Sunday, August 22, 2010

We made zucchini pancakes and ate them while watching Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at Prospect Park!

Pictured above is my mother holding a giant zucchini she grew in her garden while Alice the Basenji looks on. This zucchini, may it rest in peace, was as thick and almost as long as my arm. (My mom was a little embarassed to have her picture taken with it. "It's obscene!") I knew I had to make something special with it, but I didn't know what. And then Alena reminded me of a post I'd seen on Serious Eats for zucchini pancakes. It was the perfect thing to take with us to the Sharon Jones concert that night.

Zucchini Pancakes

  • 2 medium zucchini (Or one obscenely giant zucchini which probably equaled more than two mediums.)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or oregano (We used thyme.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest (This really made a big difference! We probably added more than the recipe, and it really added a nice dimension to the flavor.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed


1. Shred the zucchini and onion on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor with the shredding disk. Place the shredded vegetables in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to combine. Let drain for 30 minutes, then pick up by the handful and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Place on a kitchen towel or double layer of paper towels. (We should have taken this step more seriously--ours came out a little mushy, though still delicious.)

2. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, garlic, cheese, herbs, lemon zest, and pepper. Beat well with a fork. Add the drained zucchini mixture and mix together. Sprinkle the flour and baking powder on top and mix with a fork just until well combined.

3. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy pan. When the oil is hot, drop the batter into the pan by heaping tablespoonful. Cook for about three minutes on the first side, until nicely browned. Flip and cook for about two minutes more. Place the cooked pancakes on a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining oil and batter. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, sour cream, tzatziki or applesauce.

We decided to go with tzatziki because my parents had also recently given me packet of tzatziki mix they brought back from their trip to Greece.

The mix really made a difference. Tzatziki is so often too bland. We just added yogurt, lemon, a little olive oil, and some chopped up cucumber. It was perfect on the pancakes!

Here are Lauren, Alena and Keelin enjoying our picnic at the concert:

Click here for a youtube vid from the concert! Sharon Jones is my hero.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I made Gnudi w/ onion, sausage, wilted arugula + toasted walnuts!

So back in May, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary! I told them I would like to cook them dinner as an anniversary gift, but then we could never find a date that worked until the very end of July. But, finally, the day came around and I tried to figure out what to make.

All I knew was that I wanted to make something summery, and simple - but impressive. After looking at a few recipes, I decided to make GNUDI, the potato-less, lighter cousin of gnocchi. Even though I was a bit apprehensive about making something for the first time for such an important occasion (what if it comes out wrong??) I decided to just go for it.

Turns out, it was really not all that hard!! Phew. Here is what you need:

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Unsalted butter
1 bunch tarragon (I also think other herbs like basil, sage, rosemary, etc. would work.)
1 lemon
1 small white onion
1 egg
¾ lb fresh ricotta cheese
¼ lb freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1/3 cup semolina flour
1 tbls all purpose flour
small bag whole, shelled walnuts
a bunch of baby arugula
sausage of your choice (optional) - I used D'artagnan brand chicken sausage with truffles - fancy! -(Mushrooms would be a good vegetarian alternative in this recipe.)
homemade or store-bought vegetable stock for poaching the gnudi (optional) - I just used water.

Make the Gnudi Mixture

In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, one tablespoon chopped tarragon, egg, Parmigiano, half of the flour and the tbls of all-purpose flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix until the ingredients are well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

Place the remaining flour in a shallow bowl. Using floured hands, pinch about a tablespoon worth of mixture and form into a little football shape. Dredge each through the flour in the bowl and onto a baking sheet. Continue this until you’ve made as many gnocchi shaped pieces as you can. You can either immediately poach them or cover with foil and refrigerate for up to a few hours.

(The lemon in the photo gives you an idea of the size of these.)

Poach the Gnudi

Bring either stock or plain water to a simmer (not boil). Take out the gnudi and drop 5 or so into the pot for about 2 minutes, or until they rise to the top of the liquid. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean flat baking sheet. Do this for all of the gnudi, being gentle and taking care not to break them as they can be delicate. Refrigerate for up to a day, or let rest for about a half hour before finishing the dish.

Make the toppings

Roughly chop the walnuts and toast them, either in a pan or an oven. Watch them closely so they do not burn! Sautee the onion in some butter or oil slowly in a large pan until translucent. Season with salt and pepper and some lemon juice. Chop and add sausage (or mushrooms) if using. Sautee until sausage (or mushrooms) are browned. Carefully add the gnudi to the mixture, gently stirring just to incorporate the ingredients and heat the gnudi. They are very delicate ! You don't want to break them. Add the arugula just for a moment, it will wilt quickly.

Plate up the gnudi and season with some more grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

I served this with a kale salad with mint and lime dressing and some baby heirloom tomatoes that I marinated in oil, garlic and salt + pepper.

For dessert I made a fruit salad with multi-colored plums, blueberries, and marinated it for a few hours with some honey, lime juice and chopped mint. We had it with vanilla ice cream!

Man, it was a pretty awesome summer dinner!! Happy anniversary to my parents.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We made eggplant parmesan rolls with swiss chard and mint!

The other day, Hillary and Faryl came over for dinner. Alena and I decided it was finally time to make a recipe I had noticed on epicurious and emailed to her a long, long time ago, especially since eggplant and swiss chard are now in abundance, AND Alena happened to have some fancy ricotta cheese left over from making gnutti for her parents (girl when you gonna post that?).

Well, it was a complete success. This is a delicious, lighter, summerier alternative to eggplant parm or traditional eggplant rollatini. The eggplant is broiled instead of fried, the Swiss chard adds some green, and the fresh mint gives it a nice kick.

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Mint

  • 2 medium eggplants (about 2 1/4 pounds total), trimmed, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1-pound bunch Swiss chard, center ribs removed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15- to 16-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 8-ounce ball fresh water-packed mozzarella,* drained, thinly sliced

Cover bottom and sides of each of 2 large colanders with 1 layer of eggplant slices; sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Continue layering eggplant slices in each colander, sprinkling each layer with coarse salt, until all eggplant slices are used. Place each colander over large bowl; let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. (We just laid them out on paper towels, which worked fine.) Rinse eggplant slices to remove excess salt; dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Position oven rack 5 to 6 inches from heat source and preheat broiler. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared baking sheets. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with olive oil. Broil 1 sheet at a time until eggplant slices are tender and beginning to brown, watching closely and removing eggplant slices as needed if cooking too quickly, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove baking sheet from oven and cool eggplant while preparing filling.

This was our first time using our oven's broiler!

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add chard to pot and boil just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. Squeeze chard very dry, then chop coarsely. Squeeze chard dry again between paper towels. Whisk eggs and pinch of coarse salt in medium bowl. Stir in chopped chard, ricotta cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, mint, and black pepper.

Lightly oil 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread half of tomato sauce evenly over bottom of dish. Divide chard-ricotta filling among eggplant slices, placing about 1 heaping tablespoon filling in center of each. Starting at 1 short end of each, loosely roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, atop sauce in baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over. Place mozzarella slices in single layer over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with foil and chill.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake eggplant Parmesan rolls, covered with foil, until heated through, about 30 minutes if freshly made or 40 minutes if refrigerated. Uncover and bake until brown in spots and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Here is us chilling on the fire escape while the eggplant baked:

And here is an aerial view of our meal. It looks like Hill's arm is moving SO FAST!!!