Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zucchini (the saga contiues)

Like I said on Monday's show, I am not yet sick of zucchini and I fear the end of the season. Yes, I usually like to eat what's in season until I'm so sick of it that I can't stand to face it again....until it comes in season the next year. Not so with zucchini. When it is fresh, I will eat it and weep on that day when I see that the plants in the garden are not going to produce even the tiniest, scrawniest little squash. But I will not live in the future here knowing that there are a couple months of wonderful fresh zucchini yet to come.

That's but one of the joys of living in Sonoma County. When my sister back in Michigan is pulling out her vines to magically transform into something wonderful over the winter in the compost heap, I will joyfully be picking zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant out of my garden, when her leaves are turning orange, our naked ladies will be exposing their pink beauty.

I am going to start out with the recipe for the picture above as it has turned out to be my favorite way of eating zucchini this summer. In fact, it is what I will be having tonight having just finished kneading my pasta dough. This recipe comes from a member of the Jamie Oliver Forum who lives in Friuli, a region of Italy located in the Northeastern-most part of the country.

Pasta with Zucchini ala Mada

3 coves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-1/2 inch slices of pancetta

Pinch of chili flakes or 1 Calabrian dried chili, chopped

5 or 6 medium zucchini, washed, trimmed and grated through the large holes of a box grater.

Salt and pepper to taste

Several zucchini blossoms, if available.

.75 pounds dried pasta (fettuccine seems a good choice for this or if homemade, tonarelli.)

Pecorino cheese for the table.

Heat water to boiling in a large pot. If using dried pasta, add about 10 minutes before the sauce is done.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add pancetta and saute until it just starts to crisp. Add garlic and chili flakes sauteing very briefly just until garlic starts to color.

Add grated zucchini and mix everything well. Cook, turning from time to time, until zucchini is tender. Season and dress the pasta. Sprinkle torn zucchini blossoms over the top.

This next recipe is one that was probably my favorite a few years back. After I made it the first time, I found myself being requested to repeat it several times over the course of the summer. Considering how delicious this turned out to be, I was more than happy to comply. This does take some waiting time so you may want to plan part of your day around it. Although the original recipe calls for using fussini or spaghetti, I am particularly fond of fussili bucati, which unfortunately, I have only seen made by De Cecco.

Pasta with Fried Zucchini Sauce

1 1/2 pound zucchini
12 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
Vegetable oil for frying
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (Plus more for serving)
1 pound pasta such as fussili or spaghetti

Cut zucchini into sticks 2 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch thick.
Sprinkle liberally with salt, toss and place in a colander to drain for a few hours.
Remove zucchini and dry on towels.
Coat zucchini with flour and place in a strainer or a clean colander and shake off excess flour.
Pour 1/2 inch of oil in a pan, add garlic, heat and when very hot, add enough of the zucchini sticks to loosely fill the pan frying until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels or a rack. (Remove garlic when it starts browning.)
Cook pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water.
While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Pour drained pasta into skillet and turn several times. Add zucchini, torn basil leaves, cheese and turn again.
Serve with extra cheese.

For the next recipe, I would suggest sticking to the recipe pretty much the way it's written. I did try to play around with it last week and came up very very short of what it should have been. With everything I've said about the superiority of homemade pasta, the boxed version definitely does have its place. (I would not trade a plate of good old spaghetti with a good tomato sauce for a lot of things.) I decided to try the following recipe with some homemade pappardelle, a wide noodle, with disastrous results. That was "cooking for the bin" at its finest!

Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta and Basil

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 or 4 medium zucchini, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch dice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 pound penne or other cut pasta

1 cup good quality ricotta cheese

1 cup basil leaves, torn up plus a few left whole for a garnish

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.

Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add zucchini along with a large pinch of salt and several grindings of fresh black pepper.

Cook until zucchini begins to brown and then lower the heat and continue cooking until it is tender.
About 5 minutes before it is done, add pasta to the boiling water.

While pasta is cooking, put ricotta and half the basil in a bowl that you will serve the pasta in.

When the pasta is done, drain reserving about 1 cup of the liquid using it to thin the ricotta to a sauce-like consistency.

Add pasta, zucchini, remaining basil, cheese and gently but thoroughly mix well. (Garnish with a sprig of basil.)

Although I announced that the show would be about zucchini sauces for pasta, I realized that nothing is written in stone and that I couldn't pass up a recipe sent by a listener and friend for fried zucchini flowers. Like I mentioned on the show, the last time I made fried zucchini flowers they were so terrible I had to throw them out. (As I soon did with the recipe.)

I fried some zucchini blossoms for the first time. They were GREAT. The batter was very simple - 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup white wine, 1 egg.

This next recipe is one that I really like and must admit that it takes a little time and so I don't make it quiet as often as I do, say the quicker pasta recipes. But these Zucchini-stuffed Crepes
are certainly something that will impress your friends the next time a dinner comes up for which everyone must bring a dish to pass. Just a note on making crepes. They are dead easy to do. It's just the first one or two and never want to come out exactly right. Not to worry, you can even use those first couple "mistakes" in this recipe and it will be fine. I speak from experience.

Zucchini-stuffed Crepes

1 1/2 pounds zucchini

1 pound ripe roma tomatoes

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/4 pound boiled ham, minced fine


Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 pound Italian fontina, chopped

1 cup grated parmesan cheese


Crepes (recipe follows)

Cut an 'x' on stem end of tomatoes and drop into boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, peel and coarsely chop.

Dice zucchini into 1/2 inch cubes

In a large skillet (12 inches) put onions and oil and turn heat to medium and cook until golden.

Add garlic and continue cooking until it, too, has lightly colored.

Add ham and stir together. Add zucchini, turn all ingredients again and turn heat to medium high cooking until zucchini has browned.

Add salt and pepper and tomatoes turning the heat to high after this last addition and continue to cook for another 15 minutes stirring frequently.

Pour contents of pan into a bowl and add the fontina and half the grated cheese and mix well.

Turn the oven to 450°F and butter bottom and sides of a baking dish.

On a work surface, lay a crepe flat and spread top half with 2 tablespoons of the filling. Fold the bottom half to meet the top forming a half circle. Fold sides in half to form a triangle and set in baking dish with the curved side down. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the crepes and dot with butter. Bake in uppermost part of oven for 20 minutes until a golden brown crust starts to form.


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/3 cups milk

3 eggs


2 or 3 tablespoons butter

Put flour in bowl and pour milk in a thin slow stream all the while beating with a fork to avoid making any lumps.

Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition and adding a pinch of salt in the end.

Place 1/2 teaspoon of butter in an 8-inch pan a put on medium low heat.

Stir batter and pour 1/3 of a cup into the pan moving it so it spreads over the entire bottom.

As soon as it is firm, turn with a spatula and cook other side until it, too is firm.

Repeat with remaining batter stirring before adding to the skillet.

I know that there are a zillion recipes for zucchini bread out there and that everyone probably has her own favorite. But what would a show about zucchini be with talking about this seasonal favorite? It's probably the way many of us first enjoyed zucchini. (Notice I didn't say "ate.") I got this recipe online several years ago and it is my go to recipe for this old annual favorite.

Zucchini Bread

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Beat eggs, oil and sugar until light. Add zucchini and vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir into other mixture. Fold in walnuts

Grease two loaf pans divide the batter between them. Bake @ 325°F for 1 hour or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted comes our clean. (Try this with cream cheese instead of butter on top.)

My Quick Fix last Monday was something I had in Sicily a few years back and has remained one of my top ways to enjoy summer's zucchini with pasta.

Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce

1 28 0z can plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic smashed
few sprigs of fennel tops (wild if you can get them)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 lb zucchini (peeled and diced)
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more for frying zucchini)
1 small can (80 grams) of good Italian tuna (drained and flaked)
salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Pass tomatoes through a food mill and put in a pan together with garlic, fennel, sugar and olive oil. Simmer for 15-20 min. and fish out garlic and fennel
Meanwhile, saute diced zucchini in olive oil until golden and season with salt.
Add zucchini to sauce and heat through and then add tuna.
Mix sauce with finished pasta and serve.
Although it's a no-no to use grated cheese with fish, we can't help but love us our pecorino!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Zucchini Hanger-on From Last Week

While cleaning out files today, I noticed a recipe that I forgot to include...Mexican Zucchini.

As I stated on the show, I haven't tried this recipe but I can certainly vouch for it and the book it came out of...Mexican Cooking by the California Culinary Academy. Woefully, the book is now out of print. What's even sadder is that this was only one of their books that I purchased. They used to have them available at Falletti's market which is, sadly too, now defunct.

I'm very grateful that I have this one as I've not found a recipe in it that I didn't absolutely love.
So, without further bravado or delay, here is the recipe.

Zucchini with Chili and Cheese

Half an onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbls butter
1 tomato, chopped
3 large green mild chilies, roasted, peeled and seeded and chopped or 1 4-oz can diced green chilies
1/4 tsp dried oregano
3 Tbs water
1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/3 cup grated jack cheese

In a large skillet, saute' onion and garlic in butter until soft. Add tomato, chilies, and oregano and cook until the tomato is soft. Stir the water into the vegetables and add the zucchini. Cover and cook until the zucchini is tender.
Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables, cover and cook until the cheese is melted. Gently stir in cheese and serve.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Three Blogs Full

I can't believe it took three blog entries to get all the recipes in this week. I thought I'd better get this finished before Monday catches me without all the various dishes I wanted to do. So, here goes: This first recipe is one that Megan left on the desk at the station for me last Monday. (Sweet)
It's what she likes to do with what she calls a "monster size squash."
Megan's Monster Zucchini Steaks

Slice squash 3/4-1 inch thick, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with (garlic) salt and pepper and grill like a steak.
"Zuc steaks for the meat free..."

In addition to that, Megan also suggests shredding, salting, rinsing and squeezing the water out of zucchini and adding to pancake or waffle batter. Now that's a great way to sneak a vegetable into the diet of picky eater in the house! lol

I think the only recipe left from the show is one for zucchini fritters. I really hope you'll try these. Very tasty and a great way enjoy your zucchini.

Zucchini Fritters

1 pound of small zucchini (NOT football size!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 medium size clove of garlic, minced fine
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigianno reggiano cheese
3 eggs
1/4 cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs plus more to spread on a plate
Oil for frying

Clean zucchini and grate through the large holes of a box grater. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let set for several minutes to release its liquid.
Squeeze water out of zucchini, discarding the water and returning the zucchini to the bowl to which you will also add the parsley, garlic and cheese.
Beat eggs and add to mixture.
Add bread crumbs, pepper and salt to taste.
Mix well.
Form patties about 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
Fry in hot oil.
Serve them plain or with your favorite marinara with either parmesan or pecorino cheese.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zucchini Relish

As much as I love many zucchini recipes, there is something very special about zucchini relish.

Being a hard nosed traditionalist at times--I still haven't forgiven the people who are responsible for putting out the remake of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album back in the 70's--so it's no surprise that I was more than just a little sceptical about anyone even considering replacing the beloved pickling cucumber in pickle relish with something they grew too much of in the garden that year. That was until I found myself standing in those garden clogs looking down at the bumper crop in our garden with no end in sight. But what was the worst that could happen? It would turn out to be something absolutely awful and I would never make it again, ripping that page out of my canning book! Humble pie never tasted so delicious!

10 cups chopped zucchini (if very large, remove seeds)
4 large onions
4 green bell peppers cleaned and seeded
4 red bell peppers cleaned and seeded
1/2 cup salt
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Grind all vegetables using the coarse blade of a food grinder or use food processor.
(If using the latter, be careful as you want to maintain a coarse texture.) Put the ground vegetables in a stainless steel bowl or crockery. Add salt and keep vegetables submerged by weighting with a plate. Let stand overnight.
The next day, drain off the brine and rinse with water. Drain again and squeeze out excess water by hand.
Mix cornstarch with sugar and spices and add to vinegar in a pot large enough to hold the liquid and vegetables. Heat liquid to boiling and stir until syrup is clear.
Add vegetables and simmer 30 min.
Pour into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Put on lids and bands and process in hot water bath (185f/85c) for 15 min.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zucchini 101

Why is it that people have so much zucchini year after year? You'd think that seasoned gardeners would know that you don't need many plants to supply you, your friends, your family and complete strangers with enough zucchini to make them completely sick of that elongated gift from the garden until next summer when you plant too much of it again. Do our brains hibernate in the winter causing us to forget that a few seeds equals a few zillion squash, that we will again this year (like we have in all the years past since we've grown this in our garden) look under one of those fan like leaves and see a monstrous fruit that has grown to the size of a small dog and is no longer fit for anything other than a doorstop?

I can't stop you from growing too much zucchini this year--it's way too late for that seeing how July is fast on it's way out and August looms ahead--but I will try my doggonest to broaden the possibilities beyond the 25 loaves of zucchini bread taking up every space in your kitchen while you try to figure out what to do with the dining room table groaning under the weight of squash plus what's still in the garden. And, yes, I'll even include a very tasty recipe for zucchini bread in a future blog.

The first recipe I'm going to offer is about as American as one could get. It's one of those get-your-family-to-eat-their-vegetables recipes. It's also so easy that you've got to try it once even though you may have to buy a box of America's favorite baking mix.

Zucchini Casserole

4 cups peeled, chopped zucchini

1 cup Bisquick

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a buttered 8x8-inch baking dish.

Bake at 350f for 30 minutes.

I know I should have started out this blog with appetizers and then moved on to the other courses but this is a blog and not a cookbook. Still, I will move on to what has turned out to be the appetizer of the summer in this house thanks, in large part, to the utilization of an herb that has taken over our property for the last several years but which I have only started to use this summer.

It must have been four or so years ago that Jim, inspired by our trip to Italy, bought an herb to plant in one of the corner planters of a bed, an herb which he only knew was "for cooking," one which I'd neither heard of or ever used. There it sat year after year. No, I'm wrong. It didn't "sit." It spread. It explored. It put down roots. Put down roots in the fertile and the rocky. The moist and the dry. It made the mint look like homebodies. The oregano, shrinking violets.

What's more, it had an odd smell. It couldn't decide whether it wanted to be mint or oregano. It wasn't until I started watching David Rocco's program Dolce Vita that I discovered what our mystery herb was.

An herb resembling oregano in looks (mint and oregano in taste and smell), Nepitella comes from the Tuscan region and finds its way into mushroom and eggplant recipes. But a little inspiration coupled with an unexpected bag of zucchini proves to find another use for our little invader. When I asked Jim for a couple (this means "two" in most circles) zucchini and he brought back a couple pounds, I knew I had to make plans unless I wanted to see them shrivel like little green mummies in the crisper pan. This brought me back to the scapece I'd been making last summer. Although it had been around forever, scapece was brand new to me and I soon came to love it. Jim didn't seem to mind it too awfully but it was the mint involved that put him off. (He hates mint in anything savory.) It was then that I saw the opportunity for an end to the zucchini dilemma, a compromise to Jim's fussy attitude towards mint and the forest of Nepitella which was slowly yet surely invading the entire landscape of West County Sonoma.

Instead of using mint to nestle the deep fried discs of zucchini in, I would substitute the leaves of the Nepitella plant. This proved to be a winning idea. I hope you'll take the time to make this Italian treat this summer. If you can't find Nepitella, use mint or a combination of half mint and half oregano. Also, this does not use many exact measurements but calls for a sprinkle of this and a pour of that. You'll see. It turns out good every time.

Zucchini a Scapece

1 pound of medium zucchini


Olive oil

1/4 cup of torn Nepitella, mint or mint and oregano leaves.

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Red wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Place garlic and herbs in a bowl.

Clean zucchini, cut off stem and blossom ends and cut into very thin rounds about the same thickness as a coin.

Sprinkle zucchini slices lightly with salt, toss and place in a colander to drain for 30 minutes.

Dry on kitchen or paper towels

Heat an inch of oil in a pan and heat until very hot. (A disc of zucchini should immediately start to sizzle. If it sinks to the bottom, the oil is not hot enough.)

Fry in batches until light brown on both sides turning once.

Remove with slotted spoon to the bowl into which you've put the garlic and herbs.Sprinkle with a little of the vinegar and toss with the garlic and herbs.

Repeat with the remaining zucchini.
Add a few grindings of freshly ground black pepper, a little extra virgin olive oil and mix again.

These can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator. Bring to room temp before serving.


July 18, 2011

As I mentioned on the show today, when I first came out to California, I landed in Santa Moncia where I spent the first five years as a Cal resident. It was there that I discovered deep-fried vegetables of which my absolute favorite was the battered and fried zucchini sticks that the Santa Monica Cafe served. Being a mid western boy, my batter-fried veggie experience was limited to drive-in onion rings. (Still something that I love and crave but unfortunately am less and less able to find. Well, I find them but all too often, I wish I hadn't.) It must have been someone else in our party, during one of those many times I frequented that establishment, who ordered the fried zucchini sticks because I was still in the mindset that zucchini was something that you put in a sweet quick bread. Of course, the scales fell from my palate the first time I tasted them and they became part of my regular order there.

Fast forward five years and I found myself living in San Francisco where I attended San Francisco State University. My palate (and my pocket book) took me on the short excursions to Chinatown where a few days worth of food could be had for a few dollars. To my delight, I found that other parts of the city held gastronomic treasures for very little money as well. And none was so welcome as the Sunday and Wednesday farmers' market at the Civic Center which was transformed into an exotic mix of east and west on those days. Next to the exotic one could always find the familiar. Like fresh zucchini just picked that morning. Just the sight of a pile of it on a table with the dew still clinging to it and a drop of sap shining like a pearl on the stem from its recent departure from the vine, brought back that ache for the treat I'd discovered back in Santa Monica. But the feeling was magnified by the freshness of the squash. I knew these would make even better ones than the ones I'd had back there.

OK, they could have been better than the ones served at the Santa Monica Cafe if I had been able to get the right batter ingredients. Boxed mixes were just OK but not all that good. And the recipes I ran across were very disappointing. I used everything from egg yolks, to beat egg whites to seltzer water with pretty sad results. Then I got it. "It" was a cookbook by Marcella Hazan. I don't remember if it was her first or second but it had the quintessential recipe for batter-fried zucchini. And what's more, it couldn't have been any simpler.

Batter-fried Zucchini

1 pound zucchini, washed, trimmed and cut into sticks about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.
1 cup water
3/4 cups
Oil for frying

Heat about an inch and a half of oil to a very hot temperature. (around 375f).
Pour water in a bowl and with one hand, sift flour over the bowl while whisking with the other until you get a batter the consistency of thin pancake batter.
Dip zucchini in batter letting excess drip off and fry in hot oil turning once as they brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish with paper towels. Salt immediately.
Serve with favorite dipping sauce. (Mine happens to be blue cheese dressing.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homade Hooch

OK, the title is more than a little tacky. It's downright vulgar! To say that this weeks' guest, Julianne Zaleta of alchemologie, makes hooch is like saying Paganini "sawed the fiddle." Julianne has taken the cocktail and transported it back to an era of elegance and art, to a place reminiscent of the Paris of Post-WWI, to a zinc-countered bar that The Lost Generation would have felt comfortable in, would have welcomed with the same love of creativity that has found its way into the cocktails Julianne and her group of artist friends are concocting during their soirees.

Her curiosity and passion have turned into a workshop for the senses. (She also makes perfumes and scents.) And at times I get the feeling that essences, the extracts, the flowers, roots, drinks and perfumes all cross over into each other's worlds.a world. Yet with all the bottles and vials and mixtures there is a distinct sense (that word again) of decisiveness and purpose.

Reading back over this, I see it is only my own whirling perception. To get a better perspective on what she's doing and dreaming, I invite you to read her blog.

In the meantime, I'd like to offer a recipe for an Italian liqueur she passed on to me.

I have yet to tackle this amaro (Italian liqueur) but am hoping it turns out to be half as good as one I was introduced to in Sicily, Averna.

Italian Herb Liqueur (Liquore di erbe)

* 200 ml alcohol 95%bv
* 500 ml water
* 400 g sugar
* 6 bay leaves
* 1 sprig of rosemary
* 10 mint leaves
* 10 chamomile flowers
* 10 sweet basil leaves
* 10 lemon leaves
* 15 sage leaves
* 3 cloves
* 3 saffron filaments

Steep botanicals in alcohol for 20 days. Add sugar syrup. Strain. Age for 4 weeks before consuming.

My modest contribution to the show came via a second cousin living in Illinois. Alice comes from the side of the family with all the characters, the Krumpens. (I like to think I have a lot of Krumpen in me. hehe) In addition to being a little odd and a lot fun, we also find that our favorite room in the house is the kitchen. Alice can cook with the best of them but she can also scare up a pretty good drink and make a tasty concoction that she calls a Cherry Bounce.
I will confess that I have only made this with fresh sour cherries but I think any good flavorful cherry would work just fine.

Cherry Bounce

2 cups fresh red cherries, not pitted.
2 cups sugar
1 quart vodka, or rum or any booze (Alice's directions :) )

Put in a jar in a brown bag. Keep in dark for 3-4 months. (Shake occasionally.)
Serve in cordial glasses with one of the cherries.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tagliatelle with Zucchini

This has to be a first! I'm actually putting a recipe in my blog on the very day of my show. (Who knows, I may do it before the show some day. Watch for earthquakes, floods and the Second Coming when that occurs. haha, lol rs.)

If you listened to the show today, you'll recognize this picture as today's Quick Fix that I got from a woman in the Jamie Oliver forum. Mada, an older woman from Friuli (a region in the Northeastern most part of Italy) gave me this recipe several weeks ago. Unlike the traditional Quick Fix, hers included homemade tagliatelle, a thin-cut fresh pasta, as does mine. I figured since I had a tagliatelle cutter on my pasta machine, I'd go the extra mile and go for homemade.

Like I said on the show, though, you can use dry packaged fettuccine or linguine. But better yet, try one of the packaged egg pastas made by Italian companies such as DeCecco.

Tagilatelle with Zucchini

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One 1/2-inch slice of pancetta, cut into thin slices

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes or 1/2 Calabrian dried pepper, chopped (optional)

2 medium zucchini, grated through the large holes of a box grater


2 zucchini blossoms, torn into pieces

1/3 pound of dried pasta or homemade tagliatelle made with one egg and about one cup of flour.

Grated Pecorino cheese

Heat olive oil in 10-inch skillet and fry pancetta until it starts to get crispy. Add garlic and optional chilies stirring so as not to burn the garlic.

Add grated zucchini and turn everything over several times. Let cook for a few minutes adding salt and turning again.

Remove from heat and add zucchini blossoms.

Cook pasta until al dente, drain well and mix with sauce. Serve with grated cheese.

Serves two.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Recipes: Vegetarian and Carnivorous

For Monday's show, I offered two recipes to satisfy everyone who loves grilling. The first is one that we actually started to do when we lived in San Francisco before we had access to a grill. This became a summer favorite to make under the broiler in the oven. Although I'm not a vegetarian--I respect anyone's culinary decisions short of cannibalism and will enjoy the flesh of anything that swimmeth or creepeth on the land or the bottom of the sea--I will swear on the grave of Ellen White (founder of the Seventh Day Adventists) that no one looks more foreword than I do to the first pods of favas or spring peas than I. A bin of fresh artichokes can cause me to fall to my knees and weep like a repentant sinner at a revival. Continuing in the same vein, to me the first veggie grill of the season is like a ritual akin to an offering up a sacrifice on the altar of St Weber. I'm no high priest but I can knock off a pretty fair offering.

Grilled Vegetables

1 large red onion

2 red bell peppers

4 zucchini

1 large eggplant

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Using a vegetable pan for the grill, place pan over direct heat and let heat up. Slice onion and mix in some olive oil and a little salt. Fry on pan until tender. Place in a bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. You will do this with the other vegetables as they finish cooking.

You may also fry the peppers in the pan by coring, de-seeding, slicing and mixing with oil and a little salt. Alternatively, remove pan and set peppers over direct heat until black and blistered at which time, let steam in a paper bag for several minutes. The skin will easily come off and then you may core, de-seed and slice making sure the membranes are removed as well.

Slice eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and grill over direct heat.

Remove stem and tail-end of zucchini and slice lengthwise into 3 or 4 slices. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and grill on both sides.

At this point, you may eat the vegetables as they are or add herbs and a vinaigrette for a salad. They are also very good on grilled bread as a sandwich along with some good cheese.

The next recipe is for the unabashed carnivore and features not only cubes of marinated meat (lamb) but also every vegan's wet dream...bacon. I have heard more than one tofu-loving vegetarian confess that more than burgers, dogs, fried chicken and steak, bacon is the single most thing in the world of flesh that he misses the most. So, soak those skewers and enjoy this sandwich on a stick.

Lamb Spiedini with Bacon

1 large clove of garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds of boneless lamb shoulder cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 pound of bacon cut into 1-inch pieces

Day-old bread cut into 2-inch cubes

In a bowl combine garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and add lamb mixing well. Let marinate for about 20-30 minutes.

On each skewer place bacon, bread, bacon, lamb, bacon, bread, bacon etc.

Grill for about 2 minutes on each side.

Although I did go on at some length about using a smoker, I am going to assume that if you own one that you know how to use it. I will just say that it is important to keep the temperature between 225 and 250F and that you want to make sure that you keep adding wet chips to ensure a steady supply of smoke. And make sure you use a good barbecue sauce such as the following:

Barbecue Sauce

2 cups beer

1 cup catsup

1 small onion, finely minced

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)

1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients and simmer until reduced by about half or until thick.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Two Fer Quick Fix & Salad

Thought I'd give the recipe for last week's Quick Fix along with the one from today's (July 4th) show. And, while I was at it, post this picture of the first cucumbers of the summer that I picked this morning. This bowl is just waiting to be sampled--okay, not really sampled because I've already done that a few times. I love the taste of a real summer cucumber picked fresh from the garden. The wax-encased versions in the market just don't have that same taste, nay, not much taste at all. They suffer the fate of the hapless tomato which lacks anything to make one's mouth happy. But I'm not here to run down bad veggies but to celebrate these good ones that are here today...

Speaking of fresh veggies that seem to come back into season every time I turn around, there are some big, tasty, snowy heads of cauliflower that I've run across lately that beg to be made into the Quick Fix I offered last week. Orecchiette with Cauliflower Sauce has to be one of my favorite ways to treat those little discs that have made their way from the Puglian region of Italy into my heart. Seems like they pair well with cruciferous vegetables being seen from time to time with Broccoli Rabe, another way I like them. And although I would turn them down on a day like today when the heat so oppressive, I find them the perfect companion on an Autumn or Winter night.
A quick note: If you have an aversion to anchovies, shed it now. They are a key element to making this a successful dish. You will not experience a fishy taste but you will miss them just the same if you omit them. They have a magical ability to take on a different flavor when used with other ingredients, particularly garlic.

Orecchiette with Cauliflower Sauce

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes (or to taste)

Chopped flat leaf parsley

Grated pecorino

Black truffle oil (optional)

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower until tender. Remove with slotted spoon or Chinese-style skimmer and set aside. (Do not discard water. You will need it for your pasta.)

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add anchovies pressing them down with the back of a wooden spoon until they disintegrate.

Add garlic and chilies and cook briefly. Add cauliflower and mash with back of wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook pasta in same water in which you cooked the cauliflower. Heat skillet with sauce and lift out pasta and add. Add enough water to make a sauce that's not too dry. Sprinkle with parsley and serve passing the pecorino cheese and truffle oil, if using.

I will be the first to admit that I can be a curmudgeon at times. (I'm really trying to keep this at a minimum because I believe that a perpetual curmudgeon is nothing more than an cynical old grouch. No thanks!) I am using this opportunity to display my curmudgeonly personality.

Sometime shortly after the birth of Christ, July issues of housekeeping (good or otherwise) magazines came out with pictures of sheet cakes on the covers that were decorated to look like the American flag. Back in the day it was clever, cute, kitchy and (by some stretch of the imagination) patriotic. But please! Year after year after predictable year we see the same tired sheet cakes dragged out on Independence Day. Isn't it time we gave these old soldiers a rest?

Good Lord, we've changed the flag and the constitution more often than we've modified this cake! Now, I'm not an unreasonable guy. I don't mind a compromise. It's what makes America great!(Just imagine if our leaders and lawmakers weren't able to compromise. What kind of a country would that leave us with?) I've left the colors intact, changed the canvas and the field and even added a name that would make the founding fathers blush if not do some grave-spinning. So, without further ado...

Red, White, and Blueschetta

Loaf of Hawaiian, Portuguese or other sweet bread
Small tub of mascarpone cheese
15-oz container of ricotta, well drained
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Black or blue berries
Powdered sugar for garnish, optional

Toast or grill bruschetta-sized pieces of bread. (Alternatively, you can use decorative cookie cutters to cut desired shapes.)

Spread with a thin layer of mascarpone followed by a spread of sweetened ricotta.

Top with berries and sprinkle with powdered sugar.