Day 107: Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta and Basil

Heavy for a side dish, heavy for an entreeMark Bittman (who's known in cooking circles as the Minimalist) rarely disappoints.

The problem is the pasta:zucchini ratio. Yes, the recipe reads Pasta with Zucchini not Zucchini with Pasta. But still, the zucchini was undetectable, even when I used only half the specified pasta.

We also found it heavy, more suitable perhaps for a winter meal than a summer one on the patio. It was decent cold, straight from the frig, if you like mac'n'cheese that way.

TOOL INVENTORY
  • Knives to trim/dice zucchini and chop basil
  • Colander to drain basil (could use paper towels or a salad spinner)
  • Dutch oven/large pot to cook pasta
  • Skillet to saute zucchini + spatula
  • Serving bowl


PASTA with ZUCCHINI, RICOTTA and BASIL
Active time: Didn't track, my estimate is 20 minutes
Time to table: Again, an estimate is 30 minutes
Made 9 cups (the recipe specified 2x the pasta and still said it would serve 4 - 6 people, that would be a LOT)


1 cup fresh basil
Water for pasta
Table salt
1/2 pound good dried pasta (I used 8 ounces of spinach fettucini, the recipe called for 16 ounces of penne)

1/4 cup olive oil (the recipe said this was the minimum amount, that some cooks would want to add more; in my pan, the zucchini was swimming in fat)
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and diced in 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic

1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (preferably with a Microplane)

Wash the basil, drain in a colander and set aside

Fill a large pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil.

Heat a skillet over MEDIUM HIGH, add oil. When hot, add zucchini and salt to taste. Cook until the zucchini is brown, then lower the heat and cook until it is quite tender, about 15 minutes total.

About five minutes before the zucchini is done, add the garlic and begin to cook the pasta. When it's done, reserve about a cup of the cooking water before draining.

While the pasta cooks, warm a serving bowl by filling it with hot water for a few minutes. When it's warm, add the ricotta. Chop or tear the basil and add about half of it to the bowl. Use the reserved pasta water, starting with about a half cup, to thin the ricotta to the consistency of sauce. Add the pasta, the zucchini, the remaining basil and the Parmesan and stir well.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Cup: 239 Cal (46% from Fat, 16% from Protein, 37% from Carb); 10 g Protein; 13 g Tot Fat; 4 g Sat Fat; 23 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; 219 mg Calcium; 3 mg Iron; 133 mg Sodium; 43 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 5 points

ALANNA's TIPS
  • Consider a basil keeper for keeping fresh basil well, you know, fresh
SOURCE
Mark Bittman, New York Times July 13, 2005

Day 106: BLTs with Avocado ♥

Yummy BLTs with avocado and alfalfa sprouts on focacciaThe Russian-born lady at our table asked, "Pleez, what is B L T?"

So for all the native Polish, Israeli, Malaysian, Australian, French, Swedish, Spanish, Portugese, Taiwanese, Indian and others who visit this site on occasion -- thank you! and please know that while BLT may be an acronym for Bacon, Lttuce and Tomato in sandwich form, what it stands for is one of summer's great indulgences.

Here are the essentials:

Good bread, often toasted -- in this case a salty focaccia (that worked better the first day, when it was fresh, than the third, when it was tough) but a whole grain slice will work great, as would a firm, cottage-style white bread or even a large soft white roll

Thick-cut bacon -- fried crisp (be sure to pour off the bacon fat to store in the frig for later) -- consider cooking extra for this corn chowder or this broccoli salad

Mayonnaise -- in this case, 5 tablespoons of Hellman's Light tossed with 3 tablespoons of chopped chive and tablespoons of chopped dill (for the record, plain mayo is fine but this blend added a bit of extra oomph)

Thick-sliced perfectly ripe tomatoes -- the tomatoes are so key that if they are less than perfect, you're advised to make something else!

Lettuce -- or some form of fresh green, in this case alfalfa sprouts which I really liked a lot

Mashed avocado -- (oops, I really DID think avocadoes were vegetables, silly me and so bought a bunch for Veggie Venture experiments) a nice touch, but optional, really

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Some things just don't need to be known

SOURCE
Gourmet April 2004

Day 105: Avocado Salad with Hearts of Palm

Chunks of red onion provided color on these plates of greens and green thingsOops.

I didn't know til just now that avocadoes are fruits and hearts of palm are neither fruit nor vegetable but stems, for goodness sake. Oh well: tis green, so qualifies, yes? for a Veggie Venture entry?

This salad was good enough -- though for my box, not unusual or special enough to hang onto for another time. It might have been improved by riper avocadoes - even though these were stored in a paper bag for three days, supposedly, the way to let ripening occur.

The dressing can easily be made in advance, then the salad assembled at the last minute.

AVOCADO SALAD with HEARTS OF PALM
Active time for dressing: 7 minutes
Active time for salad: 10 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Serves 4


Dressing (you'll use about 1/2 to serve 4 people):
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
1 teaspoon garlic (from a jar!)
Zest from 1 lemon (using a Microplane, if possible)
Juice from 1 1/2 lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil (reduced from 8 tablespoons in the original recipe)

Salad:
Lettuce leaves - leafy green, red leafy, spring mix, etc.
1 - 2 avocadoes, diced (see ALANNA's TIPS)
7 ounces canned hearts of palm, drained
1/2 small red onion, chopped

Dressing: Mix all the ingredients in a blender, food process or with an immersion blender attachment (see ALANNA's TIPS).

Salad: Arrange the lettuce on four small plates. Stir together the avocado, hearts of palm and onion in a small bowl. Stir in enough dressing to just wet the ingredients. Arrange in mounds atop the lettuce. Serve.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Made with 1 avocado, per plate: 137 Cal (64% from Fat, 9% from Protein, 27% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 11 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 10 g Carb; 5 g Fiber; 67 mg Calcium; 3 mg Iron; 311 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 3 points

Made with 2 avocadoes, per plate: 209 Cal (68% from Fat, 7% from Protein, 24% from Carb); 4 g Protein; 17 g Tot Fat; 2 g Sat Fat; 14 g Carb; 8 g Fiber; 73 mg Calcium; 3 mg Iron; 315 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 5 points

ALANNA's TIPS
  • I really love my immersion blender, yes, for the 'blending' capabilities but also because it includes a food processor-type attachment which holds 1 1/2 cups, the perfect size for salad dressing and other small jobs.
  • How to dice an avocado: Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, then remove the pit. Cup one half in your palm, then insert a small knife into the flesh, right next to the skin. Move the knife along the skin, slicing the flesh away from the skin and staying as close to the skin as possible. Once you could lift the fruit from the skin, don't yet, first run the knife in criss-cross fashion across the flesh, then lift out the cubes.
  • My nutrition/calorie information source (based on a USDA database) says that California avocadoes have 384 calories per cup, Florida avocadoes 276 calories per cup - a huge difference. Unfortunately, at least my regular supermarkets rarely provide that information. Last summer one did place special emphasis on "lower-fat" avocadoes (that I know now were apparently from Florida) but I haven't seenany information since.
SOURCE
Gourmet Magazine January 1995

Tool Tip: Immersion Blender

A favorite kitchen tool, an immersion blender, shown here with the food processor cup attachedSeveral times a week, I pull out a small and inexpensive immersion blender or its attachments. It doesn't replace a blender, a food processor or a mixer, but it sure is handy for small jobs, well worth the $25 invested a couple of years ago. (2008 Update: The Braun product I have is being discontinued but there are many brands of immersion blenders.)

What's shown is the 'motor' (the top piece) attached to a mini food processor (the bottom piece). It includes a cup with a food-processor-type blade that's just perfect for small jobs. The cup includes both a rubber piece that works both to stabilize the cup for standing/processing and as an air-tight cover.

There's also the immersion blender itself, which makes quick work of most soups without the hassle of getting out/cleaning/putting away the blender or big Cuisinart food processor. One word of caution: the immersion blade must be fully immersed in the soup - otherwise, soup will splatter all over.

There's also a whisk attachment for whipping egg whites and cream. It works great but does take a little longer than an electric hand mixer.

Day 104: Chipotle Chickpea Salad ♥

Chipotle Chickpea Salad
One of my favorite salads from of A Veggie Venture, canned beans mixed with summer-fresh vegetables and a smidgin of heat from a pantry ingredient, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

~recipe & photos updated 2006 & 2010~
~such a favorite salad, republished in 2010~

Day 104, 2005: Who else has been tripping over recipes raving about chipotle peppers in adobo sauce? Me too. This particular recipe may have been published more than three years ago but chipotle peppers seem to be trendy right now. Last week I found a small can in my everyday supermarket and snatched it up. I should have bought more! This make-ahead salad feels both familiar and surprising. The dense creaminess of the chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) contrasts with the bright coolness of the tomatoes and cucumber which in turn are deepened by the dark, smoky chipotle pepper. What IS that undertone? you'll wonder. Very yummy – and very open to variation, what's on hand, what inspires. Consider sun-dried tomato, mango, pineapple or avocado.

Update July 2006: This is a great summer salad and a true "concept recipe", one begging for variation and creativity. The key sauce ingredients are mayonnaise, lime and chipotle. The key salad ingredients are some sort of bean, onion and cilantro. Some times I use black beans instead of chickpeas. I also bulk it up with corn for color contrast and bell peppers for crunch. Even with more bulk, 1 tablespoon of chipotle, with NO adobo sauce, creates plenty of heat. This salad gets rave reviews from adults and kids alike.

Update July 2010: Turns out, this is one of my very favorite summer salads on all of A Veggie Venture, one which returns to the table again and again because it's so easy to adapt, it tastes like 'real food' and, well, people really love it! I have refined my own favorite variations of the salad but it is, truly, a concept salad for you to make your own. I think you'll love this!

CHIPOTLE CHICKPEA SALAD

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes 5 cups

DRESSING
1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise (my favorite is Hellman's Light)
Zest and juice from a lime (about 2 tablespoons juice)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (key ingredient, try not to skip)
1 or more chipotle chiles (from a can of 'chipotle peppers in adobo sauce', see TIPS)

BEAN & VEGETABLE MIXTURE
2 15-ounce cans of beans, rinsed well and drained (my favorite combination is one can of chickpeas and one can black beans)
1 or more good summer tomatoes, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped (use any color for crunch, use a green pepper for color contrast)
1/3 cup chopped red onion (some times I skip this)
1 cup chopped cilantro (don't skip cilantro or another fresh herb)

OPTIONAL ADDITIONS
Raw sweet corn, scraped off the cob, the 'milk' scraped off the cob into the dressing
Chopped cucumber

TO FINISH
2 - 3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the chipotle can) to taste or entirely optional (see TIPS)
Salt & pepper to taste

DRESSING [For efficiency, rinse and drain the beans before starting the Dressing.] Mix the mayonnaise, zest, lime juice and cumin in a large bowl. Scrape the seeds from the chipotle chilies and discard (the real heat resides in chili membrane and then seeds, not chili flesh). Mash the chilies with the back of a spoon, add to bowl.

BEAN & VEGETABLE MIXTURE Add these ingredients and any optional additions, stir together.

TO FINSH Taste and add adobo sauce if using and salt and pepper to taste.


ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
What are chipotle chiles? They are such a favorite pantry ingredient for me, here's a description of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. They're hot! For this salad, I usually use just one chile, mashed well with the back of a spoon and mixed into the dressing. That provides the 'right' amount of heat for my taste. If you'd like more heat, spoon in a little of the adobo sauce, a small smidgin at a time.
To show how flexible this salad is, let me share a 2005 e-mail from an adventurous cook: "Couldn’t find the chipotle with adobo sauce. However, I DID use your recipe as an outline for a really wonderful salad. Instead of the adobo, I used chipotle salsa. Also added a can of black beans (rinsed); added about half a chopped cucumber and a small red bell pepper. Also used a little can of mild chopped peppers from the Mexican food section. And I did use the Caesar ranch dressing. It was probably the best salad I have ever made!" And then later: "Finished the leftovers today. But made additions. All good. Cut leftover steamed broccoli from Friday night into bite sized chunks. Added another tomato that demanded it be used TODAY. Wonderful!"

A Veggie Venture - Printer Friendly Recipe Graphic

This recipe is so quick and easy that I'm adding it to a growing collection of easy summer recipes published all summer long in 2009 at Kitchen Parade, my food column, and now again in 2010. With a free Kitchen Parade e-mail subscription, you'll never miss a one!







© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005

Day 103: Carrot & Edamame Salad

Fiber-packed edamame in a light salad Would you rather eat exotic edamame (ed-uh-MAH-may) or spartan SOY?

Take your pick becuase they're the same thing, fresh soy beans. And they're delicious! Now that they come shelled and frozen, they're easy to cook and easy to find year-round.

This is an okaaaaaay salad. But if you don't yet know how good edamame beans taste, don't make this your introduction: you might not return.

As it turns out, the recipe seemed familiar. Sure enough, when I waded through its reviews on Epicurious, I made it a year ago and had the same reaction: good enough but just okay. The carrot flavor and texture overwhelm the delicacy of the beans.

Looks great, though, doesn't it? You don't often get such great color on your plate!

Leftover Update: This either grew on me or improved with a day in the frig. So I'd now recommend it even though it doesn't pay edamame their due.

Buying Tip: At my grocery, the produce section at my grocery sells 10-ounce packages of edamame beans for $4 while the freezer section has 16-ounce bags for $2.

CARROT & EDAMAME SALAD
Active time: 20 minutes (not including cooking the beans which takes maybe 2 minutes active/20 minutes total)
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes 7 cups


7 carrots (about 24 ounces)
3 cups frozen shelled edamame, cooked in well-salted water (important!) and chilled
8 green onions, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (a must, don't skip)
1/4 cup rice vinegar (seasoned rice vinegar might help?)
Zest and juice from two lemons (about 1/4 cup juice)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (next time I'll try 1 tablespoons, even none)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I forgot this, it would help, I think)
Salt & pepper to taste

Peel and grate the carrots in the food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and combine well.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 168 Cal (36% from Fat, 19% from Protein, 45% from Carb); 8 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 19 g Carb; 7 g Fiber; 43 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 96 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 3 points

ALANNA's TIPS
  • St Louisans: Schnuck's (at least Kirkwood) carries frozen edamame beans, both shelled and in the pod but Dierberg's (at least Rock Hill) does not.
SOURCE
Bon Appetit January 2001

Day 102: Summer Orzo With or Without Radicchio ♥

Summer Orzo Without Radicchio
Today's recipe: My go-to pasta salad in summer -- no oil! but packed with olives and sun-dried tomatoes and lovely Mediterranean flavor. This is a real classic, with or without the radicchio.

~recipe & photo updated 2007~
~more recently updated recipes~

2005: This is a delicious summer salad, one of the best pasta salads ever -- and it uses radicchio (a new green, er, red! for me). It took a bit of time but was easy to put together ahead of time, then combine just before serving.

Entirely by accident, I omitted the 5 tablespoons of olive oil specified in the original recipe. But everyone at the table agreed -- it wasn't missed, not in the least. And to change the proportion of pasta:vegetables, I doubled the sun-dried tomatoes, the olives and the radicchio. It remained a pasta salad (vs a vegetable salad with pasta) and I wouldn't hesitate to add still more tomatoes and olives -- and perhaps roasted peppers, capers, or asparagus tips.

2007: I made this salad a day ahead for a potluck. While radicchio makes for a 'very pretty' salad, since it's expensive and not always available, I was much pleased that the salad still looks great and to my taste, tastes even better without the radicchio.

This is now my 'go to' pasta salad for summer, no oil, fresh flavors, easy to make ahead, keeps. It's very light tasting, a great side side because it simply doesn't fight with any other foods.

WHAT IS RADICCHIO? You might call radicchio (rah-DEE-kee-o) 'chicory' and in appearance and texture, it's easy to mistake radicchio for red cabbage, especially once it's chopped up in a salad. The flavor, however, is very different than cabbage, just slightly bitter. In my supermarkets, radicchio is kept in small baskets (along with the endive and other specialty lettuces) near the fresh lettuces. Check here for radicchio recipes.

RECIPE for SUMMER ORZO with RADICCHIO

Hands-on time: 35 minutes (25 minutes with pre-pitted olives)
Time to table: 3 - 4 hours
Makes (about) 8 cups

About 4 cups water
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 cups orzo (or other tiny pasta)

1/2 cup pine nuts, optional

1/4 pound sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 pound Kalamata olives
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 generous tablespoon garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

2 cups radicchio, from 1 small head, chopped, optional
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, yes, even this is optional!

Bring the water to boil in a large pot over MEDIUM HIGH. Add the salt and pasta. Stir lightly to separate the pasta, then cover, reduce heat to MEDIUM and simmer until tender but still firm to bite (with my pan/stove, 17 minutes was too long). Drain and cool slightly.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over low heat, turning regularly and watching carefully, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

While the pasta cooks and pine nuts toast, chop the tomatoes and pit/chop the olives. Stir into the slightly cooled pasta. Add the vinegar, garlic and Parmesan. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Chop the radicchio and basil. (To make ahead, I stored these in a large freezer bag.) Combine the pasta mixture, the radicchio/basil and the toasted pine nuts.

ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
PINE NUTS These are expensive and require another pan to toast -- and I don't think they add that much to the salad. Next time, I won't use them unless they happen to be on hand.
SUN-DRIED TOMATOES The original recipe specified sun-dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil. But when I happened upon a container of very fresh, soft sun-dried tomatoes, I used them. Perhaps they made the salad extra good, and without the fat? I will definitely seek out again. That said, I know people successfully reconstitute those dessicated bits of sun-dried tomatoes by soaking them in boiling water or olive oil. To speed cutting: Slightly flatten and stack four or five tomatoes. Make several cuts one direction, then turn and make several perpendicular cuts.
PITTING / CHOPPING OLIVES On a hard surface, press the flat side of a knife against each olive, then extract the pit with your fingers. Once they're all pitted, you can then either chop or tear into two or three pieces.
BALSAMIC VINEGAR I used a "white" balsamic vinegar for the first time -- and was surprised when it poured out surprisingly brown. Still I think it stained the pasta less then regular balsamic.
PARMESAN Use a microplane to create big piles of fluffy Parmesan. That said, 1/2 cup was a small amount of cheese and didn't seem necessary so next time I won't use any at all. THAT said, I'd not hesitate to throw in some chunks of good feta.




© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005


Tool Tip: Microplane

Some people carry knives when they'll be cooking somewhere else.

Me, I carry a microplane. With just a few whisks, it makes piles and piles of fluffy Parmesan, lemon zest, lime zest.

This is one of several versions. I like its broad face. I like the rubber handle. I like the fine rasp.



Nov 2006 Update: While I love the fine grate, I really really love the ribbon grater, especially for Parmesan and chocolate. In my kitchen, both are necessities. I've also learned to measure by weight, not volume, whenever a microplane is used.

Think about getting the finger guards. While I've only scraped myself once, it was sore for several hours ... and I have a friend who loves her Microplane but does have trouble getting scraped.

Day 101: Eggplant Sandwiches with Cilantro Hummus ♥

Eggplant Sandwiches with Cilantro Hummus
Today's vegetable sandwich recipe: Quick and easy, just baked eggplant slices paired with a healthy green hummus. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

~recipe & photo updated 2013~
~more recently updated recipes~

ORIGINAL 2005 POST: Talk about supper in a flash! It could be made still easier with a supermarket hummus. But the hummus took 10 minutes to pull together in the food processor AND, very unusually, has no added fat. I made it a few days ago (and didn't get around to the eggplant) and since it was around, had it with tomato sandwiches, grilled pepper sandwiches, etc. It's even good plain on toast! You could make it in advance, too. Or there's time to mix it while the eggplant broils.

UPDATE 2013: I just love it when A Veggie Venture's first-year recipes still appeal. In all honestly, as much fun as I was having exploring new ways to try vegetables, I was also kind of flailing around, a new recipe for every day. Looking back, as a result, those vegetable recipes tend to be quick and easy and healthy, the kind of food you can eat every day. Nothing fancy, for sure! But eggplant and hummus make a decidedly happy sandwich!

Day 100: No-Cook Tabbouleh ♥

No-Cook Tabbouleh
My favorite couscous salad, a vegetable-packed version of traditional taboulleh. The couscous "cooks" in lemon juice, then add piles of vegetables. It's a great "refrigerator" salad and keeps for many days. Weight Watchers? You're going to love this salad!

~recipe & photo updated in 2006 and 2011~
~more recently updated recipes~

2005: Day 100 - wow! There's no quitting now though perhaps I've missed out by not marking the milestone with some sort of vegetable powwow party?! OH WELL. On to the tabbouleh, an unusual no-cook version.

Start it before supper, finish it before bed, then refrigerate overnight. When you get home from work tomorrow, it'll be waiting and perfect. That said, next time I'll change the proportions - less couscous and more tomato. I'd either halve the couscous or double the tomato.

2006 Update: This time, I DID change the proportions ... perfect! And I also cut the olive oil to only 2 tablespoons ... perfect! It makes a huge calorie difference ... also brings down the Net Carbs from 16 to 11.

2011 Update: When I make this salad now, I start with 1 cup of couscous, the juice of six lemons and just 2 tablespoons olive oil -- and then start adding vegetables, think celery and onion, fennel, carrots, zucchini, kohlrabi, jicama. I like grape/cherry tomatoes better than chopped tomatoes, they hold up better in the refrigerator over several days.

Day 99: Holy Slaw!

A pile of peppers prepped for Holy Slaw!At a party tonight, I filled my plate, then headed outside. With congestion in the doorway, the Incomings and the Outgoings were making conversation. An Incoming noted my plate, then offered, "That salad's GREAT." I looked up, wondering how in heaven this perfect stranger knew to compliment the salad I'd brought. Seeing my surprise, he asked, "Did you make it?" He hadn't known, he just liked the salad!

Holy Slaw! is perfect for a crowd, perfect for summer gatherings, perfect for outdoor events. The dressing is delicious - and decidedly unusual - I think it might be amazing over pasta, too.

And thanks to the host, not me, dressing the salad before setting it out in the buffet, there are two ways to make it, both great.
  • The first (her) way uses just one bag of supermarket slaw and is all about the fresh peppers and cilantro, the cabbage almost filler or an afterthought.
  • The second (the recipe's) way uses two bags of slaw and is all about, well, slaw. Holy Slaw! that is.
If you like the idea of peanut butter in Holy Slaw, you might like African Pepper, Tomato & Spinach.

2006 Update: I like Holy Slaw! so much it's now featured in a Kitchen Parade column.

HOLY SLAW!
Hands-on time: 10 minutes for dressing, 20 minutes to prep the vegetables, 5 minutes to assemble 30 minutes before serving
Time to table: 35 minutes
Makes: A bunch


DRESSING
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil or another mild oil)
2 tablespoons sesame oil (a key ingredient, try not to skip)
5 tablespoons low-fat peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic (from a jar)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger (from a jar)
1/2 teaspoon Thai chili sauce (for a tiny bit of heat)

VEGETABLES
3 sweet peppers, one red, one yellow, one orange, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
8 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
a cilantro bunch, chopped

1 or 2 16-ounces bags of cabbage slaw

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. (Can be made ahead.)

Dice the peppers and carrots, transfer to a very large serving bowl. Add the onions and cilantro. (Salad can be prepared ahead to this point.)

About 30 minutes before serving, gently combine 1 or 2 bags cabbage slaw with the pepper/onion/cilantro mixture. Stir in the dressing, combining well.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
(Since I didn't get to measure the final quantity, this is a best estimate until I make it again.) Per Cup: 113 Cal (53% from Fat, 10% from Protein, 37% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 11 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; 42 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 220 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 2 points


ALANNA's TIPS
  • Dice the carrots in a flash. Peel them first, then cut away the stem end and the tip if it's yucky. With a sharp knife, cut the carrot in half lengthwise, turn and cut again lengthwise. Holding the four pieces together with your fingers, cut the carrot crosswise in small piece. If it's a fat old carrot, you might want to cut the thick end lengthwise a couple of more times before making the crossway cuts.
  • You won't need all the dressing, especially if using just one bag of coleslaw.

SOURCE
Bon Appetit, July 1998

Day 99: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I made this old-fashioned cake for the party too. I wasn't so keen on it. But since I made a number of revisions that likely changed the outcome and Epicurious reviewers love it in a big way, here's the link. My version took 25 minutes to mix and an hour to bake.


Day 98: Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms briefly marinated then grilled
~recipe & photo updated in 2007~

Simple and good, these were!

I'd looked for a marinated mushroom recipe, something for a meaty-ish vegetarian sandwich. (Suggestions welcome!) But this will do, for now, as is, for mushrooms on the side.

FYI: Spelling portobello (portabello? portabella? portobella?) is a trick. Even Epicurious spells it a couple of different ways.

2007 Photo Update: So I made these again -- they're so simple and quite good! But since I had such good luck washing the mushrooms for Kalyn's Roasted Asparagus & Mushrooms, I decided to wash two of the portobellos and brush the other two. Much to my surprise, the washed ones cooked faster and tasted better! I suspect it's because they had more moisture to both 'carry' heat into the flesh of the mushrooms and to withstand the hot grill. They even look better in the photo. Anyway, do as you like but from now on, I'm washing mushrooms (except when they're eaten raw).

GRILLED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
Prep time: 5 minutes
Grill time: Maybe 10 minutes?
Serves: 4


4 small (about four inches in diameter) portobello mushrooms, about 8 ounces

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic (from a jar)

Salt & pepper to taste

Remove stems from mushrooms. (Hmmm ... why? I was followed a recipe but as I think about it, they're probably edible so maybe a trim is in order but the stems may stay. 2007 Update: These were clearly inedible, very woody aka "compost"!) Brush away any dirt. (Rinse if you must but I suspect this could result in mushroom-mush. 2007 Update: Nope! See the note above.) Place gill-side up on a shallow rimmed plate.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Pour mixture over the mushrooms, letting some sink into the gills, letting some pour over the sides. Move the mushrooms around a bit to soak up a bit of the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grill til cooked through, about 10 minutes.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Serving: 76 Cal (76% from Fat, 9% from Protein, 15% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 3 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 6 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 3 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 2 points

Day 96: Grilled Pattypan Squash

For the first time ever, I've been failed by the Internet!

I spent a full 30 minutes searching for a recipe for pattypan squash. Mind you, there were plenty of recipes for baby pattypan squash which are apparently de rigueur in restaurant circles. [Update: simple baby pattypan squash are quite lovely, yes!] But I learned - thank you, the Internet - that what jumped into my bag at the farmer's market on Saturday was a mature pattypan squash, one with size and heft.

So I followed the suggestion of the farmer's daughter, "Just grill it."

Pattypan is a summer squash - it slices easily, like zucchini and yellow squash. It tastes like a nuanced yellow squash. And grilled, it was good, left unadorned, no butter, no garlic, just the smokey essence from the grill/smoker.

Simple. Earthy. I'd recommend it --

GRILLED PATTYPAN SQUASH
Active time: 2 minutes
Grill time: 20 minutes maybe
Serves 4


1 large pattypan squash, washed, sliced vertically about 1/2 inch thick
Salt & pepper to taste.

Place the squash on a hot grill and cook until soft.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 36 Cal (8% from Fat, 24% from Protein, 67% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 0 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 8 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 34 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 5 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 0 points




Day 95: Chilled Zucchini Soup

2011 RECIPE UPDATE: In 2005, this Chilled Zucchini Soup was "forgettable". In 2011, I found a recipe that I and others really like, see Chilled Zucchini Soup Shooters.

WHY AREN'T THERE ♥s on ALL RECIPES from A VEGGIE VENTURE? During the original 'Veggie Venture', I cooked a vegetable in a new way every single day for an entire year -- YES, an entire year, crazy, I know. Many recipes were very good, others were fabulous, these are all marked with ♥s. Other recipes were so-so or plain bad -- obviously, no ♥s! Since the end of that first year, I publish only recipes that merit ♥s.

2005 ORIGINAL POST A cold soup makes for a refreshing repast during heat waves like the one in much of the country right now. But not t-h-i-s cold soup. Ever eat moldy, slimy grass? Me either. But this is what it would taste like. It's not inedible. It is forgettable. Update: Leftover, this soup has grown on me. The lemon flavor has become more pronounced. It's become, well, not a favorite but, well, pleasant.

CHILLED ZUCCHINI SOUP
Active time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 40 minutes
Makes 7 cups


1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb zucchini (from 3 medium-sized zukes)

zest from a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup loosely packed cilantro (the recipe called for parsley, perhaps that's the difference?)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 cup buttermilk (increased from 1/2 cup in vain attempt to lessen the grassy sensation)
Additional salt and pepper

Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over MEDIUM HIGH. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and aromatic. Cut the zucchini thin half moons. (Easy way: Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Hold the two halves together with your fingers, then slice crosswise.) Add the zucchini to the onion and cook until the zucchini is soft and fully cooked.

Puree the zucchini mixture, the lemon zest, salt, pepper, cilantro and dill in a blender, in batches if necessary (be careful - the hot mixture will expand so fill the blender no more than half full) or use an immersion blender.

The original recipe says you can fast chill from here (by transferring the mixture to a metal bowl immersed in ice water for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally) or refrigerate overnight for flavors to blend (as I did). Then stir in the buttermilk and season to taste.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 79 Cal (47% from Fat, 16% from Protein, 37% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 4 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 8 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 67 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 531 mg Sodium; 1 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 1.5 points

SOURCE
Gourmet July 2005

Day 94: Borscht Beets ♥

That's my dog Lady in the background!
Russian-style beets, roasted then tossed in sour cream and caraway. Delicious!

~recipe & photo updated 2008 & 2011~
~more recently updated recipes~

2005: Almost missed this one! Way back in April, I scanned the vegetable sections of favorite cookbooks, placing post-it notes on promising-looking pages. Now I simply flip from one post-it note to the next. (This is a time-saving trick for cookbooks and cooking magazines, like offline Favorites. Sometimes I add a note like 'fall' or 'spring' or underline a key ingredient.)

But I missed Borscht Beets until this morning, when a cookbook opened up to an unmarked page. Thank you, Veggie Gods - this is a keeper! It was a winner if only because all the ingredients were on hand, including a bowl of field-dusty beets from last week's farmers market that needed attention. But the taste is utterly distinctive - the blend of caraway and sour cream is subtle and screaming at the same time.

2011: Turns out, this is a recipe I turn to quite often. It's made with on-hand ingredients and people really like it. So do I!

RECIPE for BORSCHT BEETS

Hands-on time: 10 minutes if the beets is cooked
Time to table: 15 minutes

If the beets need cooking:
Active time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Makes 3 cups to serve 4

Water to cover
1 1/2 pounds fresh beets
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 small red onion or yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (don't skip this)

1/2 cup sour cream (reduced from the recipe's 1 cup but I found it generous)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Additional kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Cook the Beets: Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the beets plus about an inch. Place it on MEDIUM HIGH heat and bring to a boil. While the water boils, clean the beets. Wash them well, snip off the root ends, cut off the stem ends, leaving about an inch intact. (I read that this helps retain flavor.) You'll be tempted but do not cut off the root end. (This lets the beet essence seep out while cooking.) Add the beets and the salt to the water. Cover and bring to a boil. When the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to MEDIUM and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beets give way easily when a small knife is inserted into the flesh. Transfer to a colander until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.

Cook the Onions: Combine the onion, vinegar, sugar and caraway seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over MEDIUM HIGH. Set aside.

Assembly: Peel the beets and chop into bite-size pieces. Stir in the onion mixture, sour cream and dill. Season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
You could also roast the beets, this is My Favorite Way to Roast Beets.




MORE FAVORITE VEGETABLE RECIPES
~ more beet recipes ~
~ three favorite vegetables with sour cream, from Kitchen Parade ~
~ more favorite vegetable recipes ~
(this was my very favorite recipe in July 2005)


A Veggie Venture is home of 'veggie evangelist' Alanna Kellogg and the
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005


Tool Tip: Recipe Software with Nutrition Analysis

For three years, I've been using software called AccuChef for nutrition analysis. (It's got many other features but nutrition analysis is what keeps me a power user.) I've tried others but always come back to it.

You can enter your own recipes but it's especially convenient to import recipes from other sources (click File / Import Wizard). A trial copy allows 60 uses, then it's only $20. I've had a couple of technical issues, both were answered promptly/helpfully.

Day 93: Smothered Yellow Squash

(Photographer malfunction: sorry, no picture.)

There's no doubt this is good - it is!

But it cooks down into what seems like a puny portion size that adds up to considerable calories. And it's homely looking.

Still, will you eat it up? I think so!

SMOTHERED YELLOW SQUASH with BASIL
Active time: about 10 minutes, with occasional attention after that
Time to table: 30 minutes
Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds yellow squash (from two good-sized squash), cut in half lengthwise (or in quarters where it's thick) then in thin half-moons crosswise

2 teaspoons garlic (from a jar)
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat ONE TABLESPOON of the olive oil in a skillet over MEDIUM HIGH. While it heats, slice half the yellow squash. Add it to the hot skillet and saute until brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer it to another dish.

While the first batch of squash cooks, slice the remaining squash. When the first batch is cooked, heat the SECOND TABLESPOON of olive oil in the skillet. Add the remaining squash and cook like the first.

Combine the two batches in the skillet, then add the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the water, salt and pepper and cook until the water evaporates, stirring often. Stir in the basil and serve.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 94 Cal (62% from Fat, 9% from Protein, 29% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 7 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; 73 mg Calcium; 2 mg Iron; 153 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 2 points


SOURCE
Gourmet

Tool Tip: Basil Keeper



For years, I've kept fresh basil in a glass on the windowsill (I still keep a frond or two, it just makes the kitchen smell good.) And then I graduated to keeping it in a glass in the frig. Both kept the basil for two or three days.

Awhile back, I got this basil keeper and now basil stays fresh in the frig for 10 days or so. This one was a bit pricey for what it is but it'd be easy enough to rig up something similar on the cheap.

Tool Tip: Citrus Press



I've been using this for a couple of months now - it extracts a lot more juice from both lemons and limes. It helps, especially with limes which are harder to juice anyway, to score the skin partway in three or four places. The bowl is a bit small for oranges but works in a pinch.

[2/06 And the good folks at Too Many Chefs prove a citrus juicer's worth through scientific testing!]

It's a handy complement to a microplane which is a whiz way to piles of fluffy zest.

Both are keepers in my book, er, utensil drawer.

Kitchen Parade Extra

Visit the Kitchen Parade weekly blog for a delicious recipe for baked baby back ribs in a berry sauce.

Day 92: Green Beans with Honey-Mustard Glaze

When my sister and I were kids, Mom would send us to the front step to snap beans, shell peas and husk corn. We were reluctant kitchen helpers then but I look back on those simple summer tasks with nostalgia.

Why she recruited us to help is no surprise: seven minutes to wash/snap beans when the family is hungry and waiting and you're also managing the meat and the salad -- well, it's half a lifetime.

So: Recruit help! Your kids will love you for it, later if not now!

The trick to these beans, I think, is cooking them in what seems like a whole lotta water in a whole lotta salt. Whether you like the glaze idea or not, try the beans. They're amazing.

GREEN BEANS with HONEY-MUSTARD GLAZE
Active time: About 10 minutes
Time to table: About 25 minutes
Serves: 4


8 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 pounds green beans

1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds (next time I'd use less, maybe 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons honey (see ALANNA's TIPS)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Bring the water and salt to boil in a large kettle (see TIPS). Clean and snap the beans (that is, break off the stem ends with by 'snapping' them). Cook the beans for about 5 minutes or until tender but still crisp and bright green. Drain.

Meanwhile, toast the mustard seeds in a small skillet on MEDIUM HIGH, stirring occasionally, until they just pop. Add the honey and vinegar, cook until it boils and becomes syrupy, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Return the beans to the kettle and stir in syrup. Serve.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 44 Cal (12% from Fat, 13% from Protein, 75% from Carb); 2 g Protein; 1 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 9 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 33 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 593 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 1 point

ALANNA's TIPS
  • Honey will pour/measure easily if you first warm it in the microwave for 20 or 30 seconds.
  • I read somewhere once that putting salt in a non-stick kettle before the water boils will, over time, create pits in the non-stick finish, shortening its lifetime.


SOURCE
Len DiCarlo

Day 92: Summer Tomatoes

~ nutrition estimate updated 2007 ~

Like strange-looking planets with odd-shaped moons, but they're just yellow Summer Tomatoes.

With the unusual use of malt vinegar (I have a bottle for parsnip fries, a favorite fall dish), I thought this would end up, well, a bit unusual, a little different.

It's good. It's just not special.

SUMMER TOMATOES
Active time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 10 minutes
Serves 8


2 pounds very ripe, perfect tomatoes, sliced thick cross-wise

3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon good salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Using 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil - Per Serving: 64 Cal (70% from Fat, 7% from Protein, 24% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 4 g Mono Fat; 4 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; NetCarb3; 1 g Sugar; 14 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 174 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 1 point

Using Two Tablespoons Olive Oil - Per Serving: 49 Cal (61% from Fat, 8% from Protein, 30% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 4 g Tot Fat; 0 g Sat Fat; 3 g Mono Fat; 4 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; NetCarb3; 1 g Sugar; 14 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 174 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 0 points


SOURCE
Gourmet, July 2005 (if anyone's interested, it's a treasure-trove of summer vegetable recipes)

Day 91: Mexican Street Corn

~ nutrition estimate
updated 2007 ~

This didn't turn out so great but it's not likely the recipe's fault -- so taste-wise, I'm going to recommend it anyway.
  • The corn wasn't so great, on the starchy side.
  • My grilling work was, well, inexpert.
  • I was out of mayo so quick-quick made some but homemade mayonnaise, while delicious, lacks the bite of commercial brand.
  • And finally, I think the cheese is supposed to melt on the hot corn and for some reason, tonight's didn't.


I will try again some time. I bet it'll turn out to be delicious!

SOAP BOX
This recipe is a perfect example of why, for everyone's health, all cooking magazines and all cookbooks MUST include nutrition information with recipes.

Who'd guess that Mexican Street Corn would rack up SEVEN points? (I think in Weight Watchers terms since losing 30 pounds three years ago. For the 'unenlightened' seven points is equivalent to a third of a day's calories for someone in weight-loss mode, about a quarter for someone in weight-stable mode.)

Here's the dialogue that would have gone on in my head without access to real information. Sure it's got some mayonnaise. But it's light mayo! And only 1/3 cup for four people! And sure there's a bit of cheese, but only 1/4 pound for four people! How bad can it be?

To analyze your own recipes, I'm happy to recommend software called AccuChef for nutrition analysis.

In addition, we need to ask/encourage/insist that our favorite recipes sources include nutrition information.

MEXICAN STREET CORN
Active time: maybe 15 minutes?
Time to table: maybe 30 minutes?
Serves 4


4 ears sweet corn, husks and silk removed, stems left on

1/3 cup light mayonnaise (Hellman's is my pick)
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika (the original recipe specified 'hot smoked paprika')
1 teaspoon garlic from a jar

4 ounces grated Cheddar cheese

Grill the corn. While it's grilling, mix the mayonnaise, paprika and garlic in a small dish. Place the cheese in a long, low container in which the corn can be rolled. (The original recipe suggests refrigerating the cheese while the corn grills so that it doesn't clump.)

Spread the mayonnaise mixture on each cob, then roll in the cheese.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Ear, assuming an ear yields 1/2 cup kernels: 242 Cal (58% from Fat, 15% from Protein, 26% from Carb); 10 g Protein; 16 g Tot Fat; 6 g Sat Fat; 3 g Mono Fat; 17 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 3 g Sugar; 207 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 348 mg Sodium; 36 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 5 points



SOURCE
Sara Moulton Cooks at Home


Day 90: Clean-Out-the-Fridge Noodle Bowl ♥

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Noodle Bowl
By tonight's Six O'Clock Scramble, my body was still on sensory overload from last night's My First Panzanella and Zucchini Timbale with Cheese.

A piece of toast, a bowl of cereal. Any more might knock me over the gustatory edge.

But: thanks to the every-day, you know, every-SINGLE-day commitment of the Veggie Venture, I opened the fridge. Reality hit: if I intended to stock up at Saturday's farmers markets, I'd better empty out the vegetable bins.

And so surprise, surprise, the result was a delightful little pasta bowl, bits of chopped vegetables (starting with tomato, key for moisture) and tossed with basil and leftover vinaigrette from Day 71's Brushed Eggplant.

RECIPE for CLEAN-OUT-THE-FRIDGE NOODLE BOWL

Active time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 25 minutes
Made 6 cups

8 ounces pasta

BASICS
1 - 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped (I used one tomato, two would have been better for a different veggie:pasta proportion)
1 sweet red or yellow or orange pepper, chopped (good for crunch)
1/3 English cucumber, chopped (good for crunch)
1 - 2 roasted red peppers, fresh or from a jar (for flavor and texture contrast)
1/4 red onion, chopped fine (for bite)
Fresh spinach
Handful of basil, chopped
2 - 3 tablespoons vinaigrette (or mix mustard, vinegar and olive oil or use a bottled dressing)
Lots of freshly ground pepper

ADD-ON IDEAS
Other leftover vegetables
Canned beets
Frozen peas
Capers
Olives
Diced cheese
Grilled chicken
Canned salmon or tuna or sardines
The kitchen sink

Cook the pasta in salted water until done (since there's relatively little sauce to soak into the noodles in this dish, I like the pasta more cooked than not).

Meanwhile assemble vegetables and other add-ons in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta, stir in the vinaigrette one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Season well with black pepper.





MORE GOOD WAYS TO USE UP LEFTOVER VEGETABLES
~ Mom's Favorite Leftover Magic ~
~ Clean-out-the-Fridge Purée ~
~ Clean-Out-the-Fridge Noodle Bowl ~
~ more "Leftover Magic" recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture

~ Saturday Soup ~
~ more recipes for using up leftovers ~
from Kitchen Parade


© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005


Day 89: My "First" Panzanella ♥

Panzanella, a delicious Italian bread & tomato saladOh my. Oh my. Oh my. Peasant food fit for kings and queens.

Of everything tried since April, this may be the one recipe that qualifies as 'life-changing'. How did I get to be ?? years old without panzanella? All those wasted years! (Silly? Of course. But fellow foodies will understand!)

There was no getting enough of this tomato and bread salad, even to the point of setting aside perfectly delicious grilled chicken to make room on the plate (and elsewhere) for more. I could (and basically did) make a meal out of it.

I'll make it again (tomorrow tonight?) and again (the night after?) ... as long as the tomatoes last, that is.

My advice? Make it soon (tonight?) so you get it as often as possible til fall, til the very last of good tomatoes.

A bit of research shows that panzanella is more concept than recipe. In fact, tonight's version was inspired by Mark Bittman, a 1993 issue of Gourmet magazine and, well, my own food sensibility. Some versions seem to feature bread as the backbone ('bread salad with tomato') where tonight's star was the tomatoes ('tomato salad with bits of bread'). The pieces of grilled bread were delicious - but to my taste, the bread:tomato proportion was perfect.

This may be a dish where it's best to use the 'best' of each ingredient, the best tomatoes, the best bread, the best salt, the best olive oil, the best vinegar, etc.

That said -- maybe not. Tonight's tomatoes were not the best ever (though improved, I believe, with blanching) and the red wine vinegar was a prosaic supermarket brand.

And as you can tell by my drool on the page, it was still delicious ...

Update: And now Chocolate & Zucchini has posted an "authentic" recipe. I have been wanting to try a Quick Panzanella (see Day 111), just chopped tomatoes, no blanching. You choose!

MY FIRST PANZANELLA
Active time: ?? maybe 30 minutes?
Time to table: ?? maybe 30 minutes?
Serves 4 generously


4 small-ish pieces good, whole-grain country-style bread (see ALANNA's TIPS)
1 clove garlic

2 - 3 large very ripe tomatoes (see TIPS)
1/4 - 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
2 - 3 tablespoons capers (added an important texture and snap of salt)
10 or so fresh basil leaves, chopped
peeled / diced cucumber (optional, didn't use tonight)
diced fresh mozzarella (optional, didn't use tonight)

about 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
about 2 tablespoons good olive oil
good salt such as fleur de sel or sea salt

Rub garlic clove on both sides of the bread slices. If fresh, set aside to day a bit. Grill or toast, then tear into bite-size pieces.

Place a colander over the serving bowl you'll use.

Blanch/skin the tomatoes by filling a small pot with water and bringing the water to a boil. Drop each tomato into the boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skin starts to crack. With a fork, transfer the hot tomatoes to the colander. With the fork still piercing the tomato, use it as a handle while you use a small knife to easily peel away the skin. Cut a cone-shaped section out of the stem end, removing as much of the core as you can. Cut the tomato in half. Use your fingers to remove the seeds and discard. Chop the tomato into bite-size pieces and return to the colander. Let the tomato juices collect in the serving bowl beneath.

Add the onion, capers, basil and any other ingredients to the colander and combine. If you're preparing this in advance, stop here until ready to serve.

Stir the bread pieces into the tomato mixture.

Whisk the vinegar and olive oil into the tomato juices that have collected. Season to taste with salt. Stir in the tomato/bread mixture. Serve. Enjoy! Be a glutton!

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 217 Cal (30% from Fat, 11% from Protein, 59% from Carb); 6 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 33 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; 17 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 822 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 4 points


ALANNA's TIPS
  • Bread: This is a great way to use up stale bread. If it's already quite dry, you might skip the grilling or toasting though the grilled flavor contrasts beautifully with the acidic tomatoes - quite addictively.
  • Tomatoes: The blanching makes it easier to peel the tomatoes and cooks less-than-perfect tomatoes a bit so they'll give off more flavor and juice. Still, you might peel them without blanching and some recipes don't call for peeling at all.

Day 89: Zucchini Timbale with Cheese ♥

Zucchini Timbale with Cheese
Talk about the cup runneth-ing over! I'm turning into a vegetable glutton. I've been excited about this project from the very beginning, way back in April. But now, when everything is so ripe and fresh, all I want for supper is one vegetable after another.

And tonight's timbale is one more good reason why - the kitchen smelled heavenly! It's a sort of crustless quiche, shredded zucchini and onion soaked in eggs, milk and cheese. (And the recipe suggests eggplant and spinach so look for those down the road too. And, hmmm, what about beets?)

It was easy-easy to make ... either for tossing in the oven immediately or assembling ahead of time or even baking in advance. I used a standard pie plate but ramekins might be great for company, fewer portions or 'portion size management'.

OH: and if you think this sounds good but a bit time-consuming, check out Day 72.

RECIPE for ZUCCHINI TIMBALE with CHEESE

Active time: 20 minutes up front
Liquid-release time: 1 hour
Assembly time: 5 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes
Time to table: About 2 hours
Serves 8

2 pounds zucchini, shredded (see ALANNA's TIPS)
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon garlic from a jar
8 ounces grated cheese (see TIPS)
3 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs (I used panko)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toss together the zucchini, the onion and salt in a collander. (Go ahead, get in there with your hands, it'll speed the job.) Let it rest in the sink for an hour. After an hour, grab clumps of zucchini over the sink and squeeze, releasing as much liquid as possible.

Mix the remaining ingredients (I did this ahead tonight) and combine with zucchini. Transfer to a lightly buttered pie plate or quiche dish and bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. The recipe suggests serving is either hot or cold, I liked it both ways.


ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
Grating: I'd pack my Cuisinart for a desert island but it isn't worth the bother for soft zucchini - tonight, cleaning and grating five good-sized zucchini took only six minutes. (Yes, I really do time things when I think they matter!) That said, when it came time to grate the cheese, too, I wondered if I'd made a mistake. I don't think so, because the manchego was also a snap to grate and the dishwasher was already plenty full. That last, in fact, was the deciding factor! If you grate by hand, protect your fingers by leaving the stem intact for a handle. I also grated the zucchini right over the collander, saving a dish. Hmmm ... is dishwasher space a continuing theme?
Panko: Panko doesn't qualify as a 'fresh' bread crumb but since there's rarely a loaf of bread hanging around here, I always keep it on hand for recipes that call for bread crumbs. I find it pretty easy to find these days - even at my every-day supermarket.
Cheese: I used a Spanish manchego, one of my favorite cheeses of all time, as the recipe specified. It's got a sort of grown-up flavor, however, not 'stinky' but ripe and a bit sour. I think both kids and grown-ups would be more than happy with familiar supermarket mozzarellas and cheddars and wouldn't hesitate to use either one.



© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2005

Day 88: Artichoke & Pepper Grilled Cheese ♥

Artichoke & Pepper Grilled Cheese
Today's vegetable sandwich recipe: A grilled cheese sandwich, with artichokes and roasted peppers.

~recipe & photo updated & reposted 2012~
~more recently updated recipes~

2005: Okay, okay. I admit it. I'm still drooling over the eggplant sandwiches from Day 86 so when I saw this recipe, also from my cousin Laura, there was no NOT making it.

And once again — wow, very good. And it sure hit the spot on a cool day when the remnants of Hurricane Dennis continue to soak eastern Missouri with much-welcome moisture.

The trick, I think, is the mustard, which adds a note of depth to the vegetables. I used canned artichokes and jarred red peppers so these sandwiches were quick-quick-quick from inspiration to table.

Another great trick for all grilled cheese sandwiches, is the use of cooking spray, tonight, butter-flavored Pam. I had NO idea it would work so well. Now if only the bread and the cheese were calorie-free, too!

PS Since I'm no fan of artichokes, this may be their first/last appearance here in the Veggie Venture. Eat 'em up!

2012 UPDATE Another trick, be sure to use a good melting cheese. For the record, cotija is not a good melting cheese. Another update? More artichoke recipes.

Day 87: Fresh Tomato with Fresh Mozzarella ♥

A classic: tomato with fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and basil
~recipe & photo updated in 2007~

Nearly five years ago, my Finnish sister and I met in Zurich for several days. Friends/sisters since I lived with her family as an exchange student, it'd been many years since we'd met in person. Since we share an amazing familiarity, it seemed as if we'd last left off the week before.

Just as familiar, that week, became our daily and sometimes twice-daily order at cafes and restaurants: tomato with fresh mozzarella. It was the height of the season so the tomatoes were bright in color and pungent with flavor. Still we were surprised at how unlike the plates were presented, and tasted, although all were delicious.

Ever since, whenever I slice a fat tomato and top it with a creamy mozzarella, I think of Ritva and of one summer's idyllic days.

This is a dish that's all about perfection: perfectly ripe tomatoes, lusciously fresh mozzarella, the best salt, the best balsamic vinegar, bright strips of basil.

That said, good mozzarella, salt, vinegar and basil will be wasted on imperfect (woody, upripe or tasteless) tomatoes. If your tomatoes aren't perfect, save this recipe for another day.

UPDATES If you like, try the traditional dressing from Day 108 or any other good vinegar. In 2007, when the photo was taken, I used a gloriously colored zinfandel vinegar from O Olive Oil.



FROM THE ARCHIVES When the tomatoes are good, it's time to gorge! See the Recipe Box for great ways to enjoy perfect summer tomatoes.

FRESH TOMATO with FRESH MOZZARELLA

Active time: 5 minutes
Time to table: 5 minutes
Serves 1 (easily multiplied)

2 - 3 thick slices of perfectly ripe tomato (for easy slicing, use a serrated knife)
per tomato slice, 1 thin slice fresh mozzarella
finishing salt such as fleur de sel
splash of good balsamic vinegar
few strips of fresh basil

Arrange the tomato slices on a small plate, top each one with mozzarella. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the mozzarella, then splash on a bit of vinegar and the basil.


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How to eat more vegetables? A Veggie Venture is the home of Veggie Evangelist Alanna Kellogg and the best source of free vegetable recipes with 700+ quick and easy favorite vegetable recipes, the Alphabet of Vegetables, Weight Watchers low-point recipes and microwave vegetable recipes.

Day 86: Eggplant, Tomato & Mozzarella Sandwiches ♥

Eggplant, Tomato & Mozzarella Sandwiches
A simple open-faced sandwich, topped with rounds of eggplant, tomato and fresh mozzarella.

~recipe & photo updated 2010~

My cousin Laura is a vegetarian who lives with and cooks for five carnivores aka her husband Gary and their four children. These eggplant sandwiches are so good, so filling that I suspect no one complains when there's no 'meat' at their table.

The bread is lightly flavored with garlic and soaks up a bit of tomato juice. Each bite offers up crunch and soft, dry and wet, sweet and salt. Yummmmmmy. This may turn out to be a sandwich summer!

And for busy mothers everywhere, these make up in no time, somewhat to my surprise.

TESTIMONIALS
"Just made it, ate it and it's fabulous."


EGGPLANT, TOMATO & MOZZARELLA SANDWICHES

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 40 minutes
Makes 12 small open-faced sandwiches serving 6 or 12 (see ALANNA's TIPS)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic (see TIPS)
1 pound fresh eggplant
Salt & pepper

1 or 2 slices good, hearty bread per person
Fresh tomatoes
Basil leaves (Laura says these are optional but I find them a big addition)
Salt & pepper

1 ounce fresh mozzarella per person, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the olive oil and garlic in a small dish. Cut the eggplant horizontally into half-inch thick slices. Brush both sides of each slice with the olive oil mixture, then arrange on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven but keep the oven on. (I suspect that the eggplant might be made ahead and then briefly reheated before continuing. This would likely work for leftovers, too.) Transfer the eggplant to a plate.

Arrange the bread slices on the same baking sheet and place in the oven for about 3 minutes or until slightly toasted. (Using the same baking sheet lets the bread soak up a bit of the oil and garlic flavor left by the eggplant.) Remove the baking sheet but leave the oven on.

While the bread toasts, slice the tomatoes and the cheese. Wash and snip the basil leaves.

* Arrange the eggplant slices on the bread slices, cutting in half or otherwise to fit if needed. Arrange the tomato slices atop the eggplant, again cutting to fit. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (an important step, don't skip). Top each slice with two or three basil leaves, then with the mozzarella. Return to the oven to bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Leftover Report: Warmed up for lunch, these tasted as good as fresh. I warmed the eggplant on a baking sheet at 400F, putting it in the oven when first turning it on, not bothering with preheating. After 10 minutes, I removed the tray, moved the eggplant over a bit, placed a slice of bread where the eggplant had been and put it all back in the oven for 3 minutes. Then I continued from the * above. Yummy again.

ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
The eggplant itself slices into four large rounds that cover eight slices of bread and four smaller rounds that cover another four slices for a total of twelve sandwiches which to my measure would be 6 servings for a main meal and 12 for a light lunch.
Laura suggests crushing a clove of garlic with the broad side of a knife, remove the skin and stirring it into the olive oil.


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