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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Peanut Butter Brownies

From Dish Jodi:

Greetings all…it’s been a summer of hard work out here in LA. The boy is happily working and writing, and I just started a new job this week. It’s a smaller office than before, about 6 people total…but that doesn’t mean there aren’t the “will I make new friends” nerves. I fully believe that the surefire way to keep the wedgies away and keep your lunch money from being stolen is through baked goods. So I made brownies. Peanut Butter Brownies. Let’s hope they like me, um, I mean, them…

Brownie Batter:
1/2 lb Unsalted Butter
1/2 lb of semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp instant coffee/espresso powder
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup and 3 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Peanut Butter Batter:

4 oz cream cheese at room temp
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
6 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 1/2 Jelly Roll pan (9×12) with parchment overlapping two sides (for easy removal later).

To make the brownie batter:

Melt together the butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate and let cool. Mix eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar together in a separate bowl. And in a small bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt.

Once cooled, mix the chocolate into the egg mixture until combined. Add in the flour and mix gently. Pour evenly into prepared pan.

To make the peanut butter batter:

With a hand mixer, beat the peanut butter and cream cheese together til smooth. Add eggs, milk and sugar, continue mixing until incorporated. Put bloops of PB batter on the top of the brownie batter in the pan. Then drag a knife in vertical lines across the pan to make a cool design. Drag a knife horizontally across the pan again to make an even COOLER design.

Bake for 30-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool completely, remove from pan, and cut into squares. Amaze new co-workers with your baking prowess and lull them into a sleepy friendliness with the sugar.

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From Dish Nicole:

Yesterday was one of those days at work where it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, my “to-do” list kept growing. So while I focused my energy on getting through it, I also looked forward to the after work hours where I could stretch it all out in yoga and head home and cook dinner with my honey. I emailed said honey and asked him what he wanted to make for dinner based on what was in stock in my fridge: spaghetti squash or tacos. He replied back “let’s make squash tacos”. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out so I quickly Googled “Spaghetti Squash tacos” to see of any other people had had this great idea. Lo and behold, they had! So off to yoga I went and while the class silently meditated, I thought of how I wanted to make my tacos. And that is how the Zen taco came to be.

Here is what you need:
1 medium sized spaghetti squash
1 medium sized onion -diced
1 cup chopped cilantro
Corn tortillas (I used blue corn for added color)
2 tbsp olive oil
Taco seasoning: (a mixture of 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp cayenne pepper or chipotle powder – or a premade packet)
Additional items used:
½ cup shredded red cabbage for added crunch
½ cup pickled sliced radish
½ cup crumbled cojita cheese
Sliced black olives and lime wedges to garnish

To start, you will want to prepare and cook your squash. Carefully slice off the ends of the squash and then cut it down the middle so you are left with 2 halves. Scoop out the seeds and pulp until you are left with the clean tough part of the squash. Rub a little olive oil on both of the halves and either place in your preheated oven at 375 degrees for 1 hour or pop it in the microwave for 10 minutes. Both ways work and the end result is the same. Then take a fork and pull out the spaghetti like tendrils from the skin and place in a bowl and set aside.

Next you will want to heat olive oil in a large skillet and cook the onions. When they are slightly browned add in the squash and mix in the taco seasoning. Stir until the spaghetti squash is warm and coated with the taco seasoning and remove from heat and mix in the cilantro. Now you are ready for the corn tortillas. I prefer to do it toast them rather than frying. Place the tortillas over an open flame on your range until lightly browned on both sides, make as many as needed.

Next step is to assemble and eat. This is just what the yogi ordered after such a long day: delicious, Zen tacos.

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From Dish Paige!:

A little while ago, I came across this recipe from Mark Bittman and I just knew I was going to give it a try. Skeptical at first, I held steady in my faith, as Mr. Bittman’s How To Cook Everything is the go-to reference in our household; I’d venture to say 90% of our meals begin with “what does Bittman have to say about this?” And besides, I love watermelon so much I’ll try just about any recipe with it.

And so on a lovely afternoon in Vermont, with the boy, his sister, her baby and her dog in tow, we headed down to the lake and got the grill going….

4 triangles of watermelon, 1 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, minced
salt & pepper
4 slices of a nice melting cheese – I used Vermont cheddar

Remove the rinds and any black seeds from the watermelon. Marinate the melon in the olive oil, onion and salt and pepper for about half an hour. (Go to the lake now). When your grill is ready to go, put the watermelon slices on and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. (Get caught in the rain, pack up everything and wait in the car for the rain to pass. Unpack everything and get back out and put the food back on the grill). Place slices of cheese on the watermelon and cover just until the cheese melts. Serve on toasted buns like a true-blue burger or over a salad.

Once you try it this way, you can go crazy with different seasonings….it will all make sense, I promise.

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Saucy Little Dish welcomes Guest Dish Linda Lou, aka The Cheeky Chef! We first met Linda when she helped to execute the stunning L-Train Dinner alongside friends of SLD A Razor, A Shiny Knife (a team that includes one of our very own Spicy Sides of Meatball). Very soon, Linda will embark on a cooking adventure in Sicily, but before she goes she has made time to share an original recipe with our lucky readers:

I’m Guest Dishing this month and wanted to make a real simple summer meal…paired with a cocktail, of course. I am a firm believer in using local seasonal ingredients to create my version of “travel-inspired food”. With my plans to head to Sicily for a few months this fall, I’ve been experimenting with some classic Italian dishes like this Cheeky Chef recipe for a carbonara dish. Carbonaro is the Italian word for “coal burner” so I’m picturing myself serving this dish to my tall, dark, and handsome Italian coal miner boyfriend after a long day of work. Obviously, this is how it all plays out in my mind. In reality, it’s a meal I can whip up quickly without too much use of the stove on a 90-degree day in Brooklyn.

Here is my version of an Italian carbonara made with fresh summer vegetables and a Strawberry Limoncellade bevvie.

Recipe makes 4 servings

1/2 lb. Orzo Pasta
1 large Zucchini
2 small Yellow Squash
4 Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Milk
1 T. Olive Oil
3 strips of Bacon
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Basil (or regular basil)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add enough salt so it tastes like seawater. Prep the vegetables while the water comes to a boil. Slice the yellow squash and zucchini then scoop out the seeds from the inside and discard. Chop the veg on an angle into pieces about the same size as the pasta you’re using. Feel free to sub out the orzo and use penne, gemelli, or any other adorably shaped dried pasta.

When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to the timing on the package. For orzo, it takes approximately 8 minutes. Slice the bacon into small pieces. Heat a saute pan with a tablespoon of oil and saute the bacon until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel until needed. After the bacon comes out of the pan, saute the zucchini, squash, basil and thyme in the oil until the veg are lightly softened.

In a small bowl, combine 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of milk (or cream), and about a half cup of Parmesan cheese. In my case, I was planning on using heavy cream and when I brought home my half-pint from the Spanish bodega on my corner, it had spoiled and I was forced to use milk instead. Guess what? It tasted just fine. You can use milk or cream to add to the egg mixture. Maybe adjust to use slightly less milk so it doesn’t become too runny. With a fork, mix together the egg yolks, cheese, and milk then season with salt and cracked black pepper. I like to use a lot of pepper in my carbonara but it’s up to you.

When the pasta is cooked, strain into a colander and add immediately to the vegetables, while hot. Save a little bit of pasta water to add to the carbonara if it gets too thick later. Mix the vegetables, pasta, and reserved bacon, then add in the egg mixture. Keep stirring to combine and cook over low heat until the eggs thicken the sauce. Not too high or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Add another handful of Parmesan cheese and garnish with additional fresh herbs.

While enjoying your Orzo Carbonara prepare yourself a nice little cocktail. Since I’m new to Saucy Little Dish, you might not know yet that “Where there is a Linda, there is a cocktail”. I made a delicious strawberry lemonade with TriStar Strawberries from the greenmarket and froze some in ice cube trays with bite-sized strawberries inside.

To make the Strawberry Limoncellade: place two lemonade cubes in a glass, add a little bit of chilled Limoncello, top with additional strawberry lemonade and a splash of sparkling water. Give it a stir, and enjoy with your pasta.

Buon Appetito!

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