Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Zucchini Bars

Friday, July 31st, 2020

 

My farm share has included zucchini now for a couple of weeks. I’ve put it in a lot of stir fries. Yesterday, however, I felt compelled to bake … so I made these easy bars or squares or brownies or whatever you’d like to call them. They’re light and chock full of the green stuff.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted sweet butter
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup sugar
1 egg. beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with foil and then grease and flour the foil.

Stir together the melted butter and the sugar, followed by the grated zucchini. Mix in the egg, stirring well to incorporate; then add the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon. Stir in the flour, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the concoction comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Makes about 16 squares, depending on how big you cut them.

Art Week at Home: A Divine Dip

Sunday, May 10th, 2020
I’m not really cross-eyed, but this was a selfie, and I was trying to keep both eyes on the camera. Sigh….

I was scheduled to teach a hands-on cooking workshop today for Art Week, a culture-filled annual event here in Massachusetts. Obviously, no one will be coming to my home to cook and tell stories this afternoon, but I’m sharing one of the recipes we were planning to make as part of Art Week at Home.

I wish I could do the cooking online, but the internet here is weak. So please just pretend that you’re with me, singing and cooking and telling stories around my great-grandmother’s old oval table. I’m going to walk you through one of the recipes I planned to make today.

In this crazy time, I am grateful every day for the natural beauty around me. Each time my dog Cocoa and I walk down the road, it seems to me that we observe a new sign of spring … another flower in bloom, another tree starting to bud, another tuft of grass springing up greener than the one before it.

We actually had a little snow yesterday, but it has fortunately departed, leaving everything even greener than before.

The color green is my theme these days. It’s a color of hope and renewal. It’s a theme indoors as well as out. Spinach is coming into season, bringing with it vitamins and minerals and that gorgeous deep color.

I eat spinach and cook with it a lot … in quiches, in quick sautés, in salads, in scrambled eggs. Like the cartoon character Popeye, I feel “strong to da finich ‘cause I eats me spinach.”

A few years back, I devised an onion-dip recipe loosely based on my mother’s formula for French onion soup. I love commercial dips and dip mixes, but I feel a little queasy when I read some of the ingredients on their labels. I don’t like to put foods in my body that I can’t pronounce.

My dip contained only normal foods. And caramelizing the onions for it made my house smell delicious.

With spinach on my mind, I recently decided to add a little spinach to the onion dip. The addition was a success. The spinach adds vitamins, a hint of flavor, and a lovely green color.

The recipe takes a while, between caramelizing the onions and letting the dip’s flavors meld in the refrigerator. Most of this time isn’t hands on, however, so you’ll have plenty of leisure to do other things while you’re cooking. Just make sure to keep your nose active while you’re caramelizing the onions.

Make the dip early in the day, and honor your mother with it by evening. My mother isn’t with me anymore, but I love to remember her on Mother’s Day. Making a dip inspired by one of her recipes gives my family a delicious way in which to enjoy the memories.

My Mother in 1968


Spinach and Sweet Onion Dip

If you happen to have fresh parsley and/or dill in the house, you may add sprigs of them before blending the dip at the end.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into thin slices, with each slice cut in half (sweet onions are best, but any onion will do in a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 generous splash dry sherry
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 teaspoon sea salt and three grinds of the pepper mill)
1-1/2 cups sour cream (half of this could be Greek yogurt if you want to be healthier, and if your onions are really huge you may increase the amount to 2 cups)

Instructions:

Combine the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter melts stir in the onion slices. Cook them slowly over low to medium-low heat, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes or so, until they are reduced and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take at least 1/2 hour and may take as long as an hour; they will be ready when they are ready. Add a little water from time to time if burning seems likely.

When the onions are almost ready stir in the mustard, and continue to cook, stirring, for at least 5 minutes. Add the sherry and the spinach and cook, stirring, until the liquid disappears and the spinach wilts.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the vegetables and remove them from the heat. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Place the vegetables in a food processor and combine them briskly; then add the sour cream and mix well. If you don’t have a food processor, an electric mixer will do, but you will have bigger chunks of onion and spinach. My food processor is broken so I used my mini-chopper. I had to chop the vegetables a little at a time, they were chopped.

Place the dip in the refrigerator, covered, and let the flavors meld for several hours. At least an hour before serving taste it on a neutral cracker to see whether you want to add any additional flavors (more salt and pepper perhaps?). Bring the dip to room temperature, and serve it with raw vegetable strips or chips. Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Cut into wedges or slices. Serves 6 to 8.

A Thanksgiving Salad

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

The older I get—and the more work I have to do on the days before and after Thanksgiving—the simpler I like to make Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law Leigh and I will experiment a bit over the weekend, once the holiday is over. She wants to play with pastry. I want to make some lovely potato buns my friend Sandy makes every year.

But on Thanksgiving itself we’ll have a simple meal and let the turkey shine. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, perhaps a little mashed potato … and a salad.

I first encountered Brussels sprouts in a salad a few years back at the home of my cousins Alan and Jane. As I have written before here, I don’t care for boiled sprouts. They fill the house with an icky cabbage-y smell and take on a depressingly sodden texture.

When roasted or sautéed or used raw (as they are here), however, they smell fine, taste better, and have a satisfyingly crunchy texture. Lauren Zenzie on Mass Appeal scooped up what was left of the salad after we made it on the air for her lunch.

A note about vinegar: I go back and forth between cider vinegar and red-wine vinegar in this recipe. The cider version is more autumnal; the wine vinegar gives the salad dressing a bit more tang.

We also made my cranberry-apple crisp for dessert on the air. I’m having trouble uploading the videos, but you may watch them here if you wish: Brussels-Sprouts Salad and Cranberry-Apple Crisp.

Happy Thanksgiving! May all your sprouts be crunchy….

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients:

16 Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries (more if you like)
6 to 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2 small apples (or 1 large apple), cored and sliced (optional but delicious)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon raw honey
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)

Instructions:

Trim the Brussels sprouts; then slice them with a knife or shred them with a food processor or a mandoline.

Combine the sprouts, the celery, the onion bits, the cranberries, and the apple pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients into a dressing, and toss half of the resulting dressing onto the salad, adding more dressing if needed. Serves 8.

The photo is a bit fuzzy, but you should get the idea!

Centennial Songs and Recipes

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Like most human beings, I like thinking about summer when snow is on the ground outside. So I started contemplating my summer concert this past January when the air was crisp and cold.

I knew that Leonard Bernstein had been born in 1918 and that I wanted to salute him in the concert, particularly because I knew that he had spent some time (well, one summer) down the road from my house, at Singing Brook Farm here in Hawley, Massachusetts.

Leonard Bernstein (center) at Singing Brook Farm in 1949 with his Sister and Brother

I also knew that my voice (which is just fine but not exceptional) wasn’t up for an all-Bernstein concert. It occurred to me that the concert might be expanded to cover a range of musical figures born in 1918.

I did a little research, and it turned out that quite a few American composers and singers came into the world that year: lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, of Lerner and Loewe; Patty Andrews, of the Andrews Sisters; singer/actress Pearl Bailey; crooner/actor Robert Preston, best known as the loveable con artist in The Music Man; and many more.

I wasn’t 100 percent I wanted to make 1918 the focus of my concert until I recalled that my late mother, Janice Hallett Weisblat, was also a 1918 baby.

Baby Janice with her Mother, Clara

Jan, whom I called Taffy, didn’t have a professional-quality voice. In fact, she lost much of her vocal range singing too hard while suffering from a cold one evening when I was a small child. Nevertheless, she adored music and used the range she had left to sing her heart out whenever possible. Singing a couple of her favorite songs seemed like a wonderful way to celebrate her centennial year.

My concert, called “A Century of Songs and Singers,” will take place next Saturday, August 25 (Bernstein’s birthday), at the Federated Church on Main Street (Route 2) in Charlemont, Massachusetts. I will be accompanied by Jerry Noble, a delightful person and musician.

Please join us if you’re in the neighborhood. If you can’t come to the concert, you might like to make a dish or two from 1918 babies, as I did this week on Mass Appeal. I made Pearl Bailey’s Corn Fritters and my mother’s Blueberry Sally Lunn.

The blueberry recipe appears elsewhere on this blog as Blueberry Snap. I share the corn recipe below, along with the videos in which I make the dishes.

Pearl Bailey

Pearlie Mae’s Corn Fritters

Pearl Bailey’s “cookbook,” Pearl’s Kitchen, is pretty vague about the proportions in this recipe so I had to more or less construct them myself. I recommend her book and her music nevertheless. Pearl’s Kitchen shows off its author’s remarkable spirit. She writes:

To cook is to share, and it is as important to me as walking onto the stage to full applause. Cooking is as crucial as anything I do in life, because I like to see the smiles on people’s faces when they enjoy something I have prepared. I cook as I live.

Amen.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 cups lightly cooked corn kernels
butter as needed for frying

Instructions:

In a bowl combine the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, the salt, and the pepper. Make a well in the center of this mixture.

In another bowl or a measuring cup whisk together the milk and egg. Pour them into the dry ingredients, and mix. Stir in the corn kernels.

Put a pat of butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. The butter should melt and begin to bubble but not burn. Pop in small scoops of the corn batter.

Fry on both sides. “Just let it bubble away until it browns, then turn it over,” said Pearl Bailey. Serves a crowd.

And now the videos:

Pearly Mae’s Corn Fritters

Taffy’s Blueberry Sally Lunn

First Try at Sushi

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018


One of my favorite things to do during my holiday shift at Williams-Sonoma (which ends in February) is teaching cooking classes, particularly children’s classes. I love the enthusiasm and appetite young people bring to the experience.

Last month I was asked to teach a class in conjunction with the store’s American Girl Around the World Cookbook. The class covered an odd but intriguing duo of recipes: vegetable sushi and Black Forest cake.

I have worked with the American Girl books before, and in general I’m not crazy about them. The recipes tend to be bland and sometimes don’t quite work.

The Black Forest cake recipe lived up to that experience. I actually baked the basic cake twice. (It had to be made before the class so that it had time to cool before my students decorated it.) In neither case did I care for the consistency. My students didn’t really mind because the whipped cream and cherries they slathered all over the final product literally and figuratively covered up the cake’s defects.

The sushi was a different story. I loved it! Never having made sushi before, I enlisted my family’s aid in pre-testing the recipe. We did change it a little bit. The cookbook wanted the sushi rolled by hand into little cornets. I couldn’t for the life of me make that work. Instead, we rolled it by hand into the classic cylinders and rounds. Soon my sister-in-law, who adores sushi, purchased a little sushi mat to simplify the rolling procedure. It definitely helped—but if you want to try the recipe, you don’t have to have the mat.

Here is the cookbook’s recipe, amended by my family.  Our sushi is a work in progress, but it will improve over time. Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that my students had a grand time making the sushi. Their rolls weren’t entirely neat (neither are mine!), but they tasted great.

Of course, the fillings for the sushi can be varied. One of these days I plan to try making classic sushi with fish. For the moment, I’m happy.

Vegetable Sushi

Ingredients:

for the rice:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups cooked short-grain sushi rice (we have been using Nishiki brand, but others are available), still hot

for assembly:

1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 to 3 sheets of nori (seaweed), cut in half
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (white or black or some of each)
2 baby cucumbers, peeled (or not!) and cut into thin pieces
several baby carrots, cut into thin pieces
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced

for serving:

soy sauce or tamari
wasabi (optional: some people, like me, love it, while others find it too spicy)

Instructions:

Begin by making the seasoning for the rice. In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt over low heat. Stir and heat until the sugar and salt dissolve (a minute or 2). Set aside to cool completely.

Cook the rice according to package directions. (I usually cook it for a little less time than the recipe suggests and then let it sit off the heat for 10 minutes to finish cooking on its own.)

Place the hot rice in a baking dish, using a spatula or paddle to spread it out evenly. Slowly pour in the vinegar mixture while slicing the spatula through the rice to make sure that it goes all the way through. Flip the rice so that all of it gets some of the liquid. Cover the rice with a clean, damp cloth while you get ready to make your sushi. (The seasoned rice is essential to really good sushi so don’t try to skip this step.)

Combine the vinegar and water for assembly in a small bowl. Place 1 piece of nori, shiny side down, on a clean, dry work surface or sushi-rolling mat. The long side should be closest to you. Slice the nori in half so that you have two long sheets.

Scoop a couple of tablespoons of rice onto one of your sheets. Dip your fingers in the vinegar/water mixture to keep the rice from sticking to them; then gently flatten the rice on the sheet, leaving room on all sides but particularly on the long side opposite you.

Lightly sprinkle the rice with some of the sesame seeds; then place a few slices of cucumber, carrot, and avocado on top, keeping them fairly near you on the rice. 

 

For this roll we forgot the sesame seeds and went too close to the edges of the nori (nobody’s perfect!), but you can see how the vegetables are clumped together.

Lift the side of the nori closest to you, and roll it forward. The process is a little delicate. You want a small amount of pressure to keep the sushi together, but you don’t want to squash it.

When the sushi is rolled, remove the mat (if you are using one) and slice the sushi into little rounds with a serrated knife. Serve with soy sauce and (if you like it) wasabi. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.