Saturday, September 18, 2010

Creamy Zucchini & Basil Pasta

This was my favorite recipe invention of this past summer (past already!), but I never got a great picture of it so I kept holding off posting. Part of the problem - squished up roasted zucchini is delicious, but not very photogenic. The "creamy" in the title comes from the texture of the zucchini, not from the optional cream. I served it as a dip at a dinner I made for my family and when the bowl was almost empty someone took a piece of bread and carefully cleaned out the last remnants - that's the sign of a good dip. It has the bright, summery flavor of fresh basil and the more autumnal, savory flavor of toasty, roasty zucchini. That makes it a great dinner for this in-between-seasons time.

Creamy Zucchini & Basil Pasta
serves 2, generously

4 cups zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt, pepper, and olive oil
3/4 pound short pasta
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs*
2 T butter

  • Toss the zucchini in olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread onto 2 cookie sheets. Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. Put the pans a few shelves apart in the oven and switch half-way through so that both pans get nicely browned.
  • Meanwhile, saute the garlic in a small pan until just starting to brown. Set that aside in a bowl big enough to hold the pasta.
  • In the same pan, toast the bread crumbs in the butter until brown.
  • When the zucchini are dark brown, scrape them into the bowl with the garlic. Add the basil, cream, and Parmesan and mix really well, squishing the zucchini against the side of the bowl. 
  • Mix in the hot pasta. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of each serving to keep them crunchy.
  • To make this as a dip, omit the bread crumbs and pasta and just serve it with slices of bread or crackers.
*I used 2 pieces of good, white, sourdough bread that I toasted a little, cut into small pieces, and ground up in my Cuisinart.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mom's Almond & Fruit Crumble

Is it a crisp or a crumble? I can't decide. I do know that the first Fourth of July that Mom made this it was a crazy hit - plums, blackberries, and the marzipan flavor from the almond paste along with the melting creaminess of the ice cream. We all asked for it again and again after that. She got the idea from Bon Appetit magazine and when I went looking for the recipe I was surprised to discover that it was actually supposed to be a tart, but Mom just stole the idea for the topping. If you like almonds and crisps/crumbles/whatevers, you'll love this. I make it in the winter with plums I've frozen from the fall. Now is the perfect time to discover you love it too and put away some stone fruits and berries for when a taste of summer will save you from the winter doldrums.

Mom's Almond & Fruit Crumble
serves 12

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cold almond paste (about 5 oz.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 T cold butter
1/4 cup almonds

2 1/4 pounds fruit,* cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine the topping ingredients, except the almonds, in a food processor and pulse until combined. Or cut everything together using a pastry blender. Then mix in the almonds.
  • Toss the fruit with the sugar and cornstarch and spread into a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The fruit should be bubbling (this activates the corn starch) and the topping golden brown.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes before serving so that it can cool and set a little. Don't worry, it will still be warm. You'll be tempted to serve it right away, but it will burn your mouth, trust me.
  • Serve with ice cream.
*I think it's best with stone fruit and berries, especially Italian plums with blackberries or nectarines with blueberries, but many different combinations would work.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Feijoada (Brazilian Style Black Beans with Orange)

This is another recipe that I used to worry someone who really knew how to make it would get mad at me for my non-traditional interpretation. Then I looked around on the internets and discovered that there is already a huge debate about what should be considered "traditional" Feijoada (it is considered by some to be the national dish of Brazil). I'd never even heard of it until one day I saw it upcoming on the menu at the Still Life and I was supposed to make it as a soup. This was before I could just Google it and find 50 different versions. I found it in one international cook book, one take on it as a side dish, and I invented a soup out of that (because almost anything can be reinterpreted as a soup). Now I'm back to serving it as side dish. The orange makes me think a little of the Caribbean. We eat it along side spiced, grilled meats, just as is with rice and tortillas, or as a soup with double the stock listed below.

Feijoada (Brazilian Style Black Beans with Orange)
serves 4, as a main dish with rice and tortillas

3 cups dried black beans, or 3 to 4 cans of beans
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
2 garlic cloves
4 cups stock
1 orange
2 limes
2 bay leaves
cayenne to taste
8 cloves
4 cardamon pods
1 cup chopped cilantro
3 cups kale, chopped (optional)
  • In the morning (or the night before if you're organized), rinse the beans and cover with cold water. In the evening, discard the soaking water
  • Cut the peel from the orange (save the peels), then slice out the pulp. See the directions below.
  • Saute the bacon in a stock pot until it just starts to brown. Add the garlic and saute until it starts to brown.
  • Add the beans along with the cayenne, orange peels, lime juice, bay leaves, and stock.
  • Tie the cloves and cardamon into a cheese cloth bundle, smack a few times with a heavy pot, and add to the pot.
  • Simmer for 2 hours (1 hour if using canned beans), adding water if needed. You'll need to stir more often near the end to keep it from sticking to the pot.
  • If you want to add the chopped kale (it makes for a heartier main dish), add it about 30 minutes from the end.
  • When the beans are tender, remove the cheese cloth bundle, stir in the orange juice and pulp, cilantro, and salt. Done.
To cut out the orange supremes:
  • Cut the very top and bottom off of the orange - just enough to see the pulp.
  • Start cutting from the top, "skinning" the orange until the pulp is showing. Don't worry about going entirely from top to bottom, you can just flip the orange and cut away any peel that you missed.
  • Holding the skinned orange in your hand over a bowl, slowly cut down both sides of the pith so that the supremes fall into the bowl with the juice. It's a little creepy to cut towards your hand, but if you go slow and don't apply too much pressure, you'll be fine.
(The photos function on Blogger is not working - again! - so I'll add photos of how to do this later. In the mean time, there are a bunch of decent video demonstrations online.) It's really not necessary to do a careful job for this dish because you're going to stir the pulp into the beans and break it all up anyway.
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