Zucchini 'spaghetti’ (with garlic shrimp)

Ah, zucchini time. At midsummer the one thing you can count on: the harvest of zucchini will be relentless until the end of September. It is the bane of the gardener who plants it every year and then laments its overabundance. Why, oh, why? I ask. Why do you do that?

I’ve no space at the moment, and as much as I have enjoyed gardening in the past, by mid-August my sails were usually deflated, and I always felt like the housework had  doubled, expanding to the outdoors. Now I have big pots of herbs to neglect, which seems less guilt-inducing.

Back to the squash. You’ve probably noticed that cooks have invented all sorts of uses for it—muffins, bread, pancakes, vegetable fritters—the list goes on. The truth about zucchini (don’t be haters) is that it’s just not that interesting. I don’t want to cook it unless it’s in the aforementioned muffins, bread, pancakes, or vegetable fritters. Until I met my new best friend the spiralizer. This little gizmo does only a few things, which is why I am philosophically opposed to it (acquisition aversion) but I fell for it anyway, and to be fair, it was on sale.

It has resurrected my appreciation for zucchini. Using the large-hole blade, you can make thick zucchini “spaghetti.” Crank the handle and you have long strands of the vegetable, ready to cook. It even takes out the core, which is comprised of seeds, so you don’t have the seeding chore. Anyone watching carbs this summer in order to EAT MORE ICE CREAM, will find that with the right accompaniments, this “pasta” beats the odds that zucchini is bland. So far I’ve made it with turkey meatballs and tomato sauce, and here, with garlicky shrimp. Zucchini vegetable cakes are in my future, too, as I think the swirls of thin strands will look pretty.

The key is to steam-fry the zucchini for less time than you think you should. You are supposedly frying it lightly, but zucchini is loaded with moisture, so it also steams. Garlic, basil, parsley, and lemon really pump up the flavors. Oh, and you don’t have to have a fancy spiralizer to make this. Just use a julienne peeler something like this one.

Garlic shrimp with zucchini “spaghetti’
Serves 6

3 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, or both (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Trim and discard the bottoms and tops of the zucchini. With a julienne peeler, make spaghetti-like strands: Scrape the zucchini lengthwise on one side until you reveal the core. Turn and scrape on each of the remaining 3 sides, until only the core and seeds remain. Discard the core. Or use your handy-dandy spiralizer as described above.

2. In a bowl, toss the zucchini strands with salt and pepper.

3. In a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the zucchini. Cook, turning with tongs often, for  4 to 5 minutes, or until barely tender. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon rind, parsley, and basil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a platter, leaving excess liquid in the pan. Cover with foil and keep warm while you cook the shrimp.

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon marash or Aleppo pepper, or pinch of red pepper
2 pounds extra-large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil with the garlic and pepper. Swirl the pan to infuse the oil with the garlic. Add the shrimp and spread them to make one layer. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Turn, and cook for 1 minute more, or until the shrimp are cooked through.

2. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to the platter of zucchini, arranging them on top.

3. Add the white wine, lemon juice, and lemon rind to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Whisk in the butter and parsley, stirring until emulsified. Pour the sauce over the shrimp.

Posted on August 1, 2015 .

Lamb chops with pomegranate salsa and hello from Paris

Well, hello there! I don't blame you if you've given up on me, it's been a long winter. 

I'm writing from Paris, where I am taking a detour from my regular work and studying this week with Peter Turnley, master photographer, wonderful human being, and master teacher. 

One has very few opportunities to meet  remarkable teachers, and I have been lucky enough in this life so far to have met two great ones. I have an inkling that Peter could be the third. After one day, I am very excited to branch out and experience the world in a new way, and what better place to do it than in Paris, where the eye  meets beauty at every corner. 

But wait, you came here for a recipe, n'est-ce pas? Here is one for you, for spring. And a bonus recipe for the leftovers.

“Spring lamb” is a bit of a misleading term. Most commercial lamb you purchase now is about 6 to 9 months old; true spring lamb won’t be on the market until at least July. Still, lamb chops are a special treat, and in light of the persisting piles of snow this year that were slow to disappear, a celebration of the coming of spring is in order. To truly savor the lamb, a simple preparation is best. Here the chops are cooked in olive oil in a pan over medium high heat for just a few minutes, with nary a fancy embellishment. Simply sprinkle with a lemon and thyme mixture and serve with a colorful minty pomegranate salsa. A few extra lamb chops and some extra salsa make another meal with roasted eggplant. 

Lamb chops with pomegranate and mint salsa
Serves 4 with leftovers

Seeds from 1 pomegranate (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 small Persian or Armenian cucumbers, cut into small cubes
1 cup red grapes, halved
1/2 small jalapeno (or more, to taste), finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves, about 1/2 bunch

1. In a bowl, stir together the pomegranate seeds, cucumbers, grapes, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside 1 1/2 cups for the eggplant salad. Stir the mint into the remaining salsa, and serve with the lamb chops.

1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Generous amount of coarse pepper
12 (1 1/2-inch thick) loin lamb chops, about 3 1/2 pounds total
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. With a vegetable peeler, remove the rind from the lemon, leaving behind the bitter white pith. On a cutting board, finely chop the lemon rind. Sprinkle it with the thyme, salt, and pepper. With your fingers, mix it together.

2. In a large cast iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the lamb chops and cook 4 to 5 minutes on a side, or until browned and a thermometer inserted into the center of a chop registers 130 degrees for medium rare. Transfer to a warm platter and sprinkle with the lemon and thyme mixture. Cover lightly with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Set aside 4 chops for the eggplant salad. Serve 2 chops per person with pomegranate salsa. 

Roasted eggplant and lamb salad
Serves 4 

2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
2 teaspoons honey
6 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper, coriander, and honey. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.

3 small (8 ounces each) eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
Sliced meat from 4 lamb chops
2 large handfuls arugula
Leaves from 1/2 bunch mint
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups reserved pomegranate salsa

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees.

2. Dip the eggplant slices in the dressing, allowing the excess drip back into the bowl. Spread the rounds on a rimmed baking sheet. Reserve the remaining dressing. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until brown and tender. Remove from the oven. With a pastry brush, brush with more dressing. Cool to room temperature.

3. In a bowl, toss the lamb, arugula, mint leaves, and tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. On a platter, spread the eggplant slices. Top with the salad. Distribute the reserved pomegranate salsa over the top. 


Posted on May 18, 2015 .

Irish apple tart

February 5, 2015

A friend of mine commented on facebook that her 5-year-old daughter came home from school on Groundhog Day and announced that the rascally little rodent (my words, not hers) saw his shadow and "that means sixteen more weeks of winter." Well, it already feels like sixteen years.

Another gray day today, a little more snow. The only cheerful thought I could conjure this morning was that under the circumstances I deserve to eat as many doughnuts as I please. But that would mean cleaning off my car, so I'm opting to fill the house with comforting smells instead.

This traditional Irish apple tart differs from it's All-American cousin in a few ways.  Its crust is sweeter, with a healthy dose of butter, akin to shortbread dough, and the spices are added with a light hand. Irish tarts are generally only about 1-inch high, and sometimes even made on an ovenproof dinner plate. The recipe here takes into account the standard American 2-inch-deep pie pan. 

A buttery crust that melts in your mouth gives the pie (confusingly called a tart) good  keeping qualities. 

If you're in the northern part of the country, don't let winter get you down. Fight back with pie!

Irish Apple Tart
Makes 1 10-inch tart (or pie, or whatever you want to call it, just make it.)

3 cups flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten

1. In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, salt, and butter pieces until mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the eggs and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps.

2. Turn the dough onto the counter and divide into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Shape into 2 round, flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

1/2 cup sugar, plus more for the top of the pie
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
4 cooking apples (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
Milk, for brushing the crust

1. Have on hand a 10-inch pie pan and a baking sheet. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and leave for a few minutes to soften slightly.

2. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the apple slices, and toss to coat.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the larger pastry disk into a 13-inch circle. Use a rolling pin to lift it, and fit it into the pie pan. With a pastry brush, brush the rim with water.

4. Fill the pan with the apples, arranging them so they lie flat and come to the top of the pan.

5. Roll the second disk of dough into an 11-inch circle and place it on top of the pie. Press the edges together to seal. With a sharp knife, trim the excess.

6. Press a fork all around the edge to seal, or crimp with the rounded edge of a table knife pressed against your index finger. With a paring knife, cut several vent holes in the top of the pie.

7. Roll out the scraps and cut out leaf shapes, if you like. Brush the top of the pie with milk. Arrange the leaf shapes on top of the pie, brush them with milk, and dust the pie with sugar.

8. Set the pie pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 350 degrees, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let settle for at least 20 minutes before serving. 

Fall: A distant memory

Fall: A distant memory

Posted on February 5, 2015 and filed under Fruit desserts.

A Blizzard Stew: Making the Most of What’s Left

Slim pickings at the grocery store for last-minute shoppers inspire a little creativity

January 27, 2015

Despite the drumbeat warnings of STORM APPROACHING, many waited until the eleventh hour to mosey over to the grocery store yesterday.

Did they know something everyone else did not? No.

They were secretly seeking hundreds of like-minded procrastinators. And they were in luck! However, if their hidden agenda was to also bring home some favorite foods such as asparagus, mushrooms, guacamole, and “yuppie greens” —you know, those baby kale and spinach leaves encased in plastic boxes—well, that ship already had sailed.

 At noon yesterday, parking spaces and shopping carts at Whole Foods in Cambridge were only available for those patient and willing enough to wait for them. That is to say, desperate people like me.

Harried workers scrambled to restock supplies. Basic items like milk, bread, eggs, orange juice, peanut butter, jelly, and bottled water were flying off the shelves. (Peanut butter and jelly? I guess folks were really planning to live it up.)

The meat counter choices were dwindling and prepared chicken stock was sold out. And the frenzy wasn’t limited to the Bay State.

 Making fun of the scene at Trader Joe’s in New York City Michael Haruto Oshima posted a haiku on facebook: “I fought a man for hummus but forgot pita chips.” And apparently soy milk and kale were not to be found at my son’s Park Slope market. 

Never mind. It’s time to put on our thinking caps and be creative while the snow piles up around us.

 Yesterday afternoon, I found plenty of lentils and rice on the shelves. Carrots, celery, and onions were well stocked, and fat Italian chicken sausages were at the meat counter for the taking. No easy-peasy baby or prepared greens, but I snatched the last remaining bunch of curly kale. My pantry at home had farro and canned tomatoes, so I made a filling lentil stew that could be duplicated with variations for anyone who didn’t quite make it to the market

Lentil stew with....
Serves 6

3 large Italian chicken sausages (about ¾ pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, cut into rounds
2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 ½ cups lentils (any color will do)
½ cup farro
1  (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
6 cups water or chicken stock
1 bunch curly kale, tough  stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Plain Greek yogurt or crumbled feta cheese, for garnish

1. With a paring knife, prick the sausages in several places. Place them in a soup pot and cover with water. Over medium heat, simmer the sausages for 10 minutes. With tongs, transfer to a cutting board. Cool and cut into thick slices. Discard the water and wipe out the pot with a paper towel.

2. In the soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and coriander. Cook, stirring occasionally, 6 minutes, or until softened. Add the lentils, farro, tomatoes, lemon juice, and water. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils and farro are tender. Garnish with a spoonful of plain yogurt or crumbled feta.

Pulling substitutions out of your pantry:

Sausage: Cooked bacon or salt pork would add flavor, or skip the meat and make a vegetarian stew.
Aromatics: onions, carrots, celery, and garlic are important, but if you’re missing one, just add more of the others.
Spices: If you don’t have coriander or don’t like it, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and even curry powder are good substitutions, alone or in combination.
Lentils/beans: Lentils cook quickly, but if you don’t have them, you could substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, navy beans, kidney beans, or chickpeas.
Grains: Farro makes a nice change, but you could substitute rice, barley, or couscous.
Tomatoes: No diced tomatoes? Use tomato paste to taste or even 1 cup of mild flavored pasta sauce.
Kale: You can skip the greens, but if you have a package of frozen spinach in the freezer, you can still have that element in your soup.

Stay warm!

Photo by Luke N. Vargas, all rights reserved

Photo by Luke N. Vargas, all rights reserved

Photo by Luke N. Vargas all rights reserved

Photo by Luke N. Vargas all rights reserved

Posted on January 27, 2015 .

Spanish style shrimp with garlic

January is almost gone--and where, I wonder, did it go? 

I don't mind. If you read this blog regularly you know I'm not a winter person. By now the charm of holiday food has worn very thin indeed. Why did we eat that? Why, oh why, did we eat that? Remorse has set in, and we are fighting back.

We've been eating simply. And I do mean simply. Some lean protein, some vegetables, fresh fruits, you know the drill. With such spartan punishment, it's good to have a little something with lots of flavor. It doesn't hurt that the dish is quick to prepare and requires a very little effort. Pair it with some sautéed spinach and maybe a splurge of French bread. Eso!

We'll be on track soon--Valentine's Day is coming right up, and there will be chocolate. But in the meantime, my friends, go easy.

Spanish style shrimp with garlic
Serves 4

This typical, classic tapa from Spain also is good as a main course for a light supper. The key is to take care not to overcook the shrimp. Serve with a salad and hunks of good, crusty bread to soak up the garlic infused oil.

5 to 6 cloves garlic (to taste)
1  1/3 pounds large shrimp, peeled, tails left on
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Black pepper, to taste

1. Finely chop 2 of the garlic cloves. Thinly slice the remaining 3 garlic cloves.

2. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the chopped garlic and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Let marinate 20 minutes.

3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the sliced garlic, and stir for 30 to 40 seconds, until the garlic starts to soften turns a light golden brown. Add the shrimp and spread in the pan in one layer. Cook for 1 minute, turn, and cook for another 1 minute, or until opaque in the center. Sprinkle with the pepper flakes, paprika, parsley, and pepper to taste. Immediately transfer to a serving bowl.

Posted on January 22, 2015 .