National Zucchini Day

August 11th, 2017

In some ways, I find food holidays just a tad too convenient. I have a sneaking suspicion—actually, in some cases I flat out KNOW—that many of them were organized by corporations or their minions to promote specific products. (Take that, National Oatmeal Month!)

And yet … I enjoying having an excuse to celebrate particular foods. So when I learned that Tuesday was National Zucchini Day, I roped in my friend Michael Collins of the Barrel Shop B&B to cook a little zucchini with me.

I have known Michael for 25 years or so. (Bless his heart, he says that I was just a small child when I first ventured into his former restaurant, the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts.) I have had fun over the years cooking, singing, eating, and talking with him and his partner Tony, an artist.

I hoped Michael would have a tasty, simple zucchini dish, and his stuffed zucchini didn’t disappoint. It featured a lovely combination of flavors, colors, and textures.

I celebrated the holiday with courgette chocolate cupcakes. I love the word “courgette,” the French term for “zucchini.” It sounds elegant and mysterious and helps counter the popular reputation of zucchini as overabundant and boring, a reputation to which I strongly object.

I topped my cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting. I could make a meal of these two dishes and hope you can, too!

Michael and I appeared together on Mass Appeal. Somehow the video of the cupcakes got lost on the internet, but you can see his zucchini boats by clicking on this link.

I’ll be back soon for National Eat a Peach Day…..

Michael’s Stuffed Zucchini

Ingredients:

4 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
3 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons Asiago cheese
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
the juice of 1 lemon

Instructions:

Scoop out the centers of the zucchini. Chop the zucchini “meat” finely. Blend it with the onion, the garlic, the olive oil, the bread crumbs, the tomato paste, and the salt and pepper to make a paste.

Stuff the mixture into the zucchini shells. Cover with the cheese. Dot with the olives, and squeeze the lemon juice on top.

Bake until the zucchini boats are bubbly and brown, about 20 minutes. Serves 8 as a side dish.

Courgette Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1-1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup canola oil
7/8 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated zucchini (stem but do not pare first)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour and the cocoa. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Blend in the vanilla, followed by the baking soda and salt; then add the flour/cocoa mixture mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in the zucchini.

Pour the batter into lined muffin cups. Bake until the cakes test done, about 25 minutes. Ice with your favorite frosting. Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Cooking (and Singing) “By Heart”

July 26th, 2017

I love the phrase “by heart” as it relates to both singing and cooking. Singing a song or making a recipe “by heart” doesn’t mean merely that one has memorized it. The phrase implies that one has internalized not just the mechanics of the song or recipe but its essence—and that one is ready to riff!

When Alice Parker and I started planning a summer musical program, the title “By Heart” sprang to mind immediately. We will perform songs we know really, really well on August 12. We look forward to connecting with our audience as we re-create wonderful songs by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and other beloved composers.

The evening will raise funds for Mohawk Trail Concerts, a chamber-music series that has delighted me each summer for almost all of my life.

Naturally, when I appeared on Mass Appeal yesterday to talk about the concert I made a couple of recipes I know by heart, a tasty salad (the dressing is adapted from Cabot Cheese) and my mother’s favorite hot fudge sauce. I have shared the recipe for this simple sauce on these pages before.

By coincidence, it was National Hot Fudge Sundae Day! I didn’t know how apt the date was before I went on the air. Learning that Tuesday just happened to be the perfect day for hot fudge sauce gave me the feeling of being one with the food cosmos.

Here is the salad recipe, along with yesterday’s video. Do please come to my concert if you can! And never stop cooking, singing, and living by and with heart.

Kitchen Sink Southwestern Chopped Salad

The title “kitchen sink” says it all: the ingredients for this recipe should depend completely on what you have in the house. Feel free to play around.

Ingredients:

for the dressing:

1/2 cup grated store cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
the juice of 2 limes (about 3 tablespoons)
2 garlic scapes, chopped, or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 chipotle chili in adobo with some juice (more if you like)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
ground pepper to taste

for the salad:

4 cups lettuce
2 cups lightly cooked corn kernels (grill the corn with a little olive oil if you have time; otherwise, use leftover corn)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 avocado, cut into chunks
lots of chopped black olives
4 scallions, chopped (use the white part and some of the green)
cilantro or parsley for garnish

Instructions:

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender. Place the salad ingredients (except for the cilantro or parsley) in a large bowl, add the dressing, and toss. Sprinkle the herb over all. Serves 4 to 6.

And now the video:

Tinky Cooks “By Heart” on Mass Appeal

A Jubilee of Cherries

July 12th, 2017

One of my favorite seasons has arrived—and may go away very, very soon! Sour cherries are ripe here in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

This smaller, redder, tarter version of the conventional cherry is perfect for cooking. My mother used to make sour cherry soup. (I wish I had her recipe; I’m going to try to recreate it one of these days.) Sour cherries are great in pies, cobblers, cakes, and jams.

They hold their shape well when baked. And when one combines them with sugar (as I’m afraid one pretty much always does) they deliver a succulent sweet-and-tart flavor that gives extra dimension to anything one creates.

Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield recently let me pick some of his sour cherries so I could experiment. Clarkdale isn’t open at this time of year, but it does sell its delectable cherries at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.

I ended up picking the cherries in the rain—but somehow the whole experience was still delightful!

According to Ben, cherries were one of the first crops his great-grandfather, Dr. Webster Clark, planted when he started growing fruit more than a century ago. (Clarkdale celebrated its centennial in 2015.) Today the farm harvests varieties the Clarks have been growing over the past decade.

Clarkdale harvests several hundred quarts of sour cherries a year. The varieties featured are Jubileum, Montmorency, and Balaton. I picked Montmorency cherries—sour but not too sour. The farm also produces six varieties of sweet cherries.

I even had a cherry hat to wear while picking, made by my cousin Kate!

The bad news is that the sour-cherry season is short. The good news is that that season is RIGHT NOW.

The tart cherries are worth embracing for that limited period of time. They don’t just taste good. They are good for those of us who consume them.

Sour cherries contain something called anthocyanins. Linked to the bright hue of the cherries, these substances can help the liver, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, fight arthritis, and improve circulation. Studies indicate sour cherries may even prevent cancer.

I asked Ben Clark how long his sour cherries last once picked. “If refrigerated with stems intact,” he explained, “they will last for a week or two with no detrimental effects. They can also be frozen for six to 12 months.”

Ben and his wife Lori love to cook with the cherries. They enjoyed cherry pie last week for Independence Day. They also make cherry jam and a cherry liqueur which I have just assembled. (I can’t report back on its flavor yet; it has to age for at least three months.)

I also made an appetizer, baking brie with sour-cherry jam and pecans. I had been longing to bake brie ever since a friend gave me a handsome brie baker from local potter Jeanne Douillard. The baker worked like a charm, and the combination of flavors and textures was a winner.

Finally, I prepared a cherry upside-down cake. This was more or less an accident! I had hoped to make a cherry torte based on a classic New York Times recipe. When my cherries slid ignominiously to the bottom of the torte, I took their descent as a hint that maybe I should try an upside-down cake.

Happy cherry season………

Sour Cherry Pecan Brie

Ingredients:

for the jam:

2 cups sour cherries, pitted
1-1/4 cups sugar (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tiny pat butter

for the baked brie:

1 8-ounce round of brie
1/3 cup sour cherry jam (use the rest as a breakfast spread—yum!)
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Instructions:

First, make the jam. (This may be done days in advance as long as you store it in the refrigerator.) In a medium saucepan combine the cherries, 1 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for an hour or so to juice up.

When the hour has elapsed heat the cherry mixture, stirring frequently. Once the cherries begin to soften, add the remaining sugar and the butter. Cook until the jam reaches a temperature of 218 degrees. Remove the jam from the heat and let it cool.

To make the baked brie preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top rind off the brie, and place it in a lightly greased, shallow baking dish. Put the jam and pecans on top. Bake the brie until it gets oozy and warm. In my brie baker this took 25 minutes. I should think it would be done in 20 minutes in a thinner pan.

Serve with crackers. Serves 6 to 8.

Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Ingredients:

for the topping:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups pitted sour cherries

for the cake:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First make the topping (which goes on the bottom!).

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until it melts and bubbles—3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the cherries on top.

For the cake cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla, and pour the batter over the cherry mixture.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center (but not too far down; don’t hit the cherries!) comes out clean, about 40 minutes. If the cake is brown but not done before this happens, decrease the oven temperature and continue baking.

Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, and invert the cake onto a serving plate held over the skillet. Turn upside-down. Remove pan.

Serve alone or with whipped cream. Serves 8.

And now the videos….

Tinky Makes Sour Cherry Pecan Brie

Tinky Makes Sour Cherry Upside-Down Cake

Strawberry Cream-Cheese Tart

July 3rd, 2017

I know I just posted here a few days ago. I hope you’re not getting sick of me! I thought readers might like to make this festive tart for the Fourth of July, however.

The recipe has a number of steps so technically it takes a lot of time. Most of the time is spent waiting for portions of the tart to cool, however, so it’s not hard. The only thing you have to bake is the crust—and that can be done early in the morning or late at night so you won’t heat up the house too much in this warm season.

And the tart is a definite showstopper. I tend to make it the day before I serve it.

Yes, you may use a store-bought pie crust, but this one isn’t hard. You may also use lemon juice instead of key lime.

As I point out in the video below, if you want to be particularly patriotic, you may put a few blueberries on top of the tart.

Happy Independence Day!

The Tart

Ingredients:

for the tart shell:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-1/3 cups flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup key-lime juice

for the topping:

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons key-lime juice
4 tablespoons cold water
3-1/2 cups halved strawberries, divided

Instructions:

Begin with the crust. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until they are just blended. Add the flour and the salt, and stir until the mixture seems crumbly. (It will be dry.)

In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and the vanilla; drizzle this mixture over the flour mixture. Combine until the flour mixture is evenly moist; it will still be crumbly.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan. (You may use an 8-inch pie pan if you’d rather, but the tart is just beautiful.) Place the dough in the pan. Press it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of pan. Prick the bottom of the crust a bit to keep it from puffing up too much.

Put the crust in the freezer, uncovered, for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool it completely before filling it.

To make the filling beat the cream cheese until it is soft and smooth; then beat in the condensed milk and the key-lime juice. Spoon this mixture over the cooled crust, and refrigerate for several hours before proceeding.

Finally, make the topping. In a heavy saucepan whisk together the cornstarch, the sugar, and the salt. Slowly whisk in the liquids. In a bowl, mash 1-1/2 cups of the berries. Add them to the cornstarch mixture. Let the mixture sit in the saucepan for 1 hour to juice up.

At the end of the hour bring the berry mixture to a boil, and boil it for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove it from the heat and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. Stir in the remaining uncooked berries.

Spoon the topping over the tart filling. Refrigerate the tart until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with additional strawberries and mint leaves if you wish. Serves 8.

And now the video….

Tinky Makes Strawberry Cream-Cheese Tart on Mass Appeal

Strawberry Salsa

June 30th, 2017

Rhubarb has just about gone by in my neck of the woods so I am in deepest mourning. Fortunately, strawberries have arrived to take my mind off my grief.

I had never made strawberry salsa before trying it this season—but I’m glad to have it in my repertoire. I love salsa, and I hate waiting for tomato season to make it! This version is easy to put together, looks spectacular, and tastes fabulous.

Naturally, I made it this week on Mass Appeal and discussed the reasons for seeking out strawberries here and now. They make the perfect Fourth of July treat in New England.

Both hosts on the show called themselves “salsa purists” (particularly Danny New, who recently arrived in our state from Florida) and were skeptical about strawberry salsa. This condiment won them over, however.

Convincing the Skeptics

The Salsa

Ingredients:

the juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups strawberries, chopped fairly small

Instructions:

In a bowl stir together the lime juice and the salt. Stir in the pepper, the onion, and the cilantro; then add the strawberries.

Refrigerate the salsa for a couple of hours for maximum flavor. Serve with tortilla chips, over chicken or fish, or with crackers and cream cheese. Makes a little over 2 cups.

And now the video:

Tinky Makes Strawberry Salsa on Mass Appeal