Monday, July 31, 2023

My Favorite Way To Use Up Zucchini

It's that time of year...the zucchini are producing like mad. You may have a neighbor who, in desperation, delivers extra zucchini around the neighborhood under cover of night...or in person during the daylight. Perhaps you planted a few too many plants yourself and now you are looking for another way to use some of it up. Either way, I have the recipe for you.

I discovered this way of using up zucchini over 40 years ago. One of the lovely things about zucchini is that it's pretty bland. It also soaks up the flavors that are cooked with it. You'll love this veggie-rich pasta sauce because you can simmer it for a half hour and it tastes like it has been cooking all day, with the flavors getting richer all the time.

To start you are best off if you have a blender. No blender? How about a food processor? Not good with that? How about a box grater? If you have one of those three, you can make this recipe.

You'll also need a good sized skillet or Dutch oven because this make a lot of pasta sauce. Check out the ingredients called for, too. The spices make this dish, so I hope that they aren't too old.

I use a blender and put half the zucchini pieces in, add half a can of tomato sauce, a couple tablespoons of water and then pulse it until the mixture looks like ground beef mixed with tomato sauce. You can also blend it further if you prefer a smoother sauce. Choose your favorite pasta or ravioli to cook and serve this sauce with the pasta and a bit of grated Parmesan and you have a fine meal...that uses up zucchini. It tastes even better the next day after sitting 24 hours in the fridge.

You can make this sauce with no meat and it is delicious. You can also brown either ground beef, ground turkey or chicken, or Italian sausage to mix into the finished sauce and you get a heartier sauce. Without the meat this also makes a great sauce for putting thinly on a pizza crust or, a bit more thickly, on the inside of a calzone.

Too Much Squash Pasta Sauce

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium squash, cut into chunks (any summer squash, but zucchini works best)
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
note - fresh oregano, basil and rosemary can be used - use twice as much, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 lb ground meat if using (beef, turkey, or Italian sausage - I use turkey) (or 8 oz. sliced mushrooms)

Optional: fresh basil and/or good Parmesan cheese

 Add the oil to a large skillet or Dutch oven and, over medium-high heat, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

While onions/garlic cook, put half of squash in a blender (or food processor). Add 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of water. Pulse blender, removing top and stirring every couple of pulses, until mixture is broken down but still chunky or process in food processor until mixture still has some texture. Once onions have finished, pour this mixture into the pan. Lower heat to simmer and deglaze the pan with the tomato mixture, scraping up the browned bits. (Note: no blender or food processor? If you have a box grater, grate the zucchini and then add to the pan along with all the tomato sauce.)

 Put the rest of the squash into the blender, add rest of that can of tomato sauce, pulse the same way the first batch was done. Add this batch to the pan of meat mixture and stir. Add the additional can of tomato sauce and stir to combine.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to pan, stir. If not using meat [see blow] (or if you just also want mushrooms), add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms to the pan along with the diced tomatoes and seasonings.

Return to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer at least 2 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to avoid scorching. (The longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste.)

If desired, you can add meat  for a more complex taste. In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Brown ground meat. Stir drained meat into sauce until well combined. Continue to simmer.

While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package, until al dente. Drain pasta well.

Put generous serving of pasta on plate. Top with pasta sauce and garnish with fresh basil and/or good parmesan cheese shards.

note - this sauce tastes even better if allowed to cool and left in the refrigerator overnight to blend the flavors. Reheat over low heat until simmering.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Puffy Pancake for Dinner

 If you think that pancakes are just for breakfast, have I got a surprise for you. This Dutch Baby, a kind of pancake you bake in the oven, is savory and it's topped with the flavors of summer - fresh corn, tomatoes, zucchini and basil. It goes together quickly, aside from the chopping time, and makes a great supper or delightful side dish.

I made mine with all-purpose flour, but the original recipe calls for whole wheat or half and half. If you are gluten free, I would just use a gluten free all-purpose flour mixture. King Arthur Baking sells a nice one, but many stores carry others.

You could also substitute other veggies live beans or summer squash, although the trio I used is wonderful and is just the taste of summer for me. I did use a sweet white onion, but I suspect that a yellow onion, red onion, or scallions/green onions would work well, too if that is what you have on hand. Fresh corn can be replaced with frozen corn, which is what I did since I didn't have fresh corn on hand.

The recipe says to mix the flour with the salt and pepper, but I think that with all the whisking going on to make the batter for the pancake that you could just add it along with the flour, which would save a dirty bowl. Whisk the flour in slowly so that it doesn't clump up as much.

Be ready to eat this while it is hot from the oven. I had a quarter left over and reheated it in the microwave the next day for another dinner, topped with a little shredded cooked pork shoulder. That was delicious, too.

Savory Dutch Baby with Summer Veggies

Serves 2-3 as dinner, 4-6 as a side
I apologize - this recipe came from the Washington Post, or Better Homes and Gardens or Southern Living...should have written down where.

For the Veggies:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced 
3/4 cup corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 1 ear - OK to use frozen)
3/4 cup zucchini, diced 
1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
4 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade ribbons for garnish

Use a 10-inch cast iron or oven proof skillet to heat the oil to shimmering. Add the onion, stir, and sauté for 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the corn and the zucchini, salt and pepper, stir and sauté  for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir and sauté another minute. Place veggies in a bowl. Cover and keep warm while the Dutch Baby cooks.

For the Savory Dutch Baby:

1/2 cup flour...whole-wheat entirely, or 1/4 cup whole-wheat and 1/4 cup all-purpose, or 1/2 cup all-purpose, or 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix
3/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened oat milk)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Wipe out the skillet used to cook the veggies. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and move the oven rack to the middle of the oven.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs to combine, then whisk in the milk until well-combined. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper and then slowly whisk in the flour to fully combine. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skilled and swirl to coat the pan and sides. Place into the oven and heat for 10 minutes - you want the skillet to be good and hot. Carefully add the batter to the hot skillet and then put it into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. The pancake will puff up! When golden brown, remove from the oven and top the pancake, still in the skillet, with the warm veggie mixture. Garnish with the basil chiffonade ribbons. Serve at once.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Busy with Summer Visits

Guess there won't be very many posts for a few more days. Sweetie and I are having fun with visiting young men who all love basketball. The first one to arrive did much of the work of putting together a basketball hoop setup. Now that we have a paved driveway (although a sloped one) it makes it possible to dribble and shoot. Of course he had to adjust to the slope, slight as it is. Makes the ball bounce at a different trajectory than a flat floor or pavement, but it didn't take love for him to figure it out! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Another Use for Olallieberries

Since their season is short, I like to find various ways to use the berries. This salad was enhanced with a handful of olallieberries. It's a packaged cabbage and kale salad with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries and a poppy seed dressing. I added some avocado chunks and walnut pieces, too. The berries really added a summer vibe to the salad! 

The Sweet Dark Berries of Late June and Early July

Last year the county finally repaved our road. It had been decades and really needed it! In order to do the job, they sent crews around in advance to clear brush and bushes that were too close to the road. In the process, they cleared quite a bit of our olallieberries, the sweet dark berries that look like super large (or long!) blackberries. They ripen about three weeks before the blackberries and are delicious, having blackberry flavor, but just a bit different.

A few days ago I made a galette with some of them, very similar to THIS one, but with an added tablespoon of cornstarch, plus three tablespoons dry bread crumbs. The sugar was brown and there was no nutmeg or citrus zest, but I did paint the bottom of the crust (the part not folded up over the fruit) with orange marmalade before adding the fruit mixture. The added bread crumbs help thicken the juices...olallieberries are very juicy!

It was even better than the three berry one, but there were a few more seeds! Sweetie loves these fruit galettes...he even paid attention to when the berries ripened this year and hinted that a galette would be a great way to use them. The whipped cream on the side was a good idea (because whipped cream is almost always a good idea, right?) as it mellowed the intense berry flavor a bit.

As you can see, this is an easy and quick way to enjoy the fruits of the season. Stone fruits work well, berries work well, and combined they are wonderful. Get a taste of summer...try making a galette! Because you start with already made crust dough, it goes really quickly if you are using berries that only need a quick rinse and dry like blueberries or blackberries or...olallieberries.

Olallieberry  Galette

enough pie crust dough for one crust - your favorite recipe or use (as I do) on Pillsbury Ready Crust crust.
2 pints olallieberries ( or blackberries)
sugar to taste (I used about 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs, unseasoned

1 tablespoon flour
2-3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Take the pie crust dough and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a circle about 12 - 14 inches in diameter. Gently fold the dough in half and in half again, then move to a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Gently unfold the crust to a full circle again.

Wash, rinse and dry the fruit. . Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and flour. Add the berries and toss gently with your clean hands to lightly coat the berries. 

Use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to spread the marmalade over the inner 6-8 inches of the prepared dough circle. Pile the mixture over the marmalade into the center of the prepared crust circle leaving a few inches all around the outside uncovered.

Wet your hands and begin folding the outer few inches of dough up over the piled berries, using the dampness on your hands to seal the pleats as you go. Dampen again as needed. Bring the dough up and pleat it until all of the outer dough has been placed up and over the fruit.

Brush the galette with the beaten egg. If desired sprinkle with sanding or regular sugar (optional).

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the crust is golden, about 20 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 - 8.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Happy 4th of July for Fellow U.S. Readers

Although we keep our holiday celebrations pretty muted because our current dog and our last dog (so a combined 30+ years) are and were sensitive to fire works sounds, it doesn't mean that the holiday is any less meaningful. 

So hair to the red, white and blue, even though we have never been fully the nation we hope to be, we are still a great experiment that, so far, has meant a better life for many. Let's hope that as we go forward we continue to grow and mature and spend more of our time and energy on giving each citizen a better shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am grateful that I have a life, I have liberty to do as I choose (for the most part) each day...but is anyone really ever finished pursuing happiness?

Although this is essentially a political day, I choose to look at it as a day to enjoy a good BBQ and some great side dishes. Sweetie will take care of the BBQ. I'm working on what else to eat tonight. Any suggestions? We had sweet corn on the cob last night, plus a fresh green salad. Maybe tonight will be kale salad? Corn and black bean and sweet red pepper salad? Roasted sweet potatoes and grilled zucchini? Suggestions gratefully accepted.

Hope your July 4th is wonderful!