Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

15 07 2008

My coworker was reminiscing the other day about her father frying up some zucchini flowers with a bit of olive oil and garlic.  I was intrigued, because I had never hear of such a thing, but I loved the fact that you could eat zucchini flowers.  (I’m a big fan of using the most you can of both vegetables and animals.)  So I was delighted to come across a vendor at the market on Saturday that was selling the flowers by themselves!  Instead of just frying them up, however, I wanted to make something with a little more sustenance, so I stuffed them, similar to stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

  • Zucchini flowers (I worked with about 10 of them)
  • 1 whole zucchini
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 c. shredded Italian cheese (I had leftover ParmigianoReggiano)
  • 1 c. marinara sauce (I was lazy and used store bought, or you can learn how to make your own here.)
  1. Wash and cut your zucchini in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-in. pieces.  Place them on a foil lined cookie sheet and drizzle the olive oil over them.  Season with salt and pepper, and broil both sides until softened and slightly browned.  
  2. Put the zucchini pieces in a skillet and mash them up the best you can.  Add the ground beef and cook on medium heat until browned.           
  3. Wash the zucchini flower, both inside and out.  The petals are delicate, so be gentle.  You can remove the pistils and the stamens from the inside, but I let mine in.  Stuff the zucchini flowers with the beef and mashed zucchini mixture.  Place the stuffed flowers in a baking dish and cover each flower with the shredded cheese.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the flowers for about 10 minutes.                                                 
  4. While the stuffed flowers are baking, heat up the sauce.  I put some leftover zucchini and ground beef in for flavoring.                                 
  5. When the cheese is golden brown and bubbling, take the baking pan out of the oven.  Serve the stuffed flowers with the marinara sauce.

   

I thought this was a great and slightly unusual dish.  There are a lot of variations you could do – I’ve read about zucchini flowers in soups, stir fries and salads.  I can wait to incorporate this into my meals more often!





Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam

15 07 2008

I was shopping at the VOA the other day and I found a cute little canning jar that was made in France for $1.  I bought it with no real plan in mind, other than I knew I would be able to find a use for it somehow.  I then was reminded that I had several quarts of strawberries and a nice bunch of rhubarb from the public market that I did not want to go bad, so I decided to try a freezer jam of my favorite fruit combination.

Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam (makes 4 cups, I made a half batch to fit my jar)

  • 2 1/2 c. rhubarb, peeled and chopped
  • 2 1/2 c. strawberries, hulled and cut in half
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 package strawberry Jello
  1. Prepare the fruit. 
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and the fruit to a slow boil.
  3. Mash the softened fruit into a puree.  Stir in the sugar and bring back to a boil.  Add the packet of Jello and bring back to a boil.  Stir constantly.
  4. Pour mixture into containers.  Let cool and either store in the refrigerator for two weeks or in the freezer for a few months.  Do not store at room temperature.

I spread this on some crumpets and it was very delicious!  It tasted fresh, and the combination of the sweet strawberries and the tart rhubarb is amazing.  This would be great on English muffins, on bagels with cream cheese, even spread over pancakes.  I don’t mine is going to last much longer than a week!





Watermelonade

14 07 2008


Watermelonade

Originally uploaded by maryagon

The boyfriend got me a cute vintage bike for our one year anniversary, so I’ve been riding it around the neighborhood. Luckily for me, my grocery store is only two miles from my house, so yesterday evening I biked down to pick up a few things. I got a nice, small watermelon that I was looking forward to enjoying that week.

But when I got back to my apartment, I was pretty much dying of thirst (it was warm, and I’m a little out of shape). I remembered I saw a recipe for a delicious and refreshing sounding watermelonade on epicurious, so I decided to make that instead of eating it whole.

Watermelonade (makes 4 cups)

  • 1 small seedless watermelon
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Ice
  1. Cut the watermelon into small chunks.  Puree in a blender or a food processor.
  2. Place a mesh strainer over a measuring cup and pour the puree through it.  I pressed the puree a bit with the back of a soup ladle to get the most juice out, but that made the watermelonade a bit pulpy.  I ended up straining it twice.
  3. Pour the strained juice into a container and add the sugar and lemon juice.  Mix well.  Serve over ice.

The end result was indeed very refreshing.  This would be a great picnic drink – easy to make, and good for you!  (The watermelon is 92% water by weight, and a great source of vitamins A and C!)  This is making me think of what other fruits I can make into “-ades”…

ETA:  I just tried it with some club soda – very yummy!  This combo is a little less sweet and by adding club soda, it will make your batch last longer!





Cherry-Cognac Pork with Cranberry-Walnut Taboulleh

27 06 2008

I finally got around to doing two things in my kitchen – cleaning out the  refrigerator and going shopping for real food (not milk and cereal anymore).  I found a little jar of cherry-cognac sauce that someone had given me as a gift.  I had used it before on vanilla ice cream (yum), but looking on the label, it suggested using it on meats, such as pork.  So, luckily, I had a lot of pork chops and thinking of something fruity to go along with the cherries,  I found a recipe for cranberry-walnut taboulleh.  Overall, I liked how the sweet fruity flavors complimented the meat and the bulgur wheat.

Cranberry Walnut Tabbouleh (you can find the original recipe from Cooking Light here – I didn’t have some ingredients, so I improvised.)

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 minced green onions, white and green parts included
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. In a bowl, mix the bulgur, cranberries and boiling water.  Let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. While this is soaking, add the olive oil to a skillet and roast the walnuts in the oil for several minutes – this is to release the flavor of the nuts and infuse the oil with walnut flavoring.
  3. After 30 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and toss.  Can be served immediately or refrigerated.

Cherry-Cognac Pork Chops

  • Cherry-cognac sauce (mine was pre-bought)
  • 3 pork chops
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Season the pork chops with the herbs, salt and pepper.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and spoon a Tbsp or so of the cherry-cognac sauce over them.
  2. Place baking sheet under the broiler.  Broil for several minutes, until cooked about halfway through.
  3. Flip pork chops over, reseason and again spoon about a Tbsp on each chop.  Continue to broil until completely cooked.

I ended up making an extra pork chop for lunch, which is sure to be delicious.  My only issue was with the tabbouleh – I didn’t have several things the original recipe called for.  I thought I had lemons, but I had to use lime juice instead, and I ran short on that, so I think the tabbouleh was a tad dry.  I also sent the boyfriend on a Wegman’s run before he came over to get the parsley and the mint.  When he got to my house, the conversation went a little bit like this:

Me: (as he brings out two gigantic bags of herbs) “Where is the mint?”

Him: (pointing to the bag that looks suspiciously like cilantro) “Right there.”

Me: “This is cilantro.”

Him: “But it was in the bin marked ‘mint’.”

Me: (taking it out and smelling it) “This is definitely cilantro.”

Him: “Hmm, well I thought it smelled like cilantro, and I thought it looked like cilantro, but it was in the mint bin, so I concluded it must be mint.”

Me: (slaps palm to face)

But nevertheless, the tabbouleh was pretty good.





Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

12 06 2008

I had some free time today so I decided to get back into baking while the weather was still cool. I really like making cupcakes, and I always wanted to try them in ice cream cones. These turned out to be pretty cute.

I was too lazy to make the batter from scratch, so I used Pillsbury’s confetti cake mix. I got 24 flat-bottomed ice cream cones and filled them, leaving about a half to three-quarters of an inch from the top.

I then baked them according to the directions on the box. Some of them overflowed a little bit, so I tried to clean them up the best I could.

While the cupcakes were cooling, I made vanilla and chocolate buttercream frosting

Vanilla and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 7 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder.

Using a mixer, combine the first four ingredients. I find it easier to mix a cup of the sugar at a time, with a tablespoon or so of the liquid. Divide the frosting in half, and then mix the cocoa powder into one half. You now have both chocolate and vanilla frosting.

I then piped the frosting on the tops of the ice cream cones using a star tip. I only had a small one, but I would recommend using a large one, both for ease and a more ‘ice-creamy’ look to the frosting.

I then decorated the frosting with sprinkles and cinnamon dots for cherries. As you can see, my sprinkles were left over from Christmas cookies, hence the red and green. Voila! You have cute cupcakes!





Seared Tuna with Avocado

7 05 2008

Last week, the weather was pretty nice in Rochester, which is a reason to celebrate.  I did this by walking around my neighborhood and stopped by the seafood market there.  I love fresh seafood and fish, and the Pittsford Seafood Market is great.  They are within walking distance from my house, so I save on gas, and their seafood and fish are very reasonably priced, so I save money as well.  I bought a couple of nice tuna steaks for dinner, then picked up some fresh vegetables to make a delicious, summery and colorful meal.

  • sushi grade tuna steaks (you will be leaving the middle bright pink)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, cut into slices
  • 1/2 c cilantro
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced
  • 1/2 bunch rappi (you may see this as rapini or broccoli rabe)
  • 2 heads baby bok choi
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce, divided into 2 and 3 Tbsp
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, divided in half
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  1. In a skillet, heat the olive oil.  Cook the shallots and the minced ginger until the shallots become translucent.  Add enough rappi to fill the skillet, allow to cook down, then add remaining rappi, if any.  Add the bok choi and cook until softened.  Add 2 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1 Tbsp oyster sauce and mix while vegetables cook.  Keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.
  2. Pour the sesame seeds into a shallow bowl or dish.  Cover all sides of the tuna steaks with the seeds.  While you do this, heat a frying pan over high heat.  When the tuna is coated, place large, flat side down on pan and cook until fish changes color about 1/3 the way up.  Flip the tuna over and cook the same.  Remove from heat and cover with aluminum foil to set.
  3. While the tuna sits, make the sauce.  Mix the remaning soy sauce, oyster sauce, ground ginger and pepper in a bowl. 
  4. Arrange the food to be served.  Put down a layer of the cooked rappi and bok choi, then arrange alternating slices of the avocado and the tuna.  Rip off a handful of washed cilantro and put that in the center of the tuna and avocado, and mix in the minced serrano pepper.  Drizzle a couple Tbsp of the sauce over the food and reserve the rest for dipping.

I really liked the combination of the avocado and the seared tuna, but it doesn’t take too much to convince me on seared tuna.  I thought that the slightly bitter rappi and bok choi really complimented the tuna.  The cilantro salad also adds a degree of freshness and a bit of heat from the peppers.

I served this with unfiltered sake, which is very sweet.  I would change this the next time, for something not as intense.  The boyfriend came up with the clever idea of putting the sauce in the shot glass and nestling that in the cilantro salad.  It made for a nice presentation.





Poor-Girl’s Paella

17 04 2008

I was trying to think of something to make with the mounds of rice I had leftover from the other night when I made tilapia, and I thought the yellow rice would work wonderfully with a paella.   I had some frozen shrimp handy, so I only had to buy mussels (2 pounds for $6), a few clams, kielbasa and peas.  For about $12, I made a meal that will feed me for the rest of the week.

  • Goya’s Spanish Style rice (1 box, or leftovers)
  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 6 cherry stone clams
  • 1/2 lb frozen shrimp
  • 1/2 link kielbasa
  • 3/4 c frozen peas
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium shallot
  • saffron threads
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Prepare your ingredients.  Soak the clams and mussels for 15 minutes, scrub them, and remove beards from the mussels.  Split the kielbasa in half twice, both lengthwise and width-wise, then chop into smaller pieces.  Chop the onion and pepper, and mince the garlic and shallot.
  2. Cook the rice according to the directions on the box.
  3. While the rice is cooking, steam the clams and mussels.  I put them all in a large pot and put a couple of cups of water with it.  Turn on high, and steam until shells open.  You can strain water through colander and rinse with cold water.  Discard any shells that do not open.  Set aside.
  4. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic, shallot, and onions until they begin to turn translucent. Add the kielbasa, and cook until lightly browned.  Add the peppers and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the frozen shrimp and peas, and cook until warmed through. 
  5. When all ingredients have been added to the skillet, crumble several saffron threads and add, and add the paprika as well.  Mix well and turn down the heat under the skillet.  Let simmer for 5 minutes, to let the flavors combine.
  6. On a serving platter, combine the rice, ingredients in the skillet and top with the shellfish. 

I found this to be easy – if you use three burners, by the time the rice is done cooking, your shellfish and your skillet ingredients can be done as well.  Just combine and serve!

This is obviously not authentic paella, but what I’ll call the “cheap and easy” version.  I ate only a tiny bit after I prepared it, but I’m looking forward to the ‘leftovers’ tonight.