Zucchini pasta

Summer squash….. There is no way you can put them in any other season. The name says it all.  They are great raw, cooked, roasted, grilled, you name it.

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The other day I made a very light and pretty salad using summer squash. To make it look really good I shaved them into very thin ribbons. It was such a pretty sight.

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BUT. There was soooo much leftover of the zucchini on my kitchen counter that I had to come up with something.

And then I remembered a pasta from Italy using fried zucchini. So I decided to try and make something similar, but a bit more on the healthy side.

So what I did, I used all the leftover zucchini, chopped them and made a sauce out of them. And because I had some more small zucchinis, I cut them in half and sliced them. Pan fried those in a little bit of garlic scented olive oil, and served it with fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.

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It is a fresh, easy, quick flavorful pasta dish, and celebrating summer squash. In case you don’t need to use up your leftover zucchini bits, just follow my instructions below.

Ingredients  (yields 4)

  • 1/2 pack (8 oz)  store bought vegan pasta, preferably spaghetti
  • 8 smaller zucchini (mix green and yellow if you can)
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, you will need the juice
  • 2-3 tbsp of grated hard goat cheese or pecorino or parmesan
  • handful of basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp of toasted pine nuts
  • salt, black pepper and hot paprika (not smoked!) to taste

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 Instructions

  1. Lengthwise cut your zucchinis in half. Then slice them into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Heat 2tbsp olive oil and add 2 garlic cloves.
  3. Toast the garlic only a few minutes carefully, not to burn and remove from pan.
  4. Fry the zucchini slices in the garlic oil, for only a few minutes so that they have color but will not fall apart. Fry them in batches if needed, so they all get some color instead of steaming them…
  5. Save and keep warm 1/2 of the zucchini for plating and put the rest back in the pan.
  6. Add the minced garlic cloves, stirring constantly, so it will not burn, squeeze over the lemon juice, add salt, black pepper, hot paprika and some water, just to keep it moistened. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, when the zucchini slices start to fall apart.
  7. At the moment when you cover the zucchini, start cooking your pasta in salted water and add 1 tbsp olive oil too. If you start cooking the pasta at that point, it will be ready when your sauce is ready, and you can use the pasta cooking water to finish your sauce.
  8. When the zucchini is soft enough, smash them a little bit with a fork or masher. Add some pasta cooking liquid and mix in the cheese. This all will create a sauce. You will not need to use anything else. You can adjust anytime with some extra cooking water and/or grated cheese.
  9. Serve the pasta with the sauce, the fried zucchini slices and
  10. Finish off with tiny basil leaves or sliced ones, freshly grated black pepper (lots), cheese and pine nuts.
  11. Make sure you have a glass of chilled white wine with it too!

ENJOY!

What to do with squash blossoms?

Do yo know the difference between a male and a female squash blossom?

It is so easy to tell them apart. And you should never feel sorry for eating the males 🙂 Because they are the ones that will never turn into a squash/zucchini. They die at being a blossom. In this photo below the only female blossom is the one that ends in a tiny zucchini. All the others are males.  I either buy the female blossom still attached to the baby zucchini or the male one which is the blossom only.

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How to work with zucchini blossoms?

They are edible flowers. As such, can be consumed raw and cooked. In any way they need to be handled with care. Very delicate, beautiful flowers. I always rinse them with cold water, very carefully, place them on a paper towel to soak most of the water. Then take another piece of paper, big enough to wrap all. I will put them carefully on the paper, wrap them and place them in a plastic box and keep in the fridge. They are good for a few days, but will soon discolor. They are perfectly fine still, to be used , preferably fried at that point.

So let’s see a few ideas on what to do with zucchini blossoms?

I think the rule of thumb is that you are welcome to use them anywhere where zucchini, or squash could be used.  So why don’t you make a

Shaved zucchini salad

keep it raw, or put the ribbons for a minute on the griddle and add blossoms, soft, fresh feta, toasted pine nuts and a lemon thyme vinaigrette?

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For brunch

These blossoms look amazing and tastes so good in your fritatta! Simply mix some eggs with soft, creamy cheese such as chevre, ricotta, burrata, add herbs like parsley, basil, chive, mix and top it with the blossoms. Put the frittata in your oven and bake to perfection.

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For a gorgeous appetizer

try and pair them with tomato. I made a dish where I prepared a simple ceviche of heirloom tomatoes, which means marinating the tomatoes for a very short time in lemon juice, shallots,salt, pepper and some herbs like chopped cilantro or parsley. Then, in this case I used the blossoms as a shell to be stuffed. Any soft cheese (ricotta, chevre, farmer’s cheese) is great here, the blossoms will only be the carrier for the cheese that you eventually eat with the tomato ceviche.

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This is such a delicious and balanced combination of sweet-tart tomatoes, creamy ricotta and crispy blossoms, with some fragrant micro herbs.

For the filling I used ricotta, sauteed spinach, minced garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chives. Carefully open the blossoms and fill them halfway. Then pinch the middle of the flower, just where your filling ends, and carefully twist, so it closes.

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Dip in egg-wash and breadcrumb. Quickly fry them. Serve them immediately on top of the tomato ceviche with micro herbs.DSC_5499

How about a soup? Corn pairs so well with summer squash!

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Here, I filled the blossoms with cooked corn, farmer’s cheese and a jalapeno filling. Dipped them in cornflour and quickly fried them. To keep the corn theme, I made a corn veloute, which is creamy corn soup. I cooked the corn for 5 minutes in just enough water to cover them. Then I cut the kernels off the cob and saved the water!. Saved some of the kernels for the filling and plating. Sauteed the corn in some butter, added flour and the water I used for the cooking. Brought to a boil, cooked for 10-15 minutes and blended. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and a  little bit of sour cream. You can also add some sauteed chanterelle or crispy bacon. They go very well with both corn and squash. Finished off my soup with young cilantro leaves and chive blossoms.

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I hope you now feel like using these blossoms and will go to the market and get some! Enjoy!

Ricotta and peach crepes

You will probably see from my posts that I don’t bake a lot. The reason for that is I am not the cake, cookie, biscuit type of person. If I had to chose between a savory dish and piece of perfect cake, I would take the savory dish. 100% of the time.

But this doesn’t mean I don’t eat any sweets. I just simply like other types. I love trifles, crepes, meringue roulade, layered creamy, fruity pots with caramel, chocolate, whipped cream, etc…. 🙂  And these are the kinds of desserts I make when we have dinner guests.

Now that summer is in full swing, the market is overloaded with peach and nectarine. They are not my favorite fruits, but this year they are AMAZING! Farmers at the market told me that this is the result of a cooler winter and the fruits are really great this year. They are just as good as the ones I remember from Hungary. Juicy and sweet with a touch of tartness.

Peach is really good poached, grilled, baked and matches perfectly with almond, ricotta, farmers cheese, lemon, mint. So you can come up with many things that involve these ingredients. I chose one for you which is really simple and if you listen to my advice on how to, you can make a really flavorful and balanced dessert.

The dessert will have 3 components. Crepes, peach in syrup, lemon scented ricotta.

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CREPES

ingredients (makes 12 small ones)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup full fat milk
  • 2 tbsp sparkling water
  • 1/2 cup flour (approximate, depends on many things. mix in just as much to get cream thickness
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbs melted butter

instructions

Mix egg, milk, sparkling water. Add sifted flour. Adjust amount to get the thickness of cream. Season with salt and sugar. Put in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours, better overnight. Take batter out of the fridge 30 minutes before starting to make crepes. Before starting to make crepes add 1 tbsp of melted butter, give it a last stir. If you find it is too thick add a bit of sparkling water.

PEACH IN SYRUP

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ingredients ( for 12 small crepes )

  • 4 bigger, ripe but not too soft peaches, halved and pitted.
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tbsp raw cane sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • water
  • juice of half of a lemon

instructions

Put peaches in a pot in a single layer. Try and use just as big of a pot so that the peaches can take up all the space. Otherwise you will need way too much more water and sugar. Add water, sugar and almond extract and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Do not cover! Cook on low heat until peaches cooked but will not fall into pieces. Take peaches out and continue to cook the syrup so it can get thicker. Cook until it has thickness of cream. Put peaches back in the pot, add some mint springs and lemon verbena if you have it and let it cool.

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RICOTTA CREAM

ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 15 oz ricotta at room temp (1/2kg tehenturo – for Hungarians)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

instructions

Mix egg yolks with sugar until fully dissolved and lightens up in color and grows a bit of volume. Add ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and juice and mix with a fork thoroughly. Keep it in the fridge if you don’t use it immediately.

Assemble the crepes

Put 1-2 tsp of ricotta on one quarter of the crepe. Add a few slices of peach. Fold into half and half again, so you get the triangle shape. Try one, to see how much filling you like. I find that one crepe needs a little bit less than half of a peach.

To serve drizzle some syrup over the crepe, sprinkle with chopped mint and toasted, chopped almond. Almond is a must!!!!

ENJOY!

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Lemon basil pasta with baked salmon

I have been making this pasta for about 20 years….. I am sure everyone coming to us for dinner had this at some point :).  It is an amazingly flavorful dish which is the direct result of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and basil. The sauce itself is something like a cross between a pesto and vinaigrette. You don’t need to cook it, you can make it in advance and just pour over the freshly cooked pasta and everything comes to life.

You can serve it just as it is or with a piece of baked fish, just as I did. It is really good with salmon and also great with grilled shrimp.

 

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How to adjust this dish to suit any kinds of dietary requirements?

You can make the dish with any kind of pasta. We tried with many different ones and I think linguine is the best, a good quality, whole grain kind, that has a great texture and sauce can stick to it. But feel free to use whatever your preference. If you have dietary requirements, you can buy gluten free pasta or make it with zucchini spirals, just like this.

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If you don’t eat seafood, you can add fennel. Shave a fennel into very thin slices and braise it in olive oil, a little bit of white wine, salt and pepper. Finally add to the pasta.

And for vegans, in this picture I made it raw and vegan. I used all the ingredients of the sauce as detailed below but didn’t add butter. Instead of the parmigiano region I prepared this dish with a vegan pine nut parmesan.

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The basic ingredients of the sauce, that will determine the flavor profile is lemon, basil and garlic.

Your lemon should be organic, not waxed because you will use the zest too. Both basil and garlic has to be fresh and very good quality.

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If you decide to make the pasta with baked salmon, the easiest way to bake it “en papillote”. This means in parchment paper. This cooking method is really great for fish. Put the fish on a piece of parchment, season with salt, pepper, a few lemon slices, fennel fonds and wrap the paper into a parcel, twisting the paper on both ends, to close it and it will hold the moisture and steam the fish.

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Lemon basil pasta ingredients and instructions (yields 4 )

  • your choice and amount of pasta
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 4 tbsp melted but not hot butter
  • big bunch (4 oz) of fresh basil, chopped both finely and bigger pieces (you can chop it in food processor, but I prefer the texture of handcut)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons (first zest it and then squeeze the juice)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 tsp chili flakes (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
  • about 1/2 cup of fresh, grated parmigiano-reggiano (use as much so it will make the sauce thick)
  • salt, black pepper to taste

Mix ingredients in the order of appearance in a big enough bowl that can accommodate the pasta too! If you let this stand, it will get thicker and harden, but don’t worry. The steaming hot pasta will liquify it. Once your pasta is cooked, drain it, save a little bit of cooking water, and mix pasta with this sauce immediately. If you feel it is not saucy enough, you can add a little bit of cooking water and mix thoroughly.

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Serve pasta with torn pieces of salmon,  fresh fennel fonds, a few tiny basil leaves and a slice of baked lemon. Grate some fresh parmesan on top. ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer bruschetta

OK. So I keep saying this.

Good food starts with the best possible ingredients.

The reason I am an advocate of farm fresh, farm to table or farm to fork cooking apart from the fact that I want to support sustainable farming, is the taste, look and most of the time simplicity. When you have amazing, in season ingredients you just need to respect them, find the best possible herbs, other ingredients to enhance flavor and make sure you don’t overcook and don’t overdo.

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This summer bruschetta was the appetizer at my summer welcoming dinner over the weekend. It looks stunning, it is simple, you just have to follow a few easy steps.

You will need to have the following ingredients:

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  • Bread
  • Avocado
  • Garlic
  • Lime
  • Corn
  • Heirloom tomatoes in different colors
  • Micro cilantro
  • Micro arugula
  • Shallot
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil

 The components of the bruschetta:

  • Garlic avocado spread. Intentionally I put garlic first. This will not be a guacamole, or an avocado puree. You want a strong garlic spread. Use very good, ripe avocado. I found that you will almost need half an avocado per toast. So I suggest follow this rule and if there is leftover, it is not a problem. For 4 slices of bread smash 2 avocados and mix with 4 smashed or grated garlic cloves, juice of 1 lime, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Charred corn. Cook 2 corns on the cob, drain, pat dry, and put on grill at high temp to char a little bit. You can also keep it over flame or use blow torch, or just leave it cooked only. Cut kernels off the cob.
  • Heirloom tomato ceviche. You could easily just add slices of heirloom tomatoes. But let’s think for a while. We will have a garlicky spread, sweet corn and almost sweet tomatoes. You will need a bit of acidity to break through the sweet and spice and let everything shine. This is the reason I marinate the tomatoes. Slice tomatoes chunky, at least 1/4 inch. Then cut them in half. I took a photo of how to cut heirloom tomatoes to keep their look and this way of cutting will ensure that liquid and seeds will not separate.

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Use at least 4 halves on each toast. To make the marinade chop 1 shallot, squeeze juice of 1 lemon juice add some salt and black pepper. 10 minutes before serving, marinate the tomatoes. Don’t let them sit in the liquid longer, it will start changing the texture.

  •  Bruschetta. Use a very good quality, whole grain, sourdough bread with big holes in there. Use it at 1-2days old. This type of bread will give the most amazing texture when toasted and also contains good grain. Or if you don’t mind white flour (you should!) traditional ciabatta is really good here. I made the toast on the griddle. The advantage of using a griddle is to get nice, crispy, yummy bread which is left soft inside. So good. Cut bread into chunky slices, at least 1 inch thick. Heat the griddle to a very high heat. Drizzle olive oil on the bread. Once the griddle is smoking hot, put your bread slices on it and press them down a little bit, to make sure it is even. Check in a minute, make sure it is not burnt!!! When you are ready to flip it over, drizzle olive oil on the up side, and sprinkle a little bit of himalayan pink salt over, from high above!. Trust me. It will make a difference. Flip the bread and toast second side.
  • Assemble. Spread generous amount of garlic avocado on toast. Add corn kernels, then tomato slices and finish off with generous amount of micro cilantro and arugula. The reason we were not using any green herbs in the spread or in the marinade is because we are adding it in a salad form at the end. In case you have no access to micro cilantro and arugula, slice the cilantro into chiffonade (thin slices) and top your toast with that and with a few wild arugula leaves.

ENJOY!

 

 

Tips on how to make a plate of salad look stunning

When I made this salad last week I thought about writing a quick piece giving you some tips on plating. Sometimes we think we are not capable of doing something. And why?  Just because we never tried.

At culinary school I didn’t get much advice on plating. I know, it is hard to believe…. And I was not confident about it. At all. Then, as time went by, I saw photos, videos and slowly but surely picked up pieces without even noticing. Most of my plating is for photography. It is different from real life plating. In the past it did happen I plated something, took many shots, and I could not make one single picture work. So I started again. At that point I knew what was wrong. Sometimes the plate was too messy. Sometimes the food was not on the right part of the plate. Sometimes the ingredients were to flat. It all depends. On the angle of the photo.

But what if you are plating for real life?

Then bear in mind how the person who eats the food will look at the plate. Definitely not from a headshot view. As a consequence plating a salad in real life so that it looks good from above may not work.

Also when you plate for real life, i.e. eating the food, always always respect the dish. Meaning?

The priority is the flavor and the joy of eating the food. The look should enhance it. The way you plate your food should help the dish shine. Sometimes people want to make a plate so pretty that they forget about the fact that we want to eat it. And we don’t want to lick that 3 tiny drops of sauce from the side of a plate….  You know what I mean, right?  So here is a few tips on plating and below the recipe for this light and gorgeous salad.

You can also make this salad family style, in a big bowl, all components mixed and have it at your barbecue. For meat lovers, this is great with a piece of Mexican-spiced steak.

  • Always try and plate from the angle of view. So when you serve the dish, the food looks stunning from the angle of the diner’s view.
  • Then start with knife cuts. In this example I shaved the fennel with a knife, you can use mandolin but be very careful. If it is nice and thin, will be easier to chew on, digest and it will start curling, which is beautiful. Try and have consistent and beautiful cuts.
  • When you add different kinds of fruit and vegetable, it is always a good idea to have at least two different kinds of cuts so when you build the salad, there is a beautiful variety. Here the strawberries were both sliced and quartered.
  • Try and give some height to the dish. Always. Even if you spread the food out on the plate, in an interesting form, give certain parts some height.
  • Work in odd numbers. It always has more appeal. You know how to buy flowers? Always odd numbers.
  • Avoid strict symmetry. Planned imperfection and asymmetry looks best.
  • Think in colors. If a plate looks a bit dull in colors, finish it off with some green, or edible, colorful flower petals.
  • Plate in order, starting heaviest and most amount of ingredient and work towards the lightest and least.

Here the shaved fennel and sweet onion is the base, tucked in some orange segments in the bottom.

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Then I added the thin slices of radish. I actually have it on the plate in 3 different formats. One vertically, tucked in the salad, one flat on certain sides and I also made little funnels with the radish slices and you can see those on the ends. They look so pretty.

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And finally I added the strawberry slices and quarters and covered parts of the salad with small fennel fonds. If you have blossoms or flowers, arrange them randomly, on top, on the side, around. But don’t make it too much. You can serve the vinaigrette on the side.DSC_5720.jpg

 

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Fennel and citrus salad

Salad ingredients for 1 serving

  • 1/2 medium fennel shaved into thin slices
  • 1/4 sweet onion cut into thin slices
  • 1 cara cara orange segmented (or 1/2 orange and 1/2 grapefruit)
  • 2 strawberries sliced and quartered
  • cilantro and chive blossoms
  • if you don’t have blossoms chop cilantro and chive and spread generously on the salad

Vinaigrette:

  • juice of the orange
  • 2t  lime juice
  • some zest of the lime and the orange
  • 1t honey
  • salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • light olive oil – twice as much as the orange and lime juice together