Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sharing Seasonality ..It's Just That Easy

     A delicious, filling and reasonably priced meal does not have to be an impossible dream. Spring and summer provide a multitude of fresh seasonal produce literally ripe for the picking. I love the versatility that just a few simple ingredients can provide. At our house, we have developed a love for the taste and texture of home made pasta. Tonight pasta becomes a perfect yet simple complement to our roasted vegetables. 

     Whenever I’m kneading dough or creating noodles I think of all the families who would so enjoy making pasta together. As a child I loved spending time in the kitchen baking and cooking with my great grandmother. She had a collection of pans and kitchen tools that were just my size and I felt so special helping her. I would love to see more families gathered in the kitchen creating meals and memories. More importantly it would be an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children a respect food. They could learn where their comes from and how important proper nutrition is while enjoying time spent with Mom and Dad. …And yes….it is just that easy

 For the pasta

2 eggs
1.5 cups flour
a splash or two of olive oil
healthy pinch of salt
(2-4 teaspoons of water *)
mix by hand or in a food processor
*add just enough water for the dough ball to come together
wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in fridge for a least an hour
then either roll out and cut (on a lightly floured surface)
or use a pasta machine to create your noodles.

for the veggies

toss the
diced Zucchini
sliced onion  
slit Cherry tomatoes
in a bit of olive oil
salt and pepper & red pepper flake (to taste)
place on a sheet pan
in a 350 degree oven
till soft and slightly caramelized

boil the pasta to cook 2-3 min
(it will cook much faster than dry pasta)
add noodles to the veggie pan and toss
(add a bit of the pasta water too)

snip some basil from the garden
tear it into pieces and add a palmful to the pasta
drizzle with olive oil
add some fresh oregano
and ½ cup grated cheese
I like romano or Parmesan
(experiment with other hard Italian cheese too)

Total under $5.00 for this simple but satisfying meal

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baked Blossoms of spring

     Spring is here and each week our local farmer’s markets add more gorgeous fresh produce to their stalls. I arrived at the South Pasadena Thursday market wondering what delicious crop would be showcased this visit. In weeks past we enjoyed the fresh garden peas, adding their shoots to our lettuce wraps and opening each pod to release six to eight little green jewels of freshness which were to become the stars of our cold pea & leek soup.

     I wandered among the stalls becoming part of the market dance. Each week as if choreographed we shoppers rhythmically dodge each other as we dip into our chosen stalls, eyes on the foot traffic, yet distracted by the sample trays. I greeted several of the farmers I have come to know and we chatted about what was growing, recipe ideas and of course the weather. There is a palpable spirit of community at most markets where consumers and farmers connect. I like looking into the eyes of the people who grow my food and supporting their efforts.

     As I approached one of my favorite stalls I spotted the most beautiful squash blossoms nestled together in their basket looking like the very picture of spring.
I knew right away they had to be on this week’s menu. Today is the day we will enjoy stuffed squash blossoms. I did not deep fry these blossoms opting to bake them instead. They are not exactly like the deep fried version but I enjoy this lighter adaptation just as well.

6 squash blossoms 
(cleaned blossoms  with all the stamen completely removed)

For The Filling:
½ -¾ cup part skim ricotta
2 tbs.finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp tarragon
white pepper to taste
salt to taste (be careful because the cheese is salty too)..
healthy pinch of lemon zest
a tiny pinch of nutmeg (if you like nutmeg ~I do)

For The Batter
white vermouth (white wine or milk will work as well)
Batter should be thick enough to lightly coat (not too thick)
Add flour with equal amounts water and white vermouth 
Till you achieve the desired consistency
Use your favorite batter recipe. (I experiment all the time)

carefully open each blossom (cleaned & stamen removed)  
 add cheese mixture
cover the cheese with the leaves and twist top to close
(Don’t over fill)
dip blossoms in batter:


Lay the batter-dipped blossoms on a lightly oiled sheet pan (I used grapeseed)
Grate a bit more Parmesan cheese on top of the blossoms
Bake at 400 till cheese is browned slightly and melted 15-20 minutes or so
keep your eye on it as ovens vary 

Total under $4.00 for this side dish