Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cucumber Feta Hodgepodge

So I went into this wanting to make macaroni and cheese. I was low on ingredients, but the stuff I did have I wanted to use up. The result was surprisingly delicious -- if you wanted, you could add some shredded chicken and that would add a nice texture as well.

You will need:

3 tbsp salted butter
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 oz pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 lb pasta, already cooked (we used penne)
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 large cucumber, sliced thinly
3 oz crumbed sheep's feta
2 bread slices -- toasted brown and crumbled into crumbs
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded

Preheat the oven to 450. Heat the butter over medium until melted, add the flour and mix quickly. Add the vegetable broth gradually until there are no lumps and the sauce begins to thicken. Add the salt and jack cheese, continually stir until the cheese is completely melted. Feel free to adjust the amount of salt depending on your taste.

Mix together the pasta, vegetable butter sauce, peas, cucumber and feta until uniformly coated. Put into a casserole dish and top with the bread crumbs and cheddar. Bake for 12 minutes or until the top is deep golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

So this is an easy one. All it is is caprese salad made with heirloom tomatoes but believe me, the difference is unbelievable. This will take your tastebuds to a new level when it comes to our lycopene-infused friends, the heirloom tomatoes. I also like that the color varies using different varieties, I used one large pale yellow tomato, a few small red ones mottled with purplish spots and a few solid, brightly colored breeds. I don't know the names of the exact varieties, but you don't need to know the name to know it's good.

You will need:

3 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes
2 balls fresh mozzarella, about 1 lb
1/3 cup whole fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, zested
1 tsp sea salt
a few grounds of black pepper, 1/8 tsp

Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and chop them into bite sized pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until everything is uniformly coated in the oil/vinegar dressing. Serve cold and enjoy!

Stuffed Zucchini

This is a recipe inspired by Kayotic's famous stuffed zucchini recipe. It's heavy on dairy so the creamy, savory stuffing combines especially well with the slightly crispy, fresh zucchini boat. This is good to make if you're serving an even number of people, as you can vary the servings depending on how many zucchinis you're working with -- I used 2 for this recipe.

You will need:

2 zucchinis
1/4 cup cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Italian seasoning OR mixed oregano/basil/thyme
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp salted butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 oz monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the ends off the zucchinis, cut them each in half and use a spoon to scoop the innards out, the shell should remain at least 1/4 inch thick. Put the zucchini guts into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, cream, salt and butter and stir until uniform. Add the herbs, red chili flakes and chives and mix in, follow with the bread crumbs and finish with the jack cheese. You don't want to add the cheese too early, as those little pockets of melted goodness are best achieved with a roughly shredded cheese.

Use a spoon to scoop the stuffing into the boats; don't be afraid to heap it on, but keep in mind that some will most likely overflow a bit. If this isn't to your aesthetic, use 3 zucchinis instead of 2 and you'll use less filling in each boat.

Bake for about 20 minutes and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Turkey Ragoux

This is essentially a robust marinara sauce with the addition of meat, but I suppose that's the definition of a proper ragoux. I decided to use turkey because of the lower fat content and the fact that I'm a bit more experienced with it. Hopefully you'll enjoy this recipe as much as my friends and I did!

You will need:

1 lb ground turkey
2 16 oz. cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1/2 cup fresh whole basil leaves
3 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped finely
1 tsp red chili flakes
3 cloves of garlic, zested
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning OR 1/2 tbsp dried oregano/ 1/2 tbsp dried thyme

Pour the tomatoes into a medium pot. Add the dried herbs, salt and red chili flakes and heat over medium. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium and brown the turkey. As the turkey cooks (make sure to come back and "turn" it often) add the olive oil and fresh herbs. Finish by adding the cooked turkey WITH the fat and juices. Remember that if you're making a ragu with a different type of meat the fat content may be too high so you'll want to drain that off when cooking with beef or lamb; for turkey, the small amount of fat and juice adds a ton of flavor. Simmer gently for another 15-30 minutes and serve over pasta. This sauce should be significantly thicker than regular marinara, so it does best with a strong pasta like fettuccine or fusilli.

Cucumber Lemonade

Here's a refreshing treat to whip up on the most stiflingly sticky hot days of summer -- if you don't feel like dragging out the blender, just thinly slice the cucumbers into the lemonade and refrigerate. Don't you love when the things in season are the things you want the most for the weather?

You'll need:

1 medium cucumber, peeled
2-3 lemons, depending on how sour you like it
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup ice
3 cups water

Cut the cucumber into chunks and slice each lemon in half. Juice the lemons and remove any seeds. Throw all of the ingredients into the blender and pulse until the mixture is smooth and uniform, it shouldn't be too thick. Nothing else to it, just drink and enjoy!