Monthly Archives: July 2014

Garden-Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sauce

san marzano prep

This spring, I planted a San Marzano tomato plant (as well as two other varieties). I’d never tried this variety, but I figured it was worth a shot.

If I had to do it over again, I’d plant three. Maybe four. That’s how excited I’ve been about them. I’m already making plans for next spring to expand my tomato planting.

The tomatoes from this plant got going a bit later than others, and I thought maybe I was going to have another year buying most of my summer tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Especially since it seems I’ve had a rather poor gardening season so far – squash bugs devastated my zucchini and cucumbers, I have no idea why fire ants love my eggplant, and my lettuce got started late (I had surgery in March on my hip, so I wasn’t able to do some planting for a few weeks), so we only had a few salads before it bolted. (Truth is, I’m mostly a hack at gardening, and learn by trial, error, and a big dose of luck.) But here in the past two weeks, my little San Marzano plant really got going. I pulled off about 15 tomatoes in a week from one plant. I decided it was high time to make sauce. After all, San Marzano tomatoes really shine in a simple, fresh sauce.

I was excited about this sauce. After all, almost everything I tossed in there was from my garden, and if it wasn’t, it was from the farmer’s market. Talk about fresh. It was also super-easy. I didn’t even bother peeling the tomatoes, so it was a rough chop, a long simmer, and a brief visit in the blender, and I had delicious sauce that, dare I say, would rival any Italian grandmother’s.

I might get into major trouble with all Italian grandmothers for admitting that just now.

But really, it is good. Really really good. Hence why I want to plant more San Marzanos next year - so I can make massive quantities of this sauce, freeze or can it, and enjoy all year long. Having a sauce at the ready is awesome for a weeknight dinner (spaghetti in under 20 minutes!) or even a lasagna or baked ziti.

Of course, you don’t have to have fresh tomatoes to make this, so if you can’t find San Marzanos (Romas would be an excellent alternative), don’t fret. Canned tomatoes would work just as well. I’d definitely recommend canned over most of the grocery store tomatoes, especially in winter, as they are superior in taste and price. Your sauce will be just as delicious.

spaghetti on fork

Print Recipe

Garden-Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sauce (gluten-free, vegan)

2 T olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

6-8 garlic cloves, chopped

1 t kosher salt

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

About 1/4 c fresh basil leaves

About 1 T fresh oregano leaves (you can substitute about 1 teaspoon dried)

3 1/2 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes, or other ripe summer tomato, chopped (I don’t bother peeling, but if you prefer, you can cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato and drop into a pot of boiling water for about 60 seconds and remove. The skins should peel right off.)

1 cup dry red wine

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet or pot. (I used my enameled Dutch oven.)  Sauté the onion 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional minute, until the garlic is very fragrant. (Be careful not to burn!)

Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, and wine, stirring to mix well.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and let cook for about an hour uncovered. Stir the sauce occasionally to make sure the sauce is not reducing too quickly.

Puree in a blender or in a food processor to your liking. If the sauce still seems thin, return to the pot and simmer until the sauce is thick to your liking. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Makes 2 quarts.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

zucchini cake blog

Just when you thought the zucchini and summer squash recipes were over for the season…

Out comes one more zucchini recipe!

Yes, I’m kind of in a zucchini rut. But there’s just so much of it, and it’s so versatile. Already this summer I’ve made a quinoa-stuffed patty pan squash and a delicious zucchini dip. I also made a zucchini ribbon salad. And that’s just in 2014. Search through the archives, and there’s even more zucchini goodness.

The way I figured it, it was about time for a dessert recipe around here. Thing is, I haven’t made all that many desserts lately. Most days, we don’t have dessert, or we simply enjoy a piece of fruit. No really big reason for it – I just haven’t craved much in the way of sweet treats. But the zucchini was staring at me in the fridge, lonely and starting to go south. I had a few hours before I was to meet up with friends to watch my soccer team play (I’m almost ready to be back playing myself – been a long hiatus with my hip surgery), so I figured this was an excellent time to make a dessert. I’d have someone to help me eat it!

It seems there is never a shortage of helpers in that regard – I show up with food, and people are more than willing to take it off my hands for me. Nevermind that this is a cake with vegetables in it, or even that it’s gluten-free – nobody minded that one bit. It’s definitely not a flashy, pretty, fancy birthday cake, but I don’t think that mattered. Sometimes, simple and homestyle is delicious too. With a tender, moist crumb and the tangy cream cheese frosting, I can’t imagine this cake needs to put on such fancy airs. It speaks for itself.

So if you still have zucchini, why not make a cake? No special occasion necessary.

Print Recipe

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (gluten-free)

2/3 c superfine brown rice flour (I like Authentic Foods)

2/3 c gluten-free oat flour (if you can’t find gluten-free oat flour, you can process GF oats in a food processor until finely powdered)

2/3 c tapioca starch

1 T unflavored gelatin

1/2 t baking soda

2 1/4 t baking powder

3/4 t kosher salt

2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t ground ginger

1/2 c butter, softened

1 c granulated sugar

3/4 c brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

1/3 c Greek yogurt

3 c grated zucchini, packed tightly

For the frosting:

6 oz cream cheese, softened slightly

4 T butter, softened

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 – 2 c powdered sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13 X 9 inch glass baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, gelatin, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the vanilla and Greek yogurt and mix in. Add the flour mixture, about a third at a time, and mix on low speed until everything is blended. Add the zucchini and mix on low speed until everything is mixed evenly.

Spoon the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread out evenly with a spatula as necessary.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs still attached. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and a cup of the powdered sugar and mix in on low speed. If the frosting needs to be more stiff, continue to add powdered sugar, beating on low speed at least until incorporated, and then increasing the speed to medium or medium-high to whip smooth. If your frosting is too stiff, add a tablespoon or two of milk and beat in.

Once the cake is completely cool, spread the frosting over the cake evenly. Slice and serve. Refrigerate the cake, covered, to store.

Serves 16.

Pickled Banana Peppers

pickled peppers blog

‘Tis the time of year where canning and pickling is on every gardener’s mind. While my garden is not having its best year ever (my pepper plants are just now starting to produce), I’m still benefiting from others’ surplus.

A friend of ours gave us a large amount of various peppers – namely Santa Fe and banana – a number of weeks ago. While I cook and make a lot of salsas using hotter peppers, and I eat a fair number of sweet bell peppers raw, I don’t have much experience with peppers with just a little heat. However, I love pickled peppers on sandwiches, so I figured I’d try my hand at making some.

I opted for the easy route; I made refrigerator pickles. Something I didn’t have to process and make shelf-stable. I don’t mind doing that (and have several times, with jams and salsa), but I prefer a crispier pickle sometimes, and in this instance, the crunch from the pickled peppers was delightful.

Of course, I was so excited about these, that all I did was snap a quick shot to share on Instagram, and then I proceeded to give one jar away. Then I dug into the other jar before I realized that I hadn’t taken my fancy-schmancy photo. So you’ll have to live with my iPhone shot above. You’ll forgive me, won’t you?

Truthfully, you can use this recipe to pickle all sorts of peppers. The subtle sweetness and the combination of the coriander and black peppercorns will make all kinds of peppers taste delicious, especially after a week or two in the fridge. Mine were perfect last night on a salad, and I have a date with a sandwich later this week, and I’m sure these peppers will make an appearance there, too!

What are your favorite things to pickle?

Print Recipe

Pickled Banana Peppers (gluten-free, vegan)

4-5 c banana peppers, cleaned

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

1 1/2 c distilled white vinegar

1 1/2 c water

2 T black peppercorns

2 T coriander seeds

2 T kosher salt

2 T granulated sugar

Slice all of the peppers into rings about 1/4 inch thick. Knock out the seeds in the slices. Pack all of the pepper slices into a 1-quart jar or two pint-sized jars. Place the garlic cloves in the jar(s) as well.

Bring the vinegar, water, peppercorns, coriander seeds, salt and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the brine over the peppers and seal the jar. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for a few days before eating, and then enjoy within 1 month.

Makes 1 quart of pickled peppers.

Quinoa, Mushroom and Kale-Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

stuffed squash blog

Okay, I know that my previous post was a zucchini recipe, and here we are with yet another variation on summer squash. It’s kind of everywhere at the moment, and I couldn’t pass up these absolutely adorable little sunburst patty pan squash at the farmer’s market this past weekend.

I mean really, aren’t they the sweetest?

They’re remarkably delicious when stuffed as well. They make an awesome side dish, but could just as easily work as a meatless main course. Just prepare a few handy, fresh veggies in a skillet for a few minutes, add a grain, maybe some cheese, stuff and bake. It’s also a great way to use up bits of veggies that are in need of eating before they make a turn for the worse. That’s how this particular mix of veggies happened, anyway – and it was delicious!

Now typically, I would be showering you with all sorts of summer desserts. I’m sure I’ll manage a few here and there, but I’ve been directing my attention to something else entirely as of late. You see, I’m working on my very first ebook! In this book, I’m sharing some simple-but-delicious gum-free, gluten-free baked goods recipes. So if you’ve wanted an excellent go-to recipe for waffles, bread, muffins, or cake, I’m hoping this book will be your #1 reference!

I hope to have it out to you in August, so stay tuned for more information! I’ll be announcing details in my newsletter, so subscribe today if you haven’t already!

Okay, back to these adorable squash. Truthfully, you can use any vegetables in the stuffing mixture that your heart desires. Peas, green onion, red bell pepper, spinach – all would be great here. The key is to make sure they’re chopped finely and cooked beforehand (a few minutes in a skillet will do the trick). I loved the addition of cotija cheese in mine, but Parmesan or feta would be nice as well. It’s one of those “anything goes” recipes that I’m sure you’ll adore during the summer season.

Print Recipe

Quinoa, Mushroom, and Kale-Stuffed Patty Pan Squash (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

About 6 small patty pan squash

1 T olive oil (plus more for the insides of the squash)

2 T minced onion

2 oz crimini mushrooms, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c chopped fresh kale (I used lacinato, but any variety will work)

1/3 c crumbled cotija cheese (omit for vegan)

2 T chopped fresh parsley

3/4 c cooked quinoa

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the squash to make a hat. Carefully score a circle inside the cut squash, and using a small spoon, scoop out the inside flesh. Leave about a half-inch inside. Rub the insides of the squash with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set the squash on a lined baking sheet and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the rest of the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the onion and mushroom and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender. Add the garlic and kale and sauté for another minute or until the kale has wilted some and is bright green. Remove from heat and add the cheese, if using, parsley, and the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in.

Spoon the stuffing into the prepared squash, packing rather tightly. (You’ll likely have leftover stuffing; if so, it’s delicious on its own.) Place the “hat” back on top of each squash, and place them in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the squash is soft and easily pierced with a knife. Serve.

Serves 3-4 as a side dish, 2 as a light meal.

Zucchini, Mint and Lemon Yogurt Dip

zucchini yogurt dip blog

Surely I’m not the only one that has experienced the conundrum of “too much zucchini”. In fact, I can imagine several of you reading this are looking at your gardens right now, wondering what you will possibly do with ALL OF THIS ZUCCHINI. Two loaves of zucchini bread every week couldn’t begin to make a dent in your bounty. So you’re bringing zucchini to your friends, dropping it off at your neighbors, and now, you’re scouring the internet for salvation recipes that aren’t the “same ol’” zucchini recipes, because your family will revolt if they eat it again tonight.

While I seem to not be able to grow zucchini without the squash bugs knowing where I live, my friends certainly can, and I’ve been given a considerable amount of zucchini as well. I already made this zucchini ribbon salad with some, but I still had more on my hands. I wanted something different, and started researching, as many of you have been doing. I came across a dish called Koosa ma Laban – a spread popular in the Middle East and North Africa made from squash, yogurt, tahini, and lemon. Often it also includes mint or parsley. I love the combination of these flavors, and I also happen to have mint growing in abundance in my flower beds, so I opted to make a variation on this dish.

I wanted to make it a really light, refreshing dip, so I opted not to use tahini, instead using a bit of cream cheese to thicken. The result was a cool, creamy dip that was at home with vegetables or bagel chips (gluten-free if you prefer). It was a hit at an Independence Day party, and it would be a perfect appetizer or an excellent alternative to the tired ranch dressing so often served with raw crudités. It can certainly be made in advance, so whip up a batch and bring it along to your next summer party.

Print Recipe

Zucchini, Mint, and Lemon Yogurt Dip (gluten-free)

1 T olive oil

2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut into half-inch slices (about 2 cups once sliced)

1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed slightly with side of knife

1/2 c plain Greek yogurt

2 oz plain cream cheese

Zest of 1 lemon

2 T fresh mint, chopped

1/4 t ground cumin

1/8 t ground paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil. Swirl to coat and add zucchini and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots and tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Place zucchini and garlic, yogurt, cream cheese, most of the lemon zest, most of the mint, cumin, and paprika in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until pureed. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Spoon dip into a wide bowl and drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired, and sprinkle with reserved mint and lemon zest.

Serve with vegetables or bagel chips. Serves 4-6.

Looking for more zucchini recipes? Here are some other ideas:

Gluten-Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Gluten-Free Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomato Casserole

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Serrano-Lime Dressing

Zucchini Red Pepper Egg Muffins

Cheater’s Ratatouille, or Pesto Zucchini, Eggplant and Tomato Bake

 

Creamed Grilled Fresh Corn with Basil

creamed grilled corn blog

There is an elderly couple that runs a booth at the farmer’s market, and along with (I presume) their granddaughter, they sell organic produce. They are so sweet and kind, and while I don’t buy all of our produce from them, I do make it a point to purchase sweet corn while they have it available. It’s the best corn I’ve ever tasted. And like most seasonal produce, I cherish the all-too-fleeting moments when it’s available. I’ll be sad when it gets too hot and the corn is gone.

The beauty of fresh, summer corn is that it doesn’t need much adornment. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed grilling it. The slightly smoky grilled flavor perfectly compliments the sweet, juicy kernels. Most nights, that’s more than enough for an awesome, easy side dish. But the other night, I wanted a little something special. I started with grilling, but then decided to continue the process to make some creamed corn.

With a little milk, cheese, Serrano chile, and garnished with fresh basil (one of the few things my garden is successfully growing at the moment), this side dish was beyond awesome. It was craveably delicious. It wasn’t overly rich, as some creamed corn dishes can tend to be, but rather a great representation of summer’s best.

I’ll be at the market again this Saturday, and will cross my fingers that there will be more corn. I don’t want this to be the only time we get to enjoy this dish before summer’s end. (And I have so much basil left!)

Print Recipe

Creamed Grilled Fresh Corn with Basil (gluten-free)

4 ears fresh corn, shucked

1-2 T olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 T butter

1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced

2/3 c whole milk

1 oz shredded cheese, such as Gouda or a white cheddar

Salt to taste

1 T chopped fresh basil

Heat grill to medium heat. Rub the corn cobs with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 5-7 minutes or until kernels have a bit of color/char on them and are tender. Remove and allow to cool enough to touch.

Place the corn cob on end on a cutting board, and using a knife, carefully cut the kernels from the cob. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat butter to medium heat. Sauté Serrano chile for 1 minute. Add the corn kernels and sauté for another minute. Add the milk and bring almost to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add cheese and stir to melt. Salt to taste. Serve with fresh basil sprinkled over.

Makes 4 servings.