Tag Archives: dinner

Zucchini Parmigiana

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Let me tell you, it feels good to be sitting at a computer and NOT working!  That hasn’t happened much in the last month, as evidenced by my lack of blogging.  (And my lack of reading blogs – I have a lot of catching up to do!)

I have been cooking, I promise!  But nothing terribly exciting – lots of grilling, lots of stir-frying.

But I’m changing all that!  I want to make exciting food!  Food that is beautiful, comforting, delicious…food that feeds the body and the soul.  Okay, that was both cheesy and overdramatic, but I’m okay with it.

My Basket of Life Farm CSA has been absolutely amazing this year.  They’ve started an “add-on” program, where in addition to the standard CSA box, you can go online and purchase additional items each week.  So far, I’ve gotten some awesome cherry jam and yummy peaches.  I’m looking forward to the coffee, granola and other goodies!

I am still working through a large amount of zucchini, however.  And I’ve been craving comfort food lately – pasta, bread, soups…fall foods!  Even though it’s August, in Northeast Ohio it’s definitely been feeling like autumn.  So tonight I indulged in some comfort food – a cheesy, wonderful Zucchini Parmigiana.

I based it on Alex Guarnaschelli’s Eggplant Parmesan recipe, but used baked breaded zucchini instead of fried eggplant.  I love the tomato sauce in this recipe, and it has a ton of cheese.  Fantastic!

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For the tomato sauce, I took three candy onions (from my CSA) and thinly sliced them.  I minced 7-8 cloves of garlic and sautéed the garlic and onions together in some olive oil.  I added salt and crushed red pepper and cooked them over medium heat until the onions were soft and translucent.

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I added three 28 ounce cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes and a little sugar and cooked the whole thing for about 20-25 minutes.  As it cooked, I smushed the tomatoes and just mixed it all together.  I turned off the sauce and let it cool down a bit while I made the breaded zucchini.

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I basically followed this recipe for the zucchini, except I used panko bread crumbs (it’s what I had on hand).  I used three medium zucchinis, but it would also be good with yellow or patty pan squash – or of course, eggplants!

I layered the sauce, zucchini, fresh basil, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheeses until I ran out of zucchini and room in the casserole dish – ending, of course, with cheese!

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Now I only have one problem.  I ate a huge piece of it, and you can’t even tell!  I hope I can talk my sister into taking some leftovers, or I’ll be eating it for a week.  That’s not bad, don’t get me wrong!  But I still have zucchini, squash, tomatoes, apples, peppers and lettuce from my newest CSA box to use!

FYI - I got this bowl for $.50 at the flea market!

FYI – I got this bowl for $.50 at the flea market!

Now, off to catch up on my blog reading.  So happy it’s the weekend!

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Hangover Soup

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I’d like to start by saying that I did NOT make this soup because I had a hangover.  (However, I did have a lingering headache all day that went away after I ate this…hmmmm…)

This is another recipe inspired by Smart Chefs Stay Slim, although I adjusted some proportions and used some random veggies I had hanging out in the fridge.  It’s basically a spicy broth with shrimp and greens – I can definitely understand why it would be good hangover food!

I’m going to write out the recipe as I made it, but you could easily substitute whatever greens/veggies you have on hand. It’s a great recipe for a fridge cleanout day!

Hangover Soup (makes two generous servings)

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Red Curry Paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 cup leftover chicken, diced
  • 10-12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced in thin rounds
  • 1 1/2 cups Swiss chard, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • chopped cilantro (for garnish)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup rice noodles (soaked in warm water for 8-10 minutes) or cooked rice (if you have some handy)

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Bring chicken broth and water to a boil.  Add red curry paste, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice.  Stir.  Add chicken, garlic and carrots.  Cook for about 2 minutes – just until the carrots start to soften.

Add rice noodles, shrimp, Swiss chard, scallions, salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat until the shrimp are cooked through.  Pour the noodle soup into two large bowls, top with cilantro (if you want) and an additional squeeze of fresh lime (or a wedge of lime for garnish).  Eat and enjoy!

That’s it.  It’s that easy.

Now, I did have to go buy curry paste and fish sauce, because I don’t usually cook with those ingredients, but I am so glad that I did!  I can easily see this soup becoming a go-to after work meal.  It was spicy but light, and I felt fantastic after I ate it.  What more can you ask for?

Almost Perfect Pasta!

As I mentioned earlier I have had a bit of time on my hands which is ending soon. One of my goals has been to get good at making pasta. I have made it several times in the past with mixed results. It never quite got to the level I wanted it to be. We can get Ohio City Pasta at our Farmers Market and they set the bar pretty high. The other issue is I am like the peanuts character Pig Pen with flour. The entire kitchen was a mess the last time I did it and I looked like Casper the friendly ghost. So this time I set out to learn from the past and get an acceptable pasta on the table. I am a fan of semolina flour and found that the pizza dough we like the best was a combination of regular and semolina flour. I have tried doing an all semolina pasta dough and it was not to my liking. This time I used 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of semolina with 2 eggs and 2 table spoons of water. I mixed the dough by hand with a fork and hand kneaded it. I did 3 batches 2 regular and one I also added 1/2 package of frozen spinach that I squeezed the water out and minced finely. I had to add a little more water or flour depending on how the dough was coming out. I then let them rest for 30 minutes. I ran one batch of the regular and spinach through our kitchen aid mixer pasta rollers as a fettuccine. These were hung with care on the drying rack. At this point they looked fabulous but the truth is in the tasting.DSC05245

My next trial was to make ravioli. I made a quick filling from 1# ricotta, dash of nutmeg, 1 egg, 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, the remaining spinach and zest of 1/2 lemon. I assembled the ravioli and brushed one side with an egg wash so it would stick together and well they looked great as well.

I loved the one green one!

I loved the one green one!

So now came the big test. Care had made sauce for a meal earlier in the week and it was one of the best. I cooked each of the pastas and they were served with that sauce. The regular pasta was ….well it was actually great!! I was so happy it hit the mark. We tasted the spinach and …..it was even better!! I will use fresh spinach next time but the flavor come through even through the tomato sauce. So now we get to the ravioli. We both were really excited as we bit into the noodle portion it was perfect and then we hit the filling. What was that zinging taste?? The lemon. The filling was great but the lemon zest was overpowering even through the tomato sauce. It would have been unbelievable if it was not for that. Care mentioned that she would have not let me do it but alas I was left alone to my own devices. So next time I will make our own ricotta (it is easy and so much better than store-bought), fresh spinach and NO LEMON. All in all a good learning experience and the kitchen stayed pretty clean as I put bath towels everywhere. I am looking forward to branching out with other flavors as time permits. Any one have any fresh pasta hints to pass on??

Spinach and Artichoke Pizza

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This pizza was so good…

What’s that?  How good was it?

It was so good that I made it twice in two days.  I first made it on a  Friday night for a girl’s night in (side note:  it goes well with red wine).  I liked it so much that I made it again the next day so Brian could try it.

It was so tasty that I actually made it again a couple of weeks later so Mom could try it.  Yep – I’ve made this three times now!

I will admit that more than one person who ate this pizza said it was, and I quote, “The best pizza they had ever eaten.”  Now, I know that whatever you’re currently eating is always the best, so I take this with a  grain of salt.  That being said, I love compliments, so thank you!

My favorite part about making a mess of homemade pizza dough is that for a few days, I have quick easy meals that only take a few minutes and almost no effort to throw together.  Take this pizza, for example.  The only prep work I did for this pizza was to rough chop artichoke hearts and spinach, then pop the spinach in the microwave for a minute.  That’s it! Oh, I guess I grated the fontina cheese, too.  Still super easy!

Pizza toppings!  Roasted garlic sauce, artichoke hearts, spinach, three cheeses (fontina, asiago and mozz) and prosciutto.

Pizza toppings! Roasted garlic sauce, artichoke hearts, spinach, three cheeses (fontina, asiago and mozz) and prosciutto.

This stuff is awesome.  Really.

This stuff is awesome. Really.

Here’s the funny part – I’m calling it a Spinach and Artichoke Pizza, but this recipe started with the prosciutto.  I knew that my sister and my best friend were coming over, and they had been talking about prosciutto on pizza (Laura had tried my Butternut Squash and Prosciutto Pizza and was still talking about it).  So I started thinking about what I hadn’t put on a pizza yet that would go with prosciutto.

Of course!  Spinach and artichoke!  It makes a good dip, it goes well with cheese – done!

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I started with the garlic sauce, then the chopped marinated artichokes.  I added the slightly cooked spinach (I microwaved it for a minute – just enough to wilt it so it wasn’t raw tasting) and topped that with fontina, asiago and mozzarella cheese.  Fontina is one of Laura’s favorite cheeses, and it works well in a blend like this.  I added the prosciutto last, but you could totally leave that off and have a kick @ss veggie pizza.

As it cooked, it totally smelled just like good spinach and artichoke dip.  Yum!  The third time I made this pizza, I used baby spinach from the farmer’s market – super yum!  I’ll have to remember this when I get greens in my CSA share.  Maybe I’ll even try making my own roasted garlic spread – especially if the garlic I planted last fall does well!

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Butternut Squash Mole Sauce

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It’s now the beginning of April, and I am still trying to find ways to use winter squash! It’s totally my own fault though – I did buy an extra butternut squash at the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago.

I used half the butternut squash in my Spinach and Butternut Squash Pasta, but I still had to figure out what to do with the other half.

I wanted to try something different, but what?  Well, I watched a marathon of the show “Chopped” on Food Network the other day, and I noticed one thing.  No matter what the chefs on “Chopped” made, they always made a sauce.  And if that sauce wasn’t any good, or they ran out of time and didn’t get it on the plate, they typically didn’t make it to the next round.

Thankfully, I don’t have famous chefs critiquing the food that I made in my kitchen, or they would be horrified by the lack of sauce on my dishes!  But I did think that I could probably make a cool sauce using the butternut squash.  Turns out, I was right!

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I sliced the pork chops and piled all this good stuff into a flour tortilla. Super tasty!

I know it’s not a traditional mole, but Butternut Squash and Anaheim Chili Sauce just didn’t have the right flow.  Call it creative license.

Butternut Squash Mole

  • 1 1/2 lbs Butternut Squash, cubed
  • 3 dried Anaheim Chilis (Ancho would work too, I just couldn’t find them.)
  • 1 medium white onion, rough chopped
  • 5-10 garlic cloves, depending on size (I used an entire head of garlic – about 6 big cloves)
  • Chinese Five Spice (the jar I have is a blend of Star Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Fennel and Black Pepper)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Toast the dried chilis on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

They smelled awesome - sort of a warn, smoky, chocolate scent.  Very unexpected.

They smelled awesome – sort of a warn, smoky, chocolate scent. Very unexpected.

Once the chilies are toasted, remove them from the oven.  (Side Note:  I chopped off the top stems and shook out some of the seeds because I had never worked with dried chilies before and I didn’t know how hot they would be. I have no idea if that’s approved behavior or not.)  Soak the chilies in hot water to rehydrate.  You’ll also use this water when blending the sauce.

The water takes on the color of the chili peppers almost immediately.

The water takes on the color of the chili peppers almost immediately.

Toss the cubed squash, chopped onion and garlic with olive oil (enough to coat), salt, pepper, and a couple big pinches of Chinese Five Spice.  Transfer the squash mixture to a baking sheet (I used the same one I toasted the peppers on) and roast in a 350-400 degree oven for about a half hour.

After roasting - you want the veggies to be soft and get that caramelized outside.

After roasting – you want the veggies to be soft and get that caramelized outside.

Transfer the roasted veggies to a blender.  Add the rehydrated chili peppers (I only added two peppers at first – after I blended the sauce a bit, I tasted it before adding the last pepper) and some of the chili pepper water.

Looking down into the blender...

Looking down into the blender…

I added about a cup of water, blended it, tasted it, added a pinch of salt and another half cup of water and blended it some more.  Make it as thick or as thin as you like – I wanted a thicker, more substantial sauce.

Once the sauce is made, it keeps really well in the refrigerator and reheats beautifully.  I almost wish I had another butternut squash to make some more!  It went well with chicken, potatoes, pork, eggs – the list goes on and on!

This post is linked to What’s in the Box?  at In Her Chucks. 

What’s your go-to sauce?  I still have a half-dozen dried peppers left – any suggestions? 

Everything Salmon

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This was a super easy, super tasty workday dinner.

I was re-reading one of my favorite foodie books, Smart Chefs Stay Slim.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it!  It’s an fascinating book about how chefs eat and stay healthy, and their attitudes toward food when they aren’t cooking in a restaurant.

In it, Chef Rick Moonen mentions a recipe he makes for “everything-crusted” tuna.  Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, garlic, salt – all the things you would find on an everything bagel!  Now, I am a huge fan of everything bagels, so I had been intrigued by this brief description since the first time I read the book.  I’ve never cooked tuna at home, so I went for salmon.

I didn’t have poppy seeds, but I did have black sesame seeds, which worked perfectly.  They gave it the same “everything bagel” look and tasted amazing!

I drizzled some olive oil on the salmon and crusted the top (non-skin side) with black sesame seeds, garlic, onion powder, salt, and some cracked black pepper.  I seared it with the spice crusted side down over med-high heat on the stovetop just until it got golden brown, then flipped it skin-side down and put the pan in a 450 degree oven for about 12 minutes. (The thickest part of the salmon was about 1.5 inches.)

I chopped up some tomatoes and tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper for a side.  (The chives just made it into the picture for some additional color on the plate.)  It was beautiful, light, tasty, quick and easy – perfect!

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Anybody read Smart Chefs Stay Slim?  What’s your favorite book about cooking or eating?