Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sweet Treat - Peach Crisp

Some kids grow up in houses filled with candy and others grow up in houses filled with healthy food. I was a child of both. My mother, blessed with a fast metabolism, polished off humongous bags of chips and M&Ms in a sitting while my father grew fresh veggies in the backyard and reveled in cooking food loaded with lemons, olive oil and other Mediterranean inspired ingredients.

As a result, I inherited a sweet tooth as big as my salty one. No matter how well or how much I eat, I'm only truly satisfied when a meal ends with dessert. While I could eat half a dozen cupcakes in a sitting (Oh, and I did the day before my daughter was born!), I don't have my mother's otherworldly metabolism so I must control myself. What's more, I happen to enjoy sweet treats that might even be construed as healthy, especially when those treats involve fresh peaches in their prime.

My husband and I recently adopted a nighttime ritual we will sorely miss once peach season ends in a few weeks. Each night, we give baby girl a bath, read to her, snuggle with her and sing, lay her down to sleep and then we dash to the kitchen to pop a peach crisp in the oven. I make a big thing of topping on Sundays to have on hand. The topping lasts for at least a week and is even better after being in the fridge as it will form nice little clumps that turn into crispy goodness when cooked. Enjoy!

Peach and Almond Crisp
(While there is a bit of sugar and butter, I still like to think of this as a healthy dessert what with its almonds, peaches, rolled oats and cinnamon. On indulgent days, I add a scoop of ginger ice cream. If you live in the New York area, Ronnybrook Farm makes an extraordinary one.)

What You'll Need:

8-12 peaches depending on size, pealed and sliced
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter softened
1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
3/4 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. white sugar plus 2 tbsp
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then spread the peaches in a large casserole dish and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. In a separate bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Evenly spread the mixture over the peaches and pop in the oven. It's ready when the crust is golden brown and you see some bubbling coming up from the peaches - about 35-45 minutes. Serve the crisp warm.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $10.00
• Leftovers – As a large crisp, this serves about 8 people, but my husband and I regularly make petite crisps for two (in a small casserole with about 2-4 peaches depending on their size and our piggery). The topping should last through the week if you choose to make a mini crisp each evening. All told, it's around $1-1.25 per serving.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomato Salad with Mint

Just a quick one to tide you over before my Peach Crisp Post this Wednesday:

On the East Coast, we are facing late blight, also responsible for the Irish Potato Famine, a disease which is decimating the tomato crops. This time of year, the markets are usually overflowing with tomatoes, big and small, yellow, green, red, purple, but the blight has made them a precious commodity rather than a summer staple.

Needless to say, I am savoring every tomato I eat and today for lunch I made a marvelously tasty little salad I know you'll want to try.

Tomato & Mint Salad
(Mint, red onion and tomato bring out the best in each other. Soak up the juices with a couple pieces of toasted bread and you'll have a very satisfying lunch.)

What You'll Need:
4 heirloom tomatoes either sliced into rings or cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 sprigs of mint with the leaves torn up and stems discarded
Half a small red onion very thinly sliced
Olive oil - the best you have
White wine vinegar
Fresh squeezed lemon juice

In a bowl add the tomato, mint and red onion. Add a splash of lemon juice, a splash of white wine vinegar and a long drizzle of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste, stir and, voila! you're through.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $6.00
• Leftovers – We got 4-5 servings out of this for about a $1.20 per serving.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zucchini and Tomato Casserole

Zucchinis are upon us. Big or small and always green, every farm stand and my weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) pickup are loaded with them. I have to tell you, I've always hated zucchini. To me, they taste like algae, but my husband adores them and baby girl isn't anti either. Plus, I've been trying to use up everything I buy so as not to waste money, contribute excess trash to landfills or throw away veggies the farmers have worked so hard to grow. Them's the breaks of a CSA, no?

So, I've been sucking it up, attempting to disguise zucchini as best I can with garlic and olive oil and lemon juice. And then, three weeks ago, when faced with several zucchini and a few tomatoes, I decided to make a casserole. The word casserole generally leads me to think warm, cozy, heavy and meant for cold weather, but this one has greatly expanded my internal definition. As a whole, this casserole is bright, refreshing, tangy, light and soothing. The zucchini? A wonderful addition in structure, texture, and even taste. Zucchini and me, after years of turmoil, have turned a corner.

PS - Did I mention it takes about 5 minutes to assemble and 30 minutes in the oven? Even a mommy with a screaming 20 month old tugging at her leg while yelling, "Up!! Up!!" can make it. Sound familiar?

Zucchini and Tomato Casserole
(Layers of local tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and thyme make this a creative way to take advantage of Summer's bounty.)

What You'll Need:
2 large tomatoes sliced in half inch rings
2-3 small zucchini sliced lengthwise in quarter inch strips
3 large garlic cloves sliced thinly
10 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
1 c. market cheese like Gouda or Gruyere grated on the large side of your box grater
1/3 c. whole wheat bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

In a casserole dish lay down the strips of zucchini so that they touch each other and cover the bottom. Spread out the thyme sprigs evenly on top of the zucchini. Follow suit with the garlic. Place the tomato slice on top so that they are touching each other and cover the dish. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Then gently scatter the cheese over the top followed by the breadcrumbs. Bake until the cheese is melted, the crust is golden brown and you see a bit of bubbling from the veggies - About 20 minutes.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $6.00
• Leftovers – We got 6 servings out of this for $1.00 a serving.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Pasta Ever

I don't know what's come over me, but I've been obsessed with making pasta. It's like a light has gone off in my head that spaghetti and meatballs, while wonderful, is not all there is to Italian cuisine, er, should I say pasta cuisine since pasta isn't all there is to Italian cuisine. A couple weeks ago, I shared my recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara and now today I have to share yet another pasta recipe, which I am sure must already exist somewhere in Italy because there's no way this deliciousness hasn't been replicated elsewhere.

My pasta epiphany occurred the other night because I was starving and didn't feel like waiting 30 minutes for the huge Italian pork sausages from Bradley Farm to cook through. Instead, I removed the casings and sauteed them, mincing them up as I went, with a little onion. Then I looked over at a dejected nearly used up bottle of Pinot Noir sitting on my table and thought, hmmm, let's pour that in too. Oh, and why not add those three beefsteak tomatoes sitting next to the wine? The result was a wonderful, wonderful thing that surprised the heck out of me. Enjoy!

Pork Sausage and Red Wine Meat Sauce Over Pasta
(This new fave requires very little time and produces quite a lot of flavor. It's best served over a pasta like large rigatoni or peppardelle that can hold a meaty sauce.)

What You'll Need:

1 medium onion chopped
1 pound Italian Pork Sausage out of its casing
3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes diced (or a large can diced tomatoes)
About a cup of red wine (or more if you like)
12 leaves of fresh basil cut into very thin strips

1 pound of sturdy pasta like rigatoni or peppardelle

For the pasta: Set a large pot of salted water over a high heat to boil. When it comes to a boil add the pasta and cook until al dente.

For the meat sauce: Place a large frying pan over a medium high heat, add a splash of olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion, stir and cook until soft. Add the sausage and break it up into little bits and make sure it mixes thoroughly with the onions. Once the sausage is nearly cooked through add the wine and tomatoes and simmer until most of the liquid had reduced and the sauce has thickened up. Turn off the heat and add the strips of basil, stirring just until mixed.

To serve, place the pasta on a platter and top with the meat sauce. Buon Appetito!

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $14.00
• Leftovers – We got 4 servings out of this for $3.50 a serving.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What I'm Reading This Week

So I made the most delicious pasta dish of my life yesterday and I want to share it with you, but sadly I was at the doctor this morning - just for a physical! - and I still haven't eaten since you're suppose to fast before they take blood. All this adds up to I'm tired, I'm cranky, I have a massive headache brewing over my right eyebrow and so I'm not posting today - sorry.

However, I do want to share with you what I'm reading these days - cooking wise. From the top on down are:
  • Julia's Kitchen Wisdom - a classic my father gave me for Christmas years and years ago. It's an awesome reference more for those basic techniques I might need a reminder on now and then. I was super bored with making scrambled and fried eggs all the time. I picked this book off the shelf and discovered baked eggs! A revelation I will share with you at a later date.
  • The Gold Cookbook by Louis De Gouy - Last I heard, this has been out of print for a long time. I found it at Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks an amazing second hand cookbook shop in the West Village and gave it to my father for Christmas. He died this past winter and so I've been turning to it again and again for it's incredibly fun tone, informative viewpoint on fine cooking in the 50s. It's also an incredibly useful tool for anyone curious about the history of food, the cultures behind a dish and how to tell the difference between a muffin and a crump.
  • Ratio by Michael Ruhlman - I just picked this up a couple weeks ago. Centering around the ratios of ingredients that go into nearly everything we cook, Ruhlman provides the ratio of say wet to dry ingredients in a traditional quick bread so you can invent your own creations. Basically, the dudes giving us all a fishing pole so we can go out there and catch our own fish. Bravo!
  • Vefa's Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou- I just couldn't help myself, I'd been eyeing this pricey book for at least a few months since it came out. I am really and truly obsessed with Mediterranean cuisine and, while Lebanese food tops my list, Greek food is nipping at Lebanon's heels. This is like the Joy of Cooking for Greek people and I want to become an honorary culinary citizen.
  • A Platter of Figs by David Tanis - The birth of my blog occured on my actual birthday and in celebration of my birthday and my commitment to delicious local food, one of my best friends gave me this. It's an amazing book organized by season and menu. Oftentimes, I'll return from the market with a bunch of stuff and immediately pick up this book to see what David Tanis would do.
  • Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan - Who hasn't heard of baker extraordinaire, Dorie Greenspan? She's amazing and inspiring and the pages of her book are lovingly splattered with flour, butter and sugar. I've made notes, recorded my own recipes inside it's now tattered pages and my daughter looks at the pictures and says, Nummy!


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