Tag Archives: zucchini

Zucchini Chocolate Spice Bread

12 Feb

I love zucchini bread – bold in its simplicity and perfectly comforting. Its a good bread, one that is easily frozen and surprisingly easy and quick to make. I thought of this bread when I saw some luscious zucchini at O’Gourmet last week, and thought that it might be a nice idea to try a new twist. I found Bentong ginger powder at PastryPro – organic, sun-dried and so deep and complex in scent its almost overwhelming. I wanted to use it in a bread, and with my beautiful zucchini to hand, I set about inventing a new, enticing version of my beloved old standard.

I have to admit, this new zucchini bread is pretty spectacular. It is damp, lush, complex and dark. I really decided to go all out in this bread … I used dark and light brown sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and the amazing Bentong ginger, a touch of ground hazelnuts, beautiful Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, and both white and bittersweet chocolate. I realise, its full on! I thought to myself, when I put the loaves in the oven … either this is going to be delicious, or its going to taste like a muddled mess!

Luckily, its a wonderful, complicated, intriguing bread. Its very moist and it will get better over a few days – the flavours compounding and playing off one another. It freezes well, and its wonderful lightly toasted, as a snack, breakfast or tea time treat. Plus, what a wonderful way to get people to eat their zucchini and love it too!

I know that this seems a load of ingredients to bring together. If you cant find ground hazelnuts, or dont want to make them, substitute ground almonds, or even just plain flour. Chop and change as you wish, its a very forgiving recipe. Try though to include the honey and the spices … they really deepen and improve the bread immensely. And who doesnt like chocolate? Hehe … though if you want to be more healthy, try a few seeds or dried fruit instead. And do try and wait at least 10 minutes after you remove the bread from the hot oven – its very delicate at first, and needs a moment to firm up! Says she, who never waits ๐Ÿ˜‰

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2 medium-large zucchini (approximately 2 – 3 cups grated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 scant cup sugar – half dark brown, half light brown
  • 1 heaping tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, beans scraped
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger (I used Bentong ginger, which is very flavourful – you may want to up the amount of ginger – may be 1 – 2 tsp – ย depending on the quality of your source)
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, drops or chopped (I used half bittersweet, half white, best quality chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F). Line two loaf pans with baking paper. I usually cut out a large piece of baking paper, centre the loaf pan, and cut in at a 90 degree angle on all four corners. I can then fold in the paper, and have a bit of nice overhang. Set aside the pans.

Set a sieve over a small bowl, and grate the zucchini into the sieve. I use the very fine grater, but depending on the texture youre going for, you might want to grate it slightly more coarsely. Press the zucchini into the sieve to encourage as much water out as possible (you will probably get about 1 cup worth). Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (and reserve both the zucchini and its liquid!).

In a large bowl, place the eggs, vegetable oil, sugars, honey and vanilla. Whisk together well until everything is well combined and integrated. Set aside.

In a small bowl (or large measuring jug, which is what I use) combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to combine completely. Set aside for a moment.

Measure out about 1/2 cup of zucchini water.

Stir the flour and zucchini water into the sugar/oil mixture, in thirds, mixing gently but thoroughly. You might not use all of the zucchini water – just add a splash each time to really help the flour to integrate into the sugar/oil.

Add all the zucchini and mix well, and finally add the chocolate and mix well.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf tins.

of Zucchini Bread!Bake, switching the tins in the oven half way through if youre concerned about hot spots, for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. A cake tester inserted into the loaf will either come up covered in chocolate (in which case, wipe down and try again!) or with scant crumbs attached.

Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes or so before devouring. This freezes exceedingly well, and will stay good in the fridge for a week or more (though its always finished up by the first day or so in my house!).

Enjoy!

 

O’Gourmet Food Hall Sauteed Zucchini + Gratin

9 Feb

Sometimes, you read a recipe, or a friend sends you some ideas, and you immediately want to make it, bake it, taste it, create it. Other times, the idea is welcomed, is intriguing… but it sits in the memory banks awaiting a moment of inspiration and action. My friend Karo sent me an email about her version of Julia Childs’ sauteed zucchini, and how it can be transformed into a gorgeous gratin. I liked her email so much that I posted it here. And I kept the recipe in my head, waiting for a moment to be inspired.

That moment came earlier this week, when I saw the most luscious, green and gorgeous zucchini (courgettes) at O’Gourmet Food Hall. Zucchinis are a member of the squash family – and they are not actually vegetables, but fruit… the swollen ovaries of the zucchini flower. Quite sexy actually, and absolutely delicious. The specimens at O’Gourmet were lovely – crisp and bright green, a nice size and shape. My initial instinct was to bake zucchini bread. I still may do that, but Karo’s Julia inspired letter bubbled to the front of my mind. The key to the recipe is grating the zucchini – it turns it into a totally different vegetable and tastes … of pure green and sunshine.

I love the fact that Karo was inspired by Julia, and she in turn inspired me. Each version is made and remade into the cook’s own style. And each version is dependent upon the quality of ingredients, season and inspiration. Recipes are like stories – they are personal and reflect the cook’s personality and joy. Recipes like this – based on the genius of Julia Child, and her innate ability to bring the best out of simple, classic ingredients – can be deeply personalised, and joyfully shared.

This is actually a double recipe … and it is incredibly adaptable and forgiving. Use the sauteed zucchini as a wonderful side dish – or add a few tomatoes or mushrooms, and serve with rice or pasta as a main course. The gratin takes the sauteed zucchini and gilds them with cheese and cream and egg – bake this concoction, and you create a lovely crustless quiche that is satisfying and delicious. You could of course, pour the whole thing into a crust – or even saute thinly sliced rounds or stops of zucchini and create a firmer base. You could add more cheese on top – or breadcrumbs – or pine nuts. You could dot the whole thing with roasted tomatoes or mushrooms. The limits are you imagination. I do think that the gratin is best eaten at room temperature or even cold. The heat tends to flatten out the delicacy of flavour and texture.

Green Goodness

Sauteed Zucchini

Serves 4 (may be less if greedy, or served as a main course)

  • 3 – 4 medium – large zucchini (courgettes) – about 2 – 3 cups grated
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp butter (or use all olive oil if you wish it to be vegan)
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion (or shallots or leeks), finely minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • Few tablespoons of white wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • White pepper

Set a strainer over a medium sized bowl. Wash the zucchini well, and top and tail them. Grate directly into the strainer. I grated half the zucchini very fine and half the zucchini quite rough – I like the contrast in texture, but do with it what you prefer. Add a pinch of salt, and allow the zucchini to drain for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tsp of butter together with 1 tsp of olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic, and saute for at least five minutes or so, or until transparent. If you are using white wine for added flavour, add it now, and allow to bubble into the onions and garlic, and cook away. Season with herbs, salt and pepper.

Squeeze the zucchini in the strainer to remove as much liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid if you are making a gratin. Add the extra butter and olive oil, and add the zucchini to the hot pan. Spread it out in the pan so it cooks, and bring the heat up to high. Saute for five minutes or so, or until just the edges of the zucchini strands are starting to brown. You want to keep the bright green colour, but you also want to make sure that it does not taste raw.

Serve, hot or at room temperature.

Zucchini Gratin

  • Sauteed zucchini as above
  • 1/2 cup milk (or cream, coconut milk, oat milk etc)
  • About 3/4 cup reserved zucchini liquid
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pecorino plus extra for topping if you like – I used a Pecorino Sardo
  • 1 tsp mixed dried or fresh Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • About 1/2 cup melting cheese – I used a gorgeous Raclette from O’Gourmet – delicate enough not to overwhelm the dish. You could use a Gruyere, Emmental, even a light Brie.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Have a baking pan ready. I used a round glass baking dish.

Spread the sauteed zucchini across the bottom of the pan, ensuring that it covers the entire dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, zucchini liquid, salt and pepper, eggs, 1/2 cup pecorino, herbs and mustard. Set aside for a moment.

Chop the raclette into small chunks and dot all over the sauteed zucchini. Pour over the cream mixture, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until puffed and browned. It will just wobble, but be firm as well. About five minutes before time is up, sprinkle some extra cheese over the top if you really want to be decadent.

Serve at room temperature or even cold, with a crisp bitter side salad.

Enjoy!

Kind-of-Ratatouille-a-la-Karo

14 Oct

with Spinach Couscous!Tonight’s dinner may not be much to look at but it sure was delicious! And it was an intersection of different food thoughts that have been running through my head in the last few weeks. Inspired by so many things – my friend Karo’s post about the grated courgettes (zucchini), the Medjool dates at Per Se, and Karo’s link to Ottolenghi’s website.

Dinner needed to be fast and yet different tonight. Suddenly, autumn is upon us. I think we had our last 80 degree day a few days back, and now the crisp chill of cold is in the air around us. So dinner needed to be a response to that – warm and hearty, yet with echoes of sunshiney places. I didnt really think I wanted to do a ratatouille (though that often speaks of sunshine and warmth), mainly because I didnt have enough tomatoes. And I wanted to do the zucchini grated, and see what happened.

I started cooking with the thought that I was going to grate everything – but it didnt work out that way. Im pretty glad about that because I think I would have had a dark brown looking sludge by the end of it! Some stuff was grated, some stayed basically intact. You could serve this kind-of-ratatouille with french bread, rice, pasta – or as I did, with spinach couscous for a lush hint of colour and raw spinach flavour.

This is an example of my favourite free-form cooking – starting with a few ideas, and some beautiful ingredients, and seeing what happens. The end result was pretty damn tasty, completely vegan, rich and complex. The spice choices leant a hint of sunshine to the dark cold night, and we all went to bed happy and satisfied. All is right with the world ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp plus more as needed olive oil
  • 1 small onion grated (mostly liquid)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more as is your preference), grated
  • 1 small eggplant (aubergine) – diced
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch (or more) cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, peeled and minced
  • 1 zucchini (courgette) grated
  • 1 Medjool date, pitted and chopped very small
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
  • 1/2 orange sweet pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped tomatoes (I used baby heirloom)
  • 1/2 cup or so water
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts (toasted)
  • Spinach couscous

First off, toast your cashew nuts if they are raw. Use a non stick frying pan, dont add any oil, and toast over a medium fire until lightly browned. Pour off into a small bowl and set aside.

Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to the frying pan. You might need to add more oil as you go through the various ingredients, but try to be miserly with the oil – you dont want an overly greasy end dish. Instead, use more or less heat (and eventually water) to control the cooking process.

Grate a small onion directly into the pan. The onion I grated ended up being quite watery – this is fine. If you have lovely little grated shards of onion, this is good too. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is glossy and soft. Grate in the garlic and stir to combine. Lower the heat and let the onion and garlic get acquainted.

While the onion and garlic are bubbling together gently, dice the eggplant into small cubes, keeping the skin intact. Bring the heat up a little (and add a touch of olive oil if you think it needs it), and add all the eggplant, mixing well.

Season the eggplant and onion mixture with the paprika, oregano, pepper, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.

Cook for about 5 minutes on high-ish heat. You want to burn the eggplant a little bit, and allow the onions to melt into the mix. When you start smelling that wonderful eggplant roasted burnt scent (its unmistakable) add the next part.

Add the mushrooms and mix extremely well. The mushrooms will let go of their liquid – encourage this by mixing thoroughly.

Lower the heat to medium, and let everything simmer together while you grate the zucchini. Squeeze most of the liquid out of the grated zucchini, and add to the pan. Sautee together, and mix very well. The zucchini will act as a paste and start to incorporate everything together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. add the minced date, and mix together. Allow everything to saute on medium heat for a few minutes.

Add carrots, sweet pepper and tomatoes to the pan, bring the heat to high, and stir to combine. As soon as everything starts to pop and sizzle, add the water, and allow the mixture to bubble. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Add the cashews, and taste everything to make sure its a singular whole. Serve over spinach couscous or a grain of your choice!

 

Plum Crisp + Frittata

13 Oct

CrispOn Sunday, BSA invited some lovely friends of his over for lunch. M and I chatted about what we should serve, and decided on a typical brunch-y meal that our family loves. Lots of bits and bites to eat (toasted breads, croissants, smoked white fish, james, cheeses, bagels, cream cheese) and two main dishes: frittata and plum crisp.

The frittata was a variant of the frittatas I have made earlier, but with added inspiration from my friend Karo’s post. I sauteed rounds of leek in butter until they were soft, and then I grated a couple of zucchini (courgettes), squeezed the liquid out of them, and added them to the leeks with a little more butter. Sauteed them until they were soft, and then made the frittata with some beautiful goat’s milk cheese for added flavour. This was a delicate and beautiful frittata, finished in the oven to make it puffy and brown!

For the plum crisp, I decided to be a little brave. I sliced the plums into quarters, and then chopped them up. I added cinnamon, vanilla, grated nutmeg, and a little basil – it gave the fruit a slightly savoury deep hit of flavour that was totally gorgeous. The crisp was embellished with oats and almonds. Beautiful, served with yogurt mixed with brown sugar and vanilla.

Serves 6 – 8 people

  • 12 ripe dark purple plums, quartered and chopped, skin still on
  • 1 tbsp + 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 + 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 + 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 4 tbsp butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400C (200F).

In chosen baking dish (I used a rectangular Pyrex dish), tumble in the chopped plums. I kept the skins on – but obviously took the pits out!

Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, basil and 1 tbsp vanilla over the plums and using hands (or a spoon if you want to be neat!), mix thoroughly.

Crush the sliced almonds – I put them in a little zip log bag and bashed them with the bottom of a wine bottle! A rolling pin works just as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup flour, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, oats, butter, crushed almonds, and salt. Use your fingers to really work the butter into the rest of the ingredients, and taste. Adjust spices if need be.

Sprinkle the crisp over the plums, and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the plums are soft and bubbling. The plums will have let go of deep dark purple juices and the whole thing will be gorgeously lush. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt, scented with a bit of brown sugar and vanilla.

Inspiration from Karo

2 Oct

I am in New York at the moment… having a wonderful time, visiting old haunts and trying out new ones. Today we eat at Per Se! Cant wait and will write fully about it when I get home… but for now, some inspiration from my dear friend Karo who sent me this email. When I get home to Bethesda, I will definitely be trying some courgettes (zucchini) grated…

Dear P

This summer was about courgettes. They are just coming to the end of their season and I shall miss them.

The epiphany came with Julia Child’s recommendation to try them grated. She said that anybody tasting grated courgettes for the first time was likely to think they were trying a completely new vegetable. She is quite right.

Grate them, salt them, leave them in a colander for ten to twenty minutes and squeeze the courgette water out. (This has plenty of flavour and can be used.)

Then try them the first time sauted in good butter with salt and some fresh herbs. They cook quickly. They are delicious. And they are very forgiving about being left in a warm pan while you cook something else.

You will love them. You will try olive oil and garlic the next time, perhaps. Pesto. Cream. Some roasted tomatoes. You might mix them with spinach.

They make a wonderfully forgiving pie filling. Baked for 30 minutes in a casserole with some translucent onions, and a roux made of a tablespoon of flour, the courgette juice and milk made up to a scant pint and topped with Parmesan and breadcrumbs they make Child’s “Tian de Courgettes” which I love as a humble main meal.

Next time you espy them in the vegetable shop, I urge you to take them home and grate them.

Love, Karo

Vegetable Soup with Matzoh Balls

19 Sep

With Matzoh Balls!My sister and I caught the Baby Queen Z’s cold, so we are all a tad miserable. Even though its a gorgeous day outside, colds and flus almost demand a good, homemade vegetable soup. When we were little, it used to be a chicken soup with matzoh balls, so I decided to make them and add them to the vegetable soup. Matzoh balls are a supremely comforting Jewish tradition – matzoh cracker meal, combined with salt, egg and a bit of soup stock to make dumplings. Eating them feels like being enveloped in a pure cashmere blanket. And when youre ill, they are very nourishing.

I went vegetarian with the matzoh balls, though I did find good vegan recipes here and here. To be honest, I just wasnt up to trying the vegan version … not feeling focused or well enough to pay attention to multiple ingredients. But the soup is vegan – and I made it creamy and thick by whizzing it up with my immersion blender. Literally less than a minute and all those amazing veggies were pureed in a silken mass. I made the matzoh balls and boiled them in the soup pot (with the soup safely stored in a heatproof bowl) and then when they were done, introduced them to the soup.

Good, healthy, nourishing and full of vegetable love. Sure to make us all better in a jiffy!

Vegetable Soup

This makes 1 big potful. Adjust the vegetables to what you have in the fridge, but note that I almost always use onion or leek or both, carrot, and a can of plum tomatoes. Everything else comes and goes, but those are the constants ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, topped and tailed, and roughly chopped (leave the skin on)
  • 1 zucchini, roughly chopped (skin on)
  • 1 can plum tomatoes in their juice
  • 1 cup potatoes, chopped (skin on)
  • 1/2 head of rapini or broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and leek until they go soft and slightly melty, and a little browned along the edges. This is quite important as they form the basis of the soup, so you want to cook them long enough to caramelise a bit. This can take up to ten minutes depending on heat source.

Add the carrots, stir to combine, and let them soften, about three to four minutes.

Add the zucchini, stir to combine and let it soften, about two to three minutes.

Open a can of plum tomatoes in their juice, and pour over the soup base. I usually use one hand to hold and pour the tomatoes, and the other hand to catch the tomatoes as they fall into the soup and lightly crush them.

Fill the can with water twice, and add to the soup pot. Stir everything to combine.

Taste and lightly salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes, rapini and spinach, and lower the heat to a soft simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. If there isnt, top it up.

Adjust salt and pepper.

You can eat the soup just as it is – broth and wonderful chunks of vegetables. But when I am ill, I like a smooth soup, so I take it off the heat, and use my immersion blender to make a really thick silky soup. The choice is up to you.

Matzoh balls

To be honest, you could use just about any cracker in this soup – saltines or oyster or water biscuits would all do. But if you have matzoh, use it – there is something very particular about this delicious taste that owes itself to the matzoh meal. Also, if you use salted crackers, adjust salt accordingly.

This will make for quite a salty unboiled mixture. Dont worry. A lot of the salt will boil out in the pot.

  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp soup stock

To make the matzoh meal, take a matzoh cracker or two, break it up into smallish pieces, and place in a sturdy ziploc plastic bag. Using a wine bottle, rolling pin or other hard, heavy implement, smash the matzoh cracker until it is dust! Very therapeutic ๐Ÿ˜‰

In a small bowl, combine the matzoh meal and the salt. In a separate small cup or bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and soup stock until combined well. Pour the egg mixture over the matzoh meal, and stir lightly to combine. It will be quite sticky and soft.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To boil the matzoh balls, transfer the soup into a large heatproof bowl. Its okay if a bit of soup remains – this will enrich the boiling liquid for the matzoh balls.

Fill the pot with water, and bring to the boil.

Take the matzoh mixture out of the fridge, and using your hands, make small balls (about 1 inch in diametre) and drop them in the boiling water. Remember that matzoh balls expand to more than twice their size, so dont make huge balls!

Boil for 20 – 30 minutes, or until cooked through. You will know when they are completely cooked when you cut through one and it is light and fluffy all the way through, having absorbed enough water to cook the insides.

Transfer the cooked matzoh balls to the soup, drain and rinse the pot, and transfer soup and matzoh balls back. Reheat gently. Eat and feel better!

Mushroom, Leek + Zucchini with Spinach Couscous

15 Sep

mushrooms leeks and zucchiniI dont know what it is, but the last couple of days I have been completely enveloped by colour when I cook… Yesterday, I made a green spinach pie, before that a green pasta, and a few days before a bright pink-fuschia raspberry pie. Today, I was also thinking about colour, but I wanted something bright and sunny because all of us were sad to say goodbye to Essia. I came up with a quick and easy meal that tastes amazing – sauteed leeks, mushrooms and zucchini, all tinged yellow with turmeric, and couscous, its sunniness modified by the addition of bright green spinach.

It was a happy meal – and its flavours while mellow, had a slight zing to palate. This combination can easily be made into a vegan dish by the exclusion of the sour cream (or substitution with some soy milk). I was looking for spices and herbs to accent the dark notes of the mushrooms and the roasted sweetness of the leeks – turmeric has an earthy quality, and paprika a mild sweetness. Combined with the tang of basil and the rounded richness of dijon mustard, they added layers of flavour to this meal that elevated it into specialness.

I added a few sliced tomatoes right at the end for their spark of colour and their finishing sweetness. Please do as you wish, though if you do have some beautiful small tomatoes around, they are a summery addition to this perfect stew. I also minced and added about a cup of raw spinach to the couscous. You cant really taste it, but it is so good for you that sliding it into the buttery perfection of couscous is a good idea – getting some raw green vegetables into the system without any fuss or effort at all.

This recipe will serve 4 people

Leek, Mushroom + Zucchini Stew

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (if you want added flavour, add a few drops of your favourite oil to the olive oil base)
  • 3 – 5 cloves of garlic, sliced fine
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios (or cashews or almonds – pistachios just worked in this for me, but go with what you like!)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar or wine
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used portobello), peeled, sliced and chopped
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 – 3 tbsp sour cream or soy creamer/milk OR about 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable stock or wine
  • 1 ย cup baby roma tomatoes, sliced

In a large, non stick pan, over medium high heat, saute the garlic until just softened. Add the leek, and lower the heat. Sautee for about 5 minutes, or until the leek has turned glossy and softened quite a bit. Add the zucchini and sautรฉ until softened. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric and basil, and stir well to combine. Scute for another few minutes to enable the spices and herbs to bloom.

Add the pistachios (or other nut) and stir well. Saute for another minute or two. Add the balsamic and allow the mixture to simmer down.

Add the mushrooms, and stir well. Cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have let go of their liquid. Add the dijon mustard, and the sour cream (or vegetable stock), and simmer for at least 5 minutes, or until the liquid has bubbled down and reduced to a thick coating over the vegetables.

Take off heat, and add the sliced tomatoes, and mix well. The tomatoes will soften in the heat of the stew, but will not cook down and become mushy.

Taste for seasonings, and adjust.

Set aside while you make the couscous.

Spinach Couscous

  • 10 oz (about 280 g) box of couscous
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup raw baby spinach, minced

In a saucepan, with a tight fitting lid, heat water, butter or olive oil and salt until the water comes to a full boil. Stir in the couscous, and take the saucepan off the heat. Cover with lid, and allow to sit for five minutes.

Mince the spinach very fine.

Remove the lid from the saucepan, and using a fork, fluff the couscous. Add the spinach all at once and mix thoroughly to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, plate the couscous in a large bowl. Ladle the stew over. Eat and be comforted ๐Ÿ™‚

Green

12 Sep

PastaThe end of the summer is near, I can see it in the leaves on the trees. They are turning ever so slightly brown (and red and gold). There is a little bit of a chill in the air, and the neighbours had a fire last night for the first time. I smelt it when I went outside onto the porch in the evening. The sun drops so fast out of the sky … it is dark before 7pm. These little indicators of the season changing makes me want to hold on to the lush greenness of summer for a just a little bit longer…

And so tonight, in defiance of autumn and winter, of the changing of the season, I made green pasta. Simple, vegan, and so deeply green. It was good. And it was fast to make. I used green spinach fettucini to augment the green … Use whatever green you can find, or like best, but I have a particular fondness for broccoli and zucchini, so that is what I used.

This recipe serves 4, but feel free to double or halve it. Use the best produce you can find – organic everything if you can afford it. Serve parmesan on the side, but know that it will make the meal vegetarian rather than vegan. And hold off on the urge to add lots herbs or some ricotta or a touch of cream. This works because it is so clean, tasting of green, and of the lasting sunshine of summer.

If you dont have any pasta in the house, but still want to make this dish, it would be wonderful served with rice, quinoa, couscous, noodles, or even with some yeasty brown bread. Its very adaptable!

You will need:

  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into chunks
  • 3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 – 15 cloves of garlic, sliced fine (yes you read that right!)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp red chili flakes (depends on your propensity for heat)
  • 1/2 tsp salt plus more for pasta and to taste
  • 1 zucchini
  • Approx 250 – 300 g dried pasta (I used spinach fettucini)

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil. You will use this pot for making the pasta later, so have a handled sieve ready.

Chop the broccoli into edible chunks, and throw it in the water. You want to boil it until it has lost its snap, and when you bite into it, the broccoli is creamy. This can take anywhere from 7 – 10 minutes (sometimes more) depending on how thick or thin you have chopped the broccoli, as well as what kind of broccoli you are using, and its freshness.

In a non stick pan, over medium low heat, saute the sliced garlic until soft. This can take a while. Be patient. This is the basis of the pasta sauce, and its imperative you dont let the garlic burn. Lower the heat if you think it needs it. This can take you up to ten – 15 minutes, so prep your other ingredients while you wait.

Once the broccoli is to your liking, drain it from the water using a handled sieve. Leave as much cooking water as you can in the pot, and put the broccoli in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the red chili flakes and salt to the garlic in the pan, and stir. Raise the heat a little and add all the almonds. Keep cooking while you slice or chop your zucchini. I like it halved, and then sliced. Add the zucchini to the pan, and raise the heat to medium high. Stir well, and keep stirring. You want the zucchini to soften a little bit, and burn around the edges. The almonds will follow suit.

Meanwhile, add a bit more water to your boiling pot if you think it needs it, and bring it to the boil again. Add the pasta, and cook to al dente.

Add the broccoli to the zucchini in the pan, and stir well. Taste for heat and salt. You might want to add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the pasta directly to the broccoli/zucchini in the pan.

Once the pasta is cooked al dente (I always check a few minutes before the stated cooking time on the box!), use a mug and save a bit of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta, and pop it right back into the pot. Pour the contents of the broccoli/zucchini pan over, and mix well. You can add a little more of the pasta cooking water if you like, but it shouldnt be that neccessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Serve with parmesan on the side. Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

8 Sep

DeliciousToday was a day of memories… I dont know why, may be because I chatted with old friends, and video conferenced for a while with family back home, but today was a day for remembering. It was also a Whole Foods day (which makes it a fabulous day) and once again I was inspired and amazed by the produce, the freshness, the colour, the beauty of all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables.

Because of that certain melancholy memory feeling to today, I decided to make zucchini bread. This is a wonderful bread, spicy, warm, gorgeous crust, hearty and yet very good for you. I love zucchini bread because its a wonderful way to get non vegetable eaters to eat their greens! How can that simple squash be transformed into a bread that tastes as if it was sent from the Goddesses? I dont know, but I do love it so. Our mother used to make zucchini bread, and though that recipe has been lost, I think I came pretty close to making something that has the same comforting, loving feeling to it.

This bread freezes exceptionally well. Its wonderful slathered with butter (or margarine if youre a vegan!) and it is fantastic sliced and toasted. I remember thick slices, slightly burnt at the edges, salted butter seeping onto the surface of the bread. Pure comfort. Pure happiness. Its also a great bread to give to little ones who are just starting to eat, because of the vegetables and because it teaches them about spice and taste and texture.

This recipe will make a large loaf. If you only have small loaf pans, divide into two. Baking time is still roughly the same. Make some, its easy, I promise. And make memories of your own ๐Ÿ™‚

I used eggs in this recipe, but if you are vegan, they are easily replaced by 1 cup of applesauce. You will get the same texture and deliciousness as if you used eggs.

You can add raisins and nuts to this recipe if you like (about half a cup each) but I like my zucchini bread pure. If you do add, walnuts are particularly good with this bread.

For one large loaf, you will need:

  • 2 eggs (or if vegan, use 1 cup apple sauce plus 1 tsp lemon juice)
  • 1 cup canola or other light vegetable oil
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat flour, but use any kind you have – all purpose is fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini, skin on – about 2 medium sized zucchini

Preheat the oven to 175C (350 F). Line a large loaf tin with baking paper. I cut a piece of baking paper that was about three times larger than the base of my loaf pan, and then cut into each of the four corners of the paper at a 45 degree angle. This made it easier to line the baking pan and fold over the edges.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the oil, sugars, and vanilla essence, and whisk until thick and glossy.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Use a spatula to make sure all the spices are well integrated into the flour.

In three batches, mix the flour into the oil mixture, taking care not to over mix.

Wash the zucchini well, and then top and tail it, and grate finely. Measure out the zucchini into the batter. 2 regular sized zucchini usually gives me about 2 1/2 cups of grated zucchini. If you have a bit more or a bit less, its fine. Just dont go above 3 cups.

Mix the zucchini gently into the batter, ensuring that its well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake in the preheated oven for an hour to an hour and a half, or until a tester comes out with only crumbs attached. If you bake beyond an hour, check every ten minutes or so to ensure it does not over bake.

Enjoy the scent that permeates your house, and allow the zucchini bread to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and devouring, and making some comforting memories of your own!

Summer Stew

22 Aug

Perfect Bright Summer FlavoursWow, today was such a lovely day! Lunch at Le Pain Quotidien – perfect tart lemonade with loads of mint, and a gorgeous open face sandwich of fresh ricotta, mission figs, cracked black pepper, honey and chopped tomatoes. I know, it doesnt sound like it would all go, but oh boy, did it! Superb. And then home, and loads and loads of cooking. Dinner was a cold potato salad – roasted garlic and baby tomatoes, mixed as soon as they came out the oven with a few tablespoons of mayo. SO good. And summer stew – the best, brightest and tastiest of the summer veg, stewed briefly together, served with some rice. Vegan, and delicious. And for dessert, a strawberry fool – those gorgeous strawberries I bought yesterday, macerated with a bit of balsamico, and then folded into lightly whipped cream which had been sweetened just a bit, and flavoured with a bit of vanilla. Actually, it turned out to be an Eton Mess, because we also had some store bought meringue which we crumbled over the top. So bloody good!

And then of course, I had to do some prep cooking for M’s birthday tomorrow. I have decided that since it is summertime, I am not going to bother with huge numbers of hot dishes. Most everything can be served cold or at room temperature. Tonight I made broccolini with toasted almonds and a bright lemon olive oil dressing. Roasted butternut which will go into an arugula salad with a few shavings of parmesan. The stuffing for the mushroom pastry. The pudding for the chocolate cake. My feet hurt! And its late. But at least tomorrow, I can bake the cake in the morning, and do the mushroom pastry in the afternoon, and assemble all the salads in between, without having to worry I dont have enough time. Plus, we are planning on going to the farmer’s market! I cant wait! That should be wonderful fun.

So now, back to this summer stew. These are a few of the beautiful vegetables I found at Whole Foods. I didnt want to over cook them, as their bright clean flavours were just too delicate. Also, to be honest, I only put a tiny bit of flavouring into this stew – I wanted the veggies to perfume the gravy with their own fragrance, and I felt it really didnt need any additional enhancement. Please go to the market and see what is bright and fresh and tasty. Use that. If you dont see a squash, but there is a wonderful array of carrots, substitute! This stew is about using whats best in the summertime, and celebrating it. Enjoy!

Serves about 6 – 8

  • 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large (or 2 small) aubergines (eggplant), washed, sliced and chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 yellow zucchini squash, halved and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, halved and chopped
  • 1/2 butternut, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 2 ripe large heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 cup water
  • 1 package firm seasoned tofu, chopped roughly
  • Large handful baby spinach, washed well

In a large pan, over high heat, in about 2 tbsp olive oil, saute the onion until glossy and softened. Add the aubergine, and sautee until the aubergine starts to brown and burn a bit. Season with paprika, oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the yellow zucchini squash and zucchini to the pan, and sautee until slightly softened. You may need to add more olive oil.

Add the butternut, and combine well. You may want to put a lid on the pan to soften the butternut a bit, but I usually just let all the ingredients bubble and saute for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, and encourage the sauce that will start to form with the addition of some hot water. I usually add about 1/2 cup, and let the stew cook for about 5 minutes, and then check the butternut. If it needs more time, I add more water. Let cook and meld together for about 10 – 15 minutes, and taste and adjust seasonings.

Dont overcook. This is a delicate stew, and you want to really allow the clean fresh flavours of the vegetables to remain intact.

Add the tofu and baby spinach, and cook just until the spinach is wilted.

Serve warm over jasmine rice.