Stacy's Cooking Journal

My cooking journal is an informal space for me to record what I've been up to in the kitchen. It's mainly intended for personal ideas, but feel free to check it out.

Summer Grilling in July

Did I mention I love summer?

Summer cooking: visit the garden/farmer's market. Buy whatever is there. Then grill it in the simplest possible manner.

Rather than my usual strategy of looking for recipes and going to the store to buy the ingredients, the summer lets me go to the farm stand for the ingredients and then figure out what to do with them.

Lately there's been a lot of beets, corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and berries.

Grilled Beets

  1. Peel and slice beets
  2. Toss with olive oil to coat
  3. Grill over medium heat until cooked through (will be firm) and only slightly charred.

Grilled corn

  1. Peel back the husk enough to remove the hairy stuff
  2. Cover again with the husk
  3. Grill until cooked
  4. Add salt & butter; or try Mario's recipe of adding salt, vinegar, parm, hot pepper, & mint

Zucchini

  • The standard right now is Mario's grilled zucchini with fresh ricotta. Seems elaborate, but when you make it every day it starts to go pretty quickly!
  • Zucchini & green beans with pesto

Tomato Salad

What else do you need? Just slice it up and mix it with copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil and salt. I don't even bother with vinegar or basil most of the time. I know this is not kosher, but I like to salt it and leave it for 30 minutes or so because I long for the tomatoes to lose their juices. My greatest hope is that after I've cleared the bowl of the tomatoes, there will be a lake of olive oil and tomato juice that I can then happily submerge my bread in.

Berries

  • Eat them
  • Slice, add sugar, and add as a topping to gelatos
  • Make crisps!

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03 Aug 2011 14:03
tags: summer

Jalapeño Mojito

Inspired by A's Jalapeño Caparina, the jalapeño mojito is now the standard summer drink around here. A caparina seems almost a mojito but with a less handy alcohol and no mint…and why wouldn't you add mint if given the option? (Puzzling)

I mix the ingredients in no scientific manner. But I do have the ingredients easily accessible on the fly:

  • bottle o rum
  • ice cubes
  • handy ice cube tray in the freezer with fresh lime juice
  • jar of simple syrup in the fridge (cook 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water)
  • jalapeños growing outside in the garden
  • mint growing in the garden

I then simply mix the ingredients. I would guess on average I use something like (recipe not to be trusted):

  • 8 leaves of mint
  • 3-4 slices of jalapeño
  • 1.5 oz of rum
  • 1 lime ice cube
  • 1 spoonful of syrup
  • lots of ice cubes

The ice cubes melt a little, which tones down the drink. I don't add any sodas or water or mixers.
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03 Aug 2011 13:50
tags: drinks summer

Spaghetti with Green Tomatoes

I bought a couple of green tomatoes at the farmer's market and needed something to do with them. I came across Mario's Spaghetti with Green Tomatoes, in which you create a sauce from fresh, uncooked green tomatoes and a pesto-like herb mixture.

I don't usually work with green tomatoes, my experience limited to the obligatory fried green tomatoes. While I was cutting mine, I tasted one and found it extremely tart and almost apple-like. I was skeptical that this sauce would work. (Why do I ever doubt Mario?) However, when combined with the herbs, the tomatoes were transformed into a sauce that was mild, fresh, and crisp.

I made this when I was tired and looking for something quick. I had pesto on hand, so I just combined this with the green tomatoes (nearly pureed in a food processor), mint, and parsley. Because of my relative proportions, the result was a little too close to pesto, I thought. The next time I make it, I will try for the proportions set up in the recipe. I thought that the mint in particular added a special note.

Overall, a fast, easy dish that makes great use of mid-summer or late fall green tomatoes. I highly recommend it!
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26 Jul 2011 00:51
tags: fall italian mario pasta

Preserved Eggplant

Over the weekend I have been working on this Melanzane Sott'Olio recipe. It's not complicated but it takes some time.

I was a little freaked out that you don't cook the eggplant at all (although I've found some recipes that tell you to). Instead, you salt the eggplant and press it so as to remove as much water as possible. In Mario's recipe, a crazy set-up using roasting pans and bricks is used, but I went with the more conventional if possibly less effective method of placing the slices in a colander over a bowl, with a pot of water on top.

I left the eggplant like this for the better part of the day, but did not reach the 12 hours specified by the recipe. As I had no plans to continue prepping the eggplant at 3am, I stuck the whole ensemble in the fridge over night.

The next morning, I squeezed the remaining water from the eggplant slices (which I had sliced into rounds instead of lengthwise as suggested in the recipe). For reference, I also used 1 regular eggplant instead of the Japanese eggplants called for, and I substituted oregano from the garden for the acacia flowers. The recipe tells you to place serrano pepper between every few layers as you add to the jars. I am assuming that means slices of serrano peppers. I can only guess how spicy this is going to be ;)

Two little jars of eggplant are now marinating in the fridge. I hope they turn out to be yummy!

Here's a video of a nonna doing it. Here's another similar recipe and video by Mary Ann Esposito.

UPDATE
I couldn't help myself and went for a slice yesterday. It's still a little early in the marinating process. The eggplant was not spicy but the garlic was powerful. I might use less next time. Even though it seemed like I hadn't added a lot of vinegar, it tasted strongly of it. The mint was a great addition.

I had been frightened by not cooking the eggplant, but I can see now that cooking is unnecessary.

It seems like my unimpressive method of pressing the eggplant undramatically but overnight and then giving the slices a brief squeeze was fine.

There was a layer of congealed olive oil on the top (from being in the fridge). It looks distasteful, but is not a problem. I think the eggplant would be perfect as an appetizer at room temperature on a hot day when you are hungry!

UPDATE DOS
After this test run, I would recommend:

  • be frugal with the vinegar
  • be generous with the olive oil
  • the garlic should be an accent; proceed with caution
  • overall, the spiciness was not as overwhelming as I feared, even though the serrano were quite hot and numerous
  • use a lot of fresh herbs
  • salt the eggplant beforehand very liberally; it's rather nice when the final result has some salt
  • squeeze the water from the eggplant thoroughly after salting

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17 Jul 2011 18:03
tags: italian mario summer

Orecchiette with Fresh Spring Peas

When fresh peas were plentiful at the local farm, I bought a bunch and set out to make this delicious orecchiette pasta dish by Jack Bishop. It is sublime.

I suffered greatly in the making of the orecchiette pasta, as I had no idea what I was doing. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on it, but when using what I thought were their techniques myself, I had a hard time distinguishing what I was doing from making cavatelli. When you look at the two pasta shapes, this will seem impossible. And yet…?

Anyway, some kind of small pasta with a cavity was created. I used freshly made ricotta. The combination of the onions and peas was sweet and delicious.

But I have to be honest: it's not in the recipe, but you really do need to throw in some butter.

A couple of weeks later, I went to a highly regarded Italian restaurant that emphasizes simple food and fresh, local ingredients. I saw a version of this on the menu. The pasta was linguine, but other than that, it tasted exactly like mine. With no small degree of vanity, I took this as a mark that both my pasta dish was as lovely as those served in good Italian restaurants, and that this restaurant must be good if it tasted like mine!
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17 Jul 2011 16:18
tags: italian pasta spring

Gelato

I accidentally purchased an ice cream machine. By accidentally, I mean I deliberately but with great haste bought one before I could think too much about it. This has resulted in some decadence.

While I was at it, I purchased a couple of cookbooks to go with it:
41dyg%2BafqzL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
You probably need this book. It covers just about everything one would need to know about making ice cream and has great recipes for Philadelphia ice cream, "French-styled" ice cream, gelato, sorbets, granita, etc.51qOPILMHdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
Making Artisan Gelato by Torrance Kopfer
This cookbook might be useful. I found most of the techniques I was already familiar with from The Perfect Scoop. However, you might get it if you were somehow finished with Lebovitz's recipes.

I have also found Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano (a more general Italian dessert book) to include some great gelato recipes.

Since purchasing the ice cream machine, I have made:

  • Lemon sorbet (Lebovitz)
  • Raspberry swirl (Lebovitz)
  • Vanilla chocolate chip (Lebovitz)
  • Espresso mocha (Gadget recipe book: grimace!)
  • Dark chocolate & cinnamon gelato (Kopfer)
  • Espresso & cinnamon gelato (DePalma)

After making these, I was given to understand by some of my tasters that I was to "forget about making the regular ice cream" and henceforth "only make gelato." Fair enough, but only making gelato means only using the ice cream machine on the weekends, since gelato involves first cooking the ingredients and allowing them to chill before making the ice cream. American ice cream, while not so wonderful, is ridiculously easy. After a long day of work, you do have the energy to dump some milk, cream, and sugar into the machine and press the On button.

Of all the recipes, DePalma's espresso and cinnamon gelato was the most vile. The recipe only makes a tiny bit, which is for the best. You can actually only eat one scoop. Her milk to cream ratio is 1:1 (similar to Lebovitz), whereas Kopfer's is 2:1, and she uses more egg yolks. If the woman had an entire cookbook devoted to gelato, I would buy it in a hurry!
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17 Jul 2011 16:02
tags: dessert italian summer

Linguine with Zucchini Sauce

This homemade linguine tossed with a rich zucchini sauce tastes comforting and summery at the same time. I made it more or less exactly as specified in the recipe. I picked the zucchini, zucchini blossoms, and parsley from the garden, and I substituted linguine for maccheroni alla chitarra because well, I don't have a chitarra :(

The creaminess from the sauce comes from the pasta cooking water, the cheese, and the eggs. I used eggs pasteurized in their shells. You do need all this richness because zucchini can be a bit bland on its own. Don't forget salt!
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17 Jul 2011 15:37
tags: italian lidia pasta summer

Grilled Scamorza with Olio Piccante

For dinner tonight, I plan to grill some sliced scamorza cheese and drizzle it with olio piccante (spicy oil) as in Mario's recipe here.

To prepare, this morning I made the olio piccante. I used the recipe from Mario's Italian Grill, which is pretty different from the one in the link above, calling for fewer jalapeños and giving it a refrigeration life of only 1 week. But can spicy oil go bad?

I myself halved the recipe and used a couple of jalapeños from the garden (unfortunately not very spicy-yet?) and serrano peppers. I cooked it only 1-2 minutes once the oil began to simmer as it seems like the hot pepper flakes could burn easily.

When I was finished, I put the mix in a bowl to cool. A bit later, I tested it. At first it just tasted bland and not at all spicy, a great disappointment. I got a little more adventurous in my tasting, which was unfortunate because I nearly choked on my sample. Yikes! Ok, it's spicy.

Once cool, I put the mix in a mason jar and stuck it in the fridge. Looking forward to drizzling it over the scamorza!

UPDATE
The oil turned out to be extremely spicy, but when drizzled over the cheese, was quite manageable. (I didn't put a lot on.)

The scamorza cooked very fast on the grill: prepare for the thing falling between the grates. Use the full length of the scamorza to prevent this. The idea is to cook it fast so it doesn't have a chance to melt, but to catch it before it does melt :)

The scamorza was delicious when combined with the sun-dried tomato, oil, and (as I used) a leaf of fresh oregano.
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17 Jul 2011 15:28
tags: grill italian mario summer

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