Spaghetti With Grated Summer Squash and Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce

pasta final

I’ve had a printout of a recipe for Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce on my kitchen counter for over a week now. Every morning when I come in from the garden I think to myself, I should have cut basil so I could make pesto but, then I think about the weather forecast and how hot it will be and fixing pasta which was the whole reason I was going to make the pesto, doesn’t sound like a great idea anymore.

But finally, the weather has cooled down and we’re enjoying temps in the 50s overnight and into the mid 80s during the day. Beautiful weather. Weather that makes me feel like cooking pasta. So this morning I gathered pesto ingredients; fresh basil, parsley and oregano and took them to the kitchen along with some summer squash and cherry tomatoes that were ready to pick. Today I would make pasta with the Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce for lunch.

pasta, squash & pestoWith no real recipe in mind but the pesto sauce I decided that I would cook up some brown rice spaghetti and toss it with uncooked, shredded summer squash and the pesto. The final touches would be halved cherry tomatoes from my garden, shredded parmesan cheese and ground pepper.

I have to say I think the squash idea turned out great. If you didn’t see me put it in the dish you wouldn’t even know it was in there. The taste of the raw squash is very mild, so when you add the pesto and toss the mixture the squash just blends in.

roasted garlicThe pesto sauce recipe I used is from Renee’s Garden Blog, June-2013 and it’s one that will become a standard for me. I did change one thing from the original recipe, instead of adding fresh garlic as noted in the recipe, I added a whole head of roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is one of the staples I try to keep in the refrigerator. Its is easy to make, has a more mellow taste than the raw. To make roasted garlic you start with whole fresh heads. Cut the tops off of each head and place in foil, pour olive oil over the heads just so it seeps down amongst the cloves, you won’t need a lot, maybe a tablespoon or less per head depending on head size. Seal the packet tightly then roast in a 350° oven for about an hour or until the garlic is soft to the touch. Let the packet cool, then refrigerate. It’s that simple. To use just squeeze the cloves from the head if you’re using the whole thing.  If you want to extract just a few cloves, I find a fork or the tip of a knife works well for scooping them out.  If you’ve never tried roasted garlic in pesto or other sauces give it a try you just might find that you like it as much as I do.

Veggies for Breakfast

Zepher squash blossomsMy garden is thriving and has already started producing squash. Many folks don’t like summer squash, but I do and have learned, over the years, to use it in various ways. This spring I planted two kinds of squash, Zephyr, which I have planted in the past and Papaya Pear which is advertised as fast growing, high yielding plant that bears small, rounded yellow fruits. So far the Papaya is exactly as advertised. It’s also very tasty.

DSCN4168On the mornings I pick squash, which right now is about every other day or so,  I use it in a veggie scramble. It’s a great way to incorporate fresh veggies into your morning meal.  This mornings combination included; chopped sweet onions, sliced crimini mushrooms, grated summer squash, cubed Halvarti cheese, and two eggs. I topped the finished scramble with chopped garlic chives and crumbled sage leaves that had been sauteed in butter and olive oil until crisp. The best thing about a scramble is you use what you have on hand. The only constant is the eggs.  If you’ve never considered using fresh veggies in a scramble for breakfast you should give it a try. It’s a very yummy way to start the day.

The squash, garlic chives and sage came from my garden. The mushrooms, onions, and eggs came from my local Farmers’ Market.

“What’s in the Fridge?” Salad.

Today is our second day of 100+ temperatures. Last week it was the 80s so we really haven’t had time to adjust to days in the 100s. Truth is, I never adjust to that kind of heat. The only good thing about hot days is the mornings. I love puttering in my garden or sometimes just enjoy sitting in my swing drinking coffee and watching the birds on their morning quest for seeds or nectar. It’s definitely my favorite time of day during the summer months.

My appetite and energy related to cooking takes a nosedive during the heat (I consider heat any temperature over 90). So today when I was hungry but didn’t want to heat up the kitchen by cooking I decided to make one of my “What’s in the fridge?” salads. I like this salad because it’s light, refreshing and uses up of all kinds of veggies. It’s also a good place to use leftover chicken or chunks of cheese. If I have leftover cooked bacon that’s a definite addition.  It’s literally what ever I have on hand in the fridge, hence the name.

Today’s mix included sliced Crimini mushrooms, shredded carrot and summer squash (from my garden), sugar snap peas, sliced at a diagonal into 1/2″ pieces, spinach, chard, radicchio leaves torn into bite size pieces  and a mix of baby lettuce leaves. I chop and shred the veggies, holding the leafy veggies and meat cheese, etc aside and place it all in a bowl. Then I toss the mix with a nice vinaigrette (I make my own using 6T olive oil, 3 T red wine vinegar, 1 t Dijon mustard and one crushed garlic clove), then add the chicken, bacon or cheese (today a very nice crumbly Gorgonzola) and toss again. I always add the leaf veggies last and toss the whole mixture just before serving. If you want to expand beyond the fridge for ingredients you might check your cupboards for croutons or toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds. They are all nice additions. Be creative and just use what you have.

Annie’s Asian Slaw is another favorite hot weather meal of mine. You can find the recipe for that one here.

The forecast says the weather should start to cool down after tomorrow. I hope so! Meanwhile, I’ll be heading to the fridge for ice cold peppermint tea and salad ingredients.

SUMMER’S HARVEST

It all started this morning when I harvested more eggplant and squash. What to do with it? Last week I made Annie\’s Grilled Vegetable Lasagna again so I knew that was out. Then I remembered that I had a couple of yellow bell peppers that a friend had given me. So now I have eggplant, squash and peppers that need to be used in some way. What could I cook that would be a little different?

Then the idea popped into my head. A simmered dish using some nice free range chicken legs that I had just gotten on sale, diced eggplant and squash, sliced peppers, chopped onion, garlic and tomato, all flavored with some nice Madras Curry powder and fresh thyme.

The process; salt and pepper the chicken and brown in a little olive oil on all sides. Remove the chicken, add the eggplant and squash and lightly brown. Add the onion, peppers and garlic and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add the tomato, about 1 tablespoon of Madras Curry powder (more if you really like the curry flavor to dominate) and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Add the chicken legs, pushing them down into the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. The meat on the legs should be easy to pierce with a fork and should come off the bone easily. When the meat was almost done I added about ¼ cup dried currants and continued simmering the mixture for about another 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the vegetables, let cool a little, then remove the meat and chop into pieces. This dish, like all simmered dishes, will be more flavorful if you let it sit in the refrigerator, after cooking, for a day or so before you serve it.

I did eat a portion served over steamed brown rice today right after cooking it and it was tasty, but I know when I reheat it for dinner on Tuesday it will taste even better.

If you have a harvest you are wondering what to do with give this simple idea a try. You can use just about any combination of summer vegetables. I recommend using a dark meat cut of chicken or turkey if you do add meat since those cuts have more flavor and will add to the rustic taste of this stew. If you use white meat cook it separately, chop it and add it after the vegetables are cooked, otherwise the meat will tend to be dry. If you don’t want to use meat add some cubed tofu. If you don’t have your own summer harvest to deal with, pick up some fresh veggies at your Farmers’ Market. You’re sure to find a good selection there and you’ll be helping the farmers with their summer harvest.

Bon appetite!

Chocolate + Zucchini

I have procrastinated all week regarding an invitation to a Potluck/Barn Dance. It sounded fun, but the thought of coming up with a recipe for the potluck was where I was stuck. It’s been a long week with lots going on and so the procrastination happily continued until this afternoon when I either had to commit and get on with it, or beg out. I decided to get online and buy my ticket. That was the bait. I hate paying for something I won’t use. Ticket bought (or you could say hook firmly in mouth) I started thinking about what I was going to make. I really wanted to do something with ingredients I have on hand, with one of those ingredients being zucchini. I thought about a squash casserole but only for a minute. Since it is more like a quiche, and folks are a little edgy about eggs right now, I decided to think up something else. And then it came to me; Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?

Off to the kitchen to check ingredients. Yes sir eeeee! I have everything. Chocolate Zucchini Cake it is.

This recipe is from a 1974 Sunset Magazine clipping.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, unsifted

½ cup cocoa

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon each salt and cinnamon

¾ cup soft butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs (mine were from a local grower who’s chickens run loose in his garden by day and sleep in a coop at night so the critters don’t get em)

2 teaspoons each vanilla and grated orange peel (I didn’t have a fresh orange so I omitted the peel)

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (any summer squash, yellow or green, will work)

½ cup milk

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used the pecans)

Glaze. Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla;

Beat until smooth.

Combine the four, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. With a rotary mixer beat together the butter and sugar until they are smoothly blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini. Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into zucchini mixture, including the nuts with last addition.

Pourbatter into a greased and flour-dusted 10” tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in a 350° oven for about 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly. Drizzle glaze over cake. Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

OH, THE CORN!

Sunday morning bounty amongst my reusable produce bags.

The weather forecast for today is 100 so I was up early watering and getting a few chores done before my 7:30 bicycle getaway to the Farmers’ Market. Another beautiful ride and this time I had my trusty little camera with me. The market was packed when I got there; evidently everyone else had the same idea. I made the rounds and found another vendor with fresh corn. The corn I got last week, although touted to be excellent, wasn’t much better than field corn. To say I wasn’t impressed would be putting it mildly. Sweet corn is serious business. This looked to be, not only fresher, but also sweeter. Of course only tasting would answer that. My market bag filled quickly with white nectarines, Donut peaches (more on these later), apricots, several kinds of summer squash, green and yellow wax beans, a couple of tomatoes, two Walla Walla onions and two ears of that beautiful corn.

Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River

Delta King and the I Street Bridge

On the way back I stopped to snap a couple of pics so you could all see the nice views of the river that I have on my ride. The first picture was taken just south of Old Sacramento and the second shows the Old Sacramento riverfront area. Quiet this morning, but this afternoon it will be busy with lots of folks enjoying the river.

Once I was home I laid out my bounty for a couple of quick pics then stored it all away. Since it was now close to 10 and I hadn’t eaten yet, I thought it would be nice to have brunch. Actually I wanted to have the corn I bought so I rationalized that it was late enough for brunch. And, since I was dining alone I could pretty much do what ever I wanted. My version of brunch included some leftover BBQ chicken and grilled veggies from yesterday and the corn. OH, THE CORN! I wish now that I had bought at least six ears. I would have skipped the the chicken and veggies and just had corn, slathered in butter and sprinkled with just a tiny bit of sea salt. It doesn’t get any better than that.

A tangelo and zucchini met one morning and formed a beautiful partnership.

Like most mornings I awoke bright and early Sunday and ambled into the kitchen to make my morning tea. It was beautiful outside, not too cool, which it has been for the last few days, you could feel that summer just might be really going to come. Teacup in hand I found myself in my garden puttering around as I am apt to do. Often puttering involves watering the many potted plants that line the patio and that’s where I was when I found myself thinking about the many errands that I needed to run after I finished my weekly trip to the Farmers Market. But, it was so nice out. Was I really going to drive to the Farmers Market then continuing driving around doing errands? NOPE! Not this Sunday. As soon as I finished my puttering, I was off to the garage, to check the air in my bike tires and attach my

The ride was really beautiful. I decided to check out the new section of the Sacramento Riverfront bikeway which runs parallel to the river and then cross over the freeway on the newly opened pedestrian/bike way. The new section of trail is really great.  I wish I had taken some pictures so I could show you. From the Riverfront trail and freeway overcrossing it is just a few blocks, through urban streets lined with beautiful mature trees, until I arrive at the market where my focus would be to see if I could pick up a few tangelos and for a muffin recipe I would make upon my return. Oh, and get some fruit and veggies for the week, which I did; a couple ears of corn, assorted summer squash, some green and yellow wax beans, two red onions, eight white nectarines and peaches, and three tangelos.

Today is the first day of summer and with its heat comes the real beginning of the summer squash season. In about another month the newness of summer squash will have started to wear off and those of us with squash plants will be getting more than we need much less want. We’ll be eating it often and giving the excess away. And then, there will come that day when we and even our friends and neighbors have had enough squash. Before it comes to that and while we’re all excited about summer squash I wanted to give you idea for another way you can use it. Bake up a nice batch of Tangelo-Zucchini Muffins. Bake them in the morning like I did and serve them warm, preferably on the patio or in the garden. A beautiful, and I might add tasty, way to celebrate a summer morning.

Tangelo-Zucchini Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1 cup shredded summer squash (I used zucchini but any summer squash will do. If the squash is really large discard the seedy part before shredding.)

2 eggs

½ cup safflower or other high-quality vegetable oil (I used canola and a little olive oil since I didn’t have enough of the canola.)

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed juice (I used tangelo. You could use orange if you’d prefer.)

1 ½ teaspoons grated zest (I used the zest from one tangelo.)

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups unbleached flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup chopped pecans (you could use walnuts instead)

½ cup dried cranberries (you could use golden raisins instead)

Preheat oven to 35o° F. Grease 12 regular-sized muffin tin or I used paper cupcake liners

Beat the egg in a mixing bowl until lemon colored. Add the sugar, oil, juice, zest and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, pecans and cranberries. Fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture, stirring just until well blended. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin-tin, filling each hole about three-fourths full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a muffin tests clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool in the muffin tins for about 3 minutes before turning out. Serve warm.

Variation: To bake as a loaf, pour the batter into a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.

A little of this, a little of that and you have the one-pot option.

Have you ever found you have just a few carrots, maybe a little spinach and just a handful of green beans in the refrigerator but there’s not enough of any one of them to feed two people much less three or four?  Here’s an easy solution; The one pan option, or as some might call it stir-fry.

I love stir-fry. I don’t always use it to solve the little of this, little of that problem. Sometimes I choose it because I can cook everything in one pan, which a lot of the time is a huge motivating factor. Whichever reason, I’ve been keeping track of some of the ways I made quick, tasty, easy to clean up meals over the last month and here are the results.

Version 1

A curried version using Crimini mushrooms, onion and garlic, zucchini, carrots and leftover chicken served over brown rice mixed with a little curry sauce.

Version II

An Asian version using Shitaki mushrooms, onion and garlic, snow peas, spinach, yellow summer squash served over brown rice flavored with a little oyster sauce.

Version III

This one I came up with after my experience with the fava beans. In this version I used Crimini mushrooms, onion and garlic, chard and feta cheese served over left over rice penne pasta.

Version IV

A celebration of the first green beans of the season was the occasion for this simple stir-fry of Shitaki mushrooms, onion and garlic, green beans all flavored with bacon bits and served over brown rice.

I start by sautéing the mushrooms, then add the onion and garlic, sometimes I remove those ingredients to a serving bowl then brown the longer cooking veggies like the squash, green beans or chard stems, then I’ll add back in the mushroom/onion mixture put what ever greens I’m going to use on top, add a little liquid (water, broth, wine) to create steam and cover until the greens just wilt and the thicker veggies are just right. If I really don’t want to clean another pan I will sometimes put the rice or cooked pasta in with the thicker veggies and the liquid, cover and let it all steam for a little while then add the greens to wilt them right before serving.

This is one of those things that you’ll want to play around with. There is no wrong way. Just think of the colors and textures of what you have on hand and what might taste good with them as a flavoring. I used curry sauce, oyster sauce, feta cheese, and bacon in these versions but  you might want to try soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or even a BBQ sauce. Herbs are also a good addition.  Nuts and seeds are good ways to add protein if your not adding cheese or leftover meats. And, don’t forget tofu. Tofu is really great in these stir-fry dishes. I usually don’t cook rice or pasta for this dish I usually have some leftovers that I use. If you do cook pasta especially for this, use some of the pasta water when you do the steaming.

I am using a wok style pan but a large fry pan can work too. Just make sure you have a lid that fits the pan you are going to use. For oil I use either olive oil or canola oil. The addition of a little sesame oil to an Asian style version is very nice.

Just use your imagination, the options are endless and now that we have a whole new selection of summer vegetables coming to market I’m sure I’ll be trying some new combinations. How about you? Let me know what you come up with. I love trying new ideas.