September 1, 2015 Mixed Bean Salad

DSC_4130aString or snap beans are in season from mid summer to early autumn and we have had a steady stream of them since the middle of July. Joe grows both pole and bush varieties.  Pole bean plants fare best when they are given support to grow, like a trellis or a teepee while bush beans grow on their own without added support. The bush beans were the first to produce, followed by the later maturing pole beans and now the bush beans are producing again. The crop this year has been quite successful and at times, overwhelming. I froze quart bags of blanched beans for fall and winter days when I will miss being able to pick them fresh. I even pickled a few jars of the very slim and straight filet beans.

In the cooler months we serve them hot, simply seasoned with garlic and thyme, but in the summer I like to serve them along side grilled vegetables in a cold salad. My latest inspiration, Mixed Bean Salad  came from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook, Jerusalem. Jerusalem won the IACP cookbook of the year in 2013 and was the 2013 James Beard award winner for the best international cookbook. The recipes are very approachable, not too “cheffy” and introduces the reader to the vibrant multicultural cuisine of that city.

The “mixed” in the mixed bean salad refers to the combination of green and yellow beans paired with red pepper strips. Mr Ottolenghi likes yellow beans for their tenderness and the look they bring to the dish.  This is the best time of year to find them at the farmers markets and we have no shortage here. If you are making this and yellow bean are not available, substitute all green beans.

In his introduction to the recipe, Mr Ottolenghi states that string beans are symbolic of the Jewish New Year but he didn’t indicate how, so I did a little research of my own. Beans are mentioned in the Talmud as “ruviah” and are symbolic because their Hebrew name sounds like the Hebrew “to increase” and indicates a desire for increased blessings in the new year. Reminds me of the symbolism of foods associated with Chinese New Year.

Begin the recipe by blanching the beans until tender crisp. Look for beans that are relatively the same size in diameter so they will cook in the same amount of time. If you are not sure if the beans are ready, test one for doneness before draining the pot. Roast red pepper strips that have been tossed in olive oil until they are tender. They make a beautiful contrast to the green and yellow beans.  Next step are the aromatics, lightly toasted garlic, then capers that bring a salty element and their own unique texture. Rinse the capers well and dry them, careful when you add them to the oil, they will spit, so you might want to use a spatter screen. Cumin and coriander seeds are bloomed in the olive oil to best bring out their aromas and flavor.   Pour the warm dressing over the beans and pepper strips and toss. Green onions, herbs, lemon peel, salt and pepper are the next addition to the dish.

The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup chervil, not an easy or common ingredient for the home chef.  I have never seen it sold in the supermarket or even at our local farmers market for that matter.  We have an abundance of it that comes up from seed in the early spring and bolts as soon as the weather gets hot.  He suggests a substitute combination that everyone has access to, dill and parsley.

I will not mislead you, this is not a salad you can whip together in 15 minutes, but it is certainly worth making. Step one for me is a trip to the garden for beans, peppers and herbs.  It is very important for your ingredients to be “mis en place” ready to go so the warm dressing will thoroughly season the beans and peppers. I have had my cookbook only two weeks and I have made this salad twice and plan on making it again for a Labor Day picnic. I think that constitutes a winning recipe.



Dill in the garden.

Dill in the garden.


Mixed Bean Salad

From the Jerusalem Cookbook


  • 1¼ lbs. mixed green and yellow beans
  • 2 medium sweet red peppers, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch strips
  • 4T olive oil-1T for the peppers, 3T for the salad
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6T capers, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1t cumin seed
  • 2t coriander seed
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 c each, roughly chopped tarragon, dill and shredded parsley.
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper



  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the beans to the pot and cook for 4-5 minutes, take a bean out at this point to check doneness. It should be cooked through but still be “toothsome”. When done, immediately drain in a colander and refresh the beans with very cold water. Drain well, pat them dry with a towel and place in a large bowl.
  3. Toss the pepper strips with a teaspoon of olive oil, then spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for five minutes or until tender. Add pepper strips to the bowl of cooked beans.
  4. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds; add the capers (be on guard for spatters) and fry for 15 seconds. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and continue frying for another 15 seconds. The garlic slices should be golden by now. Remove pan from the heat and pour this over the bowl of beans and pepper strips. Toss and add the green onions, herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. You may serve immediately or refrigerate up to one day. Just remember to bring the salad back to room temperature before serving.



August 29, 2015 Watermelon Cucumber Gazpacho

DSC_4101aDuring the warm summer days of August, there is nothing better to keep you cool and well nourished than a bowl of gazpacho. I took a break from the never ending pile of tomatoes that I am canning to make this gazpacho that is ironically, or was that intentionally, made without tomatoes  In this version, the delicate flavors of  watermelon and cucumber go hand in hand to make a sweet and savory soup.  A natural combination, since both cucumbers and watermelons, along with all varieties of squash, are members of the cucurbit family.

Choose your watermelon carefully, it should be dull in color,  a shiny melon indicates that it’s underripe. It should also be uniform in size, an irregular shape indicates inconsistent amounts of water or sun. Check out the field patch, the place that the watermelon rested on the ground.  A creamy yellow indicates that the melon had a longer time to ripen on the vine and develop more flavor. When you pick it up, the melon should feel heavy for it’s size.  Watermelons are 92% water and the ripest ones have the highest water content. This is the prime time for cucumbers at the farmers markets.  I am fortunate that I can pick fresh cucumbers right from the garden.  They are abundant and nothing compares to the sweet juicy sweet flavor of a just picked one.

In the spirit of the season, no cooking is required for this recipe. The most time consuming part of this recipe is cutting the vegetables, but it is a worthwhile step. They stay cool and crispy in the soup and are a nice contrast to the watermelon-cucumber broth. Adjust the balance of savory and sweet, along with the amount of mint and heat according to your own taste. Refrigerate for several hours before serving so the flavors will have time to blend together, it’s even better if you have time, to refrigerate overnight.  If you do refrigerate overnight, adjust the seasonings again since the cubed melon will exude more liquid and potentially dull the flavor. This soup would be perfect as a first course on a warm summer evening.


Watermelon Cucumber Gazpacho

Serves four


  • 1 3-pound seedless watermelon, diced (about 5 cups), divided
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
  • 3 pale green inner celery stalks, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Puree 4 cups watermelon in blender until smooth. Transfer puree to large bowl. Add remaining 1 cup diced watermelon and next 10 ingredients; stir to combine. Cover gazpacho and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.



August 20, 2015 Cucumber, Basil and Peanut Salad

DSC_4048aThese days Joe is bringing in more cucumbers than I know what to do with them. I’m really not complaining, the season is short and I am using them in as many salads and cold soups as I can find recipes. Native to India, cucumbers require 70°F plus soil and air temperatures to grow but have a relatively short time from sowing to harvest. He has had great success growing them in the greenhouse that is situated in the garden. That environment provides just slightly warmer temperatures.
Since cucumbers are 96% water they are happiest when watered on a consistent basis. A well watered cucumber vine will produce the sweetest fruit. We stick with two varieties that produce well, Persian and Bush Champion. Persian cucumbers are small, about 6 inches long and 3/4 inch diameter with smooth edible skin and undeveloped seeds. They are the perfect size for pickling, if that is your inclination. Bush Champions are a bush variety that take one third of the space and are also suitable for containers.

One of my all time favorite cucumber salads to make is a Thai cucumber salad.  Light and crunchy, it is quick and easy to make, combining sweet, spicy and tangy flavors. The dressing draws most of it’s ingredients from the Asian pantry. Seasoned rice vinegar is either made from sake or by adding salt and sugar to regular white rice vinegar and is an easy boost to the sweet, salty and tangy elements of a dish. Plain rice wine vinegar is a bit more versatile and could be substituted. Just remember to adjust the seasonings accordingly. Whether you call it nam pla, nuoc nam or patis, fish sauce is made from the liquid drained from fermented anchovies and is a flavor enhancer like salt or soy sauce. A little goes a long way here. I am partial to the Three Crabs brand that is readily available in Asian markets. Sesame oil was one of the first exotic ingredients to grace our kitchen. Be sure to look for toasted sesame oil. It is dark in color and has a very intense aroma and flavor. Use Thai basil in this salad if you can find it. The beautifully named Siam Queen is one of the varieties we grow. The plant is more compact in apppearance than the standard Italian basil with smaller bright green leaves. There are clusters of purple flowers at the top of the plant. It has an intense licorice aroma and flavor.

To make the salad, add the rice vinegar, sesame oil, lime juice and fish sauce to a large bowl. Peel about 1½ lbs cucumbers, I leave a little skin on for color contrast. Slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice diagonally into crescents. Peeling the cucumber allows the flavors of the dressing to be absorbed right into the flesh. Add cucumbers, basil and peanuts to the bowl, toss and serve. So simple to make, refreshing Thai cucumber salad is as much a natural next to a grilled satay as it is with your standard picnic fare.

Cucumber vines in the greenhouse.

Cucumber vines in the greenhouse.

This little flower is the beginning of a cucumber.

This little flower is the beginning of a cucumber.

Persian cucumber in the middle, flanked by the spiny Bush Champions.

Persian cucumber in the middle, flanked by the spiny Bush Champions.

I removed the seeds for this salad but really didn't need to.

Beautiful Siam Queen basil.

Beautiful Siam Queen basil.


Cucumber, Basil and Peanut Salad

Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine

Serves six


  • 3T seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1t Asian sesame oil
  • 1t fresh lime juice
  • 1t fish sauce
  • 1½lb cucumbers
  • ¼c torn basil leaves (Thai is preferred)
  • ¼c coarsely chopped salted peanuts


  1. In a large bowl, mix the first four ingredients.
  2. Peel cucumbers (I like to leave small strips of skin for contrast), slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and slice diagonally into ¼ inch crescents.
  3. Add the cucumbers, torn basil and peanuts to the bowl with the vinaigrette, toss and serve.


August 13, 2015 Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

DSC_3992aIn August, when tomatoes are at their peak, I enjoy making cool and refreshing soups like this yellow tomato gazpacho. This recipe, a classic from Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin from her cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, combines a few of summer’s best offerings and comes together in very little time.

This is a recipe that demands the freshest of ingredients, whether your tomatoes were picked right from the garden or bought at the farmers market. Our bright yellow Sweet Gold  tomatoes are one of a trio of cherry tomatoes available from Renee’s Garden Seeds that Joe has planted for several seasons now. Sweet Golds have a full, sweet, fruity flavor with little acidity. Their flesh is dense and crack free compared to varieties we have grown in past seasons.

The most time consuming part of the recipe was blanching and peeling the tomatoes. I’m pretty sure Ms. Goin doesn’t make her soup with about 75 yellow cherry tomatoes! But that said, it took less than a minute to blanch the tomatoes and the skins slipped off very easily, once they cooled down a bit. I did not core the tomatoes as called for in the original recipe, because they were small. The original recipe called for red wine vinegar, I substituted a white grapefruit balsamic to emphasize the fruitiness. The blanched tomatoes along with cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, vinegar and oil are blended in batches. Since I prefer a smoother texture, I put the soup through a food mill.

As with all cold soups this needs to be chilled until very cold. While you are chilling the soup, it’s time to prepare the garnishes. Finely dice cucumber, red pepper for a nice contrast and some red onion. Season some red cherry tomato halves with salt and pepper and prepare some cilantro leaves. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute some flat leafed parsley. The finishing touch is a drizzle of your best quality extra virgin olive oil.

This recipe is great for entertaining, everything can be made in advance, soup chilled and garnishes prepped. It also could be dressed up with a seared scallop or a poached shrimp on top. Yellow tomato gazpacho can be served family style too. Serve the soup in an attractive container, garnish with tomato halves and pass the diced vegetables on the side.


Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

Serves 6


  • 2½lb ripe yellow tomatoes
  • 3 small or 1 large cucumber-reserve part for garnish
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and cut in half
  • Cilantro or flat leafed parsley sprigs
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2T red wine vinegar
  • 1/3c extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3T diced red or orange sweet pepper
  • 3T diced red onion
  • 18 small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Fine quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
The skins of the Sun Gold tomatoes slipped off easily after they were blanched.

The skins of the Sun Gold tomatoes slipped off easily after they were blanched.


  1. Blanch the yellow tomatoes in rapidly boiling water until the skins begin to burst, 30-45 seconds. Cool the tomatoes in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. Once cool enough, use your fingers to slip off the skins. If using small tomatoes, leave them whole, for large tomatoes, core and coarsely chop. Reserve the ice water.
  2. Reserve about 3T of  peeled and seeded cucumber for the garnish. Peel and coarsely chop the rest of the cucumber.
  3. Place half of the yellow tomatoes, the coarsely chopped cucumber, jalapeno, several cilantro sprigs, garlic, vinegar and olive oil (if using) in a blender with salt and pepper to taste. Process on the lowest speed until the mixture is broken down. Turn the speed to high and puree until the soup is completely smooth. If the soup is too thick, add a little of the reserved ice water. Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve or a food mill, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Taste for  seasoning. Repeat with the rest of the soup ingredients. Chill the soup in the refrigerator until very cold.
  4. While you are waiting for the soup to chill, dice the cucumber, pepper and red onion. Toss them  together in a small bowl.  Season the cherry tomatoes halves with salt and pepper To serve, pour the gazpacho into chilled soup bowls and scatter the pepper mixture over the soup.  Place 6 cherry tomato halves and a few cilantro leaves at the center of each bowl. Finish each soup with a drizzle of olive oil.
Sun Golds at different stages of ripeness.

Sun Golds at different stages of ripeness.


August 6, 2015 Smoked Tomato Soup

DSC_3892aSituated just 30 miles north of New York City on the former Rockefeller estate in rural Potantico Hills, New York is Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It is a restaurant that exists within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and a four season working farm. The mission of James Beard award winning chef Dan Barber is to “create a consciousness about the effects of everyday food choices”.

One of the first true “farm to table” restaurants, the menu at Blue Hill is based on what the farm has harvested that day, not on the diner’s whim. I can relate, that’s how we eat from spring to fall, especially now when the harvest from our garden is so abundant.  I am freezing buckets of string and wax beans, the zucchini harvest is plentiful and I have just started roasting tomatoes to freeze for winter soups, stews and chilis. Needless to say, I am always on the hunt for new takes on familiar recipes. One that recently caught my eye was a recipe that has been published in both Food and Wine magazine and Bon Appetit, chef Barber’s Smoked Tomato Soup.

The idea of smoking tomatoes intrigued me, I have smoked salmon, every variety of poultry, and even cheese. In this recipe, some of the tomatoes in the soup are skillet-smoked, a chef’s trick that is easily achieved by the home chef. Before you begin this recipe, turn the kitchen exhaust fan on.  Fragrant wood chips are scattered in a cast iron skillet and heated until they begin to smoke. Tomato halves, cut side up of course, so none of the juices are lost, are placed on a thick foil square. The skillet is taken off the heat, covered tightly and the tomatoes are allowed to sit until they are smoky, 5-8 minutes. Alternately, as I did, start with a stovetop smoker and spread the wood smoking dust on the bottom of the base pan.The drip tray and rack are placed on top. I placed the tomato halves on the rack, closed the lid and smoked the tomatoes for 10 minutes. It is important to only use wood chips or dust that are specifically made for smoking, and not sprayed with chemicals.

On the stovetop, an onion, a leek, (the first harvested from the garden), garlic, bay leaves and coriander seed are sauteed over medium heat. The recipe also calls for 2 teaspoons of fresh or prepared horseradish, an interesting addition that didn’t make the soup hotter but added another flavor dimension. The rest of the tomatoes are chopped and added to the soup along with chicken broth. To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken. Let the pot simmer for about 45 minutes, remove the bay leaves and blend the mixture. Butter adds to the richness of the soup, but you can eliminate it if you are watching your calories. Top the soup with a chiffonade of basil.  Served warm or cold, smoked tomato soup is a refreshing summer treat.


Smoked Tomato Soup

Serves four


  • 4lb. plum tomatoes, halved and divided
  • ¼c olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2tsp coriander seeds
  • 2tsp finely grated fresh horseradish or prepared horseradish
  • 1½c low sodium chicken broth
  • 4T unsalted butter at room temperature
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Thinly sliced basil leaves (for serving)

Special equipment

  • ½c hickory, pecan or apple wood chips
  • 2T finely ground oak chips


  1. Scatter wood chips in a medium cast-iron skillet and heat over high until chips begin to smoke, about 5 minutes. Cut a 24″ sheet of heavy duty foil and fold in half twice more to make a large square. Fold in half twice more to make a small, thick square. Place the square carefully over the chips and set 5 tomato halves, cut side up on top, remove skillet from heat. Cover with foil and top with a lid or another medium skillet. Let tomatoes sit until barely softened and smoky, 5-8 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a plate and let cool slightly.
  2. If you have a stovetop smoker:  Place 2 tablespoons of finely ground oak chips in the bottom of the base pan of a stovetop smoker. Set the drip tray on top of the chips, and place the rack on the drip tray. Place 5 tomato halves, cut side up on the rack, and slide the lid closed. Place the smoker on the stovetop. Set the heat to medium, and smoke the vegetables for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, chop remaining tomatoes. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook onion and leek, stirring occasionally, until tender but not taking on any color, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in garlic, bay leaves, coriander seeds and horseradish and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes and broth, increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer until the tomatoes are soft, 35-45 minutes. Let cool slightly, discard bay leaves.
  6. Working in batches if needed, blend tomato mixture, smoked tomatoes and butter in a blender until smooth. Strain soup through a food mill with the medium disc in place into a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with chopped basil.
Tomatoes after smoking, softened and smoky!

Tomatoes after smoking, softened and smoky!



July 26, 2015 Cauliflower “Alfredo” Sauce

DSC_3786aCauliflower is the vegetable master of disguise. We love it cut into florets or “steaks”  roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper and chow down on it like popcorn. It makes a satisfying substitute for mashed potatoes, and chopped finely it can replace couscous or other grains in some recipes. So my ears perked up the other day when I heard yet another way to use cauliflower.

If I am at home in the early afternoon I will turn on “The Chew”, a television program that has been described as “The View” for foodies. A recipe that caught my attention recently was a side by side comparison of traditional  Alfredo sauce, prepared by Iron Chef and restauranteur Michael Symon, with a “lightened up” version of the sauce, made by natural foods chef and author, Daphne Oz.

Michael and Daphne’s sauces start out with same five ingredients, shallots, parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, parsley and butter. As Michael pointed out, he learned from fellow chef Mario Batali, traditional Alfredo sauce in Italy is butter, a little bit of the pasta water and Parmesan cheese.  It does not include heavy cream, an American addition to the dish. Michael and Daphne both added shallots to their sauce, also not traditional but adding an additional smoky sweet note to the sauce.

Here is where the recipes diverge. Michael’s traditional version of the sauce used one whole stick of butter and a cup of Parmesan cheese. Although Daphne’s recipe did include a quarter of the amount of the butter and cheese in Michael’s recipe, most of the velvety texture came from, you guessed it, cauliflower. She boiled cauliflower in milk and pureed it to make the base for the sauce. Cauliflower acted as a binder and gave the sauce it’s smoothness.

This was a recipe I had to try for myself. The recipe starts with four cups of cauliflower florets and a cup of milk added to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until fork tender, about 10-12 minutes. Strain out the cauliflower pieces and add to a blender, then add milk and butter. To make this a non-dairy preparation use almond milk and a butter substitute like Earth Balance.  Puree the ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

Shallots are sauteed in olive oil until softened and the pan is deglazed with a little white wine. Add the cauliflower puree to the pan and loosen the sauce with a little water or milk. Freshly grated Parmesan, nutmeg and a little chopped parsley are the finishing touches to the sauce. Both Daphne and Michael used fettucine noodles for their finished dish. Since we have eating our share of zucchini “noodles” this summer, I thought this would be another way to use them. I took zucchini noodles, added them to a saute pan to reduce as much liquid as possible and warm them up a bit.  I only cook them for a few minutes  since I still want them to retain a litttle crunch.

The sauce holds well and if you are going to make it, double up, use the whole head of cauliflower and freeze some for later use. I’m also thinking of using this as a substitute for bechamel sauce in my moussaka once the eggplants start rolling in.  As Daphne said, this is a sauce that will let you indulge without the guilt.



Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Serves six


  • 4c cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 1 c milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2T butter
  • 1-2T olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced (about ¼c)
  • ½c white wine
  • ¼c finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼t freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Put the cauliflower and the milk in a large saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Note:milk will not cover the cauliflower.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer , cover and cook until fork tender, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted utensil, transfer the cauliflower to a blender. Add the milk and butter and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly tender.
  5. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce liquid by half, 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the cauliflower puree to the pan, if sauce is too thick, add a little water or milk.
  7. Add freshly ground nutmeg and stir in the Parmesan.


July 23, 2015 Zucchini Pesto Frittata

DSC_3760aIf you’re like me and not always in the mood to cook something when you get up in the morning for breakfast, but still want a little something to eat, a frittata is a great choice. Made the day before, they warm up quickly and also taste good at room temperature.  But frittatas aren’t just for breakfast, they make a nice lunch, light supper, sliced thin as an hors d’oeurve or anytime you just want a little nibble. This time of year they are a great way to showcase farm fresh eggs and produce.

For this recipe I chose the smallest zucchini I could find in the garden. Since their seed pods are still underdeveloped, they have a sweet nutty quality to them. I wanted very thin slices rather than shreds which is the usual method of preparation. Slice by hand, or for real uniformity, I used the 2mm slicing disk on the food processor. Larger zucchini should be shredded and salted then squeezed dry before adding to the frittata. If you skip that step, when you cook the zucchini you essentially will be steaming, not sauteing it. A couple of tablespoons of a chopped fresh herb is a welcome addition to a frittata, but since I had just made some, I opted for pesto, a delcious addition to this dish.

A 10″ non stick skillet with an oven safe handle is essential for this recipe. Begin by cooking the zucchini until it releases some liquid and the slices start to brown and become tender, this should take about 5-6 minutes. Set the pan aside.

Preheat your oven’s broiler and place a rack in the upper middle position. Beat the eggs and Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl.  Stir in pesto and the cooked zucchini. Add the rest of the oil to the empty skillet and heat to medium. Add zucchini-egg mixture and cook for 4-5 minutes, frittata will look set around the edges. Move the skillet to the broiler and leave a potholder on the oven door, that handle will get hot. I set a timer now for 90 second intervals. It took about 2 intervals for the frittata to get brown, which translates to about 4 minutes.

Using the potholder, remove frittata from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.Run spatula around the edge of the skillet to loosen the frittata. You can serve the frittata warm right from the skillet, or slide unto a platter for a prettier presentation.


Zucchini Pesto Frittata

Serves 4


  • 2T olive oil
  • 1 1/3 lbs. of very small zucchini, washed and ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2T pesto or freezer pesto, thawed with cheese added
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3T grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2t olive oil



  1. Heat broiler.
  2. Slice trimmed zucchini by hand or with the thinnest slicing blade of the food processor.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Beat six large eggs with 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Stir in pesto and cooked zucchini into beaten eggs.
  5. Heat additional 2 teaspoons oil in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, pesto and egg mixture; cook until frittata is almost set, 4-5 minutes.
  6. Slide skillet until the broiler and cook until frittata is set and the top is browned.
  7. Serve directly from the skillet or flip unto serving plate. Serve hot or at room temperature.
The seed pods are not developed yet in baby zucchini.

The seed pods are not developed yet in baby zucchini.





July 17, 2015 Pesto for Seasons Without Basil

DSC_3686aWhether you’ve grown it from seed or purchased your plants at the local home improvement store, those basil plants in your garden are loving the warm temperatures and rain we have been receiving recently. It’s about now that your basil plants have probably sent out spikes of tiny white flowers. Since basil is a true annual, when allowed to flower the plant will go to seed, the leaves will become bitter and your plant will eventually die off.  Now is the time to begin harvesting basil leaves.

As soon as you see that your basil is flowering, pinch them off so the energy in the plant stays diverted to foliage growth. Cutting back your basil plants regularly  encourages full, bushy plants. To harvest, cut leaves from the top of the plant, pinch out the top of the stem. This should include small new leaves or a flower stalk and a pair of full sized leaves growing below the tip.

My favorite thing to do with the basil harvest is to make pesto. We have pesto with pasta, as a sauce for vegetables or chicken, as a dip, on pizza, the possibilities are limitless. But, at least in our climate, as soon as the first frost comes, basil  is the first victim, the leaves of the plant will turn black and wither. It’s now that you should start preserving that classic taste of summer with freezer pesto.

I have been making this recipe for years now from a classic cookbook of the eighties, Fancy Pantry. Written by former food editor and a three time winner of the Tastemaker award, Helen Witty, Fancy Pantry is a collection of recipes subtitled, “Well preserved, prettily pickled, candied, brandied, potted, bottled, sun dried and otherwise put-by elegant edibles”. My well worn copy attests to it’s usefulness and I recommend it highly.

Mrs Witty attributes this recipe to the late Marcella Hazan. Long before there was Lidia and Mario, there was Marcella.  Marcella Hazan was a cookbook author and authority on Italian cooking. My introduction to Italian cooking came through her classic volume, The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating and it’s subsequent follow up, More Classic Italian Cooking. My cookbooks written by Mrs. Hazan fall open naturally now to recipes I used countless times. I appreciated her clear and concise recipes written in a voice that was both warm and encouraging.

Her pesto recipe is quite straightforward; mix all the ingredients, basil, pinenuts, garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a blender. Seal tightly and freeze pesto in one cup jars. The cheese or butter as she suggests, should be added right before using it. Most modern recipes call for just Parmesan cheese in pesto. Marcella points out that in Genoa, where pesto originated, they use equal quantities of Parmesan and a special, mildly tangy sheep’s milk Pecorino cheese from Sardinia .  That cheese was not available to American cooks when the book was written, back in the seventies. I found several online sources that sell it now.  Her solution to the problem then was to use 3 parts Parmesan to 1 part Romano and suggests to adjust this to taste. She states, “a well rounded pesto is never made with all Parmesan or all pecorino”. Point taken.

I make my pesto in 2 cup batches and freeze in one cup glass canning jars with the amount of cheese needed to finish the recipe written on the lid. Plastic freezer containers are fine as well. When I purchase any nuts, I buy from bulk containers and store them in the freezer until I am ready to use them. They thaw quickly and freezing nuts prevents them from going rancid quickly. I often substitute walnuts for the pine nuts, since the more delicately flavored Mediterrannean variety are sold at one local market for 12.99 for four ounces! When Marcella was writing her book, the food processor was still years away from being a commonplace kitchen item.  The question for her was whether to make pesto in a blender or with the classic mortar and pestle. She recommends and I concur that everyone should try to make pesto at least once with the mortar and pestle “because of the greater character of the texture and its indubitably richer flavor.”

But Marcella was a practical cook and felt blender pesto was so good that it could be enjoyed “with a clear conscience” whenever there wasn’t time or patience to make pesto in a mortar and pestle. Of course, fresh pesto is always the best but as Marcella said, “since fresh basil has a brief season and pesto keeps quite well in the freezer”, I am going to make enough pesto now to satisfy all those out of season cravings.



Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Makes about 2 cups


  • Freshly picked basil, rinsed, leaves stripped off and blotted dry, gently packed down to measure 3 cups
  • ¾ to 1 cup of a good quality olive oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, or more to taste, peeled and chopped
  • 3T pine nuts or coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • ½ to 1 t salt, or to taste
  • At the time of use: Parmesan and Romano cheese


  1. Combine everything except the cheese in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Turn the motor on and off rapidly, scraping down the sides of the container once or twice, to process the pesto to the texture you like, some prefer smooth, others, a fine chopped mixture.
  2. Pack the pesto into small freezer containers such as straight sided half pint canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headroom to permit expansion. Seal the containers and store in the freezer.
  3. To use the pesto: Thaw the amount you’ll need in the refrigerator, if time permits. A cupful is enough for 4-5 servings of pasta. Blend your cheese into the thawed pesto, adding 3-4 tablespoons freshly grated cheese to each cup of sauce. Check the seasoning of the mixture, you may want more salt, depending on the saltiness of the cheese. Use in the recipe of your choice.






July 11, 2015 Turkey Zucchini Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

DSC_3563aThis year, after the holidays I was on the hunt for interesting healthy, flavorful recipes. I found just what I was looking for in turkey zucchini meatballs. The original recipe was for turkey and zucchini burgers from chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi’s beautiful book, Jerusalem. Just like all the other recipes I have tried of his, the results were delicious.. It was easy enough to adjust the size of the original slider sized burgers to make into meatballs instead. Grated zucchini gives the typical ground turkey meatball the additional moisture that it needs.  Since zucchini is 95% water, it is very important to squeeze all of the excess moisture out of the shredded zucchini so the mixture holds together well.  The turkey and zucchini are combined with fresh cilantro and mint, along with garlic, cumin and spicy cayenne pepper to give them a little kick.  I served them as suggested with a sauce of Greek yogurt, lemon and sumac. At that time in the middle of a cold snowy January I was bemoaning the fact that I had to buy the zucchini and the herbs and if it were July, well, those ingredients would be from our garden.

It’s July now and I remembered to make the turkey zucchini meatballs again, this time with our fresh picked zucchini and herbs from the garden. Back in January  I also thought it would be a good summertime variation on the recipe to serve the meatballs with tomato sauce and zucchini “noodles”. Our zucchini vines are producing like mad, I am picking four to six zucchini and yellow squash a day. That doesn’t count the ones that hide under the large leaves and turn into baseball bats!

To make the “pasta” choose straight sided zucchini or yellow squash, preferably of a medium size in diameter, the longer the better. My tool of choice for making the strands is the Kuhn Rikon stainless steel julienne peeler. Steady the zucchini with one hand, start at the top, press the teeth of the peeler into the flesh and pull down. Keep shredding on all sides until you reach the seedy interior. Place the strands in a bowl and separate the strands that stick together with your fingers. I lightly salt my pile of “pasta” to extrude any excess liquid.  I cook the strands in a saute pan, just long enough to warm them up a little and evaporate any additional excess liquid. I still want my zucchini to have a little crunch. If you prefer you can serve the meatballs with the pasta of your choice.

Our tomatoes are just starting to come in now, not quite enough to start making sauce. Until then I will use a good quality store brand. I like to warm the sauce and add the meatballs that I have kept warm after cooking them. Next time I will adjust the herbs in the meatballs for this dish, I think basil and a little oregano would complement the sauce and zucchini noodles nicely.




I love the different varieties of zucchini and squash we grow.

This time I had our own zucchini and herbs for the meatballs. I substituted baby shallots for the green onions.

This time I had our own zucchini and herbs for the meatballs. I substituted baby shallots for the green onions.


Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs

Serves 4-6

Makes 18-20 meatballs

Ingredients for Meatballs

  • 1lb ground turkey, I used a 93/7 lean to fat ratio
  • 2c grated zucchini-wrung out in a clean tea towel to remove excess moisture
  • 3 scallions, white and green, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2T chopped mint
  • 2T chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1t ground cumin
  • 1t table salt
  • 1/2t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2t cayenne pepper
  • about 1/8c of a neutral cooking oil, canola, safflower
  • 3-4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce, warmed


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the meatballs, except the cooking oil. Mix well with your hands. Shape into 2″ balls. Place meatballs on a well greased baking sheet to ready for cooking. Pour enough oil into a large heavy frying pan to form a layer about 1/16 inch thick on the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat until oil is shimmering, sear the meatballs in batches on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes adding oil as needed, until browned.
  2. Transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm with tomato sauce

Ingredients for Zucchini “Noodles”

  • 3-4 large straight sided zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • Kosher salt
I like making shreds with the julienne peeler, you could make them in a food processor with the shredding disk or a spiralizer tool I have seen in supermarkets.

I like making shreds with the julienne peeler, you could make them in a food processor with the shredding disk or a spiralizer tool I have seen in supermarkets.


  1. Wash and trim zucchini and/or squash. Cut stem and root end off. On a cutting board, steady your squash with one hand and shred with a julienne peeler. Start at the top, press the teeth of the peeler into the squash and pull all the way down.
  2. Shred on all sides of the squash until you reach the seeds. Repeat with the rest of the squash. Place the strands in a very large bowl, separate the strands that stick together and salt evenly. Let sit for 10 minutes to extrude any excess water.
  3. Over medium heat cook the strands in a large sauté pan to warm up the squash and remove any excess water.



July 7, 2015 Buttermilk Broccoli Basil Soup


When I first started cooking in the eighties, supermarkets sold broccoli with both the crown and stem, usually two pieces joined together with a thick rubber band. Back then I would whack off the stems and use the florets for stir fries and rich broccoli cheddar soup. The stems were sentenced to the compost heap or the garbage pail. Like most home cooks, I didn’t realize the stems were edible and had no idea how to cook them.

Because of my interest in Chinese cooking I discovered a recipe that changed the way I looked at using broccoli.  It was a recipe for jasmine fried rice that called for peeled and diced broccoli stems.  I admit I was dubious at first, but the delicate texture and sweet flavor the stems brought to the dish won me over. Now the problem became finding broccoli with the stem. Over the course of time the crown and stem combination was replaced with just broccoli crowns, sold at a higher price.  Like me, consumers wanted just the crowns, so the supermarkets responded in kind.  Broccoli crowns became the norm, coming at a premium price per pound.

Fast forward to the last several years, with the advent of farmers markets, food co-ops and the rising popularity of home gardens, the broccoli stem has reappeared. In the spirit of nose to tail cooking, using virtually the entirety of an animal,  chefs are now embracing root to stem cooking, using as much of the vegetable as possible. Why not use broccoli stems? The main stem is entirely edible.  They have the same nutritional value as the crowns or florets with even more fiber.  I have found recipes using the stem for everything from salads to stir fries to roasted chips.

The original recipe for this soup called for broccoli florets only.  I used the florets in another dish and in the spirit of root to stem cooking, thought the stems would work well in a soup. I sliced the stem into bite sized pieces to yield 5 cups. The sliced broccoli stems and shallots are sauteed in butter or oil. A little sherry boosts the flavors and the vegetables are simmered in either chicken or vegetable broth. Since they are more fibrous, broccoli stems should be cooked a little longer than the florets.  You can either peel the stems first or put the mixture through a food mill after pureeing to obtain the smoothest texture.  Thin the soup with buttermilk and garnish with mini basil leaves. Our warm temperatures called for a cold soup but this would be good warm as well.

I used five cups of bite sized broccoli stem pieces.

I used five cups of bite sized broccoli stem pieces.


Broccoli Basil Soup

Serves four


  • 2T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or 3 medium shallots
  • 2T dry sherry
  • 5c broccoli stems or flowerets or a combination of both, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2½c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1c low fat buttermilk
  • 2T fresh finely minced basil leaves


  1. Heat butter or oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion or shallot and sauté until golden, about five minutes.
  2. Add sherry and broccoli, stir cook until sherry evaporates, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste to saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until broccoli is tender, flowerets will take about 10 minutes, stems only, 20 minutes.
  4. Ladle broccoli mixture into blender. Blend until very smooth, using a little of the buttermilk if needed. If using stems, place mixture through a food mill for the finest texture. Stir in the rest of the buttermilk.
  5. If serving hot, return soup to saucepan; cook over low heat until warmed through. If soup is too thick, stir in additional buttermilk to thin consistency. Adjust seasonings. If serving cold, refrigerate soup for several hours, taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Soup can be refrigerated for three days and either served cold or reheated just before serving. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with minced basil or whole mini basil leaves and serve immediately.