Category Archives: Vegetables

Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter

Since I happened to have this bounty of homemade ricotta cheese (pats self on back), I was anxious to put it to work in a fabulous recipe. And what better way to showcase it than in these delicious, fall inspired ravioli. For me, making ravioli is like making lasagna. When I make them, I spend an afternoon assembling as many as I possibly can (within my budget and time constraints) and freeze them to be used as a quick, delicious, homemade meal later on down the road. It takes a little bit more time now, but I save myself a great deal of time and energy in the future, which I am always extremely grateful for, when life becomes a little too hectic to spend much time in the kitchen.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys making your own homemade pasta, well, God bless you. I, myself, am not that person. I certainly have made my own pasta in the past, and likely will again in the future, but for the most part, for me, I find the process to be tedious. Luckily, I needn’t sacrifice flavor, as the grocery store can do all of the work for me, in the form of fresh won ton wrappers. (You can also often find sheets of pasta in the frozen section of your grocery store, which also work equally well.)

I begin by making the filling by combing one cup of homemade ricotta cheese, one cup of canned pureed pumpkin, a half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese, one large garlic clove (grated on my microplane zester), a third of a cup of toasted pine nuts, one egg yolk, a small dash of salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper, some freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. I then taste the filling and make any necessary adjustments.

Next, I make an assembly line on my cutting board. I line square won ton wrappers up six at a time, brush the entire surface with water, place a a small dollop of the pumpkin filling (about a rounded teaspoon’s worth) in the center of each, then place another won ton wrapper over the tops. I gently work out any air bubbles, and press around the filling, to ensure a good seal. I then cut each ravioli out using a medium, fluted biscuit cutter, and crimp each  along its outside edge with tines of a fork. I repeat this process until I run out of filling.Once you get into the rhythm of it, it really doesn’t take that long to assemble all of them.

To freeze the ravioli, I place them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet  and freeze, uncovered, until they are frozen solid, and then transfer them to a zip lock freezer bag. For those that I wish to serve right away, I gently place them in a pot of boiling, salted water, and boil for about two minutes or until they float (you will want to add a minute or two to your cooking time when you are preparing them from frozen).

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan I melt one stick of butter over medium low heat, and allow the butter to brown. When it is fragrant and nicely golden brown I toss in a small handful of fresh sage leaves (either whole or coarsely chopped depending on your presentation preference), and allow the sage to sizzle away in the butter for a minute or so before adding the cooked ravioli.

Serve them up on their own (with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese) or with a simple green vegetable. Here I decided to serve them with sauteed spinach. (To make the spinach, in a large skillet placed over medium heat, I heat several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, and a large pinch of red pepper flakes. Once the garlic has browned, I remove the cloves from the pan and discard them. I add two thinly sliced shallots and cook until they are soft. I then add a big bag of pre-washed baby spinach, and toss to coat it in the oil. Once it is wilted, I season it with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.)

The ravioli are rich and unbelievably creamy with the homemade ricotta cheese. The toasted pine nuts, and salty Parmesan really round out the subtle pumpkin flavor, and it all beautifully harmonizes with the nutty brown butter and sage. All of the fabulous flavors of fall on a plate. This is elegant comfort food at its best. Simple to prepare in advance, and extremely quick to bring together before serving it is also perfect for entertaining. Enjoy!

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Filed under Pasta, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Oil Packed Oven Dried Tomatoes

Overwhelmed by the big bags of farm fresh tomatoes on my counter top, I tried to think of great ways to preserve them for future use. One can only make so much fresh salsa and tomato sauce, so I thought that these oven dried tomatoes would make a fabulous treat over the next several weeks.

I start by lining several baking sheets with silpats (though parchment paper would work equally well if you don’t have a silpat laying around). I then sliced my tomatoes as thinly as I possibly could with a sharp serrated knife, and lined them up tightly on the baking sheets. I then popped them into my oven, set to its lowest setting (mine goes down to 170º though yours may go down even further). I bake them for approximately five to six hours at this low temperature, or until they are completely dry, and practically paper thin.

Meanwhile, in a skillet I combine two cups of extra virgin olive oil, five or six stems of fresh thyme, two large stems of fresh rosemary, about twenty garlic cloves, and a pinch of dried red pepper flakes. I turn the flame onto its lowest setting, and allow the flavors to infuse the oil, and the garlic to caramelize (which takes approximately 45 minutes).

Once the tomatoes are thoroughly dried, I remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheet pans. I then carefully peel each of them off of the silpat (or parchment) and stack them up in glass jars, layering them with the roasted garlic cloves, and a few fresh stems of thyme and rosemary, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Once the jars are filled, I cover the tomatoes with the cooled, herb infused olive oil. The filled jars can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a month.

The tomatoes are candy sweet and plump up a little in the oil. They make a great addition to pasta sauces or pesto, or on their own make a great topping for toasted bread, spread with fresh goat cheese. The oil is perfect spooned over grilled fish, and is delicious made into salad dressings. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a gift of one of these beautifully layered jars of ruby red tomatoes.  Though with the time and effort it takes,  letting go of the jars is a difficult task. I have to like someone A LOT to give these away. But realistically, while it is a time consuming process, each of the steps is easy, and once they are in the oven they essentially take care of themselves. It’s just one more great way to preserve the last of those fresh summer flavors. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to cast your vote for me for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. You can cast your vote by clicking here. I appreciate all of your support!

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Filed under Snacks, Vegetables

Goat Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Last night, when our weekly CSA shipment arrived on our doorstep, I could barely lift the box.  Because of the heavy rain early in the summer, a lot of our produce here in Oregon was pushed back, and evidently, we have just arrived at the peak of the tomato season. I got three large bags of colorful, sweet, farm fresh, vine ripened tomatoes, ranging in size from little pear and grape tomatoes, all the way up to big slicers. I simply couldn’t let these beauties go to waste. So, after eating a fair amount of smaller tomatoes straight from the bag, I decided that stuffing the cherry tomatoes sounded like a good plan. But with what? I scoured the refrigerator to see what I had on hand that would make a good filling. Hummus? Egg salad? Marinated feta cheese? They all sounded delicious. But then I laid my eyes upon a package of fresh goat cheese. You have to understand that ever since I was five years old, I have had a deep affinity for deliciously tangy goat cheese. That summer, when I was five, we visited my great grandmother’s farm in Washington, where she kept chickens, rabbits, pigs, cows, and goats. While I was not, unlike my siblings, very keen on the idea of milking the goats, the tangy, salty, earthy, homemade cheese was a revelation. And, even today, I still consider it to be a decadent treat. I began by slicing the tops off of the cherry tomatoes, and, using a melon baller, scooped out the seeds and pulp. (You may also want to make a tiny slice on the bottom of each to give any uncooperative tomatoes a flat surface upon which to stand.) In a mixing bowl, I then combined four ounces of goat cheese, about a third of a cup of Greek yogurt (which helped to loosen the cheese up a little bit, though sour cream, or a splash of buttermilk would work equally well), about a fourth of a teaspoon of prepared horseradish (or to taste), one small garlic clove (which I grated on a microplane zester), about two tablespoons each of minced fresh basil and chives (though dill, tarragon, or any fresh green herb would also be equally delicious… these are just what I happened to have on hand today), a dash of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I loaded the cheese mixture into a zip lock bag, snipped off the corner, and “piped” the filling into each of the tomatoes. (Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you should be able to fill about a dozen or so.) The sweet tomatoes are a perfect backdrop to the herbaceous, creamy, tangy, filling. They are beautiful served on a bed of fresh chives (splayed out “pick up sticks” style), and garnished with either more fresh chives or a chiffonade of fresh basil, and the tiniest sprinkling of pimentón (for color, and hint of smoke).  These are the perfect little bites to serve with cocktails.  They are easy to make, quick to put together, and people really go crazy for them. Enjoy!  (And don’t forget, there is only one day left to enter for your chance to win my first giveaway – a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card!!! )

This post made the Foodbuzz.com Top 9!!!

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Watermelon Salad

As the summer winds to a close, I long to capture the freshness of the last of the summer produce that remains. This week in our CSA shipment we got the cutest, little watermelons ever in the history of the world, each about the size of a large magic 8 ball (remember those?). They were almost too adorable to cut open, but I thought what a  charming idea it would be to hollow them out and use them as bowls. Natural bowls really speak to me for some reason, be they vegetable, fruit, or bread. A hollowed out lemon filled with sorbet, a stuffed bell pepper, a red cabbage “bowl” mounded with vegetable dip, I’m not sure exactly what it is about them that is so alluring to me. I think at the heart of all of my cooking is a desire to have an end product that reads as simultaneously effortless, rustic, earthy, and chic. And, for whatever reason, natural bowls accomplish that beautifully. I started by carefully slicing one end off of each melon to create a flat, standing surface. I then cut the other end, and, using a spoon, scooped out the fragrant, ruby flesh. In a large mixing bowl I combined the watermelon (which I cubed), with half a red onion (sliced), one small English cucumber (seeded and sliced into half moons), a handful of halved kalamata olives, a generous handful of crumbled feta cheese (preferably French or Greek), and a shower of a fresh basil chiffonade (stack your basil leaves, roll them up like a cigar, and slice as thinly as possible).  In another bowl, I whisked together the zest of one lime, the juice of two limes, about a fourth of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, a couple of teaspoons of honey, four or five dashes of Tabasco (thanks to Brian at A Thought For Food for the spicy suggestion!), a dash of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I poured the dressing over the salad, and gave it a gentle toss (as not to break up the feta any more than necessary). This salad is so fresh tasting. The sun sweet melon, salty olives, tangy cheese, the slight heat from the onions and Tabasco, the brightness of the lime juice, the ever-so-slight sweetness from the honey, and the minty, fresh basil all harmonize together perfectly.  It’s crisp, crunchy, and flavorful. And the melon bowl, well, it kills me. Enjoy!  (If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win my first giveaway – a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma!!!)

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Filed under Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Zucchini Pancakes with Horseradish Cream

These last several weeks I have been absolutely inundated with farm fresh zucchini in our weekly CSA bins. Mountains of them! I have been grilling them, stuffing them, roasting them with Parmesan cheese, making them into a roasted vegetable tian, and anything else I can possibly think of to use them up in some form of non redundant fashion. In searching for recipes, I stumbled across Ina Garten’s zucchini pancakes recipe, and thought, yes! That’s it! And while her recipe is, I’m sure, positively delectable, I decided to sort of come up with my own take on them, based on what other ingredients I had from the CSA. I started by grating about a pound of both green and yellow zucchini in my food processor fitted with the grating disc. I then placed the shredded zucchini in a colander and sprinkled it with about a tablespoon of salt, and allowed it to sit for about twenty minutes. I then rinsed the zucchini in cold water, and squeezed out as much liquid from them as I could, using my hands. In a large mixing bowl I then combined the drained zucchini, about a cup or so of chopped green onions, a handful each of chopped fresh basil and Italian flat leaf parsley, two large garlic cloves (grated on my microplane zester), four large eggs, a little salt, a healthy grind of black pepper, a dash of chipotle powder, and enough flour to pull it all together (about a half a cup or so). I then heated some extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, and,while it was heating, mixed together a half a cup of sour cream, a half a teaspoon or so of prepared horseradish (or more depending on the strength of your particular brand), and a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper. I placed heaping spoonfuls of the zucchini mixture into the hot pan, and cooked them for about two minutes per side, or until nicely golden brown (placing them onto a sheet pan in a 250º oven in between batches to keep them warm). I serve them up with a dollop of the horseradish cream, a sprig of fresh parsley, and a few lemon wedges for squeezing over them. The pancakes are crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. The delicious, savory flavor of the garlic and herbs hit you in waves, with a gentle little nudge from the chipotle powder. The creaminess of the sour cream, and the subtle kick from the horseradish perfectly compliment the pancakes, without overwhelming them.  These are perfect as an appetizer, first course, or lite lunch (and I imagine that they are a great way to get vegetables into your kids).  Now if only I can come up with a use for the REST of Mount St. Zucchini I will be in good shape. Enjoy!

This post made the Foodbuzz.com Top 9!!!

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Fire Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

When we received our CSA bin for the week I was happy to find a big bag of fresh tomatillos among its contents. I like tomatillos, but unfortunately I never think to buy them. So having them, instead, delivered right to my  front door worked out perfectly. This morning, still on my quest to use all of our CSA produce each week, I set about making  a large batch of basil pesto (I was out of pine nuts so I substituted  toasted cashews instead, and it turned out really well! who knew?). Continuing along the green theme, I figured I would fire up the grill and make this fire roasted tomatillo salsa, perfect to have around to serve over grilled meats, scrambled eggs, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, or just for a delicious snack with crunchy, corn tortilla chips. I started by peeling the husks from about two pounds of tomatillos and giving them a good rinse to remove that sticky, sappy tomatillo goo and placed them  all in a large bowl. I then peeled and cut a red onion into thick one inch slices (I didn’t have quite enough red onion, so I added a small yellow onion as well, but I decided to leave it whole) and added those to the bowl along with a couple of jalapeño peppers, and about ten cloves of garlic (still in their skins). I drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables, and then threw them on a hot grill. I was looking to blacken the jalapeños, after which I placed them in a zip lock bag, and allowed them to steam for five minutes before removing their skins and seeds.I cooked the remaining vegetables until they were soft and had developed a nice char. (Alternatively, you could cook the vegetables on a sheet pan under the broiler.) I then removed the vegetables and allowed everything to come to room temperature. In the bowl of my food processor fitted with the steel blade, I added the onions and pulsed them until they were finely diced (but still with some good texture) and emptied those into a bowl. I then added two jalapeños, and all of the peeled roasted garlic, giving that a pulse until it was finely chopped. Next I added the roasted tomatillos and pulsed until they, too, were finely chopped, but not completely pureed, adding that mixture into the bowl as well. I squeezed in the juice of two limes, added a dash of salt, about a teaspoon of sugar, a hefty pinch of ground cumin, and a large handful of chopped cilantro.  It is fresh, smokey, tart, spicy, and ever so slightly sweet from the grilled onions. Delicious, and just in time for Labor day. Enjoy!

This post made the Foodbuzz.com Top 9!!!

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Basil Green Goddess Dressing

Shamefully, in the last couple of weeks, in my busyness and general stupidity as an awful human being , I have allowed a considerable portion of my csa produce to spoil in my fridge. This is not acceptable. I can do better. So this week I am now on a mission to use everything, down to the last little leaf of lettuce and parsley stem. In surveying all of my produce, and imagining what I might concoct with such a spread, I realized that I had everything I needed for a nice salad with basil green goddess dressing. Yay! That spells lunch to me! I did use Ina’s recipe as a guide, but didn’t really measure anything. I added twice the lemon juice, I would think, along with the zest of half a lemon, ’cause I like a nice twang, and a big handful of basil leaves, scallions, parsley, six anchovy fillets along with the capers they were wrapped around (because I didn’t have any anchovy paste on hand), a big pinch of chipotle powder, to add just a little nudge of heat, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Once upon a time I used to be afraid of anchovies. Thinking back, I am not exactly sure why. My own ignorance I suppose. But then I discovered the amazingly delicious wonders of fish sauce (which is largely made with anchovies), and lamented all of the many wasted years of great flavor. Really, when it comes down to it, they taste sort of like slightly fishy, extremely salty Parmesan cheese. So nutty and robust, and you would never know or even venture to guess that there were any fish in this dressing, or in sauces, or any of the many other anchovy applications. Seriously. If, like me, you have been afraid to take the plunge into the fishy waters, what are you waiting for? You are missing out! But I digress… I sliced a colorful assortment of tomatoes, and placed them along side half a small head of red curly leaf lettuce, which I washed and spun dry in my salad spinner. And enjoyed the salad with a fabulously excessive amount of this incredibly full flavored dressing. It is creamy and tangy, with a little heat from the fresh garlic and scallions, and the grassyness of the almost licoricey, minty basil. It hits your palate in all the right places, and is a perfect compliment for these amazing farm fresh, vine ripened tomatoes. What a perfectly delicious lunch, and a step in the right direction of utilizing the entirety of my csa. Anyone out there have any good recipe suggestions for kohlrabi or lemon cucumbers? If so, let me know, that will be my next challenge. Happy eating everyone!

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Green Beans with Hollandaise

After having had a busy couple of days of non stop baking in the scorching summer heat, I (thankfully) finally found some time last night to go out with some fabulous friends and have a good time. Upon returning home we found the CSA bin on our doorstep, as if left by magical little elves. As I rummaged through the box of produce I was elated to find an enormous bag of farm fresh green beans (our first of the season!). I have always been a lover of green beans. As a child, while they were always horrendously overcooked or (gasp! dare I say) canned, I still gobbled them up as if they were candy. These days I prefer my green beans to retain a little bite to them. Some people out there disagree and feel the need to cook their beans until they are brown and practically falling apart. But, you know, that’s fine, to each their own.  I have also recently seen several different recipes for “fool proof” hollandaise sauce, that can be made in advance. Now I have never had a big problem with the making of the sauce, but I have always found that it has to be made seconds before it is served, which often takes me away from the pleasures of mingling with my dinner guests. So the idea that I could make the sauce an hour in advance and then just refresh it with a little hot water was very appealing to me. I started out by blanching the trimmed green beans in boiling salted water for four to five minutes, and then shocking them in salted ice water to stop the cooking and to lock in their green color. Meanwhile, in the blender, I combined (or should I say blended) four egg yolks, three tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a generous grinding of black pepper, a small dash of salt, a little freshly grated nutmeg, and a couple of hearty pinches of chipotle powder (though cayenne pepper would work equally well). Once that was thoroughly mixed, with the blender still on, I slowly drizzled in fourteen tablespoons of hot, melted butter (which I heated in a glass measuring cup in the microwave) through the pour spout. And voila! It really couldn’t be any simpler to make.  Since I was testing this recipe to see if it did, in fact, have the staying power to be made in advance, I left the mixture in the blender at room temperature for one hour. I returned to a sauce that had the consistency of a thick mayonnaise. I added two tablespoons of extremely hot tap water (as directed by at least five of the recipes I have recently seen), and gave it a thirty second whirl. And, wouldn’t you know, exactly as promised, the sauce came right back together and was ready to serve. I warmed the green beans by dropping them back into boiling salted water for about thirty seconds, drained them, and lined them up like soldiers on a warm, white platter. Now is there anything in life better than hollandaise? It is so sinfully rich and luxurious, it really does make even the simplest meal feel special.

UPDATE: I have also found that you can make your hollandaise as directed above and store it in a thermos (which I first fill with very hot tap water and then empty in order to pre-warm it) and the sauce will stay hot and pourable for up to three hours (depending on the quality of your thermos). Just give your thermos a shake before serving. Enjoy!

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Zucchini Carbonara

While my posts might typically suggest otherwise, I actually do like to prepare and eat dishes that are, at least moderately, figure friendly. In fact, ironically, I myself don’t actually eat most of what I post. A dear friend of mine has been telling me for months how she makes pasta for her family and, since she is watching her carbs, eats the same sauces only on ribbons of zucchini instead of noodles. What a great idea. Yesterday, as I sat staring at my seemingly endless pile of CSA produce (the majority of which was green and yellow zucchini), I thought why not borrow her idea and make some zucchini carbonara. My mother (who is a lover of purchasing random, useless As-Seen-On-TV gadgets) gave me one of those julienne peelers a while ago, which I have never actually used. I thought I would give it a go and see if it did not in fact make the making of the zucchini “pasta” a little bit easier. And while, to be fair, it did score all of the slices, I still had to manually separate each stand, so the process took longer than one would hope. Next time I will just try slicing them with the julienne blade on my mandaline and see if that doesn’t prove to be easier(using a vegetable peeler would also work well, just be sure to leave the seeds behind as you slice). Once I had a nice pile of the zucchini strands (about 4-5 zucchini’s worth), I blanched them in boiling salted water for about two minutes, and then shocked them in a bowl of salted ice water. Meanwhile, I beat four extra large eggs, a handful of Parmesan cheese, a generous dash of freshly ground black pepper, a healthy pinch of pimentón (to sort of emulate the missing smoky bacon),and just for fun, a tablespoon of homemade basil pesto.  I poured off the water from the blanching, reserving about a cup of the liquid, and return the pan to low heat. I add in about a third of a cup of the cooking liquid, and whisk vigorously while slowly adding the egg mixture. (If I were making this with actual pasta I would add the eggs over the cooked pasta, after it had taken a twirl in the traditional pancetta or bacon fat, but since I omit the bacon, and since the zucchini isn’t quite as sturdy as the pasta, I make the sauce separately to avoid breaking up the “noodles.”) Cook over low heat whisking constantly for about two minutes, or until thickened. Add the zucchini, stirring gently, along with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and cook long enough to warm it through, adding a splash of extra cooking liquid if it needs it. It is creamy, rich, flavorful, and surprisingly satisfying. Giving you that same experience of pasta, without any of the carbs. In a way, it is sort of like a stove top gratin. This makes both a delicious side dish or vegetarian main course. What a great new way to eat your vegetables.  Enjoy!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

As a child I really loved to eat vegetables. Brussels sprouts, Lima beans, spinach, and other foods that typically repulsed most other children were always a delicious staple in our house. (Though as a child I never enjoyed fish, of any kind, though at the heart, I believe that this might have been an issue of never having well prepared fish). I remember wandering the stalls at our local farmer’s market growing up, and always being mesmerized at the stalks of fresh Brussels sprouts. They seemed so mysterious and magical, caught somewhere between a cabbage and a snap dragon. While today it is rare for me to be able to find fresh Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, they remain one of my favorite vegetables. While I will most often just steam them (out of laziness), and eat them dipped in coarse grain mustard (which I have been doing since I was a child, strangely enough), I do like to make them in a variety of different ways. One of my favorite ways, as taught to me by my good (but imaginary) friend Ina Garten (who lives on TV), is to roast them in the oven until they are crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. I start by cleaning the Brussels sprouts and removing the tough tip end, and any outer leaves that are less than beautiful. I toss them with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper (and sometimes a dash of pimentón, just for fun). I then lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and pop them into a preheated 400º oven for about forty five minutes (or until nicely tender), tossing them several times to ensure even browning. Once they come out of the oven I give them an extra sprinkling of coarse sea salt, and (sometimes) a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Even people who claim not to like Brussels sprouts enjoy them cooked this way. They are really a revelation. Delicious and good for you! Happy eating everyone!

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