Thursday, June 28, 2012

Roasted strawberries: a recipe

Roasted strawberries
I'm not usually one for jumping on the bandwagon, but there has been so much buzz around the food blogosphere lately about roasted strawberries that I just had to give this technique a try.

(Mainly because I had a bunch of strawberries and the roasting looked pretty easy.)

It's definitely easy.

Slice up the strawberries, spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle generously with brown sugar and roast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until they get soft and syrupy.

Results? Well ... remember those containers of frozen strawberries in syrup that your mom would buy in the 70s from the grocery store? They came in those rectangular metal containers?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

French bistro vinaigrette: a recipe

We recently took a little trip to Paris.

While it was fun seeing all the major sights and attractions (along with, it seemed, four gajillion other American tourists -- jeez!), my favorite part was, of course, the food.

(Sidebar: An entree on a French menu is, as its name implies, a starter. So how the hell did entree then come to mean "main dish" in English? Anyone? Anyone?)

Even though the weather was craptacular the whole time, we managed to eat nearly every meal outside at a bistro or brasserie (those who know me will realize this was heaven for me, as I am all about dining alfresco whenever possible -- which isn't very often here in Vermont).

It may sound silly, but we had some amazing salads for lunch every day. What I call a meal salad, because there's usually a meat protein in it. Smoked duck breast, fois gras, pate -- oooh la la! I was in charcuterie heaven. Like a good little food blogger, I've already been busy recreating these salads at home (watch for a post later this summer).

Monday, June 25, 2012

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: zucchini

Zucchini chips
This week, readers have started receiving zucchini in their shares.

Let the great summer zucchini onslaught begin!

I tried to include both traditional and non-traditional ideas for using zucchini; there's only so many times you can serve sauteed zucchini as a side dish without your family looking weary, am I right?

As always, if you need help with a veggie you've received in your CSA share, leave a comment below or send me an email before this coming Friday.

Recipes suggestions are posted on Mondays.

  • Zucchini chips: Near and dear to my heart, as these are my only official prize-winning recipe. 
  • Zucchini pecan cake: Whether you make it as a cake or muffins (minus the frosting), this recipe from In Praise of Leftovers is a winner.
  • Lemony zucchini goat cheese pizza: I love this easy, unusual recipe from Smitten Kitchen -- perfect for casual summer dining.
  • Cream of zucchini soup: I just discovered this one from The Meaning of Pie -- easy and delicious, my favorite combination!
  • Morning glory muffins: Just substitute shredded zucchini for the carrots called for in this great breakfast muffin recipe.
You can also check out last year's suggestions for using zucchini.

What's your favorite way to prepare zucchini? The Ninj wants to know.

[Shared with the What's in the Box? link party]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Caper pesto: a recipe

caper pesto
Whole wheat spaghetti with caper pesto
When I think about those certain ingredients that draw me to a recipe in a cookbook or to a dish on a restaurant menu, I realize I'm probably a little too addicted to salt.

And bacon, but that's another story.

I'm mainly thinking of anchovies and capers, extra awesome when in combination. (Remember the Mediterranean tuna pasta? Just like that.)

So imagine my delight in finding a recipe for a pesto (one of my faves because of how easy it is) made largely with anchovies and capers.


Summer is a great time of year for pesto, since it requires a large amount of one herb or another as its base. I usually have an overabundance of basil, which often ends up as a traditional pesto that gets frozen in small containers for use throughout the winter.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Strawberry-rhubarb chutney: a recipe

strawberry rhubarb chutney
Strawberry-rhubarb chutney, not compote
I've been calling this recipe a compote all week but then had a second thought.

It could be a chutney.

(I honestly didn't know what makes them different.)

Hello, Google.

Here it is: chutney is made of cooked fruit and vegetables (not just fruit) and contains vinegar. A compote, on the other hand, is simply fruit cooked in sugar syrup.

So this strawberry-rhubarb bad boy is in fact a chutney.

I stand corrected. And so does the title of my post now.

This strawberry-rhubarb CHUTNEY is very easy to prepare and so perfectly seasonal right now. I served it with some roasted chicken breasts (it cooks while they do): absolutely the perfect accompaniment. I'm sure it would also be fabulous with pork tenderloin.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Snickerdoodle muffins: a recipe

Snickerdoodle muffins
I try quite hard to keep this blog balanced.

Even though my most popular posts are for calorie- and/or bacon-laden baked goods, I try to sneak in some healthier suggestions, too.

(OK, maybe not the candied bacon, but come on. It's candied bacon!)

For example, right after the candied bacon, I gave you pickles (and no, there's nothing I want to tell you, trust me) and spring greens soup.

Lovely veggies, no butter.

Call it a yin-yang, angel-devil, white hat-black hat, Hall-Oates kind of thing ... I'm trying to keep it balanced.

Every once in a while I get really, really lucky and end up with something, like these snickerdoodle muffins, that is perfectly balanced all on its own: sweet, delicious and seemingly decadent, yet really not so bad for you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: arugula and other greens

Spring greens soup
Finally, finally, finally -- we're starting to see some fresh greens in our gardens here in Vermont!

I'm harvesting baby lettuce and arugula, and my mustard greens, bok choy and kale are cookin' right along.

This week readers requested recipe help for arugula. Since I have tackled arugula before, I thought this week I'd just share one really good recipe in which you can use arugula or any other interesting greens that your CSA might be offering right now.

(Administrative note: Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you've been getting in your CSA share with which you need help but be advised that there will be no CSA Share Ninja Rescue post next week, as I will be on vacation. The feature will resume on Monday, June 25.)

Spring Greens Soup (adapated from Better Homes and Gardens)
I've called out arugula and spinach in this recipe, but feel free to substitute equal amounts of whatever spring greens you have on hand.

1 onion, halved and sliced
3 cups sliced mushrooms
olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12-14 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 cups arugula leaves
3 cups baby spinach
2 cups parsley (I used Italian)
sour cream or creme fraiche, for serving

In a soup pot, cook the onion and mushrooms in some olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes to the pot and return the mixture to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. Use and immersion blender to blend the potato mixture until fairly smooth. Add the arugula, spinach and parsley and return the pot to the heat. Bring it to boiling again, then remove from the heat again. Use the immersion blender again and blend it all up until it is smooth and has turned a beautiful spring green color. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and serve with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.
[Shared with the What's in the Box? link party]

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lactofermented dill pickles and homemade remoulade

Celery remoulade, made with lactofermented dill pickles
Time for another adventure in cooking as part of Grow It Cook It Can It's Cook It! 2012 challenge.

(I am seriously loving this year-long challenge. It's like having fun, creative homework for Home Ec class or something. So far we have made pasta, bread, butter and cheese.)

May's topic? Lactofermentation.

This one was a bit trickier for me. Why? Well, first because I had to research what the hell lactofermentation even means.

In a nutshell, it's an old, natural process by which veggies are fermented using salty brine.

OK, it's essentially rotting, but it's good, yummy, controlled rotting, not like the kind of "fermentation" that happens in the bottom of my crisper drawer when I forget about a bunch of cilantro. The addition of the brine means that the veggies produce lactic acid that will kill off the bad bacteria and prevent complete putrefication.

(Wow, I'm making this sound very unappetizing. Sorry. Keep reading, it gets much more delicious.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fruit and cereal bars: a recipe

fruit and cereal breakfast bars
Fruit and cereal bars
Here we are, talking about breakfast again.

I have no problems with dinner. Lots of options there, lots of ways to keep it fresh and lively (thanks to this blog, I'm rarely repeating a meal).

But breakfast?

Lordy, I don't know how my dogs do it, eating the same damned thing, day after day after day.

As I've mentioned before, I like recipes that I can make in advance, are portable and last for days.

Enter the fruit and cereal bar.

Monday, June 4, 2012

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: hakurei turnips and sunchokes

I made yummy ice cream with these first-of-the-season strawberries!
Veggies are slowly coming into season here in Vermont but a bit more quickly in other areas of the country, based on reader requests and comments.

I have reached out to the CSA programs in my area to let them know about this feature, so they can share it with their members. If you're in a CSA and finding this "service" helpful, please feel free to do the same!

This week, we're talking turnips and sunchokes.

Hakurei Turnips

Smaller and with a more delicate flavor than standard turnips, Hakurei turnips were developed in Japan in the mid-twentieth century. Word on the street is that you don't even have to peel these little cuties (heck, one of the recipe authors called them "the Hello Kitty of turnips").