Healthy

 

Zucchini is the very essence of summer for me. The shades of deep to light greens along with tinges of yellows tease your memories of endless summer meals gone by where zucchini’s presence on the table defined the taste of unforgettable midsummer meals with family and friends.

Preparation of zucchini is a lesson in less is more. A recipe is hardy required, but keep in mind, a lightness of touch and just a scent of fresh herbs is all that is needed.

Serving this roasted zucchini with a creamy polenta is a match made in heaven! (click here for polenta)

 

 

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette     serves 4

Needed: large shallow oven baking tray

Preheat oven to 375 f/ 190 c Have oven rack placed in the middle position.

  • 3 or 4 plump garden fresh zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

Place the wedges of zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the zucchini and toss to coat the wedges evenly.

Add the lemon thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined.

Place the zucchini wedges in the baking tray in a single layer. Transfer the tray to the oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes. Then reverse the tray and roast another 6 to 8 minutes. The zucchini should be very lightly colored and softened, but still firm around the edges.

If you like you can place the try under the broiler for a couple of minutes for added color.

Transfer the tray from the oven to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

 

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, whole, peeled and pressed
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • freshly grated Parmigiano (optional)

In a non reactive bowl combine the shallots, garlic clove, lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined.

Combine both oils in a pitcher. While whisking slowly begin adding the olive oils in a thin slow and steady stream while continuing to whisk vigorously. Once all the oil has been added and the vinaigrette has emulsified, taste the vinaigrette and add additional salt as needed. Adding just a pinch of sugar is optional. Cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette until you are ready to serve.

Serving:

Place the roasted zucchini in a bowl and lightly drizzle the lemon vinaigrette over the zucchini, toss, and serve.

As suggested above, serve roasted zucchini along with creamy polenta is a perfect summer meal in itself.

Dusting with Zucchini and polenta with Parmigiano is optional, but a nice compliment.

Fig, Tahini, and, Dark Chocolate Cookies with Orange Peel

Fig, Tahini, and, Dark Chocolate Cookies with Orange Peel

I came across a recipe for these amazingly scrumptious cookies on David Lebovit’s food blog ( see recipe here)  that was inspired by Margarita Manzke’s recipe in her Baking at Republique cookbook. 

These cookies are decidedly Eastern Mediterranean in spirit along with a flourish of hearty home baked irresistible goodness. Gladly this recipe is open to personal interpretations that make for all that much more fun for the home baker.

My adaptations include using Lindt Intense Orange Dark Chocolate with Orange Peel that pairs perfectly with the dried Mission figs. I also used roasted sesame seeds instead of raw as the raw seeds which would not have enough time in the oven to to roast them and release their subtle flavor.

So without further ado…let’s get baking!

 

Fig, Tahini, and Dark Chocolate with Orange Peel Cookies  makes 20 cookies

Plan to make the dough the day before you intend to bake the cookies.

  • 1 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 0z (115 g ) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (120 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 g) well stirred tahini
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped soft dried Mission figs, hard stems removed
  • 100 g Lindt Intense Orange Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ to ¾ cup roasted sesame seeds (see recipe here)

In a small bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt until well combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the vanilla extract on medium peed until well combined. Mix in the tahini and then the egg, Then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated,

Stir in the flour mixture on low speed, and then add the chopped figs, and finally the chopped chocolate, and mix until just combined.

Line a baking tray with parchment baking paper and portion the dough into balls using and ice cream scoop. Roll the balls gently between the palms of your hands and place them in the lined baking tray. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning preheat the oven to 350 f/180 c with the baking rack set in the middle of the oven. To insure even accurate temperature use an oven thermometer to verify the correct temperature.

Have 2 baking sheets on hand lined with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Put some of the roasted sesame seeds in a shallow bowl.

Remove the chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator and roll each ball gently, slightly flattening the dough. Then gently roll and press the top side of each cookie into the bowl of sesame seeds to coat evenly. Turn the cookie over and place on the lined baking tray. Be sure to allow about 2 inches between each cookie.

Transfer the tray of cookies to the oven and bake for 7 ½ minutes. Then open the oven and reverse the tray and bake another 7 ½ minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned around the edges and the centers slightly raised. This timing is accurate and insures that the cookies are baked to perfection without over baking.


Promptly remove the cookies from the oven and place the baking tray on a rack to cool for a couple of minutes.

Gently tap the top of each cookie with a flat spatula to pat down the domed tops of the cookies.

You can then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Follow the same procedure for baking the remaining tray of cookies.

Store the cookies in an airtight container for Up to a week or refrigerate for longer storage, though I am pretty sure they will be devoured in no time at all!

Best served at room temperature.

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken

 

Early summer is a perfect time to utilize fresh from the garden produce for light soups that are as lively and colorful as they are delicious. Freshly made soups are ideal for easy summer meals that celebrate the season’s ever evolving bounty. A beautiful soup accompanied with a crusty loaf along with a freshly made pesto (see recipe here) is a perfect summer meal in and of itself!

 

Summery Vegetable Soup with Chicken       Serves 4

  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • handful of celery leaves
  • 1 cup diced onions, divided
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  •  sprig of Italian basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • whole basil leaves as a garnish

First thing you want to do is cut the corn kernels off of the cobs and set them aside to use later. Then holding the cobs vertically in a small bowl, scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to extract the corn milk and set the milk aside to use later. Reserve the scraped cobs.

Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and add the bay leaves, celery leaves, ½ cup diced onions, peppercorns, the scraped corn cobs, and the reserved corn milk scrapings. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the whole chicken breasts to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the pot side, covered, for about 30 minutes. Then using tongs remove the chicken breasts and set them aside in a bowl to cool.

Remove the corn cobs from the pot and discard them. Then pour the contents of the pot into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Press all the liquid out of the solids. Discard the solids and set the broth aside.

Rinse out the pot and return it to the stove top, add the olive oil, and set over a medium flame. When the oil is hot add the remaining half cup of onions, the diced yellow and red bell peppers, diced jalapeno, and saute until they soften about 5 minutes. Then add the carrots, celery, and potatoes, and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Then add the reserved broth to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, but still holding their shape. Then add the reserved corn kernels.

Gently pull the chicken breasts apart and into bit size pieces and add to the both. Stir in the sliced basil and season to taste with salt. Add the saffron threads and stir to combine and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Just before serving stir in the lemon juice.

Serving

Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with whole basil leaves and lemon slices.

French Tarragon Vinaigrette

French Tarragon Vinaigrette

At last, with the arrival of spring crops coming to market, it is time to let green produce be the star attraction. By that I mean salads composed using the freshest greens along with some early baby green beans, freshly picked herbs, and crisp sliced radishes tossed with an herb vinaigrette to really savor the fresh flavors of spring. I always gravitate towards the subtle anise like flavor of fresh French tarragon accented with a hint of lemon in a vinaigrette that pairs beautifully with freshly picked garden greens.

For this salad I have used a combination of leafy greens as well as a deep green curly leaf kale, but use any fresh greens that are available.

 

For the vinaigrette, use fresh French Tarragon leaves if available. Tarragon has been loved by French cooks for centuries for its fresh clean subtle flavor and aroma. The small yellow flowers are edible by the way so do include them in the salad . Otherwise a good quality dried French tarragon will be just fine.

 

I like to make the vinaigrette a day in advance so that the flavors have a chance to coalesce.

Fresh Tarragon Vinaigrette:  makes 6 oz/ ¾ cup

  • 1 ½ teaspoon grated (microplaned) shallot
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder 
  • 1½ teaspoons minced fresh French tarragon leaves; or ¾ teaspoon dried
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup light olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon minced lemon zest
  • pinch of sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

Alternately, You can combine the shallots, mustard powder, tarragon, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a non reactive bowl and whisk to combine. Then begin adding the olive oils in a slow steady stream while whisking vigorously until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Then add the lemon zest and sugar and whisk until combined.

Ideally, cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette for 24 hours before using.

For the salad:

  • assorted leafy greens
  • curly leaf kale
  • baby green beans (haricot vert)
  • radishes, thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs; marjoram, oregano, or lemon thyme
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • flaked sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

If you are using kale, remove the center rib from the leaves and discard. Tear the leaves and place them in a steamer basket.

Trim the green beans and place them in the steamer basket along with the kale. Set the steamer basket over simmering water and steam until the kale is tender, but al dente. The beans may take a few minutes longer, but should also be al dente. Set both the kale and the beans out on a kitchen towel and cool. Once cool refrigerate both until you are ready to assemble the salad.

Assembling the salad:

Place the greens, including the chilled kale leaves, in a large bowl and toss to combine. Then add the green beans on top. Spoon a few teaspoons of the vinaigrette over all and toss to combine.

Transfer the mixed greens and beans to individual salad plates. Tuck the radish slices randomly into the greens. Spoon more vinaigrette over all sparingly. Lightly grate the Parmesan over the salads and serve.

Place a small bowl of additional dressing on the table along with the crystallized sea salt and a pepper mill.

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