Archive for August, 2011

From Dish Gwen:

Every August my saucy little family goes up to the coast of Maine for a week or two, and aside from swimming and boating and generally enjoying the outdoors, we do a lot of cooking and eating. Maine is well known for its lobsters, and we always have a lobster dinner when we’re there, but as delicious as lobsters are, they’re not terribly fun to cook. My favorite dish to make when we’re in Maine is mussels. Myself and a couple of friends will scramble out onto some rocks at low tide and dig around in the seaweed and pick mussels directly out of the salty water. Then we bring them home, clean them, and cook them up. Yum.

Cleaning Fresh Mussels
There’s one great thing about store-bought mussels, and that’s the fact that they’ve already been cleaned. Mussels have barnacles and beards, and they’re not particularly fun to clean, but it’s totally worth it because they’re delicious. There are two main steps in cleaning them:

1. De-beard them. The “beard” is the hairy-looking part that sticks out of the side of the mussel’s shell, and it needs to be pulled off. Sometimes the beards are easy to yank off, but occasionally you’ll get a stubborn one and in that case you should pinch the beards off using a damp dish towel to improve your grip.

2. Scrape of the barnacles. Barnacles are little white crustaceans that stick to the shells of the mussels, and you don’t want them to end up in your meal so you have to scrape them off. Take a dull butter knife and scrape them while holding the mussel under the water. The little buggers pop right off.

Ok, so once your mussels are clean you can just give them a rinse with fresh water and then get on with the show.

– 50-75 mussels, cleaned and rinsed
– 2 red or green peppers, chopped
– 3 large tomatoes, chopped and de-seeded
– 1 large zucchini, chopped into ½ inch pieces
– ½ head of garlic, minced
– ½ bottle dry white wine
– 2 table spoons olive oil
– 1 lb thin spaghetti
– salt

Get your spaghetti cooking, and once it’s done al-dente, rinse it and prepare it with light salt and olive oil. In a large pot, simmer the olive oil on medium-high, and toss in the garlic and zucchini with about a teaspoon of salt. Once they’re lightly browned, add the peppers and tomatoes, and keep simmering until they too begin to brown and stick to the pan. Add the wine and stir, making sure that all the brown glaze from the vegetables comes loose into the liquid.

Simmer everything for about two minutes until the contents are sizzling and steaming, then drop the mussels into the pot and cover. Steam the mussels until the shells open (should take 10-15 mins), and mix the mussels and veggies together once or twice with a large spoon, gently churning everything together with broad strokes so you don’t break any of the shells.

Place the spaghetti into a large bowl and then pour out the mussels, veggies, and all the broth on top. Serve with some crusty bread and butter for sopping up that broth, and don’t forget to put out bowls for the empty shells. Serves 4 to 5 hungry beach-goers.

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From Dish Erin:

It was only a few years ago that I discovered white peaches, and it was kind of like an epiphany for me. They’re not just “white” peaches, they’re about a billion times sweeter, juicier, and call me crazy, but more luxurious, too. This time of year I crave them more than chocolate or any other sweets for that matter–and here’s one of my favorite (and relatively easy) ways to prepare them!

2 large white peaches, sliced thin
1 cup strawberries, sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
[Teeny] dash of salt
1 package of store bought puff pastry, thawed

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.) In a bowl, combine peaches, strawberries, lemon, sugar, cinnamon, thyme, salt. Mix to cover all the fruit, then set aside.

3.) Lightly flour the bottom of a jellyroll pan. Unfold the pastry and lightly roll out with a rolling pin until it’s less than 1 inch thick.

4.) Leaving a 1-inch space around the outside of the rectangle, poke the pastry dough with a fork, leaving little holes all over the center of the pastry.

5.) Return to the bowl of fruit and toss everything again to coat the fruit in its juice one last time. Begin layering the peaches and strawberries one by one onto the pastry, leaving that 1 inch space around the edges clear. Don’t just dump the bowl onto the pastry (this is a French dessert, after all. It must be at least semi-labor intensive.) At the very end, drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of juice from the bowl over the rows of fruit.

6.) Place in oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and slice into long 3-4″ slices. Serve with whipped cream or a la mode.

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From Dish Rachelle:

Summer is the time for flexibility. It’s about going with the flow when you run into friends who are en route to margaritaville; changing your plans last-minute when a flash thundershower hits; ignoring your weekend to-do list when the weather is just so beautiful that it would be a waste not to say screw it and head to the beach. It’s also the time when the seasonal produce is so abundant that the refrigerator often overflows with fruits and vegetables. So – when you plan to make tomato and corn chowder, and then start cutting the kernels off the corn cobs only to realize that the local grocery store sold you rotten corn, you can shrug it off, determine that you have a few good zucchinis in the house, and switch gears. Tomato and zucchini chowder it is.

This improvisational soup actually turned out to be great, and while we’ve had a few other zucchini soups on SLD, the addition of tomatoes makes this a nice summer choice if you happen to be the kind of person who celebrates tomato season by eating them constantly.

Ingredients (makes 4 dinner-sized servings):
2 large, or 3 medium zucchinis (I used 2 green and 1 yellow), chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 red potato, skin on, chopped
1 qt. good quality chicken or vegetable stock (zucchini is mild so this will bring a lot of flavor)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 large tomato (or equivalent in smaller ones), diced

In a large saucepan, sauté shallots, zucchini and potato until shallots have softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil, and then simmer, mostly covered, for about 15 minutes, until the zucchini and potato pieces are soft. Remove from heat and with a hand blender or food processor blend until mostly smooth. (It doesn’t have to be perfect unless you want it to be – I went for a rustic blend but for a silky smooth texture, run the pureed soup through a sieve.) Return pureed soup to medium heat and add heavy cream and tomatoes, and cook for another 3-4 minutes until warmed. Season to taste and garnish with a few dashes of hot sauce and some cute little cherry tomato slices.

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