Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This was the year of the KILLER tomato plants. After having tomatoes every way I could think of, I decided to try this simple salad.

We grew some cucumbers this year and they were a little odd looking. They curled on  us. One even coiled like a tiny snake. I picked one and it had spiky things on it. We think it was a Japanese cucumber. It looked like this.

This one looked the most normal. I cut it open and it tasted great. So, I cut it up with some fresh tomatoes, red onion, and dill. I wanted something creamy to bind it so I made a quick dressing with sour cream and mayonnaise. This was great.

                                                  TOMATO, CUCUMBER, AND DILL SALAD

2 medium tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1/2 small red onion
1 garlic clove
3 TBSP. sour cream
3 TBSP mayonnaise
Fresh dill to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Quarter tomatoes and put in a large bowl. Slice cucumber in half and remove seeds. Slice into 1/4" half moons. Thinly slice red onion. Toss together.

In a separate bowl combine 3TBSP. sour cream and 3 TBSP. mayonnaise. Add 1 minced garlic clove. Blend. Taste it, add more mayo if you like it on the tart side. Add chopped fresh dill. Dill can be strong so add some and taste until it is to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss salad with dressing and chill for 1/2 hour before serving.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The squash and melon plants are taking over the hillside. I thought I was keeping on top of the picking but I found one giant squash hiding beneath the leaves. I'm sure if squash could think, it would be thinking that it out smarted me and got away. I saw it and brought it in. It was a big one.

Yes, it was BIG. Knowing that the inside would be mostly pulp and seeds I first decided that grating it was the only option. But then I remembered how I used to make stuffed zucchini boats out of smaller zucchini. I thought it might work with the BIG ONE.

So I cut in in half and removed the core and seeds and I had the perfect size boat for stuffing. We split  one boat and it was great.

                                              SAUSAGE STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOATS

1 pound spicy Italian sausage links, or any sausage you like
1/2 onion, chopped
1 TBSP. olive oil
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese, or any cheese you like

Zucchini, cut in half and hollowed out to make boats.

Fresh basil, chopped for topping.

Chop 1/2 large onion and saute it in 1 TBSP. olive oil until translucent.

Squeeze sausage from casings and saute with the onions until the sausage is brown but still a little pink. Drain the grease from the pan into a bowl and set aside.

Add 1 cup marinara sauce to the sausage mixture and simmer for 10 minutes.

Let the mixture cool.

Brush the inside and outside of the zucchini boat with the oil from the cooked sausage. Stuff the zucchini boat with the sausage mixture and top each boat with grated cheese.

Bake in the oven at 375~ for 30 to 45 minutes (depends on the size of the zucchini) until the zucchini is hot and the cheese has melted.

Top with chopped fresh basil and serve.

This is a easy, make it up as you go along recipe. Any sausage works and any cheese works.

If you use smaller zucchini just cut the recipe in half.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Chef Mac is back! Sharon and her Grandson Mac have been cooking up a storm this week. They were kind enough to send me some pictures of their latest creation along with the recipe.

It sounds fantastic. What's not to love about a meatball with three kinds of meat, pork, beef, and veal?

They baked the meatballs in the oven and topped it off with a delicious marinara sauce.

Mac is only visiting for a short time but I hope he continues to be a guest contributor. 

This guy has talent!

Thanks Chef Mac!

                                              SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

1 1/4 pound total of Ground Pork, Beef & Veal
2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Mix meat, Worchestershire, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper.  Roll meat into 1 1/2 inch medium sized meatballs and place on nonstick cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 min.

2 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup beef stock
1  28oz can crushed tomatoes
10 leaves fresh basil leaves torn or sliced
Grated cheese Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano

Heat a deep pot over moderate heat.  Add oil, crushed pepper, garlic and finely chopped onion.  Saute 5-7 min.  Add beef stock, crushed tomatoes and basil.  Bring to simmer and cook about 10 min.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread.


Recipe from Sharon and Mac

Sunday, August 21, 2011


We didn't plant any tomatoes this year. Last year we put one lonely plant on our hillside and left it alone. It grew larger than 20 x 20 and I mean feet! We had hundreds of beautiful perfectly round tomatoes. They were pretty good. This year in the same area about six or more plants sprouted from last years seeds. We left them alone. They were some of the best tomatoes we have ever had. Not as pretty, but meaty and rich. These plants have produced hundreds and hundreds this season.

Here is a picture of a quick 10 minute harvest from a few of our plants.

We made tomato tarts and I roasted some in the oven. They were like tomato candy.

                                                               OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES

Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out juice and seeds. Lay on a baking sheet that has been covered with a silpat or parchment paper. Spread chopped garlic on each tomato, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 350~ until caramelized, about 1 hour.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Chef Mac made this creative take on a classic Bruschetta. Macallester is Sharon's 12 year old grandson and it looks as though his cooking talents will follow in the foot steps of his wonderful and talented Grandmother.


                                                   CHEF MAC'S BRUSCHETTA

Slice baguette at an angle
    Brush EVOO on every slice, then rub with garlic
    Broil in oven 1-2 min to toast
    Spoon Trader Joe's marinara sauce on each slice
    Slice mozzarella cheese and put slice on each piece
    Sprinkle with Basil from Lexi's garden
    Broil 1-2 minutes until cheese is slightly melted


    Thanks Chef Mac

Friday, August 19, 2011


Another great way to use my zucchini. The cumin really gives this delicate soup an Indian like flavor. I served this with warmed Masala Tandoori Naan from Trader Joe's. Makes sure to be generous with the salt, but taste it first.

                                                          CHILLED ZUCCHINI-CUMIN SOUP

1 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ tsps. ground cumin
1 ½ lbs. zucchini, trimmed, cut into 3/4 –in. pieces
2  14½ -oz. cans chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
4 TBSP. plain tart yogurt or sour cream
2 tsp. salt or more to taste
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper or more to taste

Sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until tender; about 5 minutes. Add cumin; stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Mix in zucchini. Add broth; bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until zucchini is very tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Mix 1/3 cup chopped basil into soup. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; chill until cold, about 3 hours.

Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with 1 TBSP. yogurt or sour cream and sliced basil.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Monday, August 15, 2011


In an effort to eat more of my zucchini than I give away, I tried this recipe out. It was really good. Two zukes down 20 to go.

                                                     ZUCCHINI-RICOTTA FRITTERS

2 medium zucchini (about 7 oz.), coarsely shredded
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
3 large scallions, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh sheep-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Olive oil for frying
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, garlic, scallions, ricotta, eggs, lemon zest and 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Stir well, then stir in the flour just until incorporated.

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, add 2 Tbsp. mounds of the zucchini batter to the hot oil, spreading them to form 3" fritters. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes.  Drain the fritters on the paper towels and serve right away, with lemon wedges.

MAKE AHEAD- Fritters can be made ahead and kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours and re-crisped in a 325~ oven.

Recipe from Food and Wine Magazine

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This is one of my favorite tomato tart recipes. When I made this for the picture I used what I had in the fridge, it was a Mexican blend of cheese. It tasted great but my favorite is the mozzarella and Parmesan mixture in the recipe.                                                                                                                               

It's really quite easy. You roll out the puff pastry in to two rectangles. Brush it with anchovy paste (you won't taste the anchovies, I promise) layer it with cheese, tomatoes, onions, thyme and more cheese. Bake for 15 minutes....that's it!

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
1 sheet (about 1/2 pound) frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste, or to taste
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (8 small to medium), sliced thin
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 425°F.
On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out pastry into a rectangle roughly 17 by 15 inches and trim edges to form a 16- by 14-inch rectangle. Halve pastry lengthwise, forming two 16- by 7-inch rectangles.
Brush edges with water and fold in edges to form a 1/2-inch wide border on each rectangle. With tines of a fork press border to seal. Transfer rectangles to a large baking sheet.
Divide anchovy paste between rectangle and spread in a very thin, even layer. Sprinkle each tart evenly with 1/2 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Arrange tomato slices in one layer on cheese. Scatter onion slices and herbs over tomatoes and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
Bake tarts in upper third of oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until crust is golden. Tarts may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered loosely. Reheat tarts before serving. Serve tarts warm or at room temperature.
Makes 2 tarts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


These pork medallions come to life with the tang of the Dijon and the bite of the green peppercorns.

                                     PORK TENDERLOIN WITH DIJON CREAM SAUCE

1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 2" slices
Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 TBSP. butter, divided
2 tsp. canola or olive oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1/3 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 TBSP. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. green peppercorns (optional)

Preheat oven to low, 170~, just to keep meat warm.

Lightly pound pork slices to 1" thick.  Melt 1 TBSP. butter and 2 tsp. oil over medium high heat.

Dredge pork medallions in seasoned flour. Add to pan and brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to plate and hold in the oven while finishing the sauce. The pork will finish cooking in the oven if it's a little underdone.

Add the remaining 1 TBSP. butter to the pan. Add white parts of onion; saute 1 minute. Add the white wine or vermouth and simmer until syrupy and reduced to about 3 TBSP. Add cream and simmer 2-3 minutes until thickened. If sauce ends up too thick, add a little water or milk to thin.

Stir in Dijon and peppercorns if using. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon sauce over pork and top with green onions.

Monday, August 8, 2011


My tomatoes have gone crazy this year and boy are they great. They are deep red, meaty, and full of flavor. This salad uses 3 cups of chopped tomatoes so it was perfect to showcase my bounty.




5 TBSP. fresh lime juice                                   
3/4 cup olive oil                                          
6 TBSP. chopped fresh cilantro                              
1 1/2 TBSP. minced seeded jalapeno chili (preferably red)  
1 TBSP. ground cumin                                       


3 cups chopped seeded tomatoes                             
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained                
1 cup chopped green onions                                 
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro                             
3/4 cup chopped red onion                                  
6 cups shredded iceberg lettuce (about 1 head)             
2 ears corn, husked                                        
24 large shrimp (about 1 1/2 lbs.) peeled and deveined     
24 large tortilla chips                                    
Additional chopped fresh cilantro (optional)               

FOR DRESSING:Place lime juice in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Mix in cilantro, jalapeno and cumin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.                      

FOR SALAD:Combine tomatoes, beans, green onions, 3/4 cup cilantro and red onion in large bowl. (Dressing and salad can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover dressing
and let stand at room temperature. Cover salad and refrigerate.)         
Prepare BBQ (medium high heat). Mix lettuce into salad. Pour 1/4 cup dressing into small bowl. Reserve remainder for salad. Brush corn with dressing from small bowl. Grill corn until beginning to brown, turning often, about 5 minutes.  
Brush shrimp with dressing from small bowl and grill until  opaque in center, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Cut kernels from corn and add to salad. Toss salad with enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Top with shrimp. Garnish with tortilla chips and additional cilantro if desired.                                       
I use more than 24 chips, use the hearty chips, line a     
fairly shallow bowl with the chips point down and put the  
salad in the center and the shrimp on top.

Serves 4                                                    

Sunday, August 7, 2011


We have been home over two weeks now but it took a couple of weeks to get over the cold we brought home and even longer for out taste buds to return. I haven't cooked much lately but I did have some great meals in Germany.

I love the way you can buy this bread, different types in the same loaf.

My Mother-in-law makes the best plum tortes.

Ron's Mother Inga had a brunch for 15 people when we arrived.

There was a birthday party for Helga, Ron's Aunt. These were the appetizers that were passed.

 There were different choices for dinner. I had the fillet.

Charcuterie plate at a restaurant.

When pfifferlinge (chanterelle) mushrooms are in season you will find them in everything. A salad below and a soup.

Ron had a pork ragout.

I had the best schnitzel I have ever had. It was made with turkey. I could not believe how tender it was.

It is great to feel well again. I can't wait to start cooking some of the dishes we loved in Spain and Germany. Our suit cases were filled with condiments, spices, sherries and wine. It was a great trip.

Monday, August 1, 2011


It was vegan night with Brittany and Ashley. We always have a blast cooking together. This week, as I was thinking about what we should make I looked out at the garden and it told me what we would make. The zucchini is producing big time and the tomatoes....well they are trying to take over the yard. So, I decided not only would we be vegan but we would also be RAW! How healthy is that?

With a vegetable peeler we peeled the zucchini into strips and then cut them to 1/2 inch wide ribbons. They were salted to draw out the water and then they became our pasta. The sauce was a combo of pureed tomatoes and chopped  tomatoes. We grabbed some fresh basil and oregano from the yard and we were good to go.

There were lots of yums, even from the carnivores. I love having a vegan meal, once every other week seems about right for me.

We also had the watermelon salad I posted. If you haven't made it yet please try it.

                                             ZUCCHINI "FETTUCCINE" WITH TOMATO SAUCE

4 Large zucchini or yellow squash
Kosher salt
5 medium vine-ripened tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp. chopped jalapeno pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano

Trim and peel the zucchini, use a vegetable peeler to thinly slice lengthwise into wide ribbons (stop when you get to the seeds). Cut the ribbons into 1/2 " wide strips to make them look like fettuccine. Transfer to a colander and toss with 3/4 tsp. salt; let drain in the sink, tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry.

Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes using a sharp vegetable peeler, then halve horizontally and squeeze out the seeds. Puree 1 tomato with the olive oil, garlic, jalapeno and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the remaining 4 tomatoes and add to the bowl; add the pine nuts, basil, oregano, and salt to taste.

Divide the zucchini among bowls and top with the tomato sauce. Top with more pine nuts and drizzle with olive oil.

Serves 4-6

Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine