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stuffed-zucchini-blossoms

Zucchini blossoms only appear in the mid to late summer when farmers and gardeners begin to run out of ways to get rid of the myriad numbers of squashes that appear and grow larger and larger by the hour.  The alternative is to nip the produce in the bud so to speak and lovely little packets of bright yellow blossoms make their way to the farm stand or green market.  They are beautiful to look at, but even better to eat.  The problem is that they are messy and time consuming to prepare and disappear too quickly once brought to the table.

We got a particularly nice bunch at the green market on Sunday and I was determined to fix them for dinner.  I had made some ricotta (see post, May 19, 2014) that I had planned to serve with some grilled peaches, but since it is the perfect filling for stuffed blossoms I changed gears.  I combined 1 cup of the ricotta with the zest of 1 lemon, a teaspoon of chopped basil, about ¼ cup of grated Parmigiano, and salt and pepper.  I had Steve help as it was impossible for me to hold the blossoms open and neatly spoon the cheese mixture into the center.  I held open while he carefully spooned about a teaspoonful into the heart.  I twisted the petals closed and laid the filled blossoms out in a row while I made the batter.  (To be perfectly honest if I had some packaged tempura batter in the pantry I would have used it.)

I combined about 1½ cups of all-purpose flour with a teaspoon or so of salt.  I gently stirred in about 1½ cups of seltzer water.  You don’t want to stir to aggressively as you want the batter to have some fizz left.

I heated about 1 inch of canola oil – you could use olive oil – in my favorite Scanpan sautoir pan and when it was hot, working with one piece at a time, I quickly dipped the stuffed blossoms into the batter, allowing most to drip off and gently placed them into the hot oil.  I used tongs to carefully turn the blossoms as they turned golden brown and crisp.  It only took a couple of minutes for them to cook.

I drained them on a double layer of paper towel and served them sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with lemon —- all my hard work was gone in a couple of minutes.

Chanterelle_4546

 

Nobody loves mushrooms more than my son, Mickey.  He would eat them daily and the more obscure and expensive they are the more he likes them.  His usually are part of a rich sauce to accompany venison, or lamb, or lobster and he would never think of “wasting” them in pasta.  I, however, think they make a perfect mating with cheese and noodles so this is one of the ways I find to use beautiful chanterelles.  I find that they absorb the fattiness of the butter and cheese which only enhances their delicate, nutty flavor.

1 pound dried malfalda pasta or other noodles with a rippled or ridged edge
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and minced
½ pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half, lengthwise, if very large
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper for garnish

Place the pasta in a large pot of heavily-salted boiling water set over high heat.  
Return the water to the boil and boil according to package directions until al dente.  Remove from the heat and drain well, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water.
While the pasta is cooking, combine the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes or just until softened.  Add the chanterelles and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or just until the mushrooms are tender.  Remove from the heat.
When the pasta has cooked, add the drained pasta to the mushroom mixture, tossing to blend well.  Add the ricotta and parsley and again toss to coat.  Add a bit of the reserved pasta cooking water if necessary to “loosen” the sauce.  Taste and, if necessary, add salt and pepper.
Pour the pasta into a large pasta serving bowl.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a bit of cracked black pepper and serve.

 

Chanterelle_4513

Sanditas

 

We came upon these beautiful tiny watermelon-looking things called sanditas at the Union Square Greenmarket.  I had never seen them before, but my culinarian son, Mickey, said “oh, yes, I’ve had them at Gramercy Tavern”.  Who knew???  Turns out sanditas are also known as sour Mexican gherkins, cucamelon, or, less-appetizingly, mouse melon and are a favorite Mexican vegetable.  When I bought mine, the vendor said “don’t pickle them, eat them”, so, of course, I had to pickle them.  Once I tasted the little guys I was sure that they would work best pickled to serve with patés or on meze platters.  I did leave a few to slice in salad, but the remainder went into the following recipe.  This recipe can also be used with any baby vegetable or pearl onions.

4 cups sanditas
¼ cup salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into slivers
1 green hot chile, cut, crosswise, into rounds

Place sanditas in a glass or ceramic bowl. Sprinkle in salt and add cold water to cover. Let stand in a cool place for 12 hours. Drain off salt water and rinse in colander under cold running water. Drain and dry.
Bring the vinegar, orange juice, and sugar to a boil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
While the vinegar mixture is cooking, pack the sanditas, ginger, and chile into hot sterilized jars. Pour the hot pickling syrup over the top, leaving ¼-inch head­space.
If you are going to refrigerate the pickles, cap the jars and turn upside-down on a wire rack and let stand until cool before refrigerating.  Or, to preserve for a long period of time, place the filled jars into a canning pot fitted with a rack with cold water to cover and place over high heat.  Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from the boiling water and cool as directed for refrigerated pickles.

 

sanditas pickles OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

succotash

 

Succotash is a very early American recipe combining our native beans and corn, but I only seem to make it in the summer when I can get fresh lima beans and corn locally.  I never think of making it in the winter with frozen vegetables, although I suppose it is probably still pretty good.  Fresh limas are not so easy to come by even in the farmers market.  I don’t know if this is because people don’t buy them or farmers don’t like to grow them.  But I do know that whenever I see them, I snap them up.  I got great ones the other day at the farmers market and although we haven’t had great luck with corn this summer, I bought some ears to make a Sunday supper of succotash topped with sliced grilled (on my stove top grill pan) chicken breast.  What a tasty meal – with a side of sliced heirloom tomatoes and a bowl of pickled beets.  Summer at its best!

¼ cup finely diced slab bacon
¼ cup finely diced sweet onion
2 to 3 cups fresh lima beans
Kernels from 4 large ears fresh corn
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the bacon and onion in a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add the butter and cook, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes or until the bacon has begun to color and the onions have softened.  Add the lima beans and corn, stirring to blend.  Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, cover,  and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or just until the beans are tender.

Mussels cooking

 

Fortunately, our Union Square Green Market isn’t just vegetables and fruits – we have cheeses, meats, poultry, fish, plants, and cut flowers to complete the outdoor shopping experience.  I was looking for some inspiration on Saturday and found some merguez sausage at the Flying Pigs Farm (www.flyingpigsfarm.com) stall.  That purchase led to a couple of pounds of mussels at Seatuck Fish Company (www.seatuckfish.com) and the two of them led to dinner pulled together in my beautiful Scanpan covered chef’s pan.
Here’s how it came about:  I sautéed some onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until just softened.  I sliced up the sausage and added it to the pan and cooked it until it had lost its color.  Then I added about 1 cup of dry white wine, brought the mix to a boil and then lowered the heat and simmered for about 4 or 5 minutes to evaporate the alcohol.  That was followed with ¾ cup of pureed fresh tomatoes, 1 cup of clam broth, and some basil and chile flakes.  I cooked the liquid for a bit to allow the flavors to blend.  Then I added the scrubbed mussels and covered the pan.  Since the lid is glass I could watch the mussels open so just as they began to open I added a big handful of yellow cherry tomatoes and another handful of sliced baby red, yellow, and orange bell peppers.  Again, I covered and watched the mussels finish popping open.  Voila! A one pot dinner came to the table, 1,2,3!

 

Mussels plated

Radishes_DSC_4652

There were so many radishes in the farmers market that I just had to buy a few bunches.  I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but they were irresistible and only $1 a bunch.  We ate some chilled, with sweet butter and sea salt, tossed some in salads, and then I did the classic French side dish, radishes braised in butter to accompany some grilled chicken breasts.  You never see cooked radishes on menus anymore, but this braise is a very traditional French summer dish.  If you use bright red radishes, they will lose quite a bit of their color when cooked.

2 bunches crisp radishes
3 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth or even water
½ to 1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Trim the radishes, leaving just a bit of the stem.  Scrub them well as dirt can often cling around the stem and root end.  If they have stringy rootlets, pull these off and discard them.
Melt the butter in a frying pan large enough to hold the radishes in a single layer over medium heat.  Add the radishes, stock, and sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Cover, lower the heat, and braise for about 20 minutes or until easily pierced with the point of a small sharp knife.
Remove from the heat, stir in the zest, and serve.

 

©StephenKolyer_Radish

pickled-eggs

pickled-beets

My mom loved nothing better than a social gathering and was always prepared for a houseful of  guests.  One of her favorite cocktail snacks was pickled hard boiled eggs, so throughout the summer there was always a jar of them in the fridge.  Recently we were at a dinner party where the first course was a meze platter consisting of hummus and pita chips, prosciutto, olives, pistachios, and pickled eggs.  Our hosts had purchased the eggs at a local delicatessen and although they weren’t pickled in beet juice, they immediately reminded me of my mom’s.  So, when making pickled beets (with yellow and red beets from the farmers market) the other day I had to replicate her favorite eggs.  I think I left the eggs in the pickling juice a little too long but they were certainly a glorious color and tasted pretty darn good too.  One bit of warning – the longer you pickle them the tougher the white becomes, but it will never become inedible.  Here’s my pickled beet recipe, but you can also purchase jarred pickled beets and use that juice or make your own pickling liquid with any type of vinegar; just remember, whatever color the vinegar that will be the color of your eggs.  All you do is hard boil some eggs, let them cool, peel, and submerge them in pickling liquid.  If you like a little heat, add some fresh chiles to the liquid.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to allow the egg white time to absorb the pickle.
A word about pickled beets.  When I was a girl, all kinds of pickles were on the table for every meal, even breakfast.  Home-canned jars of pickled vegetables of all kinds along with at least 4 or 5 different kinds of pickled cucumbers , sweet, spiced, and dilled set center stage.  Although there has been a recent resurgence in pickling (both in cookbooks and in the artisanal food movement), I think the only place that you might still find an array of pickles on the table is in an Amish farmhouse.

Pickled Beets
2 bunches fresh beets, washed, trimmed of the greens (remember to save the greens for a quick
    sauté in a little olive oil and garlic), and cooked
1 large red or sweet onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut, crosswise, into thin slices, then pulled into rings
1½ to 2 cups white (or other) vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoons caraway seeds, optional
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Peel and trim the beets; then, cut, crosswise, into slices about ¼ thick.  Place in a bowl.
Add the onion rings, tossing to combine.  Add the vinegar, sugar, and, if using, the caraway seeds.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to blend completely.
Transfer the mixture to a nonreactive container – I like a glass refrigerator storage container or large glass jar – taking care that the pickling liquid covers the beets and onions.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.  When covered and refrigerated the beets will last for up to 10 days.

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