Friday, July 29, 2011

Zucchini pie with bacon

  • Pin It

I love zucchini, which is why I planted it in my garden. Five plants. They're thriving. For the past few months I've always had a few zucchini in the vegetable drawer. It's my own little vegetable security blanket.

I hear stories about people leaving zucchini on their neighbors' doorsteps in the middle of the night. I don't understand. Why would anyone give away zucchini rather than eating it? I can find a million things to do with zucchini. You can mix it with cheese and eggs and fry it into zucchini fritters. Shred it and make whole wheat zucchini muffins, chocolate zucchini muffins or zucchini squares. Slice it and bake it with cheese and breadcrumbs for a delicious zucchini gratin. Shave it with a vegetable peeler for a raw zucchini salad or saute it in olive oil and toss with basil and grated parmesan. Turn on the oven and make roasted tomato zucchini stew. Go all out and stuff grilled slices of zucchini with ricotta for a perfect summer hors d'oeuvre.

Or, if none of the recipes above appeal, try this zucchini pie with bacon. Fine, call it a quiche if you must. I like to think of it as pie. I made this late at night after a long day at work, so I used a frozen pie crust. If you make your own, good for you. Sometimes I do too. Not this time. Know what? It was still tasty.

If you've got an excess of zucchini in your garden, feel free to leave it on my doorstep in the middle of the night. I've got plans for it.

print recipe

Zucchini pie with bacon
Call it quiche or pie - either way you'll love the combination of shredded zucchini, smoky bacon and green onions in a cheesy custard base.
  • 1 9-inch single pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 cups zucchini, shredded
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 4 slices thick-cut cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate and trim the excess. Put the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet.In a large bowl, mix together the zucchini, green onions, bacon and cheese.In a small bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, mix together the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the zucchini and mix well.Pour the zucchini mixture into the prepared pie crust. Bake about 50 minutes, or until the middle of the pie is set and the top is nicely browned. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 9-inch pie

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trufflepalooza 2011: Photos, part 2

  • Pin It
Wente wines to go with all the truffles (photo: Lauren Cohen)
I'm still basking in the glow of Trufflepalooza 2011. I throw lots of parties, but Trufflepalooza is my favorite. This year the menu had 16 truffle-topped or -infused dishes, and everything got good reviews from the crowd. There are 51 weeks left until next year's truffle-fest, but I'm already thinking about recipes....

Here are a few more photos from this year's Trufflepalooza - thanks to photographer and graphic designer Lauren Cohen for all of these beautiful shots. Remember, if you're planning to be in Los Angeles in late July 2012, let me know. You're invited!

Bonnie Shannon arranging Creminelli "Tartufo" salami (photo: Lauren Cohen)

Truffled Pacific rockfish "brandade" in cucumber cups (photo: Lauren Cohen)

The buffet table (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Crowd shot (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Radish truffle butter tartines in progress (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Don't I look calm? Not sure how that happened.... (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Filet mignon sandwiches with homemade truffle butter (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Creamy wild mushroom soup with truffles (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Food writer Nancy Mehagian and Patricia Rose (Fresh Food in a Flash) slicing filet mignon (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Patricia Rose preparing the puff pastry straws (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Patti Londre (Worth the Whisk) and Hilary Cable slathering truffle butter on baguette slices (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Many helping hands in the kitchen! (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Truffled puff pastry straws (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Crostini with fresh ricotta and truffle honey (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Samples from Sabatino Tartufi (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Truffled pork and shrimp shumai (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Truffled egg salad on the buffet (photo: Lauren Cohen)
Truffled brown butter Rice Krispies treats from Shockingly Delicious (photo: Lauren Cohen)
The last bite: Truffle-infused chocolate truffles (photo: Lauren Cohen)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trufflepalooza 2011: Photos, part 1

  • Pin It

Black summer truffles from Sabatino Tartufi (photo: James Gierman)
Trufflepalooza 2011 is over and my feet still hurt. By all accounts, it was a huge success. Sixteen truffle-laced courses made their way from the kitchen to the bellies of the 75 people who showed up. From what I hear the food was pretty good.

This party only works because I get so much help from my wonderful food friends. Huge thanks go out to Gisele Perez (Small Pleasures Catering), Patricia Rose (Fresh Food in a Flash), Nancy Mehagian, Hilary Cable, Patti Londre (Worth the Whisk), Dorothy Reinhold (Shockingly Delicious), Jack Sekowski, Lisa Fielding (Secret Ingredients), Judy Lyness (Two Broads Abroad), Gerry Furth-Sides, Quyen Gin (Kitchen Runway), Daniela Galarza, Andrew and Lakshmi, Laura Schare, and all the others who lent a hand getting things out of the oven, off the stove, onto trays and into the guests. A special thanks to the 12-and-under set for serving so beautifully (Emery, Weston, Austin, Ava, Tobias, Stewart, Gordon and Simone).

Thanks also to FIJI Water, Wente Vineyards, Melissa's Produce, Fabrique Delices, Creminelli, the California Fig Advisory Board, and of course Sabatino Tartufi, without whom we would have been much less well fed and hydrated.

I'll be blogging about this year's Trufflepalooza menu - all 16 courses of it - in the days to come. For now, enjoy a few pictures....
Cheryl D. Lee of Black Girl Chef's Whites shooting her plate (photo: James Gierman)
Gorgeous California figs waiting for a dollop of goat cheese and a drizzle of truffle honey (photo: James Gierman)
Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules with partner Matt (photo: James Gierman)
My 12-year-old son Emery serving truffled Pacific rockfish "brandade" (photo: James Gierman)
Blogger love: Gisele Perez  of Small Pleasures Catering and Patti Londre of Worth the Whisk (photo: James Gierman)
Gisele Perez fills a tray while Quyen Gin (Kitchen Runway) gets her shot (photo: James Gierman)
Nicole Presley of Presley's Pantry serves truffled radish tartines (photo: James Gierman)
Part of the sweaty kitchen crew: me with Emery, Gisele and Hilary Cable (photo: James Gierman)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pluot clafoutis recipe

  • Pin It

I am ambitious when it comes to fruit. If it looks good, I buy it. I forget about dinners out, lunch meetings, kids going away with grandparents. I never think about how much is already in the refrigerator at home. I get caught up in the fruit moment every time.

This is why I make so many fruit desserts. At some point I look at the fruit drawer and realize I'm not going to stay ahead of it unless I find a way to use a pound or two at once. I love clafoutis because I can eat it and not feel the slightest bit guilty. It's not too sweet, not too rich, and not hard to throw together. In my book, that makes it perfect.

Cherry clafoutis is the gold standard, but I love using sweet pluots. Their plum DNA is tangy enough to cut through the custardy batter, and the apricot genes keep the chunks of fruit intact. Use several varieties for a riot  of colors.

print recipe

Pluot clafoutis recipe
Firm, tangy-sweet pluots stand in for cherries in this classic French dessert.
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe pluots, pitted and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2/3 cup, divided granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (whole or low-fat)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a pie plate or baking dish with cooking spray. Put the pluots in the baking dish, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar.In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and remaining 1/3 cup sugar aggressively until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the milk, vanilla, butter and salt and whisk again until well combined. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. The batter should have the consistency of heavy cream. Pour it over the fruit in the baking dish.Bake the clafoutis about 50 minutes, until the edges are golden, the center is set and the whole thing is puffed like a souffle. It will fall after a few minutes on the counter, but that's to be expected. Serve at room temperature. No one will complain if you tack on some whipped cream, ice cream or a dusting of powdered sugar.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings

Friday, July 15, 2011

Puff pastry straws with truffles

  • Pin It

The menu for this year's Trufflepalooza extravaganza is coming together. I'm up to 16 truffle-laced courses. Yes, I'm a masochist.

Thankfully not all of this year's dishes are as complicated as the truffled pork and shrimp shu mai my husband came up with. There are a few dead simple but perfectly delicious dishes on the list. Like radish tartines with truffle butter. And crostini with fresh ricotta and truffle honey. And a new addition this year: truffled puff pastry straws.

Most of the time I make do with grocery store frozen puff pastry (hello, Pepperidge Farm), but for these crispy, flaky sticks of truffly heaven I make a special trip to Surfas for Dufour all-butter puff pastry. Flour and butter. Butter and flour. Add in some beautiful black summer truffles from Sabatino Tartufi - they're kindly providing all the fresh truffles and truffle products for Trufflepalooza 2011 - and you've got a truly addictive snack. I don't want to tell you how many of these I ate when I was testing the recipe last weekend. I'm not going to tell you. You would definitely think less of me.

Fortunately my friend Andrew is spending a month in Los Angeles and stopped by to visit last weekend. He helped with the recipe testing while lying on the grass in the backyard. A tough job, but one he handled with grace.

Note the closed eyes. You can't hear the little groans of appreciation, but they were there - take my word for it.

print recipe

Puff pastry straws with truffles
A completely addictive snack. Use all-butter puff pastry if you can get your hands on it.
  • 2 large sheets puff pastry dough (preferably all-butter), defrosted according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, Romano or Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • approximately 1/2 tsp truffle salt
  • 4 tsp white or black truffle oil
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated black or white truffle
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.On a lightly floured surface, roll out one sheet of the puff pastry dough with the short side near you until it is thin and smooth and generally maintains its rectangular shape. Don't break out a ruler or anything, and don't get all fussy and trim the sides. These are meant to be rustic.Spread half the cheese, truffle salt, truffle oil and grated truffles over the bottom half of the rectangle. Fold the top half of the puff pastry over and press lightly over the top with the rolling pin to knit everything together.Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut slices of dough about 3/4-inch wide. Pick up one strip, twist it a few times between your hands, and lay it on the baking sheet, pressing the ends into the parchment to keep it from untwisting. Repeat with the rest of the strips, then do the whole thing over again with the second sheet of dough and the rest of the cheese and truffle stuff.Bake the puff pastry straws about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Serve immediately. If you want to make them ahead, underbake them slightly, store them in an airtight container, and re-warm them for a few minutes in the oven before serving to crisp them up.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 2 dozen pieces

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pork and shrimp shu mai with truffles

  • Pin It

Every July I throw a party called Trufflepalooza. It's an ambitious affair, a loud, cheerful, sweaty tribute to my favorite fungus, the Italian black summer truffle. Last year, with the help of some of my wonderful Los Angeles food blogger friends, I prepared 13 different truffle-laced dishes for 75 people. Cocktails and nibbles, not a sit-down dinner, but still.

This year's Trufflepalooza will be the third, and the menus have grown over the years in both size and complexity. I've got 16 courses on my list. Some are repeats, the greatest hits from years past: radish tartines with homemade truffle butter, open-faced truffled filet mignon sandwiches, truffled egg salad. But I feel the pressure to come up with some new ideas.

My husband gets all the credit for these truffled pork shu mai. When he suggested this combination, I pushed back hard. Not because I didn't think it would work - I knew it would - but because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to execute. Asian cooking is not my strong suit. I thought my dumplings would look funny, fall apart, stick together. And the idea of shaping and squeezing 200 or more fussy little dumplings: oy gevalt, to quote my late Grandma Rose.

But Michael insisted. And he was right. I took a deep breath, bought the ingredients and tested a batch last weekend. Um....WOW. Ground pork and shrimp, a little crunch from chopped water chestnut, and the essence of black summer truffle, all steamed in a paper-thin wonton wrapper. I grated some fresh black truffle, mixed it with a few drops of truffle oil, and put a pinch on top of each dumpling. I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to truffle stuff, and I'm telling you, these dumplings blew me away.

The truffle guy liked it too. Sabatino Tartufi is graciously providing all the fresh truffles and truffle products for this year's Trufflepalooza, and Sabatino's guy in L.A. stopped by to drop off a few nuggets for me to play with (I mean, test recipes). He stood at the kitchen counter with us and sampled the shu mai. He seemed pleased. And you have to believe that this guy knows his truffles.

Note: don't fear the dumpling. This kind, in particular, is easy to shape and fairly forgiving for clumsy cooks like me. You'll find shu mai or wonton wrappers in the Asian section of most grocery stores - either square or round works.

print recipe

Pork and shrimp shu mai with truffles
Asian dumplings with a twist make an elegant one-bite nibble. Serve in Chinese soup spoons if you have them.
  • 1/2 pound ground pork, not too lean
  • 1/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 raw egg white
  • 1 5-ounce can water chestnuts, drained
  • 1/8 tsp truffle salt
  • 2 tsp white or black truffle oil, divided
  • 2 dozen wonton or shu mai wrappers, round or square
  • 1 tsp fresh black truffle, grated (optional)
In a food processor, combine the pork, shrimp and egg white. Process until mixture is fairly smooth. Dump pork mixture into a mixing bowl.Put the food processor back together and add the water chestnuts. Pulse just until the water chestnuts are chopped - not huge chunks, but you still want them to have some texture. Add the water chestnuts to the bowl with the pork along with the truffle salt and 1 1/2 tsp of the truffle oil. Using your hands, mix everything together until it is well combined.Hold one wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand. Put about a tablespoon of the filling in the center. Make a circle with your thumb and forefinger and gently push the filling down through the circle while you gather the sides of the wrapper casually around the filling. The top of the dumpling will be open. Give the sides a little squeeze and the top a little pat, then tap the dumpling on the counter to flatten the bottom. Set aside and continue in the same way with the rest of the filling and wrappers.Line a steamer basket with parchment paper or lettuce leaves, then put one layer of dumplings in, making sure they aren't touching. Set the steamer over a shallow pan of simmering water and cover. Steam for 10 minutes to cook the filling through. You'll have to do this in batches.While the dumplings are steaming, mix the grated fresh truffle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of truffle oil. Serve the dumplings hot out of the steamer with a pinch of the fresh truffle mixture on top.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: approximately 2 dozen dumplings

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Zucchini gratin

  • Pin It

This is the first year in a long time that my garden has actually produced a decent amount of zucchini. I know it grows like a weed for everyone else. But my zucchini (and tomatoes) tend to get mildew or a fungus or some other malady before they produce much. I live less than a mile from the coast in southern California, and there's a lot of damp gray in our summer. Tomatoes and zucchini need more sun than my Santa Monica backyard gets.

This year, though, laziness worked in my favor. I didn't have time to plant anything until mid-May. Which means my zucchini only had to suffer through a few weeks of "June Gloom" (a bona fide season in the Los Angeles area) instead of a few months. And now they're huge and doing what zucchini plants do best: zucchini overload.

I've been making a lot of zucchini muffins, but the other night I threw together a quick gratin, which was just spectacular. If I didn't live with a bunch of zucchini-hating meat-eaters I'd have served this for dinner on its own. As it was, I ate this and they ate steak. We all got what we wanted.

I'm not one for fussing, but it's worth making your own fresh breadcrumbs for this dish. Sacrifice a baguette to your food processor. You won't be sorry.

print recipe

Zucchini gratini
Zucchini, cheese, breadcrumbs and heat: the world's simplest summer side dish.
  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (from 1/2 day-old baguette or other white bread)
  • 2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • approximately 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.Trim the ends of the zucchini and then slice them thinly. A mandoline works best for this, but if you're careful you can do it with a sharp knife.Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, stirring often. Do not let the breadcrumbs burn. Now start layering the gratin: Put a layer of zucchini slices in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle over some mozzarella and a little garlic salt. Add a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Now go back to the beginning, starting with the zucchini. Keep building layers in this way until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with the breadcrumbs - you should get about four layers. Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese over the very top. Bake the gratin about 45 minutes, until the zucchini is cooked and starting to brown around the edges of the pan and the cheese is bubbly and browning on top. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whole wheat zucchini muffins

  • Pin It

I pack three lunches every day - one for each of my boys, plus one for me. I try to make them healthy. Whole-grain bread. Always fruit. Always protein. Usually vegetables. Milk (regular or soy). I make good use of leftovers. These are model lunches, meals I would be happy to have inspected by the Food Police.

But I do like to include treats, too. I make small cookies, brownies or muffins and freeze them so I can dole them out one at a time. I'm of the mind that a little sugar never hurt anyone. Especially in the context of the lunches described above.

These whole wheat zucchini muffins are one of my kids' favorites. Don't tell them how healthy they are. Don't tell them that between the whole wheat flour, wheat germ and zucchini they're getting a good dose of fiber in each muffin. Don't remind them that neither of them will eat zucchini in any other form. Let them think of these muffins as dessert. If they're happy, I'm happy.

print recipe

Whole wheat zucchini muffins
Zucchini, whole wheat flour and wheat germ pack these delicious muffins with fiber and nutrients.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 2 3/4 cups grated zucchini (do not peel)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cup muffin tin with paper liners and spray it lightly with cooking spray, just in case the muffins rise over the edges of the cups.Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the oil and whisk until incorporated. Add the zucchini and vanilla and mix to combine.In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just to combine. Stir in the wheat germ.Divide the batter evenly among the 24 muffin cups. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or tester comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a rack.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 24 muffins

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Oven-roasted cherry tomatoes

  • Pin It

I believe in the power of heat - particularly when it comes to tomatoes. Heat transforms even the most humdrum supermarket tomato into a sweet, tangy motherlode of flavor.

I'm not talking about drying tomatoes in a low oven for hours and hours, although dried tomatoes can be useful. I'm talking about high heat for not so long. These roasted tomatoes are concentrated, intense, juicy, the essence of tomato-ness. 

It couldn't be simpler: Take a few pints of ordinary cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, toss them with a little olive oil and salt, and stick them in a hot oven for an hour. The skins shrivel. They get redder, softer, juicier.

And then the fun starts. Pile them on toasted bread. Stick a few into a grilled cheese sandwich. Toss them with spaghetti, fresh mozzarella and basil for pasta "caprese." Add them to a pot of chili or soup. Or eat them with your fingers right off the tray. That works too.

print recipe

Oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
An hour in a hot oven turns supermarket tomatoes from ho-hum to heavenly.
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash the tomatoes and scatter them on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt. Mix the tomatoes around on the tray with your hands so they're all coated with the oil.Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 1 hour. Let cool on the baking sheet. The tomatoes will keep in a jar or container in the refrigerator for a week.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups