Tag Archives: recipe

You want me to do what with that zucchini?

Mid summer  brings unyielding heat, fireflies, and more zucchini that most people can handle. Yes these plants are a fantastic morale booster to any gardener, they give and they give and they give.  IMG_4472 IMG_4471

At the beginning, you hoard all you can harvest, but after a week of eating it in ratatouille, omelets and stir fry you cannot even bear the sight of another group of yellow flowers sprouting in the garden. IMG_4467 IMG_4470

At that point you suddenly become generous and start sharing your bounty with your neighbors… your offering is welcomed at the beginning, but soon enough they stop opening the door when they see you coming up their driveway…IMG_4230

I am quite certain this is the same scenario that prompted the first person to add zucchini to bread mix, and that is how zucchini bread came about. I do love the stuff myself, but the great majority of recipes out there pack so much sugar, carbs and calories, that you are better off eating a slice while running hard on a treadmill.

Today I adapted a very good and very healthy bread recipe  to handle some of my zucchini production. The result is quite good, it has a ton of protein and very little carbs,  so you can eat it with less worries. I also find that by baking it into muffins instead of bread, it is much easier to stop at one portion as opposed to polishing the whole loaf in one sitting… so without further ado,  here is my “Nutty Zucchini Muffin” recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium eggs or 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded and drained zucchini
  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries (craisins)
  • 1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds or pecans
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 1 TBS fresh orange zest
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Distribute the mix among 8-12 cupcake baking cups  in a muffin tin (no need to grease anything). Bake in a preheated oven at 350ºF until the muffins are fully baked (poke a muffin in the center with a knife and it comes out clean) and golden on the top. Once done, remove the muffins from the tin, allow them to cool on a rack, and they are ready to eat… Super easy, right? Let me know if you try it and like it.IMG_4512 IMG_4513

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Long Neck Swans

Yesterday we had a nice present from our garden. The long awaited for garlic scapes, the edible flowering bud of the garlic plants were finally here. They have striking shapes that resemble long neck swans posing very still at rest or ready to take flight.IMG_3771 IMG_3776 IMG_3775 IMG_3774 IMG_3773We ate them pickled last fall during our stay at D Acres Farm in NH. That was our first experience with them, and I have been waiting patiently for their arrival. Garlic scapes taste mildly like garlic, definitely not pungent or overpowering in flavor or aroma. They are firm and their texture is crisp and snappy, similar to broccoli florets.

I collected about 50 or 60 flower buds yesterday morning at the same time that I picked some basil and fresh oregano from the garden. I gave the oregano and some of the scapes away, but kept enough to make a wonderful pesto for dinner. IMG_3783 IMG_3781The pesto recipe is quite simple and is my own version of a somewhat similar recipe Beth had found online to accompany pasta. However, I used my pesto to flavor and enhance fish filets. IMG_3800

Pesto Recipe

Combine the following ingredients in a blender:

20-40 fresh garlic scapes chopped

1 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped basil

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tsp Kosher or sea salt

Pulse blend all ingredients until you obtain your desired texture (I like mine to be kind of crunchy).

Spread the pesto thick over your favorite fish, we used mahi mahi filets. Bake the fish for 5 minutes at 375º in a closed aluminum foil pouch, open the pouch and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked but still tender. Sprinkle sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste at the table.

I accompanied our fish with a fresh garden salad and quinoa. Sorry I did not get any decent pictures of the finish pesto, or even the meal, but you can trust me, the flavor and the texture were awesome. Let me know if you try it, and please post if you improve the recipe.

Bon apetit

 

 

 

30 days from seed to salad plate

Today we had our first harvest of the season. Not bad considering that about a month ago I was still wearing a down sweater while planting some of our seedlings. We picked a handful of radishes, and their tops, and some lettuce leaves, enough for a nice salad that we put together with tomatoes, cucumber, and a honey Dijon vinaigrette.

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It never ceases to amaze me how quickly radishes grow, I can’t think of any other crop that can be enjoyed in as little as 30 days from planting the seeds.

IMG_1669The perfect plant for those short on patience, and great to introduce children to gardening, as aside from being fast growing, they give a fantastic display as the roots seem to crawl out of the ground as they grow. Moreover, almost nothing really goes to waste, as the tops and the roots are all edible.

 

 

 

 

Ham perico in acorn squash boats

With the availability of free and plentiful produce, we usually feel more daring and tend to experiment with different dishes. We not only try new ones, but even enjoy combining two or more recipes  into something that otherwise would not have put together.

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Last week we had prepared baked acorn squash for dinner, a dish we enjoy to accompany meat and poultry. After dinner we ended up with four pieces left that we kept in the fridge to have with a future meal.

The next morning, seeing all the fresh cherry tomatoes and onions from our garden, I decided to make a favorite version of a Venezuelan egg dish, “perico with ham”. We had all the ingredients for the perico, but had run out of corn meal, the basic ingredient to make “arepas”, the traditional bread that goes so well with perico.

Need, as my mom used to say, is the mother of all inventions. The realization that I was not going to be able to eat the perico the usual way, made me search what else I could accompany it with. That is when I found myself face to face with the leftover baked acorn squash in the fridge.

Ham perico in baked squash boats.  A delicious and hearty breakfast

Prepare the acorn squash by cutting in half and removing a small portion of the ends so each of the halves can stand flat on a dish. Remove the seeds from the center of the squash, place a small spat of butter and 3/4 tsp brown sugar in the center.

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Bake at 400ºF for one hour or until the squash feels soft when poked with a fork. Brush the sides of the squash with the mixture of butter and brown sugar.

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Note that the acorn squash should be fully cooked before the next step. If prepared the day ahead, store it refrigerated, and warm it up in the microwave prior to serving.

To prepare ham perico for two people combine one half minced onion, three thin slices of Virginia ham finely chopped, and a handful of halved cherry tomatoes in a frying pan with a small amount of olive oil. Cook stirring occasionally until the onion starts looking translucent.

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Add three eggs to the pan, notice that in Venezuela eggs are not always beaten prior to cooking. As soon as some of the egg starts cooking on the pan, start stirring and scrambling all ingredient until it is fully cooked.

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Fill the warm acorn squash halves with the perico, and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly crushed pepper to taste.

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The resulting dish was fabulous and very filling. It is a far version of the traditional dish, but it still had that special combination of sweet and salty that I tend to associate with Venezuelan cuisine. Try it and let me know how you like it.

Keeping them fresH2O

I have spent part of this summer trying to figure out how to preserve the two most perishable vegetables I grow. Lettuce, and zucchini (courgette) flowers.

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It is fairly easy to keep fresh one, or perhaps a couple heads of lettuce in the crisper section of the refrigerator. However, when you end up harvesting more than you can fit in the whole fridge, you know you need to try something different. The solution came to me simply, but out of necessity.

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Right after collecting a batch of lettuce leaves, I thoroughly rinse them in the sink in cold water to get rid of sand any other stuff still on them. I put them stem end down in a bowl keeping the larger leaves on the outside. I then fill the bowl up with cold water to keep the lettuce fresh. In this manner, the lettuce keeps very crispy, without drying up or browning for at least a day and a half right on the kitchen counter, without the need for refrigeration.

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Whatever lettuce we want to give away, we tie lightly in a bundle with a cord and put it in a plastic bag. I have been able to keep and transport lettuce like this for a few hours. When I have different types of lettuce available I make bundles with assorted leaves for an instant salad mix.

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Now, if figuring out how to keep lettuce came easy, zucchini flowers, on the other hand,  were a real challenge. The flowers comes up very early in the morning and if left on the plant they will close up and start wilting by early morning. As much as they are delicious for breakfast, we had seen some great recipes that we wanted to try for dinner. We had also offered flowers to friends who would not come over early enough to get them fresh off the plants.

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I tried everything: keeping the flowers on the counter; keeping them in the fridge; putting the flowers  in a vase; keeping the vase in the fridge, etc. The results were at least consistent, in the afternoon the flowers always looked somewhat sad, petals starting to curl, a little bit soft and dull yellow.

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My final try was last week. I cut the stems at the base, removing everything and leaving only the petals as a hollow tube. I rinsed the flowers and refrigerated them immersed in a bowl of water. It was not until the next evening that my wife took them out of the fridge and declared “this is it”. After more than 30 hours, the flowers were still firm, bright yellow and open all the way. We decided to eat them following Nonna’s recipe, they were delicious.

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Unfortunately, I got these promising results with the last flowers I collected before discarding and mulching the spent zucchini plants. My next batch of zucchini plants is still germinating, and will not be available for me to try again for a few weeks. If you are still getting flowers, and happen to try this, please leave me a note below, I would like to know what kind of results you get.

try some awesome zucchini/courgette flower recipes

TRES EN UNO, relief from the heat

One of the things I miss from Venezuela is fresh fruit juices. I am not just talking about OJ, but the full range of fruits available all year round. Jugos naturales are available at almost every corner in most establishments that serve food either to eat in or take out.

In Venezuela the juices are prepared by blending fruit chunks at high speed with ice, and a small amount of water or milk, we call the later ones batidos (shakes). We Venezuelans tend to have a sweet tooth, so most people also add some sugar, I prefer mine without.

The list of fruit juices available any one day is always as long as the list of fruits in season, some as exotic as guava, mango, soursop, passion fruit, and also some more familiar as cantaloupe and watermelon. There are some juices made by mixing two or three fruits and/or vegetables that are known to give you extra vitamins, energy and vitality. “Tres En Uno”, the name of the popular lubricant “3 in 1” which also claims miraculous results, usually identifies a juice made with beets, carrots and orange.

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At home on Long Island, and specially in the summer we make and drink a lot of natural fruit juices. We find them to be not only delicious but also very refreshing. One of our favorite juices is watermelon. Nothing really compares to watermelon juice when you are terribly overheated. The recipe and instructions are simple: chilled watermelon chunks, ice, blend and serve. If using the seeded variety, you may want to strain the juice before blending it with ice. The best thing is that this recipe can be repeated with any fruit you like, just  remember to add a little bit of water (or milk) to most other fruit.

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I also like to experiment with my own versions of “Tres En Uno” juices by combining whatever fruit I have on hand at home. I even use frozen strawberries or blueberries to add to my special mixes. Last week I made a delicious grapefruit/watermelon/blueberry which we had during breakfast. Be creative, this is a nice way to beat the heat.

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Nonna’s zucchini flower recipe

ImageLast year I had just posted some photos of my garden in Facebook when I got a comment from my friend Zuly in Italy. Her post under a shot of zucchinis said something like “do you also eat the flowers?, they are delicious”. The idea sounded intriguing and fun, as we had never tried them.

However the comment came at a time when our tomatoes were in full production, so our attention was mostly focused to thinking about how many different ways were there to eat tomatoes, and who else could we offer them to take them off our hands…soon after there were no more flowers to pick. As we planted our garden this year I kept in mind to try the flowers for sure this season.

Our first try was cut up flowers in a salad, the bright yellow pieces looked awesome, but honestly could not distinguish their taste with the dressing. For the second trial I decided to have them stuffed, but since I am not much of a recipe follower I decided to ad lib it, using whatever I had on hand… I made the stuffing with cottage cheese, garden oregano pesto and Parmesan cheese. Each flower took about 2 tsp to fill, and from there they went straight to a hot pan lightly greased with olive oil. My wife and I had them for breakfast, they tasted delicious, but needed major improvement with the somewhat soggy texture .

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My original filling
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I kept the whole flower and filled them though the top.
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I grilled the flowers, turning them once, the black burned stuff is cheese.

Yesterday we had a special treat, my son K and his beautiful girlfriend came over to spend the weekend with us. She is Italian (real Italian), when I told her I had collected zucchini flowers earlier in the morning she immediately said she loved them, and offered to prepare them the way her “nonna” made them. Ha, she fell right on my trap!! If I had a mustache I would have turned its tips….finally a chance to see how it is really done.

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Male flower in plant
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Yesterday’s flower harvest

Her preparation was elegantly simple but the result was awesome. She washed the flowers and cut the stems at the base. She then opened the flowers lengthwise, removed the stamen (where the pollen is in the center of the flower), and filled them with ricotta which she had previously salted and peppered. She wrapped the flower around the ricotta mix, passed them through an egg wash and finally covered them with flour before flash frying them in a shallow pan with olive oil. The flavor was subtle but delicious, and the texture was great as it was slightly crispy on the outside.

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Preparing the flowers
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It is much easier to fill them through the side
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close the flower by folding the sides over each other
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Pass over egg wash
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Roll over flour
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Frying in olive oil
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Crispy and delicious

To prepare the above dishes I harvest the male flowers early in the morning, right after collecting the pollen and distributing it among the female, or fruit bearing ones. The flowers look and are very delicate, so I bring them inside, put them in water and refrigerate them until I am ready to use them.