Friday, July 20, 2007

zucchini stuffed with feta, pinenuts, and dill

one of those perfect summer meals

Oh man, sometimes I get into the mode when I want to write about a recipe and words just flow, you know. And sometimes, I make a dish and it is heavenly. And I can’t wait to share it with all of you. And then – my mind goes all fragment-y and vacant. I write a few pieces and nothing quite flows and I scrap the whole thing and begin all over again. And this recipe is one of them.

And yet I cannot figure out why – because if anything this dish is so amazing, easy, delicious and healthy that I should have no problem singing it praises. I should just feel so inspired by the fact that there is nothing about this dish not worth noting, but instead I look at the pictures, salivate a bit and go back to the blank sheet to type something, anything that might induce a bit of sex-appeal for the dish. You know, every dish wants to be sexy in some way or another. It needs to have its edge, its je ne sais quoi, its mojo!

vessels

But here’s the rub – if say gossip magazines were loaded with nothing but positive and wonderful news of celebrities, the gossip magazine industry as we know it would cease to exist. Or sell a lot fewer magazines. Because people like to read stories with a little bit of hair on them. No one wants to read a happy-go-lucky story. We eat up negative tabloid news like nothing else – and someone’s making a mint on this! Some actress falling off the wagon and the next day a picture of her passed out in her car is front pages news; an innocent looking heartthrob getting caught with a hooker in an alley; a cherubic, stunning model videotaped doing cocaine. This is the stuff that really propels the sales into the stratosphere. I guess because this dish is the equivalent of a Meryl Streep celebrity-type, there’s little edge that it has. Talented, elegant, appealing, but not in the least bit scandalous or mysterious – when was the last time you read about Meryl in People, US Weekly, or OK?

I guess the missive is this – unless you dislike any of the ingredients listed, you need to make this dish. Soon. And if you dislike, pine nuts for example, just take them out and make the dish without them. I suppose if you don’t like zucchini, then you’re pretty much out of luck as the rest of the dish goes out the window, but few people I know dislike zucchini. In fact, no one I know, dislikes it.

stuffed

So, it’s quite simple, you see. Make the dish. Taste for yourself. And let me know if you don’t love it – because I’ve yet to make this and have leftovers the next day. And there you have it, short, sweet, to the point. Nothing controversial about stuffed zucchini (unless you want to make a juvenile crack about me saying “stuffed”) – but I tried to come up with something zany for you, and it amounted to nothing. I suppose this would make me a failure at a tabloid magazine – I like happy stories both in print and on my plate!

Continue reading zucchini stuffed with feta, pinenuts, and dill.

Friday, July 13, 2007

apricot berry crumble

my kingdom for a crumble

Ever since I’ve fallen in love with dessert – and I’m a late arrival to that party – I’ve been unable to pass up the dessert menu at restaurants. Good for the soul – bad for the hips. Give me chocolate ganache or give me death. Nowadays, I always have room for dessert. Truthfully, I miss my non-sweet-tooth days. I had such will-power then!

However, years before I succumbed to the dessert curse, I had fallen in love with messy, baked fruit-filled dessert. I had my first crumble in college and went on a mission to make as many different kinds as I could, combining various fruit together, using one topping or another to perfect that fruit-to-crunch ratio. I have more crumble recipes stuffed in my baking binder (wherever it’s hiding) than I have mashed potato recipes (and believe me I have quite a few of those!). For some reason, I have all but stopped making them in the last few years. Could be that living alone wasn’t conducive to cooking a large dessert that was meant to be shared with a crowd.

they make me so happy

But since the summer descended upon us with its sweltering temperatures, dampening my love of a hot stove, I’ve been on a crumble craze. As in I’ve made four in the last four weeks. In my book – four crumbles in four weeks is a lot. But, people, I can’t stop. What’s not to love? Large chunks of berries, apricots, plums, apples with minimal thickener, topped with crunchy, crumbly, buttery topping that is oh-so-sinfully-good! A few years ago, Nigella Lawson, contributed a crumble recipe to New York Times. I did my clipping, but then forgot about the recipe and didn’t remember having it until Deb wrote about it and I think I drooled a little on my keyboard. Fetching, I know.

magically simple

I decided upon making a strawberry apricot crumble because both were in abundance at my market and I hear magical bells when I see the word “SALE” next to produce. Making the crumble was so easy, I paused to review the instructions to make sure I wasn’t messing it up. I wasn’t. Then I baked it. And checked up on it while it bubbled and hissed. And then, then – was the hardest part. Waiting. Waiting for it to cool down. And waiting some more. And then waiting more. I swear, it was interminable and I salivated and sighed.

But. When the wait was over and I piled a messy mound of berries and topping in my bowl, it was heavenly, sublime. I actually closed my eyes, delirious in my crumble ecstasy. After that first initial crumble experience, I had to have my weekly fix. KS, who unlike me does not have a sweet tooth, also likes them and proactively asks me to make them. So really, as far as I can foresee, I’ll be making a few of these this summer with various combinations of whatever I can find in season and whatever strikes my fancy at the time. Expect to see more crumbles here this summer. And maybe a pie or two here and there. Fruit filled. Chunky. Summer sweet. Thanks to Eve and her apple, sin is synonymous with sweetness.

presenting the strawberry-apricot crumble

Continue reading apricot berry crumble.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

fried zucchini blossoms

zucchini flowers

As a child, I once attempted to eat a daisy. My younger cousin, who was my opposite in each and every way (I liked to cook, she didn’t; I liked sitting quietly and reading, she liked to run around and climb tress) wryly noted that only cows ate daisies. People don’t eat flowers, she said. She had a point.

zucchini flowers

It wasn’t until Martha Stewart’s beautiful how-to on making candied flowers to decorate cupcakes that I actually entertained thoughts of once again putting a flower in my mouth. They were pretty and sparkly, almost jewel-like in their crystallized splendor. And while I stayed indifferent to cupcakes for many years thereafter, candied flowers were always a weak spot. Was it the aesthetic? Having tried my hand at these candied flowers awhile back, I have to say to you this – Martha, good things or otherwise, has too much time on her hands. On second thought, this is her empire, what she makes her living on. Me? I just try to make dinner a few nights a week when I get home from work/gym/fill-in-the-blank-errand-of-your-choice so that I could photograph and write about it as some not terribly distant future. Oh yeah, and I use flash. Like, a lot. Because poor souls like me actually have office jobs, and not trying to discover the next “good thing” (Radish Mice? Is this idea cool or what? And why didn’t I think of it?). But I digress. Back to the story now.

to crisp perfection

A few years ago, I saw fried zucchini flowers on a restaurant menu, and had to try them – they were delicious. A love at first bite, I wanted to make them at home the next day! The only problem was that I couldn’t find them in the store, or at the farmers market – apparently the chef got them from a farmer friend of his as a favor. The zucchini flowers are very seasonal and up until now, haven’t crossed my path. That is until my last grocery order – when I saw them and pretty much assembled a basked of highly perishable produce (more on that later!) just so I could get my hands on these beautiful, delicate golden-yellow blossoms

happiness is...

KS seemed somewhat excited about these when I told him I was going to make him fried zucchini blossoms, but understandably he wasn’t jumping out of his seat until he tried them and found them as tasty as I do! These are so easy to make, I feel almost ashamed writing about it, but perhaps that’s sort of the point – good food can and should be simple. And that’s a good thing.

Continue reading fried zucchini blossoms.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

4th of july menu ideas

… or this picture is a decoy

by the handful

Like many of you, 4th of July among a few other holidays make me think endless opportunities to cook, drink and be merry with friends – who can resist such joys?

Ever since living in America, I connect the memory of summer to some kind of a 4th of July celebration. Be it taking my parents to an overcrowded Brooklyn Heights Promenade, or a cook out with friends, each year holds some kind of a memory. However, when I think of my summers spent growing up in Russia, I think of my grandmother’s spacious apartment – sunlit, glorious, full of delicious food, my grandmother up at 6 o’clock in the morning to fix me and my cousin breakfast. Everything from scratch. Whole, fresh, local ingredients. And berries. Endless bowls of berries: gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries and currants in red, white and black variety. I would eat them until I could eat no more. I miss those days because it’s not that simple to find fresh currants in America. But when I found red currants at our green market for $3 a box, I felt like I found a hidden treasure and immediately grabbed two cartons!

memories of a blissful childhood

While I am a bit low on content this week (on Monday, KS cooked us a killer meal of steamed wild salmon and sugar snap peas with curry-spiced couscous (did I get lucky or what?) and yesterday I was at work late so we ordered Peking duck and eggplant with garlic sauce – mmmmm), I’d like to revisit some of the dishes that might be good inspiration for your celebratory needs and excellent for group meals! I hope you find this useful and enjoyable.

Me – I’m planning on making a sour cherry pie among other goodies! And of course, I wish everyone a festive and safe Fourth of July!

The SassyRadish signature salad
Apple Pie
Awesome Spicy BBQ Wings
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Marinated Onions
White Bean Salad with Tomato and Basil
Pissaladiere

And over at Accidental Hedonist where I am guest blogging for another five months:
Tomatillo Black Bean Salsa
Smitten Kitchen’s Potato Salad
and
Watermelon Martinis (a must for every hot summer night celebration!)

See more: Menu Ideas,