Zucchini-Corn Mozzarella Bake with Almost Pesto

This was a last minute addition to my contributions to a potluck we hosted, inspired by the fact that we had a huge zucchini and some corn that were on their last fresh legs. Our CSA had given us fresh basil the last few weeks so I ended up Magic Bullet-ing a bunch of it (with EVOO and fresh garlic), freezing the puree in an ice cube tray, and popping the herby popsicles into a gallon baggie in the freezer. Having such great stuff on hand made this side a cinch–and so fast to throw together! Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture in the midst of guests arriving, but it did turn out quite lovely as well as yumtastic.

1 very large zucchini, thickly sliced and quartered
2 ears of corn, cut off the cob
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced and quartered
3 frozen cubes of puréed basil, garlic, EVOO (approx 4 tablespoons fresh?)
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 375.

Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add the basil ice cubes. Once they’ve melted about half-way, add the zucchini and corn. Stir occasionally to evenly coat veggies with basil and olive oil and gently cook most of the way through. Remove from heat and season lightly with sea salt.

Evenly arrange mozzarella on top and sprinkle the pine nuts on top of cheese. Bake for about 5 minutes. Enjoy as soon as you please!

Taco Salad

Most folks think they know what taco salad is–a salad of taco fillings inside a bowl-shaped tostada shell–and most folks are incorrect. Edible bowls are dumb because if you eat it you lose a very functional bowl and where does your food go? And if you don’t eat it your meal is missing an important ingredient. LAME-O. Proper taco salad is ALL the taco goodness tossed into taco bliss! Today we had this version:

A few big leaves of green leaf lettuce, chopped
1 amazingly meaty and juicy tomato, chopped
About 1/4 cup Beecher’s Flagship cheese, grated
2 green onions, diced
Handful of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 a huge avocado, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef, pre-cooked and pre-seasoned from our freezer
About a cup tortilla chips, crushed a bit by hand
About 1/4 cup whisked-up dressing: EVOO, lime juice, clover honey, cumin, paprika, and black pepper

The spices, olive oil, lime juice and tortilla chips were non-local Pantry items and the avocados are my one caveat ingredient. The rest is legit, including the beef previously bought from Olsen Farms a couple months ago.

We ate this with sliced up yellow nectarine as dessert and it was sooooo good and soooo summery. Gettin’ into the swing of this whole local thang!

DIY Muesli

This is a great weekday breakfast because you can throw stuff together the night before and only have to add fresh goodies in the a.m.

1 cup extra thick rolled oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic–awesome stuff!)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon quality vanilla extract
Dash sea salt
A good pour of orange juice
Nuts, chopped (I used toasted hazelnuts, blanched almonds, raw walnuts)
Fresh seasonal fruit, chopped (I used DEElicious apricots and a few gooseberries)
Drizzle honey

Combine the yogurt and milk in a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the oats and stir well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and stash in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge the next a.m. and note how much of that moisture was absorbed into the oats. Add enough orange juice to wake them up! Mix well, then add whatever nuts and fresh fruit you have in the house. Drizzle with a little honey and top off with a splash of more milk.

Hearty, healthy, and tasty to boot! It’ll be a good morning indeed!

Summer Garden Salad

Salad Fixins
1 cup mixed salad greens, rinsed and revitalized
1 large zucchini, shaved into ribbons on a mandelin, torn into bite size pieces
1 ear of husked corn, broken in half
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 2″ pieces
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 slice of Field Roast’s “celebration roast,” diced

2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
1 shallot, diced
A drizzle honey
A few grinds black pepper
Dash sea salt

Set water in a fairly deep but not necessarily large steamer over high heat. Once it’s reached a rolling boil, add the 2 corn on the cob halves to the water. Place the steamer basket on top and plop the green beans in, cover and steam for 5-8 minutes. Remove the green beans and transfer to a cold bowl. After a few more minutes remove the corn and set on a cutting board to cool.

Add a dash of olive oil to a frying pan and place over medium heat. In goes the celebration roast! Toss to coat and keep an eye on it. Stir occasionally and cook until golden brown with some crisp edges. Remove from heat.

Make the dressing in a small mixing bowl. Add orange juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, shallots, honey, salt and pepper, and whisk together. Continue whisking while you add EVOO in a slow stream.

Add all ingredients–except the dressing–to a large salad bowl. At this point the salad can be transported or refridgerated for later. Add dressing and toss to combine and coat thoroughly right before serving.


B.L.A.T. Salad

I’m pretty darn proud of this one! It satisfies all your food cravings save chocolate (after all, this is a salad I’m talking about). The key is delicious fresh produce and this wowzer of a dressing. BLAT!

Salad Ingredients
1 lb. of your favorite bacon, cooked and chopped
4 perfectly ripe avocados, chopped
4 juicy Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 head butter (Bibb) lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
1 head red leaf lettuce, also torn into bite size pieces
1 Romaine heart, chopped
4 slices of good sourdough bread, cut into 1/2″ or 3/4″ square pieces

Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup Lemonnaisse (regular mayonnaise is OK)
1 large or 2 small lemons, juiced (+1 if using reg mayo)
1 tsp stone-ground mustard (+1 if using reg mayo)
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tsp bacon grease (!!!!)
Several grinds of black pepper
Pinch sea salt
Optional: a little lemon zest never hurt anybody 🙂

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill your kitchen sink with cold water and dump in all the lettuces. Let them hang out there for about 10 minutes while you attend to other stuff, then remove and give them a few whirls in a salad spinner. This was enough lettuce that I had to go in 3 batches but maybe your spinner is bigger. Once they’re as dry as they’re going to get transfer to a very large serving/salad bowl and set aside.

Cook the bacon however you prefer, drain on paper towels, and reserve a teaspoon of the drippings.

Get out a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Arrange bread evenly in one layer, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a little S&P. Pop into the oven and toast for 5-10 minutes. If the bread is fresh it will take more towards 10, if it’s dryer 5 will be fine, but also it depends on how crunchy you like your croutons so just keep an eye on them. Set aside to cool when they’re ready.

Onto the dressing! In a medium sized mixing bowl, plop the Lemonnaisse, stone-ground mustard, lemon juice, and bacon grease. Whisk together and season with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. While continuing to whisk, add the EVOO in a steady stream. If it looks a little thick add more EVOO, if you want it creamier add some more Lemonnaisse, if you really like pepper add some more of that, etc. Pour over the lettuce mixture in the very large salad bowl.

Reuse the post-dressing mixing bowl to combine the chopped tomatoes, avocadoes, and bacon. Squirt with some lemon juice so the avocadoes stay green. Add a serving spoon and to table this bowl goes.

Add the croutons to the big salad bowl and give it a good tossing to coat both lettuce and croutons. Add whatever salad-serving-utensils-you-use and this baby’s ready to join its buddy at table.

When serving, give yourself a nice bed of lettuce/croutons/dressing and then top that off with the avocado/tomato/bacon mixture. BAM!

This is better than any BLAT sandwich…although, to give credit where credit is due, this was totally inspired by my beloved Hi-Life’s heavenly lunch creation. The lemon aioli they use makes the sandwich POP! in your mouth, I only ever wish there was more lettuce/tomato/avocado because of my more veggies-to-meat ratio obsession.

Spring Risotto

Whipped together a pretty yumtastic spring meal tonight, using mostly cupboard and fridge staples but wih some delicious fresh seasonal goodies. Warning–these measurements are super approximate!

Spring Risotto
3+ cups veggie broth
2+ cups milk
1 cup pre-made pesto
1-2 cups (unpacked/loose) Parmesan-Reggiano
1-2 lbs fresh asparagus, ends snapped off (1/3 tips removed, 2/3 chop into 1-2″ pieces)
1-2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups arborio rice

Heat some EVOO over medium heat, tadd rice and quinoa, and toss to coat. Toast for about 2 minutes. Add a cup veggie broth and stir fairly continuously. Bring the broth to a simmer and add remaining broth and milk a cup at a time as it gets absorbed into the rice (don’t cover). Continue to add liquid until rice is cooked through and consistency is creamy and thick. This will take a good while–give it good attention.

Meanwhile, boil a medium sized lot of water. Blanch the stems of 1/3 of the asparagus, scoop out of the water, and purée in Magic Bullet or food processor (add some pesto if moisture would ease the process). Plop the purée into the now-coming-together risotto, along with all the pesto. Return water to boiling and blanch the rest of the asparagus. Add peas and asparagus to risotto. Add Parmesan and incorporate well. Heck YES dudes!

I served this with a green salad (Butterhead and some red variety) with paper-thin radishes, almond slices, diced fresh chives, and this delightful dressing: 1 lemon’s zest, 1 lemon’s juice, a good dollop of stoneground mustard, drizzle honey, EVOO, salt & pepper. Very light and bright and the perfect accompaniment to rich risotto!


Yukon Fries

OK, so making fries doesn’t require anything approaching a recipe but this is a handy how-to, the result of several Internet People’s recommendations and a good amount of guesswork.

6 Yukon Gold taters, very well scrubbed
2 inches of oil (I used an 80/20 combo of safflower oil and EVOO)
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground dried chipotle chile, to taste

Preheat the oil to 350. Slice the potatoes into uniform 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide pieces–I tried for matchsticks but that didn’t work out super well since the potatoes I used were small and kind of lumpy. But whatev, they tasted great! Carefully lower potatoes into the oil (you may need to do 2 batches so there’s enough room in the pot for the potatoes to “stretch out”) and fry for 5-8 minutes. Take out a fry at the 5 min mark to check softness. You want it cooked through but don’t worry if its limp and sad looking. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Crank up the heat until oil reaches 375 degrees then return soft fries to the pot and fry at the higher heat until golden brown and crispy (about 3 minutes). Remove and drain again, patting a little with paper towels. While still hot but cooled enough you won’t burn yourself, transfer to a large mixing bowl and season with salt and ground chile. Toss to coat evenly and serve ASAP.

I don’t know why restaurants don’t use Yukons for their fries ’cause dude! These were the yummiest fries EVER!

Stout Chocolate Cupcakes

We hosted a beer-themed potluck for St. Patrick’s Day this year and naturally I got a hankering for the delicious combo of stout and chocolate. Cake seemed like a natural choice, but as a notoriously hopeless baker, and my Baker Novice sister in the thrall of finals week, I was a bit leery.  After finding a yummy and easy-looking recipe at Smitten Kitchen I thought I’d give it a go anyways.

I started working on these at about midnight after a long week and evening. I was too tired to make my usual mistake of messing around with the recipe too much and they turned out AMAZING.

This confirms Ian’s theory that if I use the actual listed ingredients, properly measure them, and pay attention/respect to the timer, I can bake as well as anybody else–a theory I’ve never been able to test before due to perhaps too much pluckiness. So thank you sleepiness and resulting subdued creativity!

(makes about 2 dozen cupcakes)

1 cup Irish Death stout beer
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup “lite” sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache frosting/glaze
Theo’s sipping chocolate
Heavy cream
Powdered sugar, to taste
3/4 teaspoon Irish breakfast tea

Preheat oven to 350°F and put baking cups into cupcake pan. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt to blend. Using a stand-up mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream.  Add stout-cocoa mixture and vanilla to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared cupcake pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. Let pan cool to room temp before popping the second batch into the oven. Cool cupcakes completely before applying ganache.

Using a food processor or Magic Bullet, pulse the Irish breakfast tea to get a coarse powder, set aside. Melt the chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally. Add enough powdered sugar that the mixture reads to you as “definitely sweet”  and the Irish tea  powder and mix well. Let cool a little bit before dipping the tops of each cupcake into the ganache. Place back on cooling rack to let chocolate set up.

And VOILA! Super moist and chocolatey cupcakes, not too sweet, but sweet enough to make a gal swoon away to chocolate town. A happy place indeed!

Substitutions: Irish Breakfast tea instead of instant coffee grounds. Added vanilla (can you believe there was none!?). Irish Death rather than Guinness. Cupcakes rather than bundt cake (I don’t have a bundt pan). Added powdered sugar to ganache because Theo’s sipping chocolate is very bittersweet and the unfrosted cake I sampled wasn’t very sweet at all.