Tag Archives: zucchini

Safe Harbor

These are challenging times.  There is anxiety and confusion as we take in information and make decisions on how to best weather this storm.  Val and I are are sheltering in place for the time being.  I know many who are doing the same; I also know many who are not.  It’s sad that in this country the slightest inconvenience is seen as something insurmountable.  People hoard, people party, people refuse to see our interconnection.  What affects you, may also affect me, and vice-versa.  Val and I are evaluating our presence at our beloved farmers market.  Our schools are closed for 3 weeks.  The corona-virus is spreading faster than testing kits are available.  As interconnected individuals, what can we do?  Pause….stay calm….be kind.

I came across a meaningful Facebook post which I will pass along:

Conversations will not be cancelled.  Relationships will not be cancelled.  Love will not be cancelled.  Songs will not be cancelled.  Reading will not be cancelled.  Self-care will not be cancelled.  Hope will not be cancelled.

May we lean into the stuff that remains.

I took a walk in the sunshine this morning.  I could smell the land opening up to the approaching spring.  We will be planting our garlic soon.  I will be tilling the soil this week.  Is it so bad to take a step back and breathe?  Unplug for a while?  My new cookbook, Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat!! invites you to do just that.  Slow down, make meals with your family, break bread together.  Dig a little deeper into our relationships with other.  Technology has opened up a whole new world; it has also separated us from each other.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology; I’m suggesting that we discipline ourselves, so that it’s not a 24/7 onslaught.  We need to think our own thoughts, make our own discoveries, nourish our human connections.  Nothing helps us reach that goal better than creating meals together.  The other suggestion I would make is that each of us spend a few hours a day in silence.  In silence we can calm ourselves, breathe, feel gratitude, be not only prayerful,  but hopeful.  It certainly starts within the safe harbors of our homes.

Zucchini Muffins:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large farm fresh eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups (280g) cane sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups packed grated zucchini
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 3/4 cups (400g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
  • 12-16 paper muffin cups

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Mix in the sugar and vanilla extract.  Stir in the grated zucchini and the melted butter.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. (Be careful not to over-mix!)  Stir in walnuts, raisins or cranberries if using.
  4. Place muffin cups in muffin tin.  Using a spoon, fill the muffin cups just to the top.  If you are using parchment liners (which I love), you can be slightly more generous.
  5. Bake on the middle rack of oven, until golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Let cool on wire rack for 5 minutes; then remove from muffin tin and let cool completely.

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Yield: 12-16 muffins

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Little Things Mean A Lot

Initially, when we went grain-free, we thought it might be a difficult transition.  Being foodies, we were anxious to understand the perimeters of this life-style approach and how we might use our creativity to still make food that excited us.  When looking for inspiration, I often go to my collection of ethnic cookbooks.  I was not disappointed; we love Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean food.  I was soon mixing up a concoction of ground turkey, shredded zucchini, herbs and garlic into small meatballs that were first browned in a pan, then finished in the oven.  Topped with a soothing sauce of homemade yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and sumac, they are perfect as an appetizer or served on top of a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta and sunflower sprouts.

Moral of the story:  change doesn’t have to be difficult, and little things mean a lot.

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Zucchini and herbs at the ready

Turkey-Zucchini Meatballs With Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ghee

Lemon Sumac Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup homemade or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sumac (found in Middle-Eastern grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Browning in ghee

Browning in ghee

  1. First make the lemon-sumac sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir well and chill until needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ghee.  Mix with your hands (you will really get a better result) then shape into small meatballs about the size of golf ball.
  3. Melt the ghee in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat.  Add meatballs, making sure to leave room between them.  Saute on each side until browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Place browned meatballs on a cookie-sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Place on platter and pass sauce; or place on top of salad.
Delicious and savory

Delicious and savory

“THE SECRET OF
CHANGE lS TO FOCUS
ALL OF YOUR ENERGY
NOT ON FIGHTING THE
OLD BUT ON BUILDING
THE NEW.”