Tag Archives: cheese

Think Green, Think Fresh

Summer is officially here, and it’s hotter than the hubs of hell. Although I’m still obsessed with turnips, it’s time to move on to other vegetables. Typically when it is this hot I turn to lighter fare. The heat saps me so I want something that is quick and easy to make, and uses seasonal produce. I also like options that allow you to use what might be on hand. This pasta dish comes together quickly (than 20 minutes). Although I have used fresh spinach and sugar snap peas, you could just as easily use shelling peas, asparagus or cherry tomatoes. I’m finding a lot of uses for ricotta these days. I find it refreshing and lighter than a sauce using heavy cream. Spaghetti or linguine are you best pasta choices, but feel free to use what you have on hand. Remember when you add your vegetable to the pasta water, that you want to barely blanch them. I suggest 1 minute so the freshness of the vegetable comes through. The tartness of the lemon is the perfect contrast to the ricotta and vegetables. This recipe can be doubled if serving 4 or more people.

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES AND LEMON RICOTTA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ounces pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas, sliced vertically in 3 pieces (it’s a nice way to expose the interior of the peas)
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice, plus a few extra wedges to serve
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile make the ricotta sauce.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, olive oil, cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine, taste and adjust seasoning to you preference.
  3. In the last minute of the pasta’s cooking time, add spinach and snap peas to the pot. Stir and push the vegetables into the boiling water.
  4. Drain after 1 minute, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water (you will use this to thin you sauce if needed.)
  5. Return pasta and vegetables to the same pot, add the ricotta sauce and a few tablespoons of hot pasta water (you will not use all of it!). Stir well to evenly coat the pasta in sauce, you want a smooth and creamy texture.
  6. Serve immediately, drizzling extra-virgin olive oil over each bowl; add a sprinkle of extra cheese.

Serves 3

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“There is nothing that is comparable to it, or as satisfactory or as thrilling as gathering vegetables one has grown.” —Alice Toklas

Your My Thrill

You do something to me! It was so unexpected when it happened. Caught totally off guard, I find I just can’t get enough of my new love! There are so many ways to use these little gems, and this recipe is perfect for a breakfast or brunch. Full of cheese, eggs, kale, cream and bread cubes it is a meal by itself, or if you prefer, with something simple from the grill. Turnips have the added benefit of not being a carbohydrate. They have less than half the calories of potatoes or sweet potatoes; and can easily be swapped out in recipes. So you can literally eat them with abandon!

TURNIP AND KALE GRATIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme is wonderful)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 bunches kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn (you can use any type of kale, I find Tuscan and Red Russian particularly good)
  • 6-8 medium turnips, trimmed, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I don’t peel mine, however if you do feel free)
  • 3 large farm-raised eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Fontina cheese, grated (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated (about 1 ounce)
  • 2 cups day-old bread such as ciabatta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium pan, bring garlic, cream and thyme to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onions, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally until they turn a nice light amber color, about 20-30 minutes. Add a splash or two of water if they start to stick to the bottom of your pan. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in same skillet. Working in batches, add your kale, tossing and letting it wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt. Cook until kale is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Add to bowl with onions.
  4. While kale is cooking, cook turnips in a large pot on well-salted water until crisp tender, about 2 minutes; drain. Transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Drain and pat dry. Transfer to the bowl with onions and kale.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk eggs, Fontina cheese, pecorino cheese, and cooled cream mixture in a large bowl to combine. Add onion and kale mixture, along with bread; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 8 x 8 casserole dish and bake uncovered until well browned, 40-50 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Gratin can be assembled 12 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Serves 6

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“The best things happen unexpectedly.”

The Best of Both Worlds

Now that our shelter in place order has been extended to May 15th, we are all seeking comfort through various ways. For me, cooking and food are my go to sources for calming myself. It is gradually getting warmer, we are planting in our greenhouse, the garlic is growing, and my daffodils are blooming.

These days, when I ponder what to make, it comes from a place of what is available? It becomes a combination of home-canning, frozen, fresh and pantry staples. I must say that when you put a little thought into it, you will be surprised at what you can come up with to warm the belly. This time it was a fusion of both Greek and Italian cuisines that worked quite well together. I love to make spanakopita, but was out of phyllo dough, I had my quarts of roasted tomato sauce and uncooked lasagna sheets. Then it hit me, why not combine the spanakopita in a lasagna? Bingo, the best of both worlds. It gave us a couple days of comfort food.

SPANAKOPITA LASAGNA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 sheets of oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounce bag of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained in a wire strainer
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 3 green onions, using both white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 10 ounces crumbled feta
  • 16 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 quart of roasted tomato sauce (or equivalent of jarred pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 ceramic pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place the drained spinach in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the remaining water. Place spinach in a large bowl.
  3. Add lemon zest, dill, green onions, garlic, eggs, feta and goat cheese. Mix gently but thoroughly until combined.
  4. In a bowl, combine your pasta sauce with the two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Place a ladle full of pasta sauce in bottom of baking dish, and evenly spread it. Place three oven-ready lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Spoon 1/2 cup of filling on each sheet and distribute evenly. Top with three more lasagna sheets, repeat with filling. Repeat one more time. You should have 3 layers of spinach mixture.
  5. On the top of the final lasagna sheets, pour an equal amount of pasta sauce over the 3 groups of layered sheets. Top with mozzarella. Cover with foil and place in pre-heated oven. Bake covered for 25 minutes; uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and sauce is bubbling.
  6. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Serves 6

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“A good cook works by the fire of imagination not merely by the fire in the stove.”

Robert Coffin

We Eat With Our Eyes

It is often said that we eat with our eyes.  I believe this is true.  When a dish looks appetizing and beautiful we want to savor it; we might eat a little slower so we can stretch out the experience.  I have made many quiches; some with, some without a crust, but this technique makes the final product a feast for the eyes.  We are fortunate to raise chickens that lay eggs with extremely dark yolks.  This made the color of this quiche a bright yellow, which only added to its appeal.  It is made in a spring-form pan instead of a pie plate.  This allows for a nice deep well for the filling, which I appreciate; but the real joy comes from using hash browns as the crust.  It literally comes out looking like a work of art.

Feel free to change up the ingredients in the filling to suit what you have or your taste preferences.  You can use arugula instead of spinach or a combination of the two.  You can also use Swiss chard.  Vegetarians can leave out the bacon, and you can use Comte instead of Gruyere.  You decide. It will all taste delicious.

SPINACH & GRUYERE QUICHE WITH A HASH BROWN CRUST

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INGREDIENTS:

FOR HASH BROWN CRUST:

  • 1 package frozen hash browns, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 farm-fresh egg, light beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

FOR THE QUICHE:

  • 1/2 cup red (or any color you have) seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 farm-fresh egg whites, and 3 additional farm-fresh eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or Comte cheese, shredded
  • 4 cups lightly packed spinach and/or arugula mixed
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE CRUST:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Brush the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with olive oil, then line both bottom and sides with parchment paper; brush with oil again.
  2. Combine the hash browns, melted butter, garlic salt and egg.  Mix thoroughly and press into spring form pan, pushing them up the sides.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until hash browns start to crisp up.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR QUICHE:

  1. Fry bacon in skillet, drain and crumble.
  2. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute onions, red pepper and garlic for 8-10 minutes or until soft and translucent.  Add spinach and saute for another 1-2 minutes or until spinach has wilted.  Set aside to cool.
  3. In a bowl, combine the egg whites, whole eggs, 1/2 and 1/2, shredded cheese and crumbled bacon.  Add the cooled onions and red pepper and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into hash brown crust in spring form pan.
  4. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 40-45 minutes or until eggs are set.

Serves 6

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Note:  This recipe is from my new cookbook Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat.  You can purchase it at our website

“The kitchen is seasoned with love.”

Shelter From The Storm

As we wind up week six of social distancing, I am recognizing my emotions looming large.  One minute grief, then anger, jumping to anxiety, then surprising me completely by hope. I can be washing the dishes or folding clothes and I find tears running down my face.  I listen to the news and feel angry at people who aren’t taking this virus seriously.  I’m furious at the misinformation and lies.  I wake up during the night and process thoughts for 2-4 hours.  There are times I think, “What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my mind?” The truth is, I am completely normal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I am simply leaning fearlessly into my emotions. I want to know what is below the surface of my packaging. The average person didn’t see the corona-virus coming; and then the world came to a collective pause. Everything changed. Nothing is as is was.

We are in shock. I keep hearing people wanting to get back to normal. Yet what does that look like? Why long to return to an existence that was not working for most of us? I for one, have no desire to return to the times of collective exhaustion, greed and disconnection.  In this collective pause why not dream of a better way? Why not take these precious  moments and rein-vision something that sustains and nourishes us? We already know how to distance. We’ve been running away from healthy solutions for humans and the planet for generations, chasing our desire for bigger and better until the world couldn’t take it anymore.

For now, cooking and my kitchen help to steady my emotional tides. Preparing food for me is like meditation or prayer for some. One thing I do know: we need to practice a lot more kindness and compassion for each other. Our world is not a virtual reality; it is the reality. Right here, right now. We all yearn for shelter from the storm.

 

 

 

Made To Order

Well, we’ve been self-sheltering for a month now and we are entering that phase of searching through the freezer, pantry and reduced items in the refrigerator.  As vegetable farmers we are fortunate that we do a lot of canning and freezing during the optimal summer months; and for that we are grateful.  With a little thought and creativity, it’s amazing just what you can come up with that is not only inventive, but delicious!

We don’t eat many sweet things in our household.  We lean more to the savory spectrum.  I can enjoy a quick bread like zucchini or pumpkin as well as the next person; but this….this savory quick bread has multiple options galore.  Remember that piece of ham you froze during the holiday’s?  Perfect.  That hunk on cheese in your refrigerator?  Yes!  Don’t like Gruyere ?  Ok…use cheddar.  Those herbs in your crisper that need to be used or composted soon? Yup.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the ham and toss in some olives, or sun-dried tomatoes.  You can make two loaves and freeze one.  I love it toasted the next day with butter and a fresh slice of tomato and sprouts.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy.

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SAVORY QUICK BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), melted and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup ham, chopped in small cubes
  • 1/4 cup scallions, using both green and white parts, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or dill, chives or tarragon)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk *

Note:  If you find yourself without buttermilk on hand, use 1 cup whole milk and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a metal 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, salt and baking soda.  Stir in chopped ham (or olives and sun-dried tomatoes), scallions, herb of choice, and all but 1/4 cup of your selected cheese (you will use the rest for topping).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  The batter will be thick.
  4. Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan.  Spread batter out evenly with a spatula.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.  Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 45-55 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from loaf pan and let completely cool on wire rack.

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Yield: 1 loaf

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Opportunity Knocks

As we all creep forward during this time of uncertainty; nature, reading, planting our vegetable farm and cooking are keeping me grounded and hopeful.  Rural living is a calming lifestyle that continues to nourish us.  Even with the farm year slowly ramping up, we have an established rhythm for daily life, that is forward thinking and hopeful.  Regardless of how this crisis plays out, if we can’t get to the farmers market to sell our food, it will certainly not be wasted.  We will be canning, along with making sure that our neighbors have access to fresh food. I respect that our farmers market is staying open, with a plan of action and necessary precautions.  Young farmers and businesses need to serve their communities and stay open as long as possible.  As elders, with my wife having a compromised immune system, we have been self-sheltering with the understanding that growing food is the very best use of our time.

It is often said that the character of a individual is how they respond to adversity.  After all happiness is an inside job; but I admit to having several sleepless nights. I am keenly aware of my privilege in feeling relatively safe during this time.  My heart hurts for people who have lost their jobs, businesses that have had to close, people without a sufficient safety net to get them through this time of uncertainty.  I trust the creativity and innovation of people, much more than the total lack of leadership at the federal level.  I know we will collectively get through this stressful time.  It is my hope that lessons will be learned that can lift all of us up, in the face of future challenges.

Actually, self-sheltering has been our rural life style.  When people come to the farm to laugh, cook and eat with us, they often say how they need to be a part of something with purpose.  Urban living has its own forms of signature stress.  They see a well lived in home, with a rich history, surrounded by land and vegetables, as something distant from their own reality.  We look forward to being able to welcome our friends back into our home and break bread together.  In the meantime, reading, writing, planting and preparing food is our devotion.

I usually make the following recipe during the summer months, but I have found that the use of frozen corn and the frozen cherry tomatoes that I put up during the last farm season create a beautiful and delicious alternative.  Depending on your circumstances and location, most grocery stores have cherry tomatoes even this time of year.

FRESH CORN POLENTA WITH ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ears of fresh corn (or 6 cups frozen)
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 7 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups fresh or frozen cherry tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish

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INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE TOMATOES:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour cherry tomatoes and garlic onto sheet pan and drizzle 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.  Roll the tomatoes around with the palms of your hands to evenly coat.
  2. Sprinkle the tomatoes and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and toss the tomatoes.  Return to oven for 20-30 minutes more or until the tomatoes have slit and are slightly brown in some places.

FOR POLENTA:

  1. If using fresh corn, peel the leaves and silk from each ear, then chop off the pointed top and stalk.  Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels, taking care to remove as much of the ‘milk’ below the kernels as possible, while stabilizing the cob on a cutting board.  You will need 6 cups of kernels.
  2. Place the fresh or frozen kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with water.  Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer.  Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid in a Pyrex measuring cup.
  3. Process for several minutes; you want to break as much of the kernel case as possible.  Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Return the corn paste to the pan with some of the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10-15 minutes; or until the corn mixture thickens to a mashed potato consistency. (the more liquid you use, the longer this process will take; watch carefully in case it sputters)
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Spoon some of the polenta into individual shallow bowls,.  Spoon roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic on top.  Garnish with fresh basil or parsley.

Serves: 4

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“When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them— some food, a place in our homes, our time— not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched.”  —Pope Francis

 

 

Occasional Decadence

My father had many sayings that he would repeat when the mood suited him; but my favorite was, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”  I pretty much live by this code.  I don’t apologize for the occasional desert or rich dish; their just soooo yummy!  This one is no exception.  Cream, pancetta, and garlic take Swiss chard to another level entirely.  You could make it with bacon, but why not hit a home run rather than a base hit?  The first time I made this for my green’s hating brother-in-law, he took seconds (twice).  Another time my nephew pulled the casserole to his place setting and wondered what everyone else was going to eat.  It’s tradition at Thanksgiving, but I can’t help making it at least once a month during the winter season.

SWISS CHARD CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I use ciabatta)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 slices pancetta, diced
  • 2-3 bunches Swiss chard, wash and spun, stems removed and chopped into 1/4 inch slices (approximately 2 1/2 cups); leaves cut into ribbons (approximately 8-12 cups
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and toss it with the breadcrumbs; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes, reducing the volume slightly.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a 12 inch non-stick skillet, cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp and browned.  Drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon of the fat in skillet.  Add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to skillet and melt.  Add the chard stems and saute over medium-high heat until they are soft and slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add chard leaves.  Saute chard for about 3-5 minutes or until wilted.
  4. With tongs, transfer the chard to a gratin or ceramic dish, leaving any excess liquid in skillet.  Spread evenly.
  5. Sprinkle pancetta over chard.  Pour the seasoned cream over chard.  Sprinkle pancetta over cream and chard; top with buttered bread crumbs.  Bake until golden and bubbly, about 25-35 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6

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”Comfort food—food that reassures—is different things to different people.”  –David Tanis

Anyway You Slice It

I eat a lot of salads.  I never tire of the crunch factor.  The winter is a great time to step outside the box and look for salads that don’t rely on lettuce as the main ingredient.  I usually look for seasonal, stable vegetables; and brassicas are an easy solution.  Every thing from cauliflower, to broccoli, to cabbage offer creative and healthy options for salads with a seasonal flare.

Another thing to keep in mind is to include a variety of textures, color and flavor profiles.  Sweet against salty, is one I often use to help keep it interesting.  This salad has all the elements that I enjoy.  It’s colorful, crunchy, sweet and salty all at the same time.  It has great staying power and lasts for several days in the refrigerator.

Red Cabbage Salad with Dates and Feta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small red cabbage (or half of a large one), halved, cored, then quartered and sliced very thin
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Taste and adjust with more lime juice and salt.  It should taste well seasoned.  Let macerate on counter for 30-45 minutes, to slightly soften cabbage.
  2. Toss dressed cabbage with half of the dates. and feta.  Arrange in a bowl or on a platter, and sprinkle the rest of the dates and feta on top.  Garnish with parsley and toasted almonds.

Serves 4-6

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 “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.””

 

Roll On!

Involtini is an Italian word for various small bites of food consisting of some sort of outer layer wrapped around a filing.  It can be made with a wrapeer of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables, with fillings like cheese, vegetables, cured meats, and nuts.  In this case the wrapper is zucchini and the filling is ricotta, pesto, and fontina.

For me, the definition of comfort food is smelling something luscious coming together in the kitchen.  Since I consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, I love making dishes that catch people’s attention when they come in from outside.  This dish packs a flavor punch, yet won’t weight you down.  I make it with my homemade roasted tomato sauce, but you can easily substitute canned crushed tomatoes.  If you can, try to find locally raised grass-fed lamb; it’s leaner and more flavorful.  This dish can be made ahead up to 12 hours and reheated.  It can also be doubled for a crowd.  Serve with a simple salad tossed with vinaigrette and you’re in business.

STUFFED ZUCCHINI INVOLTINI

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb or sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (slightly more if you enjoy more heat)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2  cup basil pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil, ribboned for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish or dish of similar size.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add Italian sausage or ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Reduce the heat to low, add the bell pepper, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, along with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, using mandolin or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide strips and lay them flat on a paper towel lined counter.  You should have about 30 strips.  Sprinkle the zucchini with salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina, and 1/2 cup pesto.
  5. To assemble, spoon the tomato meat sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Place two zucchini ribbons on cutting board side by side, and slightly overlapping lengthwise.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the zucchini.  Roll into a coil and place each seam-side down in the dish as you go.  Repeat with remaining zucchini.  Top with mozzarella.  Cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted.  Remove foil and broil for 3-5 minutes to lightly brown.  Cook 5 minutes and top with ribboned basil and thyme leaves.

Serves 6

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“If you cook Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?”  –Martin Scorsese