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Category Archives: Small dishes

Zucchini Tian

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Zucchini Tian, courtesy of Food 52, (courtesy of Julia Child).

The best way to cook is always to start with what’s in season.  And in the middle of summer, zucchini is pretty much a consistent go-to for me. Whether it’s simply grilled, chopped and added to a lemony couscous, or shredded and sautéed with some butter and shallot, I love it.  But last Friday on a slightly cooler-than-usual evening I was looking for a slightly more substantial zucchini side dish.  I wanted it to be the only thing I served alongside a pan roasted salmon.   After a quick search on my favorite site food52.com, I landed on Zucchini Tian. Perfect.

It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.  The base of zucchini made it light enough to still feel “healthy” but the rice, parmesan cheese and milk gave it the body I was hoping would help it do double-duty as both a starch and a veggie with dinner.  It was a lovely accompaniment to the salmon I made, but it could also stand up to a steak, or any other roast.  It paired well (along with the salmon) with a crisp French Picpoul, but any sharp white wine would be a fine complement.

Chefs note: This dish is fairly involved, and does require a lot of preparation.  It’s not something you’ll likely throw together on a Wednesday night, but it is impressive, and is worth the time when you have it.

Happy eating!

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini
  • 1/2 cup plain, raw, untreated white rice
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, mashed or finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • About 2 1/2 cups warm liquid: zucchini juices plus milk, heated in a pan (watch this closely so that it doesn’t curdle)
  • About 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese (save 2 tablespoons for later)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A heavily buttered 6- to 8-cup, flameproof baking and serving dish about 1 1/2 inches deep
Courgettes Rapées (Grated and Salted Zucchini)
  1. Shave the stem and the tip off each zucchini (or other summer squash), scrub the vegetable thoroughly but not harshly with a brush under cold running water to remove any clinging sand or dirt.
  2. If vegetables are large, halve or quarter them. If seeds are large and at all tough, and surrounding flesh is coarse rather than moist and crisp, which is more often the case with yellow squashes and striped green cocozelles than with zucchini, cut out and discard the cores.
  3. Rub the squash against the coarse side of a grater, and place grated flesh in a colander set over a bowl.
  4. For each 1 pound (2 cups) of grated squash, toss with 1 teaspoon of salt, mixing thoroughly. Let the squash drain 3 or 4 minutes, or until you are ready to proceed.
  5. Just before cooking, squeeze a handful dry and taste. If by any chance the squash is too salty, rinse in a large bowl of cold water, taste again; rinse and drain again if necessary. Then squeeze gently by handfuls, letting juices run back into bowl. Dry on paper towels. Zucchini will not be fluffy; it is still dampish, but the excess liquid is out. The pale-green, slightly saline juice drained and squeezed out of the zucchini has a certain faint flavor that can find its uses in vegetable soups, canned soups, or vegetable sauces.
Tian de Courgettes au Riz [Gratin of Zucchini, Rice, and Onions with Cheese]
  1. While the shredded zucchini is draining (reserve the juices,) drop the rice into boiling salted water, bring rapidly back to the boil, and boil exactly 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
  2. In a large (11-inch) frying pan, cook the onions slowly in the oil for 8 to 10 minutes until tender and translucent. Raise heat slightly and stir several minutes until very lightly browned.
  3. Stir in the grated and dried zucchini and garlic. Toss and turn for 5 to 6 minutes until the zucchini is almost tender.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour, stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes, and remove from heat.
  5. Gradually stir in the 2 1/2 cups warm liquid (zucchini juices plus milk, heated gently in a pan — don’t let it get so hot that the milk curdles!). Make sure the flour is well blended and smooth.
  6. Return over moderately high heat and bring to the simmer, stirring. Remove from the heat again, stir in the blanched rice and all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Taste very carefully for seasoning. Turn into buttered baking dish, strew remaining cheese on top, and dribble the olive oil over the cheese.
  7. About half an hour before serving, bring to simmer on top of stove (you can skip this step if your baking dish isn’t flameproof), then set in upper third of a preheated 425-degree F oven until tian is bubbling and top has browned nicely. The rice should absorb all the liquid.

Rhubarb Compote

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For any of you that aren’t sure what to do with extra rhubarb, I’d suggest making up a batch of Rhubarb Compote.  It’s simple to prepare, lasts for a week, and goes with absolutely everything.

I initially got the idea after having dinner at Sportello, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston.  Instead of just bread and olive oil, they serve bread with fresh ricotta and rhubarb compote.  It’s one of the most delicious pairings – the flavors of the mellow, creamy ricotta against the sharp and sweet rhubarb perfectly complement each other.

So I decided to try and figure out how to make a compote that was close.  I tried a bunch of different ingredient combinations before I got it right – different sweeteners (sugar only vs. juice only), different acids (vinegar vs. citrus) – you get the point.  And after four batches, I think I nailed it.

What I’ve noted below is directional.  Depending on the amount of rhubarb you use, and how sweet it happens to be, you may want to adjust.  So remember, add slowly.  You can always increase but you can’t take anything away.

Rhubarb Compote:

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
  • 3 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 TBSP orange juice
  • Pinch of salt

Toss everything into a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook on low for 15-20 minutes.

As the mixture starts to break down and darken in color be sure to begin tasting to make sure it’s the right amount of sweetness for you — everyone’s palate is different.

If for some reason you’ve gone too sweet, add in 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar at a time until you’ve reached the balance you’re looking for.

Once it’s cooked down, and the flavors are where you want them, let the mixture cool for 15 minutes or so and then you’re ready to go.  This compote will brighten any dish.  For savory pairings, it’s wonderful with hard, salty cheeses, or as a sauce on pork.  You can use it as a topping for ice cream or yogurt. It’s even great on toast.  The possibilities are endless.

Happy eating!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream + Caramelized Onion Dip

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In anticipation for the Pats/Jets game last night, I wanted to whip up a couple of things that could represent what I believed would be the outcome of the game (naturally believing the Pats would CREAM the Jets)… how wrong I was.  But how right I was in my selection of dishes: Caramelized Onion Dip + Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

First, for the dip…

I started with about 2 cups of raw onions, sliced relatively thin.

I seasoned the onions with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and about 1/4 tsp of dill and garlic powder, and let them cook in about 2 TBSP olive oil for about 30 minutes in a large skillet (stirring frequently), until they turned a nice golden brown and could literally melt in your mouth.

While they were cooking, I took out a mini 3 oz container of cream cheese to let come to room temperature for easy mixing.  (One thing I love most about this dip recipe is that it calls for no mayonnaise – a condiment I particularly abhor – anyone with me?!)

Once the onions were cooled, I mixed them together with the 3 oz cream cheese and 8 oz of sour cream.  After fully incorporating the onions, I tasted, and realized it needed more salt + pepper, so I added another 1/2 tsp of each.

The result – an “oh-my-God-I want-more-of-that” dip.  Serve with ruffled chips, pretzels and veggies.

For the ice cream (since I know that’s really what all of you want to read about anyway!) I started by bringing 2 cups of heavy cream + 2 tsp really good vanilla just to a boil in a large saucepan.  After it boiled, I immediately took it off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.  Then I strained the cream into a bowl to remove all the skin and chunky bits.  I rinsed the saucepan and wiped it clean, and then transferred the strained and smooth cream mixture back into it.

As the mixture cooled, I whipped together 4 egg yolks with 1/4 cup plus a couple TBSP of granulated sugar until it became light, yellow and fluffy (took me about 3 minutes at a pretty good whisking clip).

After I strained the cream (keep in mind, it’s still really warm at this point) I poured about 1/2 cup into the egg yolk/sugar mixture, and stirred it all together.  This tempers the egg yolks so that when it’s all transferred into the hotter mixture (and eventually brought to a simmer) the egg doesn’t cook.  Once fully incorporated, I added the egg mixture into the rest of the cream and slowly brought it back to a simmer.  Note – during this reheating process it’s VERY important that you continue stirring the whole time… no one likes lumpy ice cream.

The mixture began to thicken, and I knew it was ready to be taken off the heat when the sauce stuck to the back of a spoon and held its form when I ran my finger through it.

Next, I transferred the mixture to a glass bowl (you can use any other bowl you have that’s freezer-friendly) and placed in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to let cool.  If you live in New England you could also put it on your windowsill since it’s THAT COLD HERE!

After 30 minutes, I took the mixture out of the fridge, whipped it together again for about a minute and then placed it (uncovered) in the freezer.  At this point, you have the start to vanilla ice cream… from here, you can pretty much do what you want.  For my Salted Caramel version, I removed it from the freezer after an hour, whipped it together again, and then drizzle melted caramel (I  used store-bought from whole foods – i know, lazy!)  throughout.

After another hour went by, I took it back out and sprinkled about 1/2 tsp of Fleur de Sel over the top.  I just knew that the gorgeously delicate flakes of tasty salt were JUST what this ice cream needed to cut through the inevitable sweetness that rich and creamy vanilla ice cream and buttery caramel will deliver. Note – at this point, I covered the ice cream.  Ice crystals are not welcome here!

I broke it open the next day and YUM is all I can say.  It was heaven in a bowl.  Rich, smooth, and creamy, with just a hint of chewy caramel, and the bit of salt on top was juuuuust right.  See ya later Haagen Dazs 😉 I think I’ll make my own from now on…

Happy eating!

Marinated Beet Salad

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Some friends of mine have been complaining that they don’t know what the heck to do with all the beets they’ve been getting in their Boston Organics deliveries.  Well, one thing you can do if you’re sick of roasting, roasting and more roasting… make a beet salad!

With four smallish beets, some leftover walnuts and my absolute FAV goat cheese from Whole Foods, I made myself a proper beet feast.  I didn’t follow a recipe (which I tend to love to do), but rather thought about what I felt would go best with those sweet and tender veggies.  The results were super flavorful and very satisfying.  I’m already looking forward to leftovers…

First, I cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets and peeled them – very carefully.  For anyone who hasn’t worked with beets, they are extremely “stainy”.  Everything the bare beet – or it’s juice – touches turns pink.

Then, I cut them into quarters, or if they were a bit larger, into sixths.  As I was preparing them, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful these beets were… deep ruby colored, with just a hint of lighter pink marbling.  They actually almost looked like meat!  You can see for yourself below.

Next, I boiled them for about 20 minutes in heavily salted water.  Depending on how big your beets are going into the water, you may want to boil them for more or less time.  Definitely take a piece out and test it for tenderness before committing to pouring out the water.  You’d be bumming big time if you ended up with underdone beets.

While the beets were cooking, I did two things.  First, I made a marinade/dressing using some things from my cabinet.  I used equal parts acid to oil – 2 TBSP red wine vinegar and 1 TBSP Roses Sweetened Lime Juice + 3 TBSP olive oil.  To that, I added a healthy helping (maybe 1.5 tsp) of salt, a few shakes of ground pepper, and some dill.  I tasted it, and realized it needed more sweetness, so I added about 2 tsp of honey which made it JUST right!

Second, I toasted up some walnuts to give the salad a kick of crunch.  I put about 1 TBSP of butter into a saute pan and when it was bubbling hot, added a cup of roughly chopped walnuts.  As the walnuts browned, I added 2 tsp of sugar and continued cooking until caramelized.  Sweet + salty nutty goodness!

 

After draining the beets, I chopped them up into 1/2″ chunks, and while they were still hot, tossed them into the bowl with the marinade so as to better absorb everything.  I let that sit for about 10 minutes just to allow all of the flavors to really sink in.

When I was ready to eat, I topped the beets with a generous helping of goat cheese – and really, this goat cheese from Whole Foods is far and away the best one I’ve ever tried.  It’s smooth and creamy and tangy… a perfect companion to my marinated beets!

To that, I added the walnuts (and I added a lot – this was dinner after all…) and promptly dug in.

Happy eating!