Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Brussels Sprouts and Chard Gratin

This is based on a recipe I found in MS Living Magazine.  I one and a halved that recipe.  I also added rainbow chard from the garden and red onions.  These both added color and some sweetness.  Instead of smoked Gouda (which would have also been wonderful) I used a high quality white Cheddar Tickler which had red onion in it (yum!)  The key to this recipe is to be careful not to overcook the brussels sprouts.   It is a three part recipe. The bechamel which is a basic white sauce, the sprouts, and the assembly.  It is a great holiday side.


For the Bechamel
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Cups whole milk
course salt and FGP
1 Cup grated white cheddar (or any semi hard melting cheese: gouda, gruyere, etc.)

For the brussels sprouts
course salt
2 pounds brussels sprouts, ends 1/8 inch trimmed and outer leaves removed
6 cups chopped rainbow chard
1/2 cup chopped red onion

For assembling the gratin
1 cup finely grated white cheddar

Preheat oven to 375.  Make the bechamel:  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour, and whisk until mixture bubbles slightly but has not started to brown, about 2 minutes.  Gradually whisk in milk.  Raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, whisking often.  rEduce heat to low, and cook stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.  SEason with salt and FGP.  Remove from heat.  Add 1 cup cheese and stir until melted.

Meanwhile, blanch the brussels sprouts: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook Brussels sprouts until just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 3 to 4 minutes (I would err on the 3 minute side just to be safe).  Drain, and transfer to an 8 cup (8 by 12) baking dish.  Toss with chard and onion (uncooked).

Assemble the gratin:  Pour bechamel over Brussels sprout mixture and sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese.  Bake, uncovered, until bubbling and golden, about 25 minutes.  Serves 8.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Early Autumn Garden

 Flag flown in remembrance of September 11th

Sugar Snap Peas, the best winter treat.

Rainbow Chard


Dahlias and Coleus bringing cheer to the front porch.

I've also got broccoli, cabbage, radish, mixed baby greens, carrots, and spring onions getting a good start.  Late summer planting is so much easier.  The autumn here brings regular rainfall but still plenty of warmth to encourage quick growth (which means beating the frost in December).  Hands off is just what I need right now.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Second Go

After Hurricane Irene passed through, I decided it was time to overhaul the vegetable garden.  It had seen far more neglect than care this summer.  The tomatoes were getting smaller and fewer (lack of fertilizer and consistent water).  Next year I'll plant maybe one tomatillo plant instead of four.  They were SO prolific and were dropping fruit before I could use it.  My jalapenos were super abundant as well and not very spicy so I would slice them up fresh on nachos or soup or gazpacho and of course salsa.  I have a drawer full in my fridge still!!  Want some?  

I cleared out most of the boxes to make room for a late summer planting of cool crops.  First I soaked beet seeds and peas overnight then sprouted them between damp paper towels.  This really helps speed the process.  I planted beets where there were once beans and peas where the tomatillos used to tower.  Lettuce, broccoli and cabbage are next.  Maybe some fennel bulbs, too, though I haven't had much luck with them in the past.

I've been looking up green tomato recipes but really you can use them just like you do ripe tomatoes, they just have a tangier taste.  Yummy still.  I have plans to stuff the rest of our peppers with pancetta and ricotta and spices.

It feels good to be back.  We got a nice heavy drenching last night.  That makes for quick sprouting in our future.

Do you have a second go at planting where you live?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sweet Onion Marinara with Paparadelle

Sweet Onion puree

Before cooking the puree down

After cooking it down, it turns a deeper red and reduces it's liquid volume

I make another version of this without onion which is just as good and has red pepper flakes in it.  In this version the onion plays as important a role as the tomato.  I tried it with and without garlic and I, surprisingly liked the version without.  Which is crazy because I am a garlic maniac and always double this ingredient in every recipe.  Somehow, without the garlic the sweetness of the onion can really shine. Puree your onion very well so it becomes a well-incorporated part of the sauce.  This was really good over those wide tender Paparadelle noodles, but I served it with Gnocchi at our Back to School Dinner adding capers to the sauce, and it was just as good.  Versatility makes me happy.


1 sweet white onion, peeled, quartered (vidalia if you can find it)
4-5 medium tomatoes, quartered
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and FGP to taste
4-5 Tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Puree the onion in a food processor until smooth, set aside.  Puree the tomato in food processor until smooth, set aside.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomato puree.  This will be quite runny and requires about 15 minutes of cooking to reduce the liquid.  But, watch it because you don't want to reduce it so much that is becomes dry (see photos above).  Take off the heat and season with salt and fresh ground pepper and stir in cream (this is also just as tasty without the cream).

Toss with pasta, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.  Serves 4.


Monday, August 1, 2011

happy flowers after a flood of rain

It's good to be back in this space.  I'm hoping to make it out in the garden today for some heavy duty weeding.  We've had our own personal Shark Week here at Cicada Cottage and are slowly working our way back into life.  A huge rainfall yesterday has given us a new start in the yard.  A huge outpouring of prayers and support has done the same for our hearts (and Lucy's leg).

We're eating tomatoes every day.  Tomatillos are ripening faster than we can roast them.  A bumper crop of jalapenos and cantaloupe mean summer is still in full force.  August is the best month for fresh eating! 

What are you eating?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eggplant Melts

I just harvested the first eggplant from our vegetable garden.  This is a great way to use up these creamy, hearty vegetables.  And, the only thing better than fresh mozzarella is melted fresh mozzarella!


1 Large eggplant, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and FGP
1-2 cups of your favorite pizza sauce, we use Trader Joe's or homemade
1 Log, about 12 slices, fresh mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking sheet with foil, place eggplant slices in a single layer on foil.  Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, flip and repeat on the other side.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce on eggplant, top with mozzarella slices and bake in oven until cheese begins to bubble, about 20 minutes.  Serve hot over sliced of toasted baguette rubbed with raw garlic or a bowl of steaming pasta tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, or just on their own with a fork!!

Serves 6, as a first course.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Potato Pepper Fritatta

I love to make food that is good (or even better) the next day (or even the next).  Like lasagna, or soup, or turkey dressing.  The Frittata is one of those foods (but even better) because it can be eaten piping hot, warm, room temperature, or even cold out of the fridge.

I jotted the recipe down on a shred of paper when this particular brand of frittata was born in my kitchen and I finally found it (hiding behind my mixing bowl).  Lucky you!  Because now you can find it here.  I used some supposed "bell" peppers from the garden, but these grew into something much smaller and spicier.  So, I'm unsure of the true variety of pepper, but use any pepper here if you'd like, sweet or hot, something with some heat was nice because it really helped balance the mildness of the egg and potato.  The onions here are a must, they add a wonderful sweetness that is surprising in each bite.


3-5 small hot pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
5-6 small potatoes, cubed (I used a variety, white, yellow, red)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
8 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon FGP
1 cup queso fresco (mexican fresh cheese), crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Oil a glass pie dish.  Toss peppers, onion, and potatoes with olive oil, season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Toss on baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, just to get them softened a bit.  Pile the potato mixture in the pie dish, set aside.  Whisk eggs, salt and pepper, and queso fresco together, pour over the potato mixture, flatten the mixture with a spatula so the egg can seep into all the little nooks and crannies.  Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes.  Mine only took 35.  Serves one person each meal for three days!  Or you can share between 6-8 people for a light lunch with some arugula greens on the side.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple Pico

When you have fresh ingredients, simple is best.


5-8 fresh jalapeno peppers
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
3-4 large tomatoes, diced
2-3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon, FGP
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lined baking sheet with foil and throw peppers on.  Roast until skins begin to blacken, about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully place peppers in a plastic ziploc baggy and close (this will "steam" the peppers).  Once cooled, remove as much of the peel as possible but a few stray shreds of pepper peel will not be the demise of your salsa.   Finely dice the roasted peppers (you may or may not remove the seeds).

Combine the peppers, diced onion, and diced tomatoes.  Add salt and pepper, lime juice and olive oil.  Best eaten at room temp, allow flavors to meld for 10 minutes then serve.

*This would be really good with cilantro, but I didn't have any on hand.  If using, add 1/4 cup copped cilantro leaves.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes with Basil Green Goddess

If you're like me you have basil coming out your ears, but most of your larger type of tomatoes are still taking their sweet time ripening.  We've had a couple of big thunderstorms this summer and sometimes the still-green fruit gets knocked off.  Make use of these emerald gems (or just go pluck a few yourself) with this easy recipe.


3-4 medium to large firm, green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning or paprika
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup peanut oil
flat leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish

Using three shallow bowls, combine the flour and seasoning in one, beat the egg with buttermilk in another, and mix the bread crumbs and cornmeal in the third.  Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high.  Dredge each tomato slice first in the flour mixture, then submerse in the egg mixture, then coat with bread crumb mixture.  Fry in oil about 3-4 minutes on each side until browned.  Drain on paper towel-lined plate.  Serve with chopped parsley and Basil Green Goddess Dressing.


*adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Pesto is the go-to recipe for excess basil, but sometimes you gotta mix it up a bit.  This is good on anything, even just a spoon!  Serve it on salad, fish, chicken, veggie dip, and fried green tomatoes!  This recipe is adapted because I hardly ever have anchovy paste on hand, but that adds an extra punch.  I also use plain yogurt, greek or regular, instead of sour cream.  You can also substitute white onion for the scallions, though I would use less onion in that case.  I use twice as much basil as Ms. Garten (because I always have twice as much basil).

1 cup good maynnaise
1 cup chopped scallions
2 cups chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons FGP
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (I don't use lowfat)

Place the mayonnaise, scallions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the yogurt and process just until blended. (Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.)


Monday, July 11, 2011

Cucumber Gazpacho with Spicy Crab


This is a great way to use those cucs you've been harvesting from the garden.  I mean, sliced cucumbers with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper are delish, but this adds a whole different flair to that humble veggie.  I made this for Dr. Gooch's birthday back in May and grated frozen cantaloupe on top for the garnish.  But, in June we caught some crab out in the outerbanks and after snacking on the succulent crab legs, brought home the pickings on ice.  In a moment of brilliance, this cold refreshing soup came to mind and I knew it would be a great pairing.  I hope you think so.

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup herbs (basil, chives, and mint), coarsely chopped
1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove garlic, pressed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp FGP
1 tsp hot sauce (I use Tabasco), plus more for garnish
2 cups fresh crabmeat, for garnish

In a blender or a food processor (or if you are sexy enough to own a VitaMix) combine the cucumber, scallions, herbs, ginger, garlic, olive oil, and yogurt AND may as well go ahead and add the salt and fresh ground pepper, and hot sauce, too.  Process until smooth.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors develop and meld.

In a small bowl mix crabmeat with additional hot sauce, about 2 tsp.  Divide soup into four chilled bowls.  Top with 1/4 cup crabmeat mixture in each bowl.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.


Friday, July 1, 2011

End of June Vignettes

baby beans

teenage tomatoes

darling dahlia

melon vines 


new growth on the Eucalyptus