Monday, July 30, 2012

Zucchini Chips and My Mandoline

Zucchini Chips
The other day a friend came over to go for a walk. She left me with a giant zucchini. I like zucchini which is a good thing given the size of this puppy. After looking at it for a week I decided it was time to tackle it. And tackle it I did with still much to go.

The giant puppy sniffing the giant zucchini.

I began with zucchini bread which only required two shredded cups for two loaves of bread. This was not a quick way to dispose of this zucchini. I shredded four and used the other two cups for stir fried veggies. I then decided to fry some because fried things are always good when you are watching the Olympics. Fried things remind you of all the reasons you are not an Olympic athlete with the most obvious reason being that Olympic athletes do not eat fried foods. Well, maybe on an off day?

I only used the small half!
This fried zucchini reminds me of when I  went to college in Tempe, Arizona where there was a restaurant called Lunt Avenue Marble Club. (I don’t know how I remember this.) They made fried zucchini slices and I think served them with a marinara sauce. They also made deep dish pizza. These were new foods to a girl from Kankakee, Illinois. These were new fattening foods and they definitely helped contribute to that freshman 15. After that year we celebrated my brother’s bar mitzvah by taking a trip to Israel. We followed it with a trip to Greece where you guessed it-we ate lots of fried zucchini served with wonderful garlic aioli. You might say we all became giant fans of fried zucchini. Since then I have not had much fried zucchini but I feel obligated to eat it at least once a year. You know-for memories sake.

I did not say I was neat!
This recipe is simple but it does require frying which I only do a few times a year. These are so much better than frozen, well, I won’t even go there. And there is no egg involved.  Just flour and water, seasonings and my mandoline. My husband bought this for me as a present one year. Once I got used to it I now don’t know what I’d do without it. It is made by Kyocera, is inexpensive, does not require set up and you can adjust the settings for 4 thicknesses. It has a ceramic blade and a guard to protect your fingers that I  seem to have misplaced. I am not a gadget person but this is a handy one to have. You don’t need one for this recipe but the thinner your zucchini the crisper they are.

They are  very light.

Zucchini Chips

2c slice zucchini (this was a big zucchini so I peeled it, sliced it lengthwise in half, scooped out the seeds and sliced it in half moons on the 2.0 setting.)
1c flour
Italian seasoning
Garlic Powder
Canola Oil

Slice your zucchini. Place them in a colander and run under running water. Let them drain but do not let then become totally dry. Put flour and seasonings in a big ZipLoc bag.

 Heat oil in a large skillet. I used about 2 cups. Throw some zucchini into the bag. Shake off excess flour and toss into hot oil separating as it fries. Cook until somewhat golden. Drain and sprinkle with salt and more seasoning if you are so inclined.

Serve with this simple garlic aioli.

Garlic Aioli

1/2c Blue Ribbon mayonnaise
2-3 garlic cloves run through a press
1T lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Stir together with your whisk until blended. Use extra (if you have any) for sandwiches. Yum!

I don't know what I like better- the aioli or the chips!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Farro Salad, A Book and Other Creatures

It has been hot in Colorado. 62 of 64 Colorado counties are requesting federal disaster relief because of drought. My yard is hot, tired, cranky and so am I. Yesterday my electrician came over to fix a few problems and while he was opening the electrical box he was stung on his lip by a wasp. I felt awful but probably not as awful as he did, so I got out the Adolph’s meat tenderizer that my mother in law supplied many moons ago, made a paste, watched him rub it on his lip and thank goodness with a few tabs of Advil he was OK. Hey, the stuff really works for stings if you didn’t know. (And when I say my electrician it is because when we redid our home a long time ago he was the electrician we used. It seemed like I was visiting with an old friend!)

 While he recovered I ran to Ace is the place and bought wasp spray. He then went out into our 100 degree day and sprayed the heck out of that wasp nest only to discover that the electrical box was not the problem. And last, but certainly not least, while walking through our yard he ran into a very long, (at least 4ft) garter snake, who was not happy to see him. He tried to chase him into the yard but I think he escaped into the rocks and now I am afraid to go out and do yard work. Then this very nice electrician sprayed my gutter where we saw more wasps escaping and went back to work. Of course everything is fixed but my brain is still freaking out about the large snake that is lurking somewhere in my lawn.

This is just a bee. Imagine a wasp.

And it is still hot and the swamp cooler that was fixed three weeks ago stopped working again. I am still waiting for that person to show up and so far that wait is going on the 6th day. My brain is truly fried. Which of course brings me to this salad because salads are appropriate for people with fried brains. I made this on Friday when my neighbor came over for dinner. It is healthy and delicious and summery. I adapted it from a new book on salads, “Salads: Beyond the Bowl” by Mindy Fox that I checked out from the library recently. It is a beautiful book written by the editor of the magazine “La Cucina Italiana”. She has some unique fresh salad ideas, glorious photography and lots of creativity. In my opinion it is written for someone that likes to cook and try new ingredients. Of course that is just my kind of book but if you like a lot of detail about how to do things or where to find ingredients that are not easily found then this may not be the book for you. It features such exotic salads as Shredded Roast Rabbit, sliced plum, smoked almond and shaved celery salad in addition to Macaroni salad with yogurt, dill and pickles. Catch my drift? There is a wide range of salad choices here and there is something for everyone.

This salad went far. After Friday’s meal it then traveled to a Firefall concert (You are the woman that I always dreamed of…I knew it from the  start…) where it was shared on another hot evening between three hot women, if I must say so myself. It then continued to give for my meal yesterday after my wonderful electrician came. Try it. This is a keeper.

 Farro is the oldest cultivated grain in the world. It is good for those on gluten free diets though it is not entirely gluten free. A ½ c of uncooked farro contains 170c, 5g of fiber and 6g of protein. If you’d like more info on farro click here. I will tell you many people say it needs to be soaked but I have not experienced that and I have bought two different brands. It is making a comeback but is still hard to find unless  you have a great Italian grocer around the corner which I do not. It is also not inexpensive but is really filling. It is chewy, but not hard and it adapts well too many recipes. Use it as you would
use rice.

You can buy it online and some Whole Foods carry it. I tried it about 10 years ago in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco and I have liked it since then. Luckily it is easier to find now. And if you can’t find farro use big crusty grilled garlic bread croutons and make a bread salad. That is really good, too. In fact the author called this a panzanella di farro salad though there is no bread in it. (Now I can’t get that song out of my head!). “ You are the woman that I always dreamed of. I knew it from the start.-----and that’s the last I’ve seen of my heart. Of my heart.”  Hey- this salad is good for the heart!

Panzanella di Farro adapted from Mindy Fox’s book, “Salads:Beyond the Bowl”

I cut this in half and still had enough to feed 4 a full meal. I also served this to my neighbor with a marinated lemon oregano grilled chicken breast on the side.

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 large ear of corn
½ lb green beans, trimmed
6T good olive oil
1 ¼ c of farro
1 large garlic clove
3T red wine vinegar
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into half moons
1c packed basil leaves, torn into shreds
4 medium radishes, sliced thin
3 scallions thinly sliced
(I added another ear of corn, a red pepper grilled, and a red onion grilled. Additionally, I served it on a bed of arugula.)

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.

In a large salad bowl toss the tomatoes with a ½ t of salt.

Cook the corn and the green beans together in the boiling water. After 3 minutes, using tongs, transfer the corn to a cutting board. Cook green beans 1-2 minutes more until crisp tender. Drain well and let dry.

Cook the farro in the boiling water that you used for the veggies. (I added some chicken bouillion to give it more flavor.) Cook for 18-20 minutes but I have found this depends on the type of farro you buy. It may take longer. It should be tender but firm to the bite.

Meanwhile fire up the grill. Spray your green beans with oil and your other veggies if using. Grill until golden. Season well with salt and pepper. Cut corn kernels off of cob.

Now mash your garlic clove of which I used two with a ½ t salt into a paste. (I did this but it would be fine to just put it through a garlic press and mix it with the salt.) In a measuring cup combine the remaining 5T of oil and the vinegar. Add the garlic paste and whisk to combine.

Drain the faro and let it cool and dry for 5-10 minutes on a baking sheet over a wire rack. (The drying helps it to stop absorbing so it doesn’t get soft when you combine it in the salad. My note.)

When the farro is cool, whisk the dressing and add it to the tomatoes along with the other vegetables. Add ¼ t salt and ¾ t pepper. Toss well and start singing!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Corn and Beer

Elote Corn, Bacon and Potato Hash
My son came home for a few days. He hasn’t been gone that long but I will always welcome him home. It was nice to hear another voice in the house. Even the dogs were happy to see him. He had a few things to do while he was home and one of them involved bottling beer. He started it in June and it was ready. At least ready to be removed from the floor of my laundry room.

There are many things he is good at and beer is one of them. He started his brewing career at a fairly young age. You might even say he is a prodigy at brewing. After all I think it did improve his chemistry scores. And I also must say that it is nice to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He has brewed some very good beer. I am told it was not always that way, but I don’t know about those days. This recent brewing was called “Nelson Mandela”. I don’t know why he chose that one at the brewing store but he told me it was on sale. Go figure.Fitting huh, since his dad is now working in South Africa. Can’t wait     to see what it tastes like.

In any case bottling needs encouragement so I made him a big breakfast. I was happy. He was happy. And those bottles got filled with beer. Plus he cleaned up. He is very good at that. I kid you not.
He even wore the right shirt.

Checking to see if he got enough.

My breakfast  inspiration that day came from a blog I follow called Smitten Kitchen. Deb has been writing and photographing much longer than I have.  She is very good. Check it out, but please, don’t forget about me. She made a bacon corn hash. Are you following me? Go check out my last post if you aren’t. Anyway, my adaptation of her recipe involves using my leftover  elote corn in bowl. I think you will like it. I know you will like it. And don’t worry about the bacon if you don’t eat it. Leave it out. It will still be very, very good. You may even want to chase it with a beer!

Forget the sticky buns in the distance.

Elote Corn, Bacon and Potato Hash (I just realized this contains my three favorite food groups!)

6 strips of bacon chopped and fried until crisp

3 c cubed potatoes (While the bacon is frying I chop these and put them in a bowl with 2T of water. I then cover it and microwave them for about 3 and ½ minutes. This helps them fry faster.)

1 ½-2c leftover or elote corn

1 Fried Egg per serving  )This recipe makes 3-4 servings depending on how hungry you are!)

Fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan but leave bacon grease in pan. Add cubed potatoes and fry until crisp. Add corn and cook until warm. Stir in bacon. Now remove from pan and keep warm.

If you have enough grease use the remaining to fry some eggs. If not, add some butter and then fry them. Put that hash on a plate and top it with an egg. Think of it as a manly breakfast but only if you have it with a beer.

All Cooked!

Frying potatoes.

Frying Eggs.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Elote Corn in a Bowl

Elote Corn

If there is one thing you need to know about me it is that I love corn. Summer to me is synonomous with corn. Yellow may represent the sunflowers and the sun to many of you but to me it means corn. Maybe it is because I grew up in Illinois in a town that was surrounded by corn. I still miss seeing the never ending cornfields that ended my summer by waving tassels at me as I drove the road between Kankakee and Joliet one summer. I loved the white barns and the black and white cows that dotted my horizon and I miss the roasted, buttered corn on the cob that meant the Kankakee County fair was going on and summer was quickly ending. I miss road side markets filled with fresh corn and cantaloupe and red ripe tomatoes and I miss the smell of green wide open spaces.

I love Colorado but I guess there are some things that always stay with you. And corn-well- it goes where I go. I love potatoes but in the summer potatoes go away only to be replaced by corn. I eat corn in salads and salsas and scrambled eggs. I eat corn in pasta and bread and on quesadillas. I eat it stuffed in poblano peppers and in rich corn soups. I eat corn on the cob and corn in a cup. Ohh-maybe I should have been the corn queen but alas my hair is not golden.

She loves corn, too. But she loves anything!
My mother used to buy fresh corn and cut it off the cob. She then froze it to use during the winter. The crazy thing is that I only remember eating corn two ways. One – on the cob with butter and salt and pepper and two – off the cob in a bowl with butter and salt. Did my mother not know all the amazing things one can do with corn? Maybe my mother just did not share my love of corn. No worries though. I still love corn.

So last night found me at home with 4 ears of corn in the fridge. It isn’t quite corn season yet so the corn is not as sweet or as tender as it could be. I decided to combine a Mexican version of elote (roasted corn on the cob), and a bit of a take off from the corn in a cup that we eat at Jack n’ Grill here in Denver. They have a great canned corn dish that I make often in the winter when I can’t get fresh corn. It involves lemon juice, chili powder and canned parmesan cheese. I’m telling you it is highly addictive and I will share this winter. But last night I tried this and it was really good. I could have eaten all 4 ears-but I didn’t. It involves roasting the corn on the grill which is a no brainer and then combining it with mayo, cheese, scallions and spices. You can add cilantro or roasted poblanos or a jalapeno or a myriad of other things but I didn’t have those in the fridge so I made it like this. And it was GOOD. Forget the microwave and go make this corn. It is quick and simple and doesn’t get all over your face like when you eat it off a cob.

Elote Corn in a Bowl

4 ears of corn roasted (I shuck the corn and roast it dry on the grill over medium heat turning it as it browns.)

2 T mayonnaise
1/3 c dry parmesan cheese (Yes, the kind in a container)
½ c finely chopped scallions
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2T lime juice
½ t smoked paprika
1 t ancho chili powder
Sprinkle of red chili flakes

Roast the corn and slice it off the cob. While corn is roasting combine topping ingredients in a bowl. Add corn and give an extra squeeze of lime juice before serving. Ole!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta

I went to the grocery. Exciting, huh? Actually, most of the time, I do enjoy going to the grocery. It must be in my blood as my grandfather and uncle were both grocers. For me shopping is always a bit like a treasure hunt in the quest to discover something new to try. This time I found baby kale leaves. I’ve tried the big ones but these are much easier to use because you just open the plastic container.

Did you know that a kale serving of two cups has 2g of fiber and 3g of protein? Since many veggies don’t have protein I now see why kale is touted as a healthy food. And baby kale is good. It also keeps well even if it has salad dressing on it as it doesn’t wilt  overnight if kept in the fridge.

Last night I was invited to a friend’s house for an impromptu dinner as we both had yet to compare notes on our kid’s graduations. Needless to say we ran out of time yakking and still have a lot of ground to cover. But we were busy eating and sipping wine in between all that yakking. And a good meal it was. She made artichokes and a grilled red meat trout and I brought this salad invention. Next time you want a simple meal keep it in mind. Just make sure you have someone to yak with. In my opinion yakking always makes the food taste better.

It is a colorful salad.

Kale Salad with Cherries, Feta and Almonds

1T balsamic vinegar
1T raspberry vinegar
1t stone ground mustard
1 1/2t honey
3T olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
½ t rosemary

Stir together vinegars, mustard and honey. Whisk in olive oil. Add seasonings to taste.

(This is also good made with sherry vinegar but you may need to up the honey a smidge. If you are not a fan of rosemary I think mint would be a great substitute.)

Salad (Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a side)

2 finely chopped green onions
8 fresh cherries, pitted and sliced
¼ c cubed or crumbled feta
1/4c chopped almonds
4c baby kale

Mix together and toss with about 2T of dressing. You can add more if you like a lot.

(Crumbled goat cheese would be a great substitute for feta. Apples, raspberries, grapes, dried apricots would also work instead of cherries, though you have to get those cherries while you can!)

A Perfect Al Fresco Salad!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Egg Salad and Gladiolus

Egg Salad

I just returned from Philadelphia where I helped my daughter move into her first apartment. I am happy for her but it is bittersweet for me and I am not going to dwell on that today. What we are dwelling on is how hot it was. (I always know it is hot and humid when my upper lip starts to sweat.) We moved up 2 flights of stairs in an unairconditioned building (though her unit was) in 100 degree weather.  When I left Colorado it was also that hot but I have returned to a bit cooler weather. I’m loving it!

Anyway all that heat got me thinking about summer foods and that got me thinking about egg salad. When I was growing up in Illinois it was hot and humid. On those miserable days when my mother didn’t feel like cooking we ate salads. Not the kind we eat now because all the wonderful produce that is available now wasn’t available then. So…. She made egg salad and tuna salad but before she did that we went to the farm stand on Court Street and bought fresh sweet delicious ears of corn and a watermelon. Then like kids in a candy shop we picked out glorious colorful gladiolus to grace our home.

$3.99 Bunch
That was my favorite part because there were always too many colors to choose from. They never cost more than 99 cents a dozen and there were always buckets of them on the cement floor. We then went home and made tuna salad and egg salad and fresh corn in the new microwave that seemed to take up the entire countertop, and cut up fresh cold watermelon. Our thirst was quenched with Diet Pepsi out of a glass bottle which was always a special treat over the common glass of milk. It was a good meal and one that I made for my kids on those days during the hot summer when I too, didn’t feel like cooking. I however substitute Diet Coke in a can because I prefer that over Diet Pepsi.

I love my egg salad simple and fresh. I like it finely chopped and still a bit warm from the heat of the egg after it is boiled. I don’t add much to it and I chop it by hand and not in a food processor. However there are many things you can do to egg salad so take your pick:

1.    Truffle oil drizzled over the top is heavenly and you could also substitute truffle salt for regular salt.
2.    Smoked salmon is great on an egg salad sandwich.
3.    Crisp bacon bits mixed in is wonderful and with the addition of sliced tomatoes makes a great sandwich.
4.   A touch of curry powder raises egg salad to exotic.
5.    Fresh dill and Dijon mustard and a touch of chopped celery also works well.
6.   You could add a can of tuna and make a great tuna/egg salad.
7.    Smoked paprika mixed in makes this work for a great deviled egg filling.
8.    Finely chopped fresh jalapeno adds zest and is good for those of us that like zest.
9.   Egg salad makes a great filling for celery sticks and hollowed out mini tomatoes.
10.    Egg salad on tiny black breads with caviar and a sprinkle of chives would make an over the top appetizer.

I’d love to hear how you use egg salad, too!


6 hard boiled eggs
½ c finely chopped onion
1/2t salt
1/2t pepper
¼ c Hellmann’s or Blue Ribbon mayonnaise

Put eggs into a pot of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat without a lid. Then turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Immediately run under very cold water until eggs are no longer hot. This keeps the green ring from forming around the yolk. Old eggs are easier to peel than fresh eggs.

Remove peels and finely chop. Add finely chopped onion, salt, pepper and mayo. Fold in gently. Eat and enjoy preferably with a bunch of gladiolus gracing your table!


Monday, July 2, 2012

From Tea Parties to Dance Parties and Roasted Tomatilla Salsa

Tomatillo Salsa
 I can’t believe it. I haven’t even told you about Alex’s graduation and I’m already heading back to Philly. My daughter decided to accept a position there and she needs me to help her move in. I’m not really good at lifting boxes but since I helped her take them to storage on Mother’s Day I guess the least I can do is help her move them out.

Moving In
She doesn’t have a car yet so that makes things like moving into your first apartment a challenge.  She lived on campus for four years so she truly needs everything to fill what looks like a very large dorm room to me. But this one has a private bath and a small kitchen. And a loft to hold a  mattress (notice I’m not sure about using the word bed). But I’m looking forward to it-mostly because I will be with her.

But let’s back up a month or so. After a great week in Philly between graduations we headed up to Lewisburg. Lewisburg is a great town surrounded by Amish farms and wide open spaces of green. It borders the Susquehanna River and reminds me remotely of where I grew up in Illinois.

The Susquehanna
We stayed in a b and b because Lewisburg does not have many motels or hotels.  We were lucky we didn’t have to stay in the dorm because the town’s lodging is not big enough to hold all the visitors. I planned well in advance because I couldn’t quite see my parents in a dorm. Could you?

Alex at the B and B
Saturday began with porch sitting at Alex’s house where we met his roommates and their families.

And then the beers were opened and let’s just say that our weekend began and ended with beer. It was fun and relaxing and hot. Very hot. We went to several house parties and met all the people that I’ve been wanting to meet for four years. It’s tough when you live so far from the college your kids attend. There is still so much I missed doing. Like going to a football game or a basketball game or parent’s weekend.

We danced on a Saturday afternoon and that was fun.
Mother and Son Dance

 It was fun seeing how much others like your kid and it was nice to say thank you to all the parents that took him for various weekends, because we lived so far away. It was fun meeting his friends and realizing that he had really good friends and that was special. It was wonderful feeling that maybe HE/SHE really did learn something and that it was more than what was contained in a class. It all was special and it wasn’t just the beer talking.

Alex and his roommate Colin grilled steaks and chicken for dinner.

 We picked up potato and macaroni salad so we could have something besides just meat. And we started with chips and salsa. Nothing fancy but it hit the spot. More beers and  a bottle of wine and lots of good conversation with Colin’s mom.

Sunday began early with saving seats for the BIG ceremony.

They were cold until the shade went away.
 It was HOT. And Long. But it had good speakers and the best part was- that he graduated. Yes!

We had lunch in the cafeteria and dinner on the river. We ate fried chicken and fried fish and sat at picnic tables and it was wonderful. I will miss it.

I will miss tea parties and college campuses and dancing on a Saturday afternoon. And I will miss winter break and spring break and hearing about  stupid professors and my daughter’s tennis matches and my son’s ski weekends. And even though there will always be more to come, I will miss it.

I guess there is only one thing to do. Yep. It is time to break out the beer and eat the entire bowl of salsa and chips!

Roasted Tomatilla Salsa
Time to Make: About 30 minutes, including broiling
Serves: Maybe 4-6 or 1 sad mom!
20 Husked and Rinsed  Fresh Tomatillos
1 peeled onion, sliced 
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 chipotle in adobo Sauce
2 T cilantro
1 pinch each of sugar and salt

Tortilla Chips
Broil tomatillos, onion and garlic until charred.

Peel garlic and puree tomatillos, onion and garlic with chipotle, cilantro and sugar and salt. 

If you like your salsa with more tomato flavor feel free to add in some tomato sauce. This is also good with a cubed avocado mixed in. And some might like a pinch of cumin. If you have never used fresh tomatillos, now is the time. They taste like a tart green tomato!

P.S. This is my 50th post. I can't believe I got this far! And with only (at least) 4 font changes!