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Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: Ratatouille Pizza

Ratatouille (rah-tah-TWEE) is a vegetable side dish that originated in the Provence region of France. The classic recipe consists of sautéed eggplant, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini plus garlic and herbs.

It is traditionally summer dish, when tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are plentiful and at peak.

Ratatouille is delightfully colorful when you use red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers and tomatoes/cherry tomatoes. To make ratatouille as a side dish, check out this recipe.
 
RECIPE: RATATOUILLE PIZZA

Ingredients For 1 Large Pizza

You can save time by purchasing the dough or a prepared crust (we sure did—and saved half the steps in the preparation). But Lisa, of Flour De Lisa made hers from scratch, using a pizza dough recipe from Bobby Flay. She adapted the ratatouille from Smitten Kitchen; we further adapted it.

This can be a vegan recipe; but we adapted it by adding both ricotta and mozzarella. We put the mozzarella under the vegetables to showcase the colors. We also created a breakfast pizza version by adding eggs, which bake on top of the pizza.

Without the cheese, the recipe is dairy free and low fat. Use a whole wheat crust and skim-milk cheeses and you have a pizza that’s on the “better for you” list.
 
Ingredients For The Dough

  • 1-3/4 to 2 cups flour (bread flour for a crisper* crust, all-purpose for chewier)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (around 100°F)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  
    For The Ratatouille

    Slice the vegetables to a width of 1/8 to 1/16th inch.

  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 Japanese eggplant
  • 1 long red bell pepper or 6 mini red bell peppers
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow or red onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Red pepper or chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Optional Garnishes

  • Capers and/or olives
  • Small or medium eggs
  • Herbs: fresh basil*, rosemary, thyme, other
  •  
    For The Optional Cheese Layer

  • 2 cups whole or part skim ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful† flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or provolone
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup, shredded
  •  

    Ratatouille

    Fried Egg Ratatouille

    ratatouille-theformerchef-230r

    Tian Recipe

    [1] Ratatouille pizza (photo courtesy FlourDeLisa.Wordpress.com). [2] Bake eggs on top of the pizza, or fry or poach them in a pan to turn a ratatouille side into a main (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers. [3] courtesy TheFormerChef.com. [4] A tian, also from Provence, is another way to enjoy ratatouille ingredients (All-Clad gratin pan photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.)

     
    ________________
    *You can scatter 10 medium basil leaves or 1/2 cup shredded basil atop the pizza when it comes out of the oven.

    †A handful is one of those imprecise measures that says: Use how much you want. More or less of the ingredient is not critical to the recipe’s outcome.
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the pizza dough: Combine 1-3/4 cup flour with the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the oil and water, i.e. slightly warmer than your body temperature. Mix until the dough starts to form a ball. scraping down the bowl. If the dough is too wet, slowly add more flour. If dough becomes too dry, slowly add more water.

    2. TURN out the dough onto a lightly floured or oiled surface. Knead for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. When you poke it, the dough should spring back readily; when you hold the ball of between your palms, it should hold its shape. Lightly oil a clean bowl, place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. While waiting for the dough to rise…

    3. MAKE the ratatouille. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic, sliced onion and a dash of red pepper flakes on the bottom of a 8- or 9-inch diameter springform pan. Alternatively, you can cook the ratatouille on top of the rolled out pizza dough, but the vegetables won’t be as tender or flavorful due to the significantly less cooking time.

    Optional cooking method: We steamed the vegetables separately to al dente, and then were able to pick them up with fingers and layer them perfectly, as in the photo.

    4. LAYER on top of the tomato paste mixture the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and bell pepper, alternating the colors. Start with the inside perimeter and move inward. If you have extra vegetable, save them for a salad, omelet, etc. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the assembled ratatouille. Season with a dash of salt and pepper and thyme or rosemary. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes, increasing the temperature of the oven to as high as possible (450°F or 500°F on most ovens) within the last 5-10 minutes. While the ratatouille is baking…

    5. TURN back to the pizza dough. When the first rise is completed, turn out the dough onto a large sheet of lightly floured or oiled parchment paper. Punch out the air and form a disk. Roll out the dough into a circle about 10-12 inches in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

    6. MIX the ricotta with the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

    7. REMOVE the finished ratatouille from the oven, uncover the pizza dough and place it on a baking sheet. Parbake the pizza dough for a minute or two and remove from the oven. If using ricotta, spread it over the crust, followed by the mozzarella. If you prefer, use the mozzarella to top the pizza.

    8. RELEASE the springform pan carefully—it can be hot! Use one or two spatulas two to gently slide the ratatouille onto the center of the pizza. If you can do it evenly, great. If not, it will still taste delicious. Lightly brush the exposed pizza crust with olive oil.

    9. BAKE the pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the pizza crust is a golden brown. Slice and serve.
     
    CRISPER VS. CRISPIER

    Many people use the adjective crispier when they mean crisp.

  • Crisper is the comparative of crisp, i.e., “The crust is crisp but I’ll make it crisper next time.
  • Crispier is the comparative of crispy, i.e., the crust was nice and crispy but could have been even crispier.
  •  
    It’s a small difference, but a difference nevertheless.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruits & Greens Salad

    Spinach & Strawberry Salad

    Sungold Kiwi

    [1] Spinach with kiwi, grapes, strawberries and pecans (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] SunGold kiwis from Zespri are sweeter and juicier than green kiwis—and other yellow kiwis, too (photo courtesy Zespri).

     

    We eat green salads, we eat fruit salads. But why don’t we mix them together more often?

    We were inspired by this easy recipe from Pampered Chef, which does just that.

    A spinach salad with strawberries (and feta) is not news, but it’s a good place to start. This one has some added twists, and there are other fruit and greens combinations below.

     
    RECIPE: FRUIT & SPINACH SALAD

    Ingredients For 8 One-Cup Servings

    For The Salad

  • 1 package (8 ounces/227 g) fresh baby spinach (wash if not pre-washed)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (substitute other berries)
  • 1 large kiwi, peeled, sliced (look for our favorite, Zespri’s SunGold® kiwi)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) pecan halves, toasted
  • 1 kirby or Persian cucumber (Persians don’t need to be peeled)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup crumbled cheese—blue, feta, goat
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
  •  
    Preparation

    1. TOAST the pecans (how to toast nuts). Pampered Chef simply heated them in the microwave without toasting, using a Small Micro-Cooker. Microwave the nuts, uncovered, on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool completely.

    2. PLACE the greens in a large serving bowl. Add the fruit and top with the pecans.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the ingredients and whisk until well blended. Drizzle ¼ cup (50 ml) over the salad and toss lightly just before serving.
     
    SALAD VARIATIONS WITH FRUIT & GREENS

  • Citrus salad, with blood oranges and pink grapefruit, butterhead lettuce (Bibb, Boston) and optional red onion.
  • Gourmet salad, with fresh lychee or rambutan, red and golden raspberry mix, fennel, radicchio and watercress.
  • Herb salad, citrus or stone fruits with basil or mint, butterhead lettuce, cilantro, dill, flat-leaf parsley (de-stemmed), mâche or purslane.
  • Melon salad, with melon balls or cubes, baby arugula, butterhead lettuce, celery, cucumber, large basil leaves.
  • Spicy salad, with citrus or berries, baby arugula, mizuna or other mustard greens, radish.
  •  
    Dressing Variations

    You can use a standard vinaigrette of oil and vinegar, but fruit and greens salads shine with:

  • Lime vinaigrette: lime juice and zest, olive oil and a teaspoon of honey.
  • Fruit-flavored vinegar or oil.
  • Fruit-flavored vinegar and chile-infused oil, for a bit of heat.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

    When you encounter a bumper crop of tomatoes or see a great sale on tomatoes past their peak: roast them! You can use any fresh tomato: beefsteak, cherry, grape, plum, roma; conventional or heirloom.

    Healthful and delicious, you can serve them as a side with anything, add them to salads and pasta, serve them with a cheese course, and on and on.

    There are so many ways to use this basic recipe. Some of our favorites:

  • Sprinkle with coarse and crunchy or seasoned salt and/or fresh-ground pepper and serve as an antipasto or salad course
  • Blend with simmered with onions, red wine and herbs for a flavorful tomato sauce.
  • Use as a pizza topping.
  • Chop and add to risotto.
  • Serve with a cheese plate.
  • Serve with your favorite soft cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and fine olive oil.
  • Use as a general garnish, plate décor or side.
  •  
    RECIPE: OVEN-ROASTED TOMATOES

    This slow-roasted recipe requires 20 minutes prep time and 1 hour of cook time. It makes enough for leftovers, which can be added hot to pasta, cool to burgers, salads and sandwiches. Use them within a week.

    Roast a mix of sizes and colors for a more beautiful presentation.

    Ingredients For 10 Servings

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, any type
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (substitute basil, marjoram, oregano or savory)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center. Line a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. PREPARE the tomatoes: Wash, remove any stems and slice them in half lengthwise (with large tomatoes, make a few thick slices). Gently scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Set the tomatoes, cut side up, in a single layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme and garlic.

    3. ROAST for 40 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Continue to until the tomatoes caramelize, about 20 minutes.

    4. TURN off the oven and let the tomatoes sit inside for 10 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
     
    PLUM TOMATOES & ROMA TOMATOES: THE DIFFERENCE

    If you wonder why plum tomatoes (a.k.a. Italian plum tomatoes) and roma tomatoes look the same, it’s because for the most part, they are.

    The plum tomato can be oval or cylindrical, while the roma is oval or pear-shaped. Their vines are slightly different.

    They are meatier subspecies, with less liquid and seeds than other tomatoes. That’s why they’re preferred for canning and for tomato sauce.
     
    FUN TOMATO FACTS

    The scientific name of the tomato is Solanum lycopersicum. Individual sizes from cherry to beefsteak are subspecies of lycopersicum.

    Tomatoes are members of the Solanaceae family, popularly called the nightshades. Botanically they are berry*-type fruits.

    Other edible nightshades include eggplant, naranjilla, potato (but not sweet potato), tomatillo.

    Another popular nightshade is the chile pepper: hot and sweet varieties and the spices and condiments made from them, such as cayenne, chili powder, hot sauce and paprika.

    Tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where thousands of different types grew wild. They were first cultivated by the Incas and spread to Central America, the Aztec Empire.

     

    Beautiful Heirloom Tomatoes

    Cherry Tomatoes

    Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

    Heirloom Plum Tomatoes

    [1] Beautiful heirloom tomatoes (photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden). [2] Simple roasting produces glorious results (photo courtesy Hidden Valley). [3] Roasted cherry tomatoes (photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco). [4] Heirloom roma tomatoes (photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

     
    The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica), a cousin in the Solanaceae family, grew wild in Central America. It was cultivated by the Aztecs and called tomatl (pronounced to-MAH-tay).

    When the Aztecs began to cultivate the red berry* from the Andes, they called the new species xitomatl (hee-toe-MAH-tay), meaning “plump thing with navel” or “fat water with navel.”

    The Spanish arriving in what is now Mexico called the tomato tomatl (spelled tomate). The Spanish called the smaller green fruit, called tomatl by the Aztecs, tomatillo.

    Tomate first appeared in print (in Spanish) in 1595 [source and a deeper discussion].
     
    __________________
    *The scientific use of “berry” differs from common usage. In botany, a berry is a fruit produced from the ovary of a single flower. The outer layer of the ovary wall (the pericarp) develops into an edible fleshy portion. Thus, “berry” includes many fruits that are not commonly thought of as berries, including bananas, cucumbers, eggplants, grapes, tomatillos and and tomatoes. Paradoxically, fruits not included in the botanical definition include strawberries and raspberries, which are not true berries [source].

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Tomato Clafoutis

    Clafoutis (cluh-FOO-tee) is a rustic tart, initially made with cherries in the Limousin region of south-central France, where black cherry trees abound.

    Today, other stone fruits and berries are also used. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries—apples, berries, pears, other stone fruits including prunes—dried plums—the dish is properly called a flaugnarde (flow-NYARD).

    In the centuries before ceramic pie plates were invented (during the Renaissance), the filling was placed into a hand-crafted dough with no sides (think of a galette, or a pizza with a higher side crust).

    The fruit is placed in a pie shell and covered with a flan (custard)-like filling; then baked until puffy. The fruit is not only inside the custard, but tempting nuggets pop through at the top.

    The recipe originated in the Limousin region of France, where black cherries were plentiful (red cherries can also be used). The name derives from the verb clafir, to fill, from the ancient language of Occitania, the modern southern France.

    Fruit clafoutis can be served warm, room temperature or chilled; vegetable clafoutis are better warm.
     
    RECIPE: SAVORY TOMATO CLAFOUTIS

    A savory clafoutis is similar to a quiche. Without a crust it is a savory custard, and can be made in a pie plate or in individual ramekins.

    This recipe was contributed by Karen, FamilyStyle Food to Go Bold With Butter, a source of wonderful recipes.

    Karen made the dish as a custard, without a crust. You can do the same, or use a pie crust or a crust of crushed biscuits/crackers.

    Prep Time is 10 minutes, cook time is 55 minutes. Serve it warm from the oven or room temperature, for brunch, lunch or dinner, or as a first course or snack.

    For a more artistic presentation, use cherry tomatoes in an assortment of colors. You can also combine cherry and grape tomatoes.

     
    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes in assorted colors, halved
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Kosher salt or seasoned salt*
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • Optional crust
  • Optional garnish: marinated tomato “salad”†
  •  
    __________________
    *We used rosemary salt, a blend of sea salt and rosemary. You can make your own by pulsing dried rosemary (or other herb) and coarse salt in a food processor. Start with a 1:3 ratio and add more rosemary to taste.

    †We cut up the leftover tomatoes and marinated them with diced red onion and fresh herbs in a vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drain it thoroughly through a sieve and then use it as a topping or a side garnish.

     

    Cherry Clafoutis

    Mixed Berry Clafoutis

    roasted-tomato-clafoutis-goboldwbutter-230

    [1] A classic clafoutis, a custard tart with black cherries (here’s the recipe from FoodBeam.com). [2] This mixed berry clafoutis is from The Valley Table, which highlights the cuisine of New York’s Hudson Valley. It is garnished with fresh berries and a side of crème fraîche. [3]A tomato clafoutis with flavorful summer tomatoes (photo courtesy FamilyStyleFood.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over with a fork. Line the bottom with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust begins to color around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside and raise the oven temperature to 400°F.

    2. TOSS the tomatoes and butter on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and begin to caramelize. Transfer the tomatoes to 9-inch round or square baking dish, or set aside until Step 5.

    3. REDUCE the oven temperature to 375°F. Whisk the egg yolks, 1 teaspoon salt and the sugar in large bowl until lightened and creamy. Stir in the flour, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan and the cream.

    4. BEAT the egg whites in separate bowl or heavy-duty mixer until they form soft peaks. Fold into yolk mixture until blended. Pour batter over tomatoes and sprinkle with basil.

    5. BAKE 18-20 minutes or until batter is puffed and light golden. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and serve warm.
     
    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF PIE

    Invented by the ancient Egyptians, for some 2,000 years food was not baked in containers (e.g. pie plates, baking pans), but completely wrapped in dough. The dough wrap was called a coffin, the word for a basket or box.

    Here’s the scoop.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Pasta For Summer, Zucchini “Pasta,” Enhanced

    August 8th is National Zucchini Day. Last year, we featured the Spiralizer, a gadget that started the zucchini noodle craze by making it easy to make long pasta-like strands from firm vegetables, along with a recipe for Zucchini Pasta With Crab.

    The concept took off in the media and in kitchens across the country. Who wouldn’t like a better-for-you pasta experience? At 20 calories per cup of zucchini and 40 calories for a half cup of tomato sauce, one could have a big plate of “pasta” of better-for-you complex carbs for 100 calories—including the grated Parmesan.

    Some people, though, still longed for the toothsome texture and flavor of Italian pasta. So today’s tip is:

    Mix the two noodles together: half standard pasta noodles (wheat) and half zucchini noodles.

    The concept is very versatile: the combination of starch and vegetable lends itself to many more sauces than standard pasta sauces.
     
    SAUCES

    You can use any pasta sauce, or turn to global cuisines for another approach.

    Asian sauces work particularly well here, but there are plenty of other options including:

  • Chimichurri sauce
  • Compound or plain butter sauce
  • Garlic and olive oil sauce
  • Fresh or cooked tomato sauce
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Parsley sauce
  • Ponzu or teriyaki sauce
  • Thai peanut sauce
  • Yogurt sauce
  •  
    PASTA TOPPINGS

  • Brined vegetables (capers, olives)
  • Cheeses: boconccini (mozarella balls), crumbled goat or feta, shaved Parmesan
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cooked vegetables (edamame, peas, etc.)
  • Fresh herbs
  • Spiraled beet, carrot, cucumber, green papaya or other raw garnish
  • Seafood: anchovies, sardines, shrimp (boiled, grilled, sautéed)
  •  
    RECIPE: MIXED NOODLE PAD THAI

    Match the zucchini size to the pasta size you buy, e.g., linguine (thin) or pappardelle (wide).

  • You can mix green and yellow squash. You can also make this recipe with 100% zucchini or 100% pasta noodles.
  • You can serve the dish hot/warm, room temperature or chilled.
  • Also check out our recipe for mixed zucchini and pasta noodles with crab.
     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 cups raw zucchini “noodles”
  • 4-6 ounces wheat or rice noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (substitute Worcestershire or a bit of anchovy paste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 green onions (scallions), sliced
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (substitute flat-leaf parsley)
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts (the standard is unsalted, but you can use whatever you have, including honey roasted or flavored)
  • Optional protein: grilled shrimp or chicken
  • Optional garnish: lime wedge
  •  
     
    Preparation

       

    Zucchini Pasta

    Zucchini Noodles

    Zucchini Noodles

    Zucchini Pad Thai

    [1] Zucchini and fettuccine noodles with shaved Parmesan cheese (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers. [2] Zucchini and linguine noodles in olive oil-garlic sauce (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] Zucchini noodles with Bolognese sauce (here’s the recipe from SheKnows.com). [4] Chicken Pad Thai with zucchini noodles (here’s the recipe from ImBored-LetsGo.com).

     
    1. BRING a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the wheat noodles and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. SCOOP the noodles out with a mesh strainer, reserving the water; add them to a large bowl and set aside.

    2. ADD the zucchini noodles to the water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and test after 5 minutes. Do not overcook. When ready, drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water and add to the wheat noodles. Stir to combine.

    3. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until tender.

    3. WHISK the eggs lightly with a fork or mini-whisk; add them to the skillet and lightly scramble. Cook the eggs until they just solidify but are still moist. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside on a trivet or other counter protector.

    4. MAKE the sauce: In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and red pepper flakes. Add the sauce into the scrambled eggs in the skillet. Pour/scrape into the noodle bowl and toss to coat. At this point, if you want to serve the dish hot or warm, microwave briefly before adding the garnishes.

    5. ADD the green onions, cilantro, and peanuts over the noodles. Toss lightly to combine and serve.

     

    WonderVeg Spiralizer

    Beyond zucchini, the WonderVeg Spiralizer can transform any hard vegetable into long strands for “pasta” or for raw vegetable salads and garnish. Consider beet, carrot, cucumber, turnip and zucchini, plus others such as green papaya (photo courtesy WonderVeg.com).

     

    ZUCCHINI HISTORY

    Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, is a member of the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae. It originated in Central and South America, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. It grew in different shapes, including round balls that can still be grown from heirloom seeds. But the variety most of us are familiar with was developed at the end of the 19th century near Milan, Italy.

    The word squash comes from Narraganset language of the Native Americans of Rhode Island, who used askutasquash, “a green thing eaten raw. The Pilgrims had difficulty pronouncing the whole word, and shortened it to squash. Either way, it was an extremely valuable source of food for both peoples, and one that we also heavily rely on as a source of nutrition for a large part of the season.

    The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash (zucca is the word for pumpkin). In the wonderful world of food fusion, the word squash comes from the Indian skutasquash meaning “green thing eaten green.” Christopher Columbus originally brought seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa.

     
    The French turned their noses up at zucchini (courgettes) for a long time until cooks learned to choose small fruits, which are less bland and watery. The same tip still applies: the smaller, the better.

    While a botanical fruit*, zucchini is treated as a vegetable. With the exception of zucchini bread and zucchini muffins, both made with sugar, it is typically cooked as a savory dish or accompaniment. has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called “zucchini” were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the Americas.
     
    __________________
    * Zucchini is a fruit, as are all squash, cucumbers and other members of the Cucurbitaceae family. It is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower; zucchini blossoms are also eaten, stuffed and sautéed.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Frittata For Dinner

    For breakfast, lunch or dinner, make a frittata (frizz-TA-ta).

    A frittata is an Italian-style omelet, set in the frying pan in the oven*—no folding required. We’ve been making them for years, because our omelets never looked neat enough and we had no patience to work on our technique.

  • With an omelet, the filling ingredients are placed on the beaten eggs that are setting in the pan. As the omelet continues to cook, it is folded with a spatula to envelop the ingredients (that’s the part that requires practice, practice, practice).
  • With a frittata—the name comes from the Italian friggere, to fry—the eggs and other ingredients are mixed together, then cooked more slowly than an omelet. The egg mixture completely fills a round skillet: no folding. The result looks like a crustless quiche. The name derives from the Italian friggere, to fry.
  • As with a quiche, a frittata can be served at room temperature
  •  
    WHAT TO PUT IN A FRITTATA

    Sometimes we add so many vegetables that we end up with “veggies bound with some egg.” You can added anything else you have, from beans, to leftover grains and potatoes.

    There are countless frittata recipes online, with oven, stove top or stove top/broiler cooking techniques. We prefer the oven—it’s the easiest for us—but try them all to see which works best for you.

    Consider:

  • Cheese: any kind, crumbled, cubed or shredded as appropriate
  • Fresh herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley or other favorite
  • Heat: fresh or dried chile, hot sauce
  • Meats: bacon, ham, sausage
  • Miscellany: canned artichoke hearts, capers, olives
  • Seafood: crab, scallops, shrimp (great when there aren’t enough left over for a main dish)
  • Vegetables: Anything goes (see list† below)—pre-steam as necessary
  •  
    National Farmers Market Week begins tomorrow, so head for yours and make a selection.

    RECIPE: KITCHEN SINK FRITTATA

    This “kitchen sink” frittata shows that you can take whatever you have in the fridge or pantry and toss it together for delicious results. We once had a “Surprise BYO” brunch with friends; everyone brought a favorite ingredient (we had extra ingredients in the fridge in case everyone brought the same thing).

    If you don’t have or like any of the ingredients, substitute what you do have.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch salt (more saltiness comes with the feta)
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked and kernels removed
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Handful of basil leaves, torn
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Optional: a shake of red pepper flakes or other heat
  •  
    Plus

  • Side salad
  • Toast or bread and butter
  •  

    Potato & Sausage Frittata

    Avocado Arugula Frittata

    Frittata Recipe

    [1] Use boiled potatoes and sausage for this family favorite. Here’s the recipe from Applegate. [2] You can top a frittata with fresh ingredients (photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico). [3] You can put anything into a frittata. This “kitchen sink” recipe is below (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    _______________________
    *You can also use the stove top and broiler, but in the oven no flipping is required.

    †Try any blend: avocado, asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, carrot, chard, eggplant, kale, mushrooms, onion/leek/green onion, potatoes (boiled/roasted), spinach, zucchini and so on.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Beat together the eggs and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Add the feta and whisk together.

    2. HEAT the olive oil in a 6” cast iron pan. When hot, add the garlic and onions and cook until they start to color, about 3 mintues. Add the corn, tomatoes and basil. Lower the heat to medium and cook together for about 5 minutes until the onions are how you like them. Then scrape the contents into a bowl and let cool.

    3. REGREASE the bottom and sides of the pan. Mix the egg mixture with the corn and tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake until the center of the frittata is just set and no longer jiggling, about 15 to 20 minutes.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Remove Food Stains On Teeth, Hands & Fabric

    If you’ve ever drunk more than a few glasses of red wine; eaten lots of beets, berries or carrot purée; you know that food can stain teeth, as well as the hands used to prepare it and the clothes worn to make or eat it.

    Even white wine can stain: It has both acid and some tannins that make teeth susceptible to pigments in other foods.

    According to Web MD, tooth stains are caused by:

  • Acids, which make tooth enamel softer and rougher, so it’s easier for stains to set in.
  • Chromogens, compounds with strong pigments that cling to tooth enamel.
  • Tannins, plant-based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to teeth.
  •  
    Red wine is a triple threat, with all three.

    Tea stains teeth more than coffee: In addition to the acid they both share, tea also contains tannins.

    Fortunately, there are remedies.
     
    TO REMOVE FOOD STAINS ON TEETH

  • Brush right away; use a paste with a bit of whitening agent. Keep a toothbrush at work.
  • Swish water around in your mouth if you can’t brush. It’s not as effective as brushing, but better than nothing.
  • Use a straw. The liquids are sucked to the roof of your mouth, so bypass your front teeth.
  • Get your teeth cleaned professionally. A professional cleaning and polishing helps to smooth the fine cracks in tooth enamel where color gets trapped. Regular polishing also helps to reduce the amount of staining.
  •  

    Baby Beets

    Orange Beets

    Except for the uncommon white beets, beets stain (photo #1 courtesy Burpee, photo #2 courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON HANDS

  • Use a salt or sugar scrub. Some people buy them for skin exfoliation, but you can sprinkle coarse salt or sugar on wet hands and rub to exfoliate. You can also use olive oil instead of water. After rubbing, rinse off the scrub off and wash your hands with liquid dish soap. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  • Clean fingernails with baking soda. Make a rub by adding some lemon juice to the baking soda. Scrub with a nail brush.
  • Prevent them in the first place. Get a box of plastic food-prep gloves for a song: 500 gloves for $9.
  •  
    TO REMOVE STAINS ON FABRIC

  • Immediately blot, not rub, with a paper towel. Then use a laundry pre-stain stick or liquid detergent. Wash ASAP in cold water (the sink is fine).
  • Soak in cold water with chlorine or oxygen bleach if the stain persists.
  • Launder in cold water if needed.
  • Use a fabric-appropriate bleach: Chlorine bleach is preferable if it is safe for the fabric.

  • Get an adult bib from Dress Tiez. We have two and love them: They’re waterproof and easy to clean.
  •  
    MORE HELP

  • For red wine and other stains, we’ve had great success with Wine Away spray. It aso removes coffee, blood, ink, fruit punch, sauces, red medicine stains, even pet stains. Try it on anything.
  • There’s also a pocket size for dining out.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Summer Panzanella (Bread Salad)

    Bread salad, like French toast and croutons, is one of those delicious foods invented by necessity: Poor people needed to get another meal from leftover bread that had gone stale.

    Large croutons are was a main ingredient of the salad, rather than the small American-style croutons used as garnish.

    Panzanella, the Italian word for bread salad, is a Tuscan-style bread salad made with a loaf of day-old (or older) bread, cubed into large croutons and tossed with vinaigrette or other dressing to soften it. Chopped salad vegetables are then added.

    The translation we have found for panzanella is “bread in a swamp,” the swamp being the vinaigrette or water in which it was soaked. While crusty Italian loaves were used in the original, you can use any bread from baguette to challah to semolina raisin to sourdough.

    While today’s recipes can be rich in ingredients, the peasants who originally made it foraged to pull together vegetables from the garden—cucumber, onion and tomato—and possibly purslane, a salad green that grows wild.

    Early recipes were heavy on the onions, the cheapest ingredient to pair with the bread. When there wasn’t enough oil to spare, the bread was moistened in water.

    Today, this peasant dish is a popular first course for all in Italy. It doesn’t appear often on menus of U.S.-based Italian restaurants. That’s too bad, because it’s a dish worth knowing.

    So today’s tip is: Make a panzanella. As long as you have vinaigrette- and bread, you can create the salad from anything. It‘s a great way to use up anything in the pantry or fridge, including leftovers.
     
    MIX & MATCH PANZANELLA INGREDIENTS

  • Bell peppers, celery, carrots, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini
  • Anchovies, beans, chicken, hard boiled eggs, mozzarella or other cheese, tuna
  • Lettuce and other salad greens (we especially like the bite of arugula or radish)
  • Fresh herbs (basil is great here)
  • Capers, olives, pickled vegetables
  • Rice and other grains, boiled potatoes
  • Fruit: apple, berries, grapefruit, orange, stone fruit, watermelon
  • Bread of choice
  • Vinaigrette of choice (consider an infused oil or vinegar)
  •  
    RECIPE: SIMPLE PANZANELLA SALAD

    In our home, summer isn’t summer without lots of panzanella salad. Made with the season’s produce bounty, it‘s a refreshing summer dish that takes just minutes to whip up.

    This recipe from Sunset Growers represents the original, simple salad, made glorious by the freshest ingredients.

    It’s been made better-for-you by substituting the standard rustic bread for a whole wheat loaf.

    Ingredients

  • 5-6 cups whole wheat bread cut into 1 inch cubes, about 1 rustic loaf
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped and mashed
  • 3 kumato* tomatoes, standard cut into 1 inch pieces or cherry cut in half
  • 3 yellow tomatoes, standard cut into 1 inch pieces or cherry cut in half
  • 1 English cucumber, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
  •  
     
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    *Trader Joe’s sells these reddish brown-green tomatoes (see photo at right). The idea is to provide color contrast as well as flavor.

       

    Panzanella (Bread Salad)

    Octopus Panzanella Recipe

    Kale Panzanella Salad

    Kumato Tomatoes

    [1] In panzanella, Tuscan bread salad, croutons are a main ingredient, not a garnish (photo courtesy Sunset Growers). [2] A truly sophisticated take from Beauty & Essex restaurant in New York City: Croutons like fat piano keys are lined up and topped with salad and octopus. [3] Half kale, half croutons, with accents of apple and bacon (the recipe from FoodFaithFitness.com). [4] Kumato tomatoes (photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE).

     

    Chicken Panzanella (Bread Salad)

    Panzanella salad with added chicken (photo courtesy Go Bold With Butter).

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the bread cubes and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Toss to fully coat the cubes. Place the cubes onto an ungreased baking sheet and toast until crispy (about 15-20 minutes), tossing every 5 minutes. When the bread is done…

    2. COOL slightly and then return it to the large bowl with the crushed garlic. Toss gently to distribute garlic evenly. Set aside.

    3. STIR together in a large salad bowl the cut tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and half of the salt.

    4. MAKE the dressing: Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, black pepper and remaining salt until fully combined. Continue to whisk briskly while slowly drizzling in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

    4. ADD the bread to the salad bowl and toss the vegetables lightly. Add all of the dressing and toss again to coat all ingredients. Set aside for 10-12 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add the basil and toss lightly to distribute it evenly before serving.

     

    MORE PANZANELLA RECIPES

  • Basic Panzanella Salad (basil, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes)
  • Chicken Panzanella Salad
  • Panzanella & Fruit Salad
  • Zucchini & Bell Pepper Panzanella
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Cheeses

    Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad

    Arty Caprese Salad

    Watermelon Caprese Salad

    [1] Yellow tomato Caprese Salad (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers | FB. [2] Artistic Caprese Salad (photo courtesy Great Performances | FB). [3] Watermelon Caprese Salad. You can also use mango and other stone fruits (photo courtesy Watermelon.org).

     

    On the hot days of summer, lighten up on your cheeses. Switch the heavier blues, cheddars and washed rind cheeses for delicate, creamy ones.

    Even fresh year-round cheeses like chèvre, feta, mozzarella and ricotta taste better in the summer.

    Here’s the 411 on cheese:

  • Cheeses are seasonal based on the feed and milk availability. Goats and sheep, for example, cease producing milk over the winter, when they have bred, until they give birth.in spring.
  • With modern freezing techniques to preserve the curds, goat’s and sheep’s milk curds, previously available only in spring when the animals give birth, are available year-round.
  • In the spring and summer, the animals from artisan cheesemakers graze in the field, eating grass and clover. The seasonal diet gives more dimension to their milk, with floral and grassy notes.
  • Fresh curds + richer milk = the best cheese of the year.
  •  
    No one will stop you from getting your fill of aged Gouda, Roquefort or Stilton, but we prefer to save them for the cooler months.

    There are many semisoft, semihard and hard cheeses at peak for summer. Your cheesemonger can guide you to the best semi-hard and hard summer cheeses in the store. On the soft, fresh side, here are our favorite widely-available cheeses:
     
    FOUR FAVORITE SUMMER CHEESES

    All pair with burgers, pizza, green salads and fruit salads.

    Mozzarella

    Pay a bit more for artisan mozzarella. As opposed to rubbery factory mozzarella, it’s freshly made, and has a delightfully different texture from the standard “pizza mozzarella.”

    Pair it with its soul mates, fresh basil and summer tomatoes; then:

  • Tuck it into omelets.
  • Make grilled cheese sandwiches or panini.
  • Toss with pasta and salads (ciliegine and perlini, bite-size mozzarella balls, work better here).
  • For appetizers and the summer “cheese course,” combine ciliegine with cherry tomatoes and other vegetables, cubed meats or rolled proscuitto. Use skewers or an artistic plating.
  • For dessert, do the same with fruit.
  •  
    And get your fill of perhaps the most famous summer mozzarella dish, Caprese Salad.

  • You can substitute mango, stone fruit or watermelon for the the tomatoes.
  • You can substitute feta, goat cheese, ricotta, even tofu for the mozzarella.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: basil.

    Feta

    Feta—crumbled, cubed or sliced—pairs with almost every summer fruit and vegetable. Tip: Some feta is very salty. Go to the cheese counter and ask to taste it first, or get a recommendation for a packaged brand with less salt.

  • In omelets.
  • In Watermelon-Feta Salad or crumbled over green salad.
  • On skewers—appetizer and dessert.
  • With grilled lamb, pork or poultry (turn it into a side with good olive oil, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs).
  • On burgers: beef, turkey and especially lamb.
  • On pizza, anchovies, capers, olives and onion slices.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: cilantro or dill.

     

    Fresh Goat Cheese

    Fresh goat cheese is soft and creamy, with a bit of tang. Along with ricotta, it spreads easily on bread.

    As with mozzarella, fresh goat cheese loves summer tomatoes. Try it:

  • On crusty baguette, with tomatoes or grilled vegetables.
  • In omelets.
  • With green salads (slice a log into rounds and place on top of the greens.
  • Ditto with fruit salads or a fresh fruit plate.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: basil or mint.
     
    Ricotta

    Soft and creamy ricotta is can be called “Italian cottage cheese,” and can be used in the same ways.

    You can mix in any seasonings and use the flavored cheese in even more ways. Ricotta loves a drizzle of honey.

  • Spread on toast and bagels, with optional honey or berries.
  • DIY ricotta bowls for breakfast or dessert (see photo #4).
  • Substitute for mozzarella in a Caprese Salad.
  • Pair with fresh fruit and optional yogurt.
  • Sweeten for cookie sandwiches or dips.
  • Whip with sweetener and a touch of cinnamon for “cannoli cream.”
  • Use the cannoli cream instead of whipped cream to top fruit, puddings and other desserts.
  •  
    Best Fresh Herb Pairing: chives.
     
    HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT CHEESE?

    Test your knowledge—or build it up—with our Cheese Glossary: the different types of cheese, categories, techniques, etc.

     

    Ricotta Caprese Salad

    Ricotta Toppings

    [1] Top a salad with a spoonful or two of plain or flavored ricotta (photo courtesy Del Posto | NYC). [2] DIY ricotta bowls are customized to whatever you want: fruit, seeds, even chocolate (photo courtesy Good Eggs | SF).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon Salad

    Watermelon is one of the edible geniuses in the Cucurbitaceae family, also called the gourd family. The most important family members comprise five genuses:

  • Citrullus: watermelon and some other melons.
  • Cucurbita: squash (including pumpkin), summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini), some gourds.
  • Cucumis: cucumber, some melons.
  •  
    Non-edible members include:

  • Lagenaria: inedible (decorative) gourds
  • Luffa/loofah: a fibrous fruit that provides the loofah scrubbing sponge
  •  
    Sweet melons have long been an anticipated summer treat. Pperhaps the most beloved is watermelon: sliced and eaten as hand fruit; sipped as juice, in cocktails, fruit soup and smoothies; made into dessert as fruit salads, popsicles and sorbets; grilled as a side; added to salsa; and so much more.

    Today’s tip: Consider adding watermelon to your salads. It fits as easily into savory salads as sweet fruit salads.
     
    WATERMELON SALAD INGREDIENTS

    Mix and match watermelon with these ingredients:

  • Cucumber (check out the different types of cucumber)
  • Cheese: bocconcini (mozzarella balls), feta, goat cheese, ricotta salata, other cheese
  • Fruit: berries, citrus, cherries, dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.), heirloom tomatoes, mango, other melons
  • Greens of choice: bell peppers, endive, mesclun, romaine, radicchio
  • Onion: chive, red onion, scallion, sweet onions (consider pickling the onions)
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, mint, parsley
  • Protein: grilled chicken or seafood
  • Spicy: baby arugula, jalapeño, radishes
  • Also: pistachios, roasted beets, water chestnuts, whole grains for grain bowl, summer squash
  •  
    Dressings

  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Blue cheese dressing (light!)
  • Honey-lime vinaigrette
  • Infused olive oil (citrus, herb)
  •  
    RECIPE: WATERMELON CAPRESE SALAD

    This festive salad [photo #2] can be the appetizer or the fruit and cheese course. It was created by Gina Homolka of SkinnyTaste.com.

  • You can combine the ingredients below into a standard watermelon salad with a balsamic dressing (cube the watermelon and cheese)
  • If you don’t have a large star-shaped cookie cutter, use another shape.
  •  
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • Half seedless watermelon, in 16 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 thin slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze (buy or make your own)
  •  
    Plus

  • 4-inch star-shaped cookie cutter
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT 16 from the watermelon. Save the trimmed watermelon for another use.

     

    Watermelon Salad

    Watermelon Caprese

    Balsamic Syrup

    Watermelon On Vine

    [1] Watermelon and cucumber: cousins in a simple salad with red onion (photo courtesy WinesOfSicily.com). [2] An artistic version from Gina Homolka. See more of her inspired recipes and photos at SkinnyTaste.com. [3] Homemade balsamic glaze (photo courtesy EatBoutique.com). [4] Watermelon on the vine (photo by Fred Hsu | Wikipedia).

     
    2. ARRANGE the watermelon on a platter or individual plates. Top each with the mozzarella, arugula, 1/4 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Top with a watermelon star, drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.
     
    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF WATERMELON
     
    WHAT IS BALSAMIC GLAZE?

    Balsamic glaze is balsamic vinegar reduced into a syrup.

    It can be used on savory and sweet foods.

  • No added sweetener is needed for savory uses: aged hard cheeses*, eggs, grilled meats).
  • Consider adding sweetener only if you plan to use the glaze on sweet dishes: berries, cooked fruit dishes, fruit salad, ice cream, pudding).
  •  
    The better the balsamic vinegar, the better the glaze.
     
    Ingredients

  • 16 ounces balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon honey or sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the vinegar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes. (The glaze will further thicken when it cools.)

    2. REMOVE from the heat; taste and stir in the optional sweetener and salt. Let cool completely.

    3. STORE in the fridge in an airtight jar.

     
    __________________
    *Hard aged cheeses include Cheddar, Cheshire, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyère, Mimolette and Parmesan/Parimigiano Reggiano, among others. It is also delicious with Roquefort and other strong blues, and with over-ripe bloomy-rinded cheeses like Brie and Camembert.

      

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