summer dinner

  It’s been a brutally hot week and I’m having people for dinner. We will start with Mutabbal which is basically Egyptian baba ghanouj and pita.

Next to accompany a marinated roast we will be grilling we will also be grilling marinated veggie shish kebabs, lentil salad, and for dessert a simple summer trifle.

Guests may have sparkling water, ice tea, a lovely rosé wine or glass of Sancerre.

vegetables marinating for veggie shish kebab. Marinade marinade made with an Arabian spice blend known as Baharat

 

Lentil salad made witjh red and regular lentils, for grated carrots, one purple onion, one small purple bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes, Italian flat leaf parsley and fresh basil diced, a simple vinaigrette made with lemon juice lemons asked, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, cumin

 

Mutabbal- two cans drained canned chickpeas, tahini paste, olive oil, one roasted white egg plant and one roasted red pepper, half an onion, three cloves of garlic, a few dashes of Tabasco, Stonington sea salt, a little fresh parsley, juice of one large lemon and zest as well, paprika, cumin, couple dashes of Ras el Hanout. Purée and refrigerate and serve with pita.

Summer trifle made with rasberries, blueberries, lady fingers, lemon and coconut puddings

cooking gnocchi with mushrooms


I ended up having some people over for dinner last night.  So I butterflied a big roaster chicken and roasted Julia Child style simply with fresh herbs (you can see the chicken in the photo at the bottom of the page – that was what it looked like as it went into the oven – I forgot to take its picture when it came out). 

I served with a fresh mixed green salad to which I added a simple balsamic mustard vinaigrette, and the starch was homemade gnocchi with mushrooms. Dessert in case you were wondering was sliced fresh strawberries from Kimberton Whole Foods.

I have previously given you my gnocchi recipe. So use that as your guide to rolling them out until little logs and slicing them into bite-size pieces, but the dough composition is different and here’s how I did it:

 
1 egg beaten
 
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 
2  medium sized (not huge) potatoes roasted skins removed and smashed up
 
1 cup of ricotta strained to remove any extra liquid – whole milk is best
 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
 
About 2 cups of flour, maybe  less – add half a cup at a time to your dough to see. You don’t want a dry dough with gnocchi, it should always feel not quite sticky but more elastic.
 
1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves dried, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt.
 
Basically you mix it all together until becomes a dough but don’t overwork it. Then I throw a cloth over my bowl and allow the dough to rest for at least half an hour.
 
When your dough has rested, break off pieces of the dough and roll into little logs and slice into bite-size pieces from the log. You can roll them off the edge of the forks so they have those lines in them or you can cook them just the way they are.
 
After I make my gnocchi I lay them out on a large baking sheet on parchment paper and put it on a shelf by itself in the refrigerator till I am ready to cook.
 
 
The sauce is pretty simple:
 
Melt one stick of butter which is half a cup in a sauté pan – a large sauté pan because you will be adding the gnocchi to it later.
 
When the butter is melted and starting to bubble just a slight bit, add half a large red onion diced. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Add one finely grated medium sized carrot.
 
After the onion starts to turn slightly translucent, add thinly sliced baby Bella  mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, and a handful of white mushrooms. Basically you should use one 8 ounce package of shiitake, The same size package of baby Portabella mushrooms also known as crimini, and about 4 ounces of white mushrooms.
 
Next add a handful of fresh sage leaves chopped into small-ish pieces and about a teaspoon of dried rosemary  or if you have fresh dice up a smallish twig.
 
When everything seems to be cooked together fairly well but not mushy remove from heat.
 
I do the mushroom mixture ahead of time and not at the same time I am cooking my gnocchi because there is not enough time.
 
After the mushroom mixture is cooled use a slotted spoon and remove the vegetables to their own bowl for the time being. Leave the butter and liquid from mushrooms in the bottom of the pan.
 
Boil a large pot of salted water and when everything is really boiling toss in all your gnocchi.
 
The same time you are boiling your gnocchi bring the pan with the butter and the mushroom juices back up to heat. You may have to add about another tablespoon of butter and do add a scant 1/4 cup of white wine.  (Last night I was roasting a chicken as I was making these gnocchi for a side dish so I also tossed in 2 tablespoons of pan juices. ) You need that mixture to reach almost boil but not cook off. Also toss in two or three whole sage leaves.
 
The gnocchi will cook probably in about 3 to 4 minutes – when they all are bubbling to the surface and bobbing around, use a slotted spoon to remove them.
 
Put the gnocchi immediately into the pan with butter and wine that should be really bubbling at this point. Move the gnocchi around gently to brown slightly. As you are moving the gnocchi around gently add back the mushrooms and red onion to heat again.
 
Be careful  with your gnocchi they are a slightly delicate things but once everything is browned through toss half a cup of grated Parmesan on on top and some diced flat leaf parsley if you choose. Toss one more time into a bowl and serve.
 
 

quiche with ham, broccoli, and spinach….and a side of teenager

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Yes….how to get more vegetables into your teenager. Of course my teenager has just decreed that he’s not eating any quiche.

(Deep breath…..deep breath…..)

As parents is incredibly frustrating when you are going out of your way to try to make things that will be appealing to them, and then they won’t even try things if they are in a teenage mood. Well the teen can try it, right? Not everything can be of the favorite teenage boy food group of starch sugar and more starch. He was much easier to feed when he was 10, and he was actually open to trying new things and allowing things that were green and vegetable like to pass his lips regularly.

Of course if I had a show on Food Network like Nancy Fuller or Martha Stewart or Ree Drummond or Ina Garten everybody would sit magically around the table which would be set beautifully to perfection every night and eat everything that I made and rave….LOL reality is far different!

Okay enough venting my frustration over the eating habits and mercurial moods of the teenage male! I just have to keep repeating “I love my teenager I love my teenager I love my teenager I love my teenager“.

I think out there somewhere there must be a 12 step program for surviving the teenage years. They really aren’t mutant ninja secret agent super gamer teenage cave dwellers who have taken a vow of silence. My brother-in-law humorously noted recently that the average teenage boy doesn’t really start conversing with adults again until they hit 18 or 19.

Anyway I know this quiche will be delicious. The wine depicted in the photo is for adults in the house.

So how this recipe came about: I had ham leftover from New Year’s. I had frozen the bone for an upcoming lentil soup, but decided to go quiche with the remaining ham meat.

First I made my crust – I am into these herbs and savory crusts these days, so the recipe for this particular crust is below the rest of the quiche recipe.

Once I had rolled out my crust and fit it into my 9 1/2 inch vintage glass dish pie plate, put that in the refrigerator to keep cool well I got to work on the rest of the quiche.

Somewhere during the crust making process I preheated my oven to 375°.

My next step involves the ingredients below:

1 1/2 cups cubed ham
1/2 cup grape tomatoes sliced thin
1 medium onion chopped small
1 cup fresh broccoli diced
Dash of salt fresh cracked pepper
Dash of Cumin

For all those ingredients listed above, sauté with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat for about 10 minutes, maybe 15. Turn off heat and set-aside.

Okay now that that part was complete and the crust was chilling, comes the next step before assembly. It involves the ingredients below:

1 3/4 cups shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Dash sriracha sauce

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach stems removed

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs milk salt, pepper herbs and spices. Add your dash of sriracha sauce.

Fold in the cheese. Take your piecrust out of the refrigerator and place in the center of a rimmed baking sheet – I use a professional jellyroll pan. First layer in the ham mixture from your sauté pan, then add baby spinach – the leaves are so small I don’t bother to chop up. Finally add your shredded cheese.

Place quiche on your baking sheet and your preheated 375° oven. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. I don’t like eating boiling hot quiche so I will let mine sit 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with a green salad.

Oops, I almost forgot, here is how I made the crust:

1/2 teaspoon each rosemary, marjoram, tarragon
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 Tbs. very cold buttermilk

Directions:
To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives or yes your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together. Form dough into a ball and flatten slightly on a floured surface roll out. Put in your pie plate crimp the edges, and refrigerate why you assemble the rest of your quiche.

simple summer suppers

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When the wether gets warm I like things like simple and fresh pasta salads for supper. So that’s what I’m having this evening and it couldn’t have been easier to make.

I got some beautiful vegetables at the Thornbury Farm CSA Saturday including what I like to call lollipop, or large spring onions and fresh snap peas. I already had some beautiful bright sweet bell peppers in the refrigerator at home and a lot of herbs in my garden and some celery.

All I did was cook a bag of regular frozen cheese tortellini, boil up a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts, steamed my snap peas, chopped up the other vegetables, and tossed together with a honey-herb-mustard vinaigrette that I made. The main herb in the vinaigrette (which also had garlic and a shallot in it ) was fresh dill, but I also to the salad added chopped fresh fennel tops, fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, and basil.

Summer dinners are meant to be easy!

quick toss pasta

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Simple pasta recipes are usually the best. This one I am sharing with you is not rocket science, it was sort of what I had left over to cook with one night.

I boiled pasta of my choosing according to the package directions. When it was ready I drained it but did not rinse and tossed it into a bowl with the following:

Garlic powder
Salt-and-pepper to taste
Couple healthy dashes of dried oregano and basil
Olive oil
Hot red pepper flakes
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
About half a package of washed and dried baby fresh arugula

I just tossed it all together. It ended up being a fabulous combination.

gnocchi for dinner

Well I already told you how to make my Bolognese made with ground turkey, right?  Lucky you all, I will give you the quick and dirty on easy as pie homemade gnocchi. After all, they are  just  Italian dumplings, kids.

But before we get to the gnocchi of it all, I messed with my sauce today.  Did not have mushrooms, so I omitted those.  Diced up a handful (four) sun-dried tomatoes though to add another layer.

I make gnocchi when I have leftover mashed potatoes.  I learned how to make potato and ricotta gnocchi from my great aunts by feel, so the ingredients are an approximation, maybe might need tweaking (or not.)

2 cups flour (all-purpose)

1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes (they were plain mashed.  You can use sweet potatoes, and pumpkin as well as ricotta to make gnocchi but that is another conversation entirely.)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I like the Parmesan-Romano blend)

Italian seasoning and garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 -3 tablespoons olive oil

Mash the flour, grated cheese and potatoes together.  Add the egg, olive oil,  and Italian seasoning and a little salt and pepper.

Do not overmix, but gather your dough into a ball, break off pieces you roll into uniform dough tootsie rolls with your hands (you know so they are round?)

Take a small sharp knife and on a board covered in parchment slice out even little bits of dough.

Lay out on lightly floured board for a couple of hours to dry a bit. I refrigerate mine right on the baking sheet.

Boil water with salt and oil, cook your gnocchi until they all float to surface (5 minutes or so.)

Scoop out gently with strainer.

Add sauce.

Eat yourself into a pasta coma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fast and fresh tomato sauce

Oh lordy I have so many tomatoes!  It’s “almost” pomodoro time – yep – simple and sweet.  And you slice the garlic, not chop.  Sautée some onions, add fresh herbs….it will be delicious…this is not quite a pomodoro and only “almost” because I have meat and do add a little tomato paste, but omit the meat and paste and it will be more traditional.

Simple, fast, fresh.

A few cloves of thin sliced garlic (today I used six)  

3 small onions sliced (3 little yellows from the farmers market in thin slices and then rings)

fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, divided

tomatoes (I have half a pint of yellow cherry tomatoes and a bunch of ripe red)

fresh mozzarella (bought this crazy amazing mozzarella from the Hamptons  home)

salt

pepper

fresh oregano

fresh parsley

4 sausage patties (Italian sweet – they were in the freezer – or you can omit meat altogether)

a small amount of dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted in white wine

hot pepper

smoked paprika

tomato paste

olive oil

pasta of choice

Brown the sausage.  Remove from pan, drain out on paper towels.

Toss a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in pan and cook garlic and onions.  Until sort of starting to caramelize (a golden brown color but not burnt).

Add the reconstituted mushrooms, juice and all.

Add the tomatoes. (which have been chopped, except for cherries, which were halved)

Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, a dash or two of hot pepper flakes and a dash of smoked paprika

Cook down a bit.  Add some paste.  The smallest can is 6 oz – use one of those if you use paste.  Add cooked and now crumbled sausage back to sauce.

Cook your pasta.

When you put pasta and sauce together add chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano) and diced up fresh mozzarella.

Serve with a nice bottle of wine if you so choose, some crusty bread and a simple salad of arugula and romaine.

Enjoy