Quick, summery and simple. This is the perfect passable bite for a party or a wonderful side to a summer meal. If you tend to end up with a couple of extra zucchini hanging around after a trip to the farmers market, this is a great way to use them up, as a starter or a snack. Serve these while still warm, but you can make the mayonnaise mix hours ahead and prepare the slices about 20 minutes before broiling. And of course, you can double or triple the recipe for a crowd.
Parmesan Zucchini Bites
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- generous grinds of black pepper
- a pinch of salt
- 2 medium zucchini
- Preheat the broiler in your oven to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
- Mix the mayonnaise, parmesan and oregano together with a fork. Grind in some pepper and salt to taste (the parmesan can be salty, so go slow with the salt).
- Slice the zucchini diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices. Spread each slice with a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture, making sure to spread to the edges and evenly.
- Cook the zucchini under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden.
- Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
I do love dishes made with phyllo dough, spanakopita, tiropita and the myriad of sticky sweet desserts made with it. But after a number of failed attempts, I have discovered that I simply do not have the patience to work with it. So I am attracted to recipes that mirror the tastes of my phyllo favorites without the work. My first success was Greek Feta Parcels, and now I have conquered spanakopita.
I found the basic formula for this recipe in a community cookbook and immediately thought I could give it a Greek twist. I’ve added feta cheese and generous amounts of dill and oregano. The simple batter creates the balance of the delicate original pastry, but could not be easier to mix up. This can be served in big slabs for a meal or cut into smaller pieces for a side dish (try it with a chicken roasted with Greek seasoning and lemon); you can even slice it into small pieces to serve as an appetizer.
Greek Herbed Spinach Pie
- 12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch (about 6) green onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (crumble it from a block)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Place the spinach in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Separate the spinach with your fingers.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green onions and cook until soft. Ad the garlic, parsley, dill, oregano and lemon zest and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the spinach and stir to combine and separate the spinach. Remove from the heat and add the cottage cheese and feta and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. When the filling is cool, beat 2 eggs in a small bowl, then stir into the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of an 8 by 8 inch baking dish and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Blend 2 eggs, the water and flour and 1 teaspoon salt together in a blender or with a whisk until completely smooth. Pour ½ of the batter evenly over the bottom of the oiled dish. Use clean, damp fingers to crumble and spread the spinach filling evenly over the top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter evenly over the top of the filling, covering fully, though a little filling poking up is fine.
- Bake the pie for 40 – 45 minutes until puffed and golden and cooked through. Let the pie cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Strawberries come into season when the beginnings of spring are arriving. When it’s time air out the seersucker and the sandals and give the grill a good clean and make sure the big cooler is ready for weekends at the lake and beach. And though we drink sweet tea all year, the mint is starting to grow and its time for great big glasses full of ice while sitting outside enjoying the weather before it gets too hot or the mosquitoes get too fierce. It seems only naturally to take the first fruit of spring and combine it with a delicious dressing tinged with the flavors of the South’s favorite beverage. Sweet, sweet strawberries and mint combine with the sweet and tangy dressing, set off with a hit of vinegar and emulsified to a nice creaminess with oil. This salad is beautiful on its on, but looks pretty on butter lettuce leaves as well. The strawberries can also be part of a sweet dish, served along side a cake or over ice cream.
Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 black tea bags
- a generous handful or fresh mint leaves
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 6 Tablespoons canola oil
- 4 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, cover the pan and leave to cool. When the syrup is cool, remove the tea bags.
- Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Stack about 10 mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (this is called a chiffonade). Separate the ribbons and toss with the strawberries.
- Place 1/3 cup of the sweet tea syrup in a blender. Add about 5 mint leaves and the vinegar and blend until combined and the mint is beginning to break down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a creamy dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the berries in the bowl and gently stir to coat. You may not want to use all the dressing. The berries just need to be lightly coated, not drowning.
- Serve immediately.
- The strawberries can be sliced ahead of time and the dressing can be made ahead, but do not combine until ready to serve.
- Leftover dressing can be used on other fruit or a green salad.
- Extra sweet tea syrup can be used as a base for sweet tea. Combined with water to taste, or as part of a brine, as in Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Chops.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Risotto for me was, for many years, solely a restaurant dish. I had only eaten it at fancy eateries at a time when it was ubiquitous on menus as the trend of the minute. I did not understand that it was something a normal human could make at home. But when I discovered that there is no real mystery, that it is quite a simple dish to make, one that takes only patience, a whole world of flavors opened up to me. I started with a champagne risotto, which I served at fancy dinner parties and felt very sophisticated about it too, because most of my guests had never had homemade risotto either.
Then I read in a lovely cookbook that the author’s Italian husband considered tomato risotto his childhood comfort food – like we might think of macaroni and cheese or chicken noodle soup. She shared her recipe, well, his mother’s recipe, for the food he always wanted when he was feeling poorly. And it was basically risotto made with tomato sauce. That really opened the flavor floodgates for me. And eventually, with some carrot juice in the fridge and dill in the herb garden, I came up with this version. I love the bright, zingy color and flavor of this risotto. It immediately perks up an plate. Carrot and dill are made for each other, so you have this amazing harmony of flavor to go with the vibrant color. I eat this on it’s own as a meal, but it is stunning on a plate with pork or chicken and a vibrant green vegetable. It would also make a beautiful starter. Make sure you buy 100% carrot juice, which I find in the refrigerated juice section of the produce department. You don’t want orange or mango or any other fruity flavors mixed in.
Carrot and Dill Risotto
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups carrot juice
6 Tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth, room temperature
½ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more to garnish
Combine the broth and carrot juice in a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer.
Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in a large saucepan or skillet over medium-low. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Do not brown. Raise the heat to medium high and add the rice. Stir to coat well in the butter and cook until the rice grains are translucent around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is completely absorbed.
Add ½ cup of the broth/juice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed. Continue to add the liquid ½ cup at a time, cooking and stirring until each addition is absorbed and incorporated. Add some of the chopped dill with each addition, reserving 2 Tablespoons to stir in at the end. Continue cooking the risotto until all the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is creamy, about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir in the last of the dill and the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper.
Risotto is best served immediately, but can be kept, covered, over very low heat for about 20 minutes.
Garnish with a shower of chopped fresh dill.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that showcases the true brilliance of that culture’s rustic cuisine. Simple, staple ingredients transformed into something all together luscious and comforting. Mashed potatoes and cabbage are combined with a touch of leek and lots of rich dairy to create a dish that will fell like a welcome home, even if, like me, you’ve never been to Ireland.
I like to use napa cabbage because I find it slightly sweeter and milder, but classic green cabbage or savoy cabbage works just as well, and give a more traditional green speckle to the dish. Colcannon is a great side dish to lamb or beef, particularly corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.
Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage)
2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
½ head of napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
2 large leeks, white and light green parts
½ cup (1 stick) butter, divided
1 cup buttermilk
salt to tast
Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and place in a large pot. Cover with well-salted water by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until very tender and a knife slides in easily, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl. Heat the buttermilk to just warm in a small pan or the microwave and add ½ cup to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or sturdy wooden spoon until you have a nice, creamy mash. Stir in salt to taste
While the potatoes are cooking, slice the leeks into thin half-moons and rinse thoroughly in a colander. Wipe out the pot and melt ¼ cup ( ½ stick) of the butter in it. Add the leeks with some water clinging to them and cook until they begin to soften and become translucent. Stir frequently and do not le the leeks brown. Add ¼ cup of water, cover the pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leeks are completely soft and translucent. Cut out the tough core of the cabbage half and slice into thin shreds. Rinse the cabbage shreds in the colander, then add them to the pot with some water clinging. Stir to combine the leeks and cabbage and coat the cabbage with the cooking juices. Cover the pot and cook until the cabbage is completely soft and wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir a few times and add a few tablespoons more water if there is any worry of the cabbage scorching or sticking.
When the cabbage is cooked, add it to the potatoes in the bowl and fold through. Add buttermilk as needed to create a creamy, rich texture and salt as needed.
Scoop the colcannon into a large serving bowl and make a well in the center. Cut the butter into small pats and place in the well to melt. Serve scoops of colcannon with the melting butter.
Serves 4 – 6
I adhere very solidly to tradition of eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s day for luck and prosperity. I have a wonderful New Year’s Eve tradition, so on New Year’s Day, I usually sleep in, then curl up on the couch with a book while a pot of peas and some collards stew away on the stove – minimal prep and minimal work. But this cast-iron skillet, bacon-fried version of collards is a quicker method, if you don’t get around to cooking until its almost time for dinner. If you really sleep in after a night out. Or they make an excellent accompaniment to a bowl of slow-cooked peas.
I think these are collards for people who don’t like collards. The bacon of courses helps, as does the fact that these are thin strands of greens, rather than a big leaf. And the sugar slightly caramelizes the greens and the bacon, adding an interesting touch of sweet. A big bunch of collards wilts down to a small amount – this makes about 2 cups of cooked greens, so its just enough for a small side. These are really interesting used as a garnish on a big bowl of black eyed peas or hopping john, just place a tangle of the collards on top. They could even add an extra dimension to soft, slow cooked collards. You can certainly double the recipe or make multiple batches.
Cast Iron Collards
1 large bunch collard greens
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
6 strips bacon
1 garlic clove
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Cut the leaves of the collards away from the hard center stems. Stack the leaves up in bunches of about 6, then roll each bunch into a cigar. Cut the collards into thin ribbons. Place the collard ribbons in a colander, shuffling them around to make sure they are well separated. Rinse the collards thoroughly and shake as much water of as possible. Lay the collard ribbons out on a tea towel, then roll them up in the towel to blot off as much water as you can. A little damp is fine, soaking wet will be a problem when you add them to the bacon grease.
Put the vegetable oil and bacon strips into a large, deep cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon is very crispy and the fat has rendered out. Do not be tempted to raise the heat or the grease will get too hot and scorch the greens. When the bacon is crispy, remove it to paper towels to drain. Drop the garlic clove and the red pepper flakes into the pan and cook for just until the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove the garlic clove.
Carefully add the collards to the pan, standing back because the moisture on the greens will spit. Stir the collards to coat in the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted. Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and stir well. Chop the bacon into rough pieces, add them to the greens and stir. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the greens for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender. Watch carefully so they do not burn. The greens will be dark and soft, with a few crispy edges here and there.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pepper vinegar if you’d like.
Serves 4 as an accompaniment
When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind. I really have no particular knowledge of its history, its just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe. I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.
Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe. The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch. But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra. This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.
And no, I do not think this is too much bacon. It is actually very well balanced. But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well. The spoon bread as a side with stick ribs or grilled foods or as part of a breakfast spread. And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Bacon Spoon Bread
6 strips of bacon
1 ½ cups cornmeal
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cup water
2 Tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups milk
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 Tablespoon bacon grease
Mix the cornmeal, sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Bring the water, butter and 1 Tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan. Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal. Beat until thick and stiff. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in add the bacon pieces and beat until combined. Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the center is set. Serve immediately with spoonfuls of Tomato Bacon Jam.
Serves 4 – 6
6 strips of bacon
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
½ cup white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt and pepper to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning. The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.
Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool. The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.
Makes 1 pint
Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad. But has always been underwhelming to me. Too bland, too dry, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.
Until a conversation at a party about family recipes. A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta. She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice. That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish. And it does. This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique. I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair. So now I like tabbouleh – my way. I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.
But here’s the thing about tabbouleh. This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe. You can do what you want. More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper. What you find at your market or in the garden. I do offer some hints. I like to give my knife and board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf. With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will.
Summer Market Tabbouleh
½ cup fine bulgur wheat
¼ cup lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, seed scooped out
1 green onions, white and light green parts
1 small garlic clove
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and ¾ cup water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl. Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything. Set aside.
When the fifteen minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork. If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid. Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork. Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.
Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.
Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles.
My go to baked bean dish for many years has been my Brilliant Baked Beans made with a variety of canned beans. And I love those beans. But eventually, I started fiddling around with dried beans to recreate memories of New England style baked beans I’d enjoyed when I lived in the area. I like those too. Then I started to find fresh shelly beans and October beans at my local farmers market and decided I could surely make a delicious Southern-style version for summer cook-outs. So now this is my favorite baked bean dish. For summer, when I get fresh beans. In winter, I still make maple syrup rich beans from dried yellow-eyes, and the canned version when I want a large quantity quick. In short, yeah, I like baked beans.
The shelly beans that are sold around here are plump with a lovely burgundy speckled-surface. They are similar to borlotti or cranberry beans, which you may find at gourmet markets.
Southern Baked Shelly Beans
1 pound fresh shelly beans
½ a Vidalia onion
4 ounces salt pork (or bacon)
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
½ cup sorghum
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Soak the beans in cold water for 30 minutes. Scoop out any beans that float and discard. Use your hands to scoop the beans into a large pot. This way, any dirt and grit stays in the bowl. Pick over the beans and remove any discolored or shrunken beans
Cover the beans with fresh cold water by 2 inches. Peel the onion and cut in half vertically. If you leave the stem intact, just pulling off any hairy bits, the onion will hold together better during cooking. Tuck the onion half, salt pork, garlic and bay leaves down into the beans. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that rises, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pot and simmer the beans for 45 minutes.
Mix the sorghum, brown sugar, vinegar, bourbon and mustard into a thick paste in a small bowl. Scrape the paste into the beans, stir gently to combine, cover the pot and simmer for a further 2 hours.
Stir in salt to taste and cook the beans uncovered until the sauce is thick and reduced and the beans are tender.
Fennel is a new addition to my local farmers market. That’s the great thing about the rise of these local markets. Customers ask, farmers grow. Last year, it was a few experimental bulbs, this year it’s big bins of them. When I saw them last year, I was quick to pick up as many as I could and start experimenting. I love adding fennel to the vegetables that start a soup or casserole or sauce – a bit in with the carrots, celery and onion. It adds an interesting undernote. But I had never really ventured into featuring fennel as a main ingredient until I found it tender and fresh and fragrant on the farmstand.
I have had a roasted fennel gratin at a restaurant that was basically wedges of fennel tossed in olive oil with a shower of breadcrumbs. Not interesting enough for me. The recipes I looked at were mostly similar and the ones with cream sauce seemed to have a lot of cream sauce – the fennel would be swimming. So I fiddled around for what I was imagining. When I have the freshest fennel, I want to highlight its unique flavor, so I ignored recipes that had additions of mustard, onion, garlic and shallot. I want the bracing flavor of fennel to really shine. A touch of the acid tang of white wine complements the fennel and a slight dusting with salty Parmesan rounds it out. Cooking mellows the fennel, rendering it sweeter but still with that special flavor.
This dish is lovely. I’ve eaten it on its own with a chunk of bread, but it pairs so well with a grilled steak or a delicate piece of fish. The smell of sliced fresh fennel is spectacular.
Creamy Fennel Gratin
I prefer the Parmesan and breadcrumbs to be very fine, like a light dust on top of the gratin. I grate day-old bread on a fine grater.
6 cups thinly sliced fennel (see note)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons chopped fennel frond (the feathery leaves)
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh, finely grated bread crumbs
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8 by 8 inch baking dish
Cut the thick stalks and fronds form the fennel bulbs and remove the tough end and any tough, blemished outer leaves. Slice the fennel bulb thinly using a mandolin or the food processor, about 1/8 inch thick.
Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to hold the sliced fennel. Whisk in the flour until you have a smooth, pale paste. Pour in the wine and heavy cream (measure them together in the same jug) and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in one Tablespoon of the chopped fennel frond and cook until the sauce is thick and coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the sliced fennel and a few generous pinches of salt and stir to coat. Scrape the fennel into the prepared baking dish and spread it out into an even layer.
Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan and remaining chopped fennel fron together. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the gratin. Bake the gratin for 30 – 40 minutes until a knife slides easily into a piece of the fennel. Serve hot.
Serves 4 – 6
Note: I created this recipe to make the most of fresh, young tender fennel. I use about 6 bulbs that are pale green and about 4 inches across. If you use the mature, white fennel common at grocery stores, you will probably need about 3 bulbs. The young fennel can be sliced right through, but the larger white bulbs need to be halved and the triangular hard core cut out. The large bulbs may need a longer cooking time as well.