all the shells are open.  Discard any that do not open.  Now if using, you can add the cooked broccoli rabe and sauté with the clam sauce.

Because you are an awesome multi-tasker, your linguine should be perfectly al dente by now so go ahead and  add the cooked pasta to the clam sauce and toss well.  You can now add any salt, pepper, red pepper and the two tablespoons of butter to the dish.  Continue to toss the linguine adding the parsley, basil and oregano.  If you find that there is not enough broth and the pasta is dry, slowly add the reserved pasta cooking liquid one tablespoon at a time until moist.  I actually prefer mine drenched in clam juice and sauce, almost soupy! Enjoy with a nice glass of wine and a large piece of warm Italian bread torn right there at the table.

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Vinnie and Tuddy’s summer camp had only one clear cut rule, “Don’t touch Pop-op’s tomatoes.”  Being small and prone to a bit of trouble, I neglected the “Don’t” in this singular law and became determined to get my grubby little hands on each piece of blazing red fruit.

On a slow mid day break from pizza making and breadcrumb crumbling, I carefully tiptoed over the border stones that outlined my Grandfather’s garden and snuck inside.  Amidst the greenery, wooden stakes and cages I was almost completely camouflaged.  I turned in circles on my heels, dizzy with joy.  Peering over my shoulder, to ensure Drew was keeping a proper look out, I began to methodically touch each dangling tomato solely because I was not supposed to.  I turned around once more and caught my brother with his head face upward, following a passing cloud in the clear blue summer’s sky and I knew I had lingered too long.  I felt my heart drop to the pit of my belly when from nowhere my Grandfather appeared like a ghost.  He lifted me up with one hand from the patch of tomato earth and placed me beside my clueless little brother.  Not a whole lot was said but his disapproving look hung around until dinner.

The next morning as Drew and I sleepily shuffled into the backyard of my Grandparents house, I saw my Pop-op hunched over a small plot of dirt about a hundred yards from his own larger patch.  He had re-planted a Roma tomato bush.  He presented us with an old Chivas Regal container full of miniature garden tools and motioned toward our newly pruned section of the yard.  I think our tomato plant lasted about two weeks, not bad for a gardener of 5 and 3 years of age.

*The recipe below is a classic-it’s simple and perfect alongside every summer meal.  Tomatoes only taste like themselves for two or three months out of the year- so after September you are better off with a can or jar.  The real thing is worth the wait. 

Ingredients

4 garden fresh beefstake tomatoes (if using plum make it 6, if using cherry or grape make it 12-14)
1/2 cup freshly torn basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Slice the tomatoes into quarter wedges.  In a salad bowl combine the tomatoes salt, basil and black pepper, stir to combine.  in a small bowl or cup combine the honey and olive oil, whisk gently and toss with tomatoes.  Serve and enjoy!

Sicilian Mac & Cheese

Since 1937 cupboards across America have contained slender blue boxes with gold lettering declaring itself “Macaroni & Cheese”- Sure I’ve eaten the stuff- shoveled spoonfuls of the skinny elbow, glowy orange macaroni into my mouth, but I can’t say that this was the mac and cheese we grew up on.

Pasta Ricotta, as it was commonly referred to in our house, was made with rotini pasta smothered in fresh ricotta cheese, tossed with parsley, black pepper, and then topped with a generous handful of grated cheese, this  was our version of the classic American dish.  Picky eater approved and just as simple to make as that other one- you can save all those blue boxes to use as maracas at your next soiree.

For the grown up version below,  I used a pasta made from fava bean flour- the noodles were chewy and had a nutty flavor that stood up really well against the richness and creaminess of the cheese.  Enjoy!

Pasta Ricotta

1 pound Fava bean flour pasta (or regular semolina will do just as well-use any macaroni shape you want- penne, rotini, shells…)
1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
handful of fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup of grated cheese (as always I used locatelli)
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste (TASTE FIRST- depending on the cheese it might not need much or any at all!)’

Preparation:

Boil the pasta in a large pot with sea salted water- drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

In a large mixing bowl combine the fresh ricotta, parsley and egg yolk, add the pasta directly to the bowl stirring quickly.  If too dry, add a quarter of cup of the pasta water, continue to do this until you have the consistency you like- you may not have to use all the starchy water.  Top the pasta with freshly ground pepper and grated cheese.  Serve immediately!!

Toast By Mel

Saturday mornings, for me, usually contain a window of time for which the possibilities of the day ahead appear endless. Because I’m smart I know that in order to narrow down the days prospects two things are essential, a clear head and a full belly. I accomplish this feat with “Toast by Mel”; dubbed so by a beloved Inn proprietor my version is a close relative to the French with one important tweak -Greek yogurt in place of the milk. Smothered in Agave Syrup (Paul) or Maple Syrup (me, I’m a purist), this breakfast is just what you need to get your Saturday off on the right foot.

Toast By Mel

serves 2 (easily doubled or tripled)

6 slices hearty grain bread
2 eggs
1 cup of greek yogurt (I used 2 percent fat)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
butter for frying

Preparation: 

In a medium sized bowl, large enough to fit the slices of bread, combine the egg, yogurt, spices, and vanilla until well blended.  One by one dip the bread slices into the yogurt mixture making sure that the entire surface area is completely saturated.

In a medium, large griddle or frying pan melt the butter over medium heat.  gently fry the slices of bread for about three minutes per side or until browned and lightly crisp on the edges.

Serve immediately with Agave, Maple Syrup, Powdered Sugar, and some delicious summer berries.  Enjoy.

and one for good luck…Agave Grilled Chicken

A  seasonal post that offers two simple and delicious recipes, one for the week and one for good luck.

This round first features a grilled chicken recipe with a marinade of  agave syrup and fresh lime juice lime.  I also include a little tactical approach I have for charcoal grilling thicker cuts of meat.  The second feature is a salad so full of summer produce it welcomes the season with open tongs (I couldn’t resist).  I hope you enjoy both.

Agave Lime Grilled Chicken

1 organic, free range chicken cut into pieces, skin on

Juice of 2 limes
Zest of 1 lime
2 ½ tablespoons agave
pinch of cumin
½ cup of fresh cilantro smashed and bruised (either with a mortar and pestle or the back of a wooden spoon)
2 cloves of garlic smashed
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning chicken pieces
2 tablespoons sea salt plus more for seasoning chicken pieces
3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for seasoning chicken pieces

Preparation:

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F- *Yeah I said OVEN

On a broiler pan or baking dish lined with foil season the chicken pieces with salt, black pepper and olive oil, bake for approximately 30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking combine all the remaining ingredients aside from the olive oil and garlic.  Stream the oil into the lime juice, agave and seasonings while whisking until the marinade becomes evenly combined and slightly thickened.  At this point take ¼ of the marinade and transfer to a clean bowl, we will use this portion to dress the salad.   You can now add the crushed garlic to the remaining.

Fire up your grill!

Transfer the chicken to the grill and baste the agave lime marinade on to the skin quickly with a brush. Cook for three- five minutes turn and baste the other side, cook for another three-five minutes, remove and cover with foil.

*Why do I do this? Grilling chicken, especially breasts raw can really dry out the meat.  Those of you with a gas grill may find that baking the chicken is a completely unnecessary step, as gas grill temperatures are easier to regulate than charcoal or wood burning.  We currently use a charcoal grill, and I find that baking the chicken first produces incredibly tender and juicy meat with a perfectly charred crust.

Welcome Summer Salad

1 head of butter leaf lettuce, washed and gently torn

2 cups of sliced organic strawberries

2 ears of corn grilled (4 minutes per side)

½ cup of crumbled feta cheese

3 sliced Persian seedless cucumbers

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, cucumbers and strawberries.  Using the agave, lime marinade from earlier add in the rice wine vinegar and olive oil, whisk to combine, season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Once the corn is grilled slice the warm kernels into the salad, top with feta cheese and toss.

We served this very seasonable combination with some grilled semolina bread basted with olive oil, a very perfect summer solstice meal.