Zucchini Stuffed with Wild Rice, Cheddar, and Dill

Here’s another one for that tried and true 5-ingredients-or-less category.

In my opinion, the clinchers here are threefold: the zucchini flesh is scooped out and added to the stuffing; the cheddar I used was sharp, tangy, and heavenly (and from Ithaca!); and the zucchini base is cooked in a skillet before going in the oven, which adds immensely to its flavor.

If you’re of a generally hungry disposition, eating both stuffed zucchini halves will be an optimal choice.  Others of you may find that eating only one half will suffice.  I have the pleasure of telling you that when you’re in the confines of your own home, cooking for yourself, you can pretty much do and eat whatever you would like.  If you’re of the latter category, this dish stores well in the fridge and can be reheated for lunch or dinner the following day.

A note on rice: how do you usually cook it?  Everyone has their method, and this is the one my mother taught me: soak the rice ten minutes, then rinse.  Add enough water to the pot of rice so that when you stick your index finger into the pot to touch the top of the rice, the water will reach the first crease in your index finger.  This method has yet to fail me (if I find that halfway through cooking rice there is too much water, I remove the lid to let some water evaporate). If you find this idea too unstable or risky, then I suggest following the cooking instructions on the package the rice came in.

To my wonderful internet friends, I wish you a beautiful weekend.  Here is a nice quote and photo I saw from Rumi the other day:

“Lovely days don’t come to you, you should walk to them”.

 

Zucchini Stuffed with Wild Rice- serves 1

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil/veg oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (depending on how dill-y you like things)
  • 1/3-cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 lemon (optional)

1. Soak rice 10 minutes in water. Rinse, then cover with enough water to reach the first crease of your finger when touching top of the rice.
2. Add a pinch of salt and the tablespoon olive oil to pot. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer until done, about 35-40 minutes.
3. Preheat broiler. Meanwhile, cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh and seeds to create a stuffable base and save flesh and seeds. Brush zucchini halves all over with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini halves and cook until lightly browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
5. Roughly chop zucchini flesh, and add to rice mixture along with fresh dill and half of grated cheddar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff both zucchini halves with rice mixture, and top with remaining grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with lemon juice, if desired.

Summer Egg Tortilla with Zucchini, Almonds, and Prosciutto

Here is a recipe I made for lunch the other day, highlighting one of my favorite summer ingredients: zucchini, a type of summer squash.  Its soft, dark green exterior gives way to a meaty and flavorful interior that tastes delicious as is with just a splash of lemon juice and a bit of salt, but which also tastes great in a number of salads, soups, sautes, and roasts.

I decided here to saute it quickly and combine it in an egg tortilla of sorts (think more of an egg wrap) with toasted and sliced almonds, feta, and prosciutto.  I chose not to use the Italian-style prosciutto from where the ingredient’s name finds origin, opting instead for a Spanish style prosciutto, or “jamon Serrano,” whose thin and flavorful slices provide a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a delightfully salty ham taste.

The egg wrap itself has fresh chopped herbs mixed in so every bite packs a punch.  I made this for a lighter lunch but you can instantly make this dish more substantial by wrapping all ingredients up in a soft, pillowy tortilla.

You will have leftover zucchini, which I recommend tossing with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and serving as a side salad with your egg wrap.  Enjoy!

Summer Egg Tortilla with Zucchini, Almond, Feta, and Prosciutto – serves 1

  • 2 eggs (large organic preferably – from local farmer even better!)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped herbs, such as chives, parsley, cilantro, or mint
  • 1 small handful sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 slices prosciutto, shredded with your hands into bite-size pieces
  • 2-3 tablespoons feta cheese

1. In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs vigorously until well combined. Add herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
2. Heat a small skillet on medium heat. Add almond slices and toast until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove almonds from skillet and set aside.
3. Return skillet to medium heat and add half of butter, cooking until it starts to bubble. Add half of zucchini and a pinch of salt. Cook until zucchini is golden, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes. Remove zucchini from skillet.
4. Add rest of butter. Once butter is melted and just starting to bubble add eggs, and don’t stir. Tilt pan occasionally and slide eggs toward center of pan to let uncooked egg slide to bottom of skillet. Once bottom side of eggs has set, use an inverted plate to flip it over (place plate over skillet – flip eggs onto plate, slide eggs back into skillet so uncooked side is facing down). Cook about 30 seconds longer, or until eggs have just set.
5. Slide eggs onto plate. Top with prosciutto, feta, zucchini, and almonds. Roll and hold in place with toothpicks. Enjoy!

Spring Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons

 

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~Oscar Wilde

 

I won’t go into the details of why cooking for yourself is a great way to dive into this so-called romance as Mr. Wilde puts it, but I thought this quote might inspire you as it did me.  I also would like to apologize for not having written any recipes for exactly two months.  When it comes to this blog, consistency is clearly is not my strong suit.

I am going to keep it fairly short today, and just give you the run-down with this pasta, a healthy dish that comes together nicely and showcases the prime vegetables of the season.  While I like cooking year round, cooking in springtime is a special treat because I am finally able to cook with fresh produce that is full of fragrance, flavor and texture.  The silky zucchini complements perfectly the crunch of the asparagus and peas, and fresh basil adds the final touch to remind you that better weather really is on its way!

Of course this springtime bliss is only relevant to those living in seasonal areas in the northern hemisphere, but hopefully you will all enjoy making this pasta no matter where you call home.  As with pretty much any recipe on this blog, feel free to change it up as you see fit: replace the peas with fava beans, use fresh mint or cilantro instead of basil, and you may even want to omit the bacon, in which case you would need to use olive oil to cook the zucchini and asparagus. 

One last note: if you have leftover zucchini and asparagus, why don’t you dice or slice everything and cook it in the next few days in a frittata?

Happy spring to every one, may your next meal be absolutely delicious, wherever and whatever you find yourself eating.  And please give feedback/comments/new recipe ideas!  The more the merrier!

Spring Pasta- Serves 1
 
1 zucchini, ends cut off, peeled
1/4-cup lardons, or two slices bacon, cut into small dice
2 ounces papardelle pasta, or any other pasta you want to use (you’re making this for yourself, so go nuts!)
1/2-cup fresh or frozen peas (if using frozen, make sure to thaw them)
3 stalks asparagus, trimmed, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lemon
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan, or more as desired
good-quality olive oil (optional)
 
1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.
2.  Using your vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini vertically into pasta-like ribbons.

3.  In a small or medium saute pan, cook the lardons or bacon bits over medium heat, until well browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Once cooked through, remove from heat, leaving the fat in the pan.
4.  Once water is boiling, add pasta and peas and cook pasta to package instructions. 
5.  Return the saute pan to heat and cook garlic in the remaining bacon fat until browned, about 30 seconds.  Add the zucchini ribbons and saute until slightly softened, 2 minutes.  Add the asparagus and cook until asparagus pieces are just slightly tender, 2-3 minutes.
6.  Once pasta is ready, drain in a colander along with the peas.  Add pasta, peas, and bacon bits to the skillet containing the asparagus and zucchini, and toss to combine.  Add lemon juice as desired, probably 1-2 tablespoons. Season generously with freshly ground pepper.
7.  Remove from heat and toss in the basil.  Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and drizzle with good-quality olive oil if desired.
 
Booooon appetito!

>Lasagne w/ Wild Mushrooms

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My lifelong friend, and a very dear one at that, is in Paris for the week, and I would be completely lying if I said that as soon as I knew she would be in Paris with her boyfriend (which was a couple of months ago) I didn’t think about having her over for dinner and what I would prepare.
So alas, she agreed to come over last night with her boyfriend whom I would be meeting for the first time. This friend of mine is brilliant in every way and I hold her opinion in high regard; needless to say, I wanted this dinner to be perfect.
So, I got to thinking about what would make for some good dinner options. I had been craving some sort of mushroom dish for the past couple of nights, and I found a wild mushroom lasagne recipe that features the bold earthiness of dried porcini mushrooms – so soulful and satisfying.
I wanted to make a simple salad to start off the dinner, and I chose a very basic endive salad with a red wine dijon vinaigrette – simple, tasty, and light.
For an additional starter, I knew I wanted my friend to try pissaladière – it’s so unique in flavor with slowly caramelized onions, salty anchovies and olives, and a crispy pastry crust, that it makes a bold and enriching statement. It really is amazing, I find myself craving it at random times throughout the day – the flavors stay with you!
Of course, the glorious cheese plate had to make an appearance – and it was the star of the night! The real winner on the cheese plate was a 2-year aged gouda that I got from a farmer’s market in the 7th arrondissement; this cheese is a beautiful combination of sharp, nutty, and creamy.
Finishing off the dinner with two large maccarons, flavored with salted butter and caramel, and a small strawberry tart, we were successfully stuffed. And happy as clams.
So, I hope that anyone who is reading this (although I’m slowly becoming certain that I’m writing these recipes for no one but myself) can find inspiration in these dishes to create his or her own five-course dinner at home, and bring joy, passion, and love to a dinner table. The recipe for the endive salad is in the next post, and the recipe for the mushroom lasagne is what follows.
To make the filling for the lasagne, you’ll need 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, 1 1/2 pounds white mushrooms, 2 large zucchini, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 5 tablespoons butter, 6 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat, then add in the porcini mushrooms. Let the porcinis soak for about 20 minutes, and then remove them from the water, squeezing them out to get rid of excess liquid. Strain the porcini to remove grit and pat them dry. Chop them up, then place them in a large bowl. Simmer the porcini water until reduced to about 1/4 cup, then place in the bowl with the porcinis.
Chop up the white mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme, and cut the zucchini into 1/4-inch dice. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and once it has stopped foaming, add about 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar. Add 1/3 of the mushrooms, and cook until most liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and they’re beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Place them in the bowl with the porcini mushrooms. Repeat this process with remaining mushrooms in two batches, adding them to the porcini mixture. Next, cook one more tablespoon butter, and cook zucchini until tender, about 8 minutes. Add to the porcini mixture. Cook final tablespoon butter (talk about excessive use of this dairy product!), and cook onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and chopped thyme and cook for about 30 seconds, then add to the mushroom mixture. You can make this 1 day ahead, and keep it refrigerated.
To make the sauce, you’ll need 1 stick of butter, 1/2-cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, about 1 1/2 cups parmesan, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook the mixture (which I learned is called a roux), whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add the parm, mustard, salt, and pepper. This can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
Ok, we’re almost done now, phew. To prepare the lasagne, you’ll need about 15 small lasagne sheets, 3 small mozzarella balls or 2 large ones, and 3/4 cup grated parmesan. Turn your oven on to 400 degrees. Place one layer of filling on the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan (you can really use any size, this was all I had), and then cover with one layer of lasagne sheets, making sure the sheets don’t overlap. Spread a layer of filling over the sheets, and top again with a layer of lasagne. Press down softly to seal everything together.
Rip up your mozzarella balls, and spread half of them over the pasta sheets. Repeat these steps one more time, ending with a layer of lasagne on top. Sprinkle parmesan over the lasagne, and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
Serve with a nice bottle of red wine, and you’ll be feeling fantastic. Santé!

>Ratatouille

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My first dinner guest arrived in Paris last night! My aunt Elizabeth decided to spend the night in Paris (she was coming from her hometown of Brighton, England) and as soon as she told me she was coming, my mind started racing, trying to think of various dinner options to prepare for her.
Because my aunt is a vegetarian, my choices were thankfully narrowed down. I browsed through The New Moosewood Cookbook (by Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, Berkely California; 1977), and as soon as I saw a recipe for ratatouille, I knew I had to make it. I also love the animated film with the same title, featuring a talking French rat, so I took it as fate and went out to buy my groceries.

When I arrived back home, groceries in hand, I dove in to work, dicing up the vegetables and hoping that the meal would come together nicely. And if the picture of the ratatouille doesn’t do it justice, I hope my words can. The silkiness of the eggplant combined with the mild spice of cumin and chili powder create a smoky sensation in your mouth, leaving a nice aftertaste that changes in heat and dimension as time goes on. It’s so good, I dreamed about it last night!

Serve it with a nice salad (I made mine with butter lettuce, basil, cherry tomatoes, and a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, chopped shallots, salt & pepper), and please, I beg of you, serve this dish with a fresh baguette; nothing tastes better than dipping a piece of bread in the sauce, finishing the meal off perfectly.

The dish requires a bit of prep work to cut the vegetables and herbs, but it comes together so easily and you only need one large skillet to make it. It’s so yummy, and if you’re making it for one person, even better – you’ll have leftovers which taste so good for lunch or dinner the next day.

Merci à tous, et je vous souhaite un très bon dîner !

To make the ratatouille, you’ll need olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, 2 medium onions, 1 small eggplant, salt, basil, thyme, 1 small zucchini, 1 bell pepper, 1 7-oz can tomato sauce, fresh parsley, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

Chop up the garlic, onions, 1 1/2 tsp basil, and 1 1/2 tsp thyme, and cut the eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper into small cubes (try to make them around the same size so they cook at the same speed). Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and garlic, and saute over medium heat until onions are slightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggplant, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, and cayenne to taste, and stir. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes ,stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, or until the zucchini and bell pepper are tender.

You can serve it right away, or serve it cold – it’s delicious either way! I’ll be in Deauville for the next two days, and am hoping to get some new inspiration for French cooking. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!