ZUCCHINI PASTA WITH CILANTRO-CASHEW PESTO

ZucchiniPasta1

I won’t lie to you, making zucchini pasta with the spiral cutter is a task that requires patience (a virtue that I lack)  and probably one or two less than spectacular outcomes. By that I  mean overcooked zucchini that will lay as a limp mass on the plate and make you wonder if take-out sushi was that bad an idea after all. If you want to see the gadget I used in action (by someone who is a lot better than me at handling it), take a look at this youtube video.

Once you master the spiral cutter and how to deal with the zucchini strands, you will be on your way to a satisfying, flavorful and unique dish.  After butchering a few Cucurbita pepo, I was rewarded with a beautiful bowl of veggie strands.

ZucchiniSpirals
ZUCCHINI PASTA WITH CILANTRO-CASHEW PESTO
(adapted from Martyna’s recipe at Wholesome Cook)

for the pesto:
2 bunches fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
¼ cup raw cashews
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grape seed oil
½ tsp sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
zest of 1/2 lemon
squeeze of lemon juice

for the “pasta”:
enough zucchini to make a large bowl of strands
(save the collateral damaged ones for veggie stock, stir-fries, soups)

Make the pesto by adding the cilantro, chile, cashews, and cheese to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until a paste forms.  Add grape seed oil until you achieve a consistency you like. I tend to add a lot less oil than most recipes call for.  Adjust to your taste.   Process until smooth, season with salt, pepper, the lemon zest, and juice.  Process again. Reserve.

Cook the zucchini by placing the strands in boiling water for 20 seconds, drain well, incorporate with the pesto and serve.   Alternatively, you stir-fry the zucchini quickly in a small amount of olive oil, then mix with the pesto.

Sprinkle roasted cashews, and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

CashewPestoMy beloved mini-food processor did a great job on the pesto…

Comments:  On my first attempt at making zucchini “pasta”, I overcooked the strands, which is very easy to do.  The taste was still pretty good, but the poor zucchini looked almost gray.  No bueno.   This time, the 20-second blanching worked much better.  I might even cut the cooking shorter next time. You can sauce this dish any way you like, including a marinara sauce, which was on our menu the following week, by the way.  I still need to master the spiral cutter better, our kitchen looked like a crime scene when I was done, and zucchini bits were found on my hair later that evening.  That’s some wild cooking prep.  😉

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For those interested in gluten-free side dishes, or low carb pasta-like concoctions, this recipe fits the bill nicely.  For those who simply enjoy trying a new preparation for the under-appreciated zucchini, the same applies.

Zucchini Pasta with Cashew PestoA little shredded Asiago to gild the lily…

ONE YEAR AGO: Bran Muffins, Take Two

TWO YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Mogo Mojo

FOUR YEARS AGO: Slow-Roasted Chicken Thighs: an Ice-Breaker

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: QUINOA AND SWEET POTATO CAKES

Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes1
The Secret Recipe Club is a monthly event that pairs food bloggers in secret so that they pick a recipe from their assigned partner, and blog about at the exact same time.  My group always posts on the last Monday of the month, but we had a vacation break in December.  Having barely survived SRC withdrawal syndrome, here I am to report on the outcome of my virtual stalking of Nicole’s site,  Hapa-tite.  I was delighted to learn the rationale behind her blog’s name: Hapa is a Hawaiian word that means “half” and is used to describe a person of mixed race with partial roots in the Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.  Hawaii is one of our favorite spots on earth for a vacation.  We love the atmosphere, the music, the pace of life, the people, and you cannot beat the weather.  Weather?  Sore subject. As I type this on a Sunday morning,  a foot of snow  is laying in our backyard. Simply put: a meteorological tragedy.  But, rather than dwell on the harsh reality of January in Kansas, I will tell you that two other recipes fought very hard to be featured in the Bewitching today: her Chicken-Lime Skewers with Apricot Glaze,  and her Pork Souvlaki.  In the end, the chance to use my black, red & white quinoa made me go for these tasty little fritters.

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QUINOA AND SWEET POTATO CAKES
(from Hapa-tite,  inspired by original recipe from Cannelle & Vanille)

makes 8 cakes

1/2 cup (90 g) quinoa, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 + /2 cups (about 200 g) grated sweet potato
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup (50 g) Panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
grape seed oil for frying
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Bring 1 cup (250 ml) of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add quinoa and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid, and cook for 20 minutes until quinoa has absorbed all the water and it’s tender. Set aside to cool.
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Heat a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and cook the shallot for 3 minutes. Add the grated sweet potato, 1/4 teaspoon salt, coriander, and black pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
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In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and chives. Add the cooled quinoa and sweet potato mixture. Stir to combine.
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Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add enough grape seed oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape it into a round cake. Add enough cakes to the pan without overcrowding it. Cook for 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Finish frying all the cakes. Drain them on paper towels before serving.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Frying1

Comments: Aren’t these cakes the most colorful thing ever?  I modified the recipe a little bit, adding more sweet potato than called for, and using a mixture of different quinoa colors instead of only white.  They turned out quite festive.  Those who have gluten intolerance can use gluten-free bread crumbs, or I suppose almond flour could go well too.  You could probably get by with only 1/4 cup of almond flour as a binder.   I also think some grated ginger could be fantastic together with the coriander and the herbs.  Fun things to try.

Nicole, it was great to get to know your blog a little better this month, I see that 2014 will bring wonderful things to your life, like moving to a new home and getting married…  Good luck with all your projects, and if you succeed in de-cluttering, tell me your secret!  😉

If you want to see what my fellow Secreters were concocting in their kitchens this month, poke the blue frog at the end of the post. I think she might be Hawaiian, who knows?   She sure seems to have that aura of happiness that comes with the islands…

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Bolo de Fuba’ Cremoso

TWO YEARS AGO: Citrus-crusted Tilapia Filets

THREE YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, not just for Hippies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake

HAVING FUN WITH JACQUES PEPIN

I wish the title of my post could be taken literally, because I’d love to meet Mr. Pepin…   Unfortunately (or perhaps I should say malheureusement), I was just playing with one of his recipes:  a broccoli puree from his book “Fast Food My Way”  that might very well be one of the side dishes I make most often.  I am not the only one who loves it, Phil asks me to make it whenever he is grilling a side of salmon or cooking fish filets.  It is a perfect accompaniment for seafood, but I also like to pair it with roast chicken or pork.  Versatile, non?

Broccoli & Spinach Puree

BROCCOLI AND SPINACH PUREE WITH BROWN BUTTER
(inspired by Jacques Pepin)

2 large heads of broccoli, florets only
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 cups spinach leaves (or more, to taste)

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the broccoli florets and the garlic clove. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in a small skillet and cook it over low heat until it turns golden brown. Do not let it burn.

Put the broccoli and garlic in the bowl of a food processor, add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Process until almost smooth, open the processor, drizzle the browned butter and add the spinach leaves on top. Process again until fully smooth, adding a bit of the reserved cooking liquid until the puree achieves a consistency you like.  Taste and adjust seasoning.   Serve right away, or refrigerate. It reheats well in the microwave.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I do hope you’ll try my version of Pepin’s recipe, it is amazing how just a little spinach took this puree to a higher level.  A subtle change in texture, a real bump in flavor.  I normally don’t preach on nutritional content of food, but the humble spinach always makes me feel great. Old Popeye cartoons speaking (and dating me), I suppose.

Plated

This puree matched nicely with a simple tilapia filet prepared according to this recipe.  Leftovers can be either enjoyed after a quick tour in the microwave, or… go the indulgent route and use it as a basis for a souflee. I suggest following  the basic method from Julia Child.   You simply cannot go wrong by joining Julia & Jacques.  Almost as good as Sally and Phil…    😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Brined-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Ragu

THREE YEARS AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Green Light for this Salad

BAKED RICOTTA, TAKE TWO

As far as appetizers go, it is hard to find a simpler recipe that would deliver as much flavor! You can find all sorts of variations in cookbooks and in the blogosphere, including my own blog a couple of years ago, using a recipe from my friend Celia.  Have hearty crackers or nice baguette toasts ready to dive in… my preference is to enjoy it still hot from the oven, but be very careful, the center of this baby will be like a cheesy lava.

Baked Ricotta

BAKED RICOTTA WITH GOAT CHEESE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

1 cup ricotta cheese, drained  (full fat)
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon olive oil
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup room temperature goat cheese
pinch of crushed red pepper
pinch of kosher salt, more to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Heat the olive oil on a small pan, add the rosemary leaves. When the leaves start to sizzle, turn the heat off, and close the pan.  Let the oil infuse for 15 minutes.  Remove any large pieces of rosemary from the oil, very small bits can be added to the dip.

Combine the ricotta, rosemary oil,  and all other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, and transfer to an oven-proof dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly.    Serve right away with crackers or a nice baguette.  It is also good at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

While typing this recipe, I realized that I tend to add lemon zest and juice to almost everything I make…   Maybe I should have named the blog Lemony Kitchen. Truth is, just the thought of running out of lemons makes me very uncomfortable.  I will often taste a sauce, a salad dressing, a steamed veggie, and tell myself there’s something missing.   I reach for a lemon, and just a little bit of its juice does the trick.  In this particular recipe, the zest adds a lot, the baked cheese ends up with a lighter “feel”.

Of course, you should go ahead and change this recipe to suit your taste.  Tarragon or dill could be wonderful replacing rosemary.   If you are not fond of goat cheese, it can be left out, or substituted with feta or even another type of creamy cheese.  Maybe a Brie, if you don’t mind multiplying the calories and fat by a factor of 2. Maybe 3.  Who’s counting?   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Uncanned

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Ragu

THREE YEARS AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

FOUR YEARS AGO: Celery and Apple Salad

PEAR, BLUE CHEESE & WALNUT SALAD

One of the gifts we’ve received during the holidays was a super special box of Royal Riviera pears from Harry and David.  Inside the box, a little card with a recipe for a salad that would make the pears shine.  They ship the pears slightly unripe, with instructions on the best way to store them as they reach their peak, and also on how to tell when they get there.  We had to wait for a little less than a week, then enjoyed the juiciest pears ever!   The salad? It was so good that we made it again a couple of days later… Come to think of it, that in itself is a huge endorsement, because I tend not to crave salads during the cold months of the year.

Rogue Valley Salad

ROYAL RIVIERA ROGUE VALLEY SALAD
(recipe adapted from Harry & David)

for the dressing:
2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup walnut oil (I used less)

for the salad:
1 head butter lettuce, washed and dried
1 large Royal Riviera Pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4  cup Rogue Creamery or other blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup  toasted walnuts

Make the dressing: Mix together the first five ingredients. Gradually whisk in the walnut oil. Chill for 20 minutes.

Gently tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces. Arrange on four chilled plates. Top with fans of pear slices. Sprinkle blue cheese evenly over the pears and lettuce and top with nuts. Drizzle the dressing generously over the salad, and serve at once.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Pears

The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of walnut oil, I used a lot less than that but kept the other amounts the same. I like my salad to be just barely coated with dressing and prefer it a little less oily. Also, considering the price for walnut oil, I rather use it with a little less abandon.  😉   On my second time preparing this recipe, the dressing was similar, but instead of walnuts I used very thinly sliced celery.  I mixed the celery with the dressing as it chilled for 20 minutes and then incorporated both into the other components.  Two pears were consumed in the name of this delicious salad, the others we enjoyed late at night, usually watching nice movies…  Like the trilogy:  Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.  I highly recommend those, Julie Delpy is simply superb!

ONE YEAR AGO: Keema Beef Curry

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin with Soy, Ginger, and Lime

THREE YEARS AGO: No-Fuss Coffee Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Swedish Limpa

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH PORK TENDERLOIN & APPLES

This was a lightning quick dish to prepare, with a deliciously tasty outcome… Pork and apples go together quite well, but often a recipe will call for cooking down the apples to a saucy consistency. Not the case here, and that was a nice change of pace.   The apples retain their bite, the pork gets tender and super-juicy.

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cider

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH SAUTEED APPLES
(inspired by a recipe from Cooking Light magazine)

1 pork tenderloin, cut in 12 pieces
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon grape seed oil
1 leek, sliced thin (white and light green part only)
Gala apples, sliced thin
3/4 cup apple cider
1 cup chicken (or veggie) stock
squeeze of lemon juice

Pound each piece of pork lightly, protecting the meat with a piece of Saran Wrap. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil on a large skillet.  Sauté the pork slices in two batches if necessary, until they are golden brown on both sides.  Remove the meat to a platter.  Add a little more oil if the pan seems too dry, and sauté the leeks until they begin to get soft. Add the apples and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring gently.  Add the cider, cover and cook for a couple of minutes longer.

Add the chicken stock, put the meat back in the pan, cover it and simmer on low heat until the meat is cooked to your liking and the apples start to disintegrate, but still keep their shape.  Adjust seasoning, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: When I bought the pork tenderloin, my idea was to grill it. But that particular Wednesday the temperature was a “balmy” 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which is known to kill creatures born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil.  Since Phil was coming home straight from a meeting and therefore unavailable to brave the elements, I quickly changed gears and searched for options compatible with my survival.  I happened to have all ingredients to prepare this dish, as apples and cider are always in our fridge this time of the year.

plated2Dinner is served!

ONE YEAR AGO: Salmon Wellington

TWO YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

THREE YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

FOUR YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

BRAN MUFFINS, RAINBOWS AND A WONDERFUL SURPRISE

Found it on the 3rd. Baked it on the 5th.  That is how fast I jumped on this recipe once I saw it at Pastry Studio. I’ve mentioned before that one of Phil’s favorite breakfast item is a bran muffin studded with raisins and nuts.  I know that baking the version of his past is akin to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so I simply enjoy the path of trying different recipes and getting feedback on how close or far I am from the muffin of his hippie days.

Buttermilk Bran Muffin3

BUTTERMILK BRAN MUFFINS
(from Pastry Studio)
Makes 16 muffins

1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk at room temperature
1 cup (2 oz) wheat bran
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (89 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (89 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (3 oz) canola oil
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (2 1/4 oz) molasses
2 tablespoons (1 oz) honey
2 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) raisins, chopped (I kept them whole)
1/2 cup (1 3/4 oz) pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 16 wells in standard size muffin tins or use paper liners.

Place the buttermilk and bran in a bowl and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Sift both flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In another bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients, whisk the oil, brown sugar, molasses and honey.  Add the eggs and combine thoroughly.  Mix in the vanilla and orange zest.  Add the bran and buttermilk mixture.  Whisk in the flour mixture just until there are no streaks.  Do not over mix.  Fold in the raisins and pecans.

Divide the batter equally in the prepared muffin cups.  Bake until the muffins spring back when pressed gently in the center or a tester inserted comes out clean, about 13 minutes.  Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Use a small thin knife or small metal spatula to remove from the pan.  Cool completely.

(I made half the recipe and that was enough for 7 regular-size muffins)

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I am not wild about bran muffins, but in the name of food blogging I decided to try a little bite of one.  Surprise!  I enjoyed it so much it became my lunch that Sunday. 😉 Very moist, sweet but not as sweet as I expected for a muffin that contains honey, molasses, AND brown sugar. The molasses taste is the strongest and I think it masks the harshness of wheat bran very well.  My kind of bran muffin.

Did I hit the jackpot with these? I am one step closer, but feedback from the resident former hippie suggests me to triple the raisins, use walnuts instead of pecans, and at least double that amount too. No wonder I have a hard time re-creating the concoction of his past.  Obviously,  it was not a muffin. It was a block of walnuts and raisins with just enough crumb to hold it all together.  And, I must buy a jumbo muffin pan.   So, that will be taken care of soon.  But, the muffin part – the amount of bran and the overall sweetness – were spot on!

Now we move to the surprise part of this post.   I was featured on “Food Writer Friday“, a publication run by Maureen from “The Orgasmic Chef” and Helene from “Masala Herb“.  If you are interested, take a look at the amazing article she wrote by clicking here.  My jaw kept dropping as I read it,  and I developed this permanent smile on my face that lasted for a few days…   The idea that someone on the other side of the planet (literally) would take the time and energy to write such a thoughtful article about someone she doesn’t even know personally,  melts my heart…

When you’ve been blogging for a while, it is hard to know how you come across to your readers, and her article gave me a nice snapshot of it.  Nothing pleased me more than realizing that my relationship with Phil is a big part of it.  The fact that she chose my post on bran muffins to highlight our happiness made me smile, knowing that I had this post already written and scheduled for publication. Isn’t that an amazing coincidence?

Rainbow2(image from Wikimedia Commons)

Maureen, it is hard to express how much I love everything you wrote, and how much energy it gives me to go on with the blog, with my little stories, and my endless search for rainbows, pots of gold, and the perfect bran muffin…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Cider-Marinated Pork Kebabs

TWO YEARS AGO: Golden Age Granola

THREE  YEARS AGO: Mushroom Souffle for Two

FOUR YEARS AGO: Stollen