Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baked potato chips

I love potato chips, but we don't often keep them around (I tend to go through them a bit too fast). The other day, I was hungry for an afternoon snack and decided on a whim to try making baked potato chips with a couple of the little purple potatoes that I had bought at the market. They came out really good! I'm looking forward to trying this with sweet potatoes and maybe some other vegetables too.

Baked potato chips

Potatoes (they don't have to be purple): I'd say a medium sized potato would yield enough chips for about 2 people
Spray oil

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Cut potatoes into paper-thin slices using a mandoline (a vegetable peeler will work in a pinch if you don't have a mandoline). Lightly coat a cookie sheet with spray oil, and arrange potato slices on sheet. Lightly spray the potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, turning cookie sheet once, or until potatoes are golden brown and crunchy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Marinated eggplant

The photo of this dish in The Silver Spoon makes eggplant look so delicious and tempting - in fact, that photo was what got me going on the streak of eggplant recipes I've been trying lately (I'm looking at the photo right now and it's actually making me hungry, even though I just ate a pretty big dinner). Sadly, eggplant will be out of season soon, and then I guess I'll have to find a more autumnal obsession...

This recipe is easy to put together and has an interesting combination of flavors. We ate this over pasta, but it would be even better on top of toasted slices of hearty bread, kind of like an eggplant bruschetta. The only major change I made to the recipe was to broil the eggplant instead of sauteing - just decided broiling was easier and would require less oil. I'm sure grilling the eggplant slices would work well too.

Corn fritters with roasted tomatoes and peppers

It's almost fall. Winter squash, brussels sprouts, and apples are appearing at the farmers' market, which means the summer vegetables are on their way out. I love fall in Boston, especially the weather, foliage, and back-to-school season energy, but I'm really going to miss summer produce. I better enjoy it while it lasts...

I had frozen a few cups of fresh corn kernels a couple weeks ago, and decided to use them to make these fritters for a light Saturday afternoon lunch. The recipe came from the September 2010 issue of Cooking Light, and I'm submitting this post to Tina, who is guest hosting this week's Magazine Mondays. The fritters were a hit - both Andrew and my sister, who just moved to Boston (yay!), loved them.

I made quite a few changes to the original recipe: I used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose in the batter, and added lime zest and smoked paprika. I served the corn fritters with roasted tomatoes and Anaheim chile peppers, and left out some of the accompaniments that the original recipe suggested, mostly due to lack of ingredients. I think these fritters would be stellar with some avocado and bacon as well. The last major change I made was to do the roasting at a higher temperature than the original recipe instructed - this allowed the pepper skins to brown and blister, and made the tomato roasting go quicker.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Roasted tomato soup with smoked paprika

For this week of Summer Fest, which features tomatoes, I decided to finally make this roasted tomato soup recipe that I had bookmarked in Super Natural Cooking a long time ago. Andrew loves smoky flavors, so I had a feeling that he would like this one. Plus I knew it would be a great way to show off the plum tomatoes that I had just bought at the farmers' market.

This is a really hearty, tasty soup - perfect for the rainy weather we've been having in Boston lately. I loved the way the various vegetable flavors blended with the smokiness of the paprika to make this taste more complex than the standard tomato soup. I stayed fairly close to the original recipe for this one, but chose to use plum tomatoes (recipe doesn't specify, and plum are great for roasting) and added in a potato to make the soup a bit more thick and filling - this is something that my mom always does when she makes tomato soup. With some crusty bread or garlicky croutons, this soup could definitely be a satisfying main course.  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Peach frozen yogurt

This one doesn't require much explanation: peaches + yogurt + sugar + ice cream maker = perfect summer dessert. This has a nice clean peach flavor, and isn't too sweet. And because the amount of sugar in each serving is low, it's actually pretty healthy.

This frozen yogurt is best eaten on the day it is made. I stuck mine in the freezer for about 2 hours after making it, and the texture was perfect at that point. It gets very hard (impossible to scoop) if you store it in the freezer for more than a few hours - if you want to eat it after that point, you need to take it out of the freezer for about 10 minutes so that it softens enough to scoop. It will definitely still taste good, but the texture will be a bit icier than on the first day. In any case, if you make it for a small group, I'm sure you won't have any problem finishing it on day 1!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eggplant and summer squash terrine

Andrew and I went to Italy about 2 years ago, where we experienced a great many culinary revelations - the fact that pasta soaked in oil could somehow not taste oily at all; the comforting taste of soft, creamy polenta; the idea that lasagna could be made with very little cheese and not a drop of tomato sauce; the pillowy, light texture of perfectly made gnocchi; and the discovery that one can never have too much gelato, to name a few. I have memories of a simple but delicious lunch of crusty bread and cheese in Venice (and being attacked by pigeons, but never mind that), a dinner of baby octopus and pea soup in Pisa, freshly caught anchovies in Cinque Terre, grappa in Florence, and hot espressos everywhere. I remember realizing that wine in Italy is often cheaper than soda, and noticing that people looked at us strangely if we didn't drink wine with lunch. In Florence, we marveled at the fact that goat cheese, prosciutto, and arugula were normal, everyday sandwich ingredients, not fancy ones. And then we ate more gelato.

Anyway, before I get too caught up in the reminiscing, let me explain that this rush of memories comes as a result of flipping through The Silver Spoon, which is a giant tome of an Italian cookbook that a friend (thanks Brian!) recently gave us as a wedding gift. This book is packed full of recipes that got me remembering (and hoping to recreate) the flavors of our trip to Italy. 

This eggplant terrine recipe caught my eye right away (I seem to be a bit obsessed with eggplant at the moment). It is time consuming to make, but definitely worthwhile - it is all kinds of delicious. Not too eggy, not too cheesy - it really shows off the flavors of the vegetables. With eggplant, summer squash, red bell peppers, and tomatoes, it is absolutely perfect for this time of year.

Some recipe notes: The original recipe used just eggplant, but I used a combination of eggplant and summer squash, which was great. Make sure to cut the eggplant and squash into uniform, thin slices so that they cook evenly and quickly. I used a mixture of cheeses (noted below), based on the odds and ends that I had in the fridge - I'm sure there are other cheeses that would also work well. Last thing, just so you know - the terrine doesn't look very pretty once it is turned out onto a plate. Still tastes great though!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zucchini stuffed with goat cheese

Ever since I started blogging, friends and family have been generously giving me fresh veggies from their gardens or CSA shares. Naturally, I love it, but I do have to get creative finding ways to use it all. In particular, I have had quite a lot of zucchini to use up, a problem that many of you gardeners probably can relate to. I can always grate and freeze them if need be, but for now I'm trying to use them fresh.

I found this recipe in Vegetarian Cooking and Vegetable Classics, a book that my mom gave me a couple years ago. The zucchini is stuffed with goat cheese and slivers of mint, wrapped up in foil, and baked - nice and simple. I thought the recipe looked good, but needed something more, so I paired it with tomato sauce, which worked nicely. It made a nice light vegetarian main course, perfect for a summer evening with a glass of wine.

This will work best with small, slender zucchini that will cook quickly when left whole. I used goat gouda for the cheese because its easier to work with than soft goat cheese, but you could definitely substitute your favorite cheese here - I bet parmagiano or cheddar would be good choices...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peaches baked with blue cheese

This week's Summer Fest theme is stone fruit, and I'm really excited about it - the peaches, plums, and nectarines in the market right now are just phenomenal! I knew right away that I didn't want to make a standard dessert with stone fruit - I really wanted to experiment with something more savory. I finally remembered an appetizer that Andrew and I had at Maggie's Restaurant during our honeymoon in Bar Harbor, Maine. It was a simple dish of grilled peaches with blue cheese, yet the flavors were surprisingly complex. It was the perfect start to that summer meal, and we both loved it. I'm so glad I decided to recreate this dish for Summer Fest...it brought back so many memories of that wonderful trip!

This dish is super easy to put together, and I think it would work as an appetizer or a dessert, although I prefer it as an app. You do need to use a good quality aged balsamic vinegar for this, something sweet and balanced, definitely not overly acidic or harsh. (I actually used a balsamic vinegar that we bought during our honeymoon, which was very fitting). And for those of you who have the appropriate equipment, these peaches would be even better grilled...

Peaches baked with blue cheese
Inspired by Maggie's Restaurant
For each serving:
1 peach, quartered, with pit removed
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
A few thin slices of blue cheese

Special equipment: small ramekins

Preheat oven to 400 deg F.  For each serving: Place 4 peach quarters in the ramekin, skin side down, and sprinkle with 1 tsp balsamic vinegar. Top with blue cheese and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is soft and just beginning to brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes before eating.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hedgehog potatoes with herbed yogurt dip

Have you heard of hedgehog potatoes? I hadn't, until I saw this fun recipe. Basically, they are potatoes that are cut into thin slices, but the cuts don't go all the way through the potato, so the slices end up spreading out a bit. This recipe comes from Super Natural Cooking, and includes thin slivers of harissa-coated garlic tucked in between the potato slices. The potatoes are garlicky and spicy, with a nice cool cilantro-mint yogurt dip to balance out the heat. As you can see, my obsession with purple vegetables continues with these potatoes...

Hedgehog potatoes with herbed yogurt dip
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking 
Serves 2

Note: we had a lot of dip left over when we made this.

8 small purple potatoes (ours were small enough that 4 potatoes was an appropriate side dish serving. You can substitute red or Yukon gold potatoes if you can't get purple)
3 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp harissa (North African chile paste)

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used sour cream)
1 small clove garlic, chopped
2 tbs chopped fresh mint
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Wash and dry the potatoes. Cut each potato into very thin crosswise slices, but only cut about 80% of the way through, so that the potatoes stay intact. Mix the garlic slices, olive oil, harissa, and a couple of pinches of salt together in a small bowl. Tuck the garlic slices in between the potato slices, and rub remaining oil mixture over the outsides of the potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt, place on a baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, and then uncover and bake for 20 more minutes, or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, chopped garlic, mint, cilantro, salt, and a couple pinches of pepper in a small bowl and stir well. Serve potatoes with dip on the side.

Barley risotto with eggplant, summer squash, and tomatoes

I've been finding all kinds of good eggplant recipes lately. This one is from Cooking Light, September 2009 and is my Magazine Mondays entry for this week. I made this recipe for the first time soon after that issue came out, but I made the mistake of using whole grain hulled barley, which is fine if you're just simmering it in a pot of water, but not so good for something like risotto, which requires lots of attention and stirring. It took forever to cook - we actually ended up losing patience and eating it while the barley was still a bit raw...not so good.

I remembered the recipe recently, and decided to give it another try. This time I followed the instructions, and used pearled barley. I made a couple substitutions to the other ingredients though - I didn't have enough pine nuts around, so I used a mixture of pine nuts and sliced almonds. I also substituted summer squash for half the eggplant (needed to get through the excess of squash in the fridge), and was quite happy with the result. This dish came out really good - full of summer vegetables, with a great mixture of fragrant basil, crunchy nuts, and creamy cheese on top.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Asian noodles with eggplant

I have been buying eggplant regularly these last few weeks (maybe because it's purple and I have a weakness for purple vegetables), but I don't really have a go-to eggplant recipe. Unlike many other vegetables, eggplant isn't that good cooked and eaten plain, so it requires some thought. The best eggplant dishes I've made in the past are either appetizers, or time-consuming main dishes - not really suitable for a weeknight dinner, which is what I'm looking for.

This recipe came from Gourmet Today (surprise, surprise...clearly I need to make an effort to explore different cookbooks next week). The eggplant is broiled with a soy sauce and mirin glaze, and then tossed with spicy noodles. It's a tasty all-in-one dinner dish, and I think some pan-fried tofu would be a nice addition for next time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Broccoli with mustard seeds and horseradish

Okay, so...broccoli. Broccoli is a vegetable that I have a hard time getting excited about. It's not that I dislike it, I just don't quite know how to make it interesting. I tend to walk right by it at the farmers' market, favoring prettier or more unique vegetables. But this week I realized that I've been buying the same veggies over and over, and decided to add some broccoli to the usual mix. I figured this blog would motivate me to find a good recipe, and that I might as well sample the full range of what the market has to offer. I turned to The Gourmet Cookbook (companion to the trusty Gourmet Today), and this recipe caught my eye. The editors' notes say that this is "so satisfying that some of us have been known to make a meal out of it". I'm not sure I would go quite that far, but this was really good! The flavors were unique, and nicely balanced. Plus it was quick and easy to make, which is a welcome bonus. This was enough to convince me that broccoli does have potential - maybe I'll even buy some more next week...

I've you've got any stellar broccoli recipes, please tell me about them in the comments!

Broccoli with mustard seeds and horseradish
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
Serves 4 according to the recipe, but I'd estimate more like 6-8 side dish servings

1 1/2 pounds broccoli
3/4 stick (6 tbs) unsalted butter
3 tbs mustard seeds
2 tbs drained bottled horseradish
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cut off stalks of broccoli and peel with a paring knife, removing fibrous parts. Cut stalks into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut heads of broccoli into 1 1/2-inch-wide florets. Steam broccoli (covered) until tender, 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter over moderate heat in a saucepan. Stir in mustard seeds and cook uncovered until seeds begin to pop, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat if the butter looks like it might burn. When the mustard seeds start to pop, cover pan, and continue cooking until popping begins to slow down. Remove pan from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Toss broccoli with dressing and serve warm.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pasta with greens, beans, and garlic bread crumbs

I had such fun going through the Summer Fest recipes last week! I found lots of creative ideas for cooking corn and also came across a bunch of great blogs I hadn't seen before. And now it's already time for the next Summer Fest post - this week's theme is herbs, beans, and greens. It didn't take me long to decide what to make for this one. This recipe is one of our favorites, and I'm excited to share it with you. The pasta here is tossed with beans and greens in a light cheesy sauce (with bacon!), and there are some completely delicious garlic bread crumbs to top it all off. No need for side dishes here - this is a complete meal in itself.

This recipe is from The Best 30-Minute Recipe, which is a cookbook by America's Test Kitchen. As the title suggests, this book focuses on quick recipes, and includes lots of handy shortcuts and tips for saving time, without sacrificing flavor or quality ingredients. The recipes are really good, although they sometimes take a bit longer than 30 minutes (unless you are very efficient in the kitchen, which I'm not).

I made several substitutions to the ingredients here - I used a whole wheat blend rotini instead of spaghetti, red Swiss chard instead of kale, fresh cranberry beans instead of canned cannellini (might as well celebrate the fresh shell beans of summer!), and Swiss cheese instead of fontina (I just realized that I used two "Swiss" ingredients...how random). The Swiss cheese caused a bit of a problem - it got really stringy as it melted and clumped together with the greens, rather than blending smoothly with the sauce. I've made this recipe previously with fontina and parmesan cheese, and didn't have a problem with either of those. If you use Swiss, you might want to try melting it into the broth mixture before tossing with pasta, rather than stirring it in at the end. I'm including the original ingredients as well as with my substitutions in the recipe below, so you can make it however you want.

You can find links the other Summer Fest entries over at Pinch My Salt.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Panzanella is an Italian salad made with cubes of stale bread and fresh vegetables, usually tomatoes. The bread is softened up by the salad dressing and vegetable juices, and adds nice texture to the dish - this is a really great way to salvage old bread that is too stale to be eaten on its own. Although panzanella can be made with a number of different vegetables, I chose to keep it simple, and just used some lovely heirloom tomatoes and basil.

You'll want to use crusty bread, at least one day old, to make this. I used a baguette that was several days old, but a hearty whole grain loaf would have been even better. I like to jazz up the bread cubes a bit by toasting them garlic and thyme, an idea I got from Heidi's spring panzanella recipe. This add some nice flavors and also helps the bread keep just a bit of crunch even after it soaks in the dressing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blueberry-nectarine crisp

I don't really make many fruit desserts - the leftovers don't usually store that well, so I tend not to make them unless I'm serving a crowd. Andrew and I are generally happy to enjoy our fruit plain and unadorned. However, with all the gorgeous fruit that is available now, I thought it would be a shame not to post at least one summer fruit dessert recipe.

There was no issue with storing leftovers here - this recipe is for single-serving crisps. They're easy to throw together, so you can make just the right amount anytime you want them. In our case, it was for a mid-morning snack, although I'm still labeling this as a dessert. We just happen to like having dessert right after breakfast...

I made this crisp with some ripe, sweet nectarines and blueberries, and topped it with a granola-like oat mixture. We ate this plain, but it would be even better with some vanilla ice cream on the side.

Note that this recipe is infinitely adaptable - you can change up the types of fruit, adjust the amount of sugar, add spices, change the amount of topping...it'll still come out good. And you can make one large crisp instead of several small ones if you want. A couple variations came to mind as I was writing this: a squeeze of lemon would be nice in the filling, or maybe even a bit of booze.

Green beans with mustard crema

When I was looking through all the Summer Fest recipes last week, I came across a mention of another blog event called Magazine Mondays, organized by Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice (a very drool-inducing blog). It's simple - basically, every Monday, Ivonne compiles a list of blog posts featuring magazine recipes. I was really excited to find out about this - I subscribe to Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Bon Appetit, and while I love reading through the magazines every month and always flag interesting recipes, I rarely end up using them. Magazine Mondays might be just the motivation I need!

My entry this week is from the August 2010 issue of Cooking Light. This issue has a feature on recipes inspired by farmers' markets, which is right up my alley. This recipe was created by a chef in Boulder, CO, but it is perfect for the gorgeous green beans that I have been buying here in MA. It's simple, quick, and tasty, with subtle flavors that don't mask the fresh taste of the beans. I think this dish would be a nice accompaniment to almost anything.

I used sour cream instead of creme fraiche here, just based on what I could get at the store. I also increased the amounts of the thyme and almonds because I really like how they taste with beans. Next time, I might increase the amount of mustard as well - I would have liked the flavor to come out a bit more. I'd recommend tasting the dressing and adjusting to your preference.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Potatoes with green chile-cilantro salsa

I love potatoes. I always have - when I was a child, my parents would try to get me to eat other starchy vegetables by telling me that they were types of potatoes (plantain potato, etc. - and yes, it worked). This summer, I have been buying potatoes every week at the farmers' market, but I rarely do anything more creative than roast or pan fry them in a little oil. This blog is good motivation for me to find some more interesting potato dishes to try!

This one is another recipe from Gourmet Today. I'm not a big fan of mayo-based potato salads, so it's nice to find an alternative dressing, like this fresh and spicy green salsa. It was good tossed with boiled potatoes, and I bet it would be even better as a topping for potato pancakes. I'll let you know if I get around to trying that. This dish made a nice accompaniment to eggs, and would also work well with a number of other things - in particular, these potatoes could help liven things up if your main dish is on the plainer side.