Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hidden zucchini

There are 12 zucchini in my fridge right now. Two of them are the size of my new twin niece and nephew. And those are what's still left over after I used four to make this zucchini soup with coconut and curry. The zucchini flavor is virtually undetectable amid the other strong flavors, but that's OK, because coconut and curry is one of my favorite combos.


1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 small to medium zucchini, cut in chunks (leave skin on)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. yellow curry powder
4 c. chicken broth
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
Fresh basil for garnish (optional)

In large pot, heat olive oil then add onion, zucchini and salt. Saute for a few minutes. Add curry and broth, then bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree soup until smooth, then stir in coconut milk and heat through. Garnish with basil if desired.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Perfect panzanella

Let me introduce you to panzanella. It is a rustic Italian tomato-bread salad, and it's a delicious way to use garden fresh tomatoes. Panzanella originated in the Tuscan countryside, where peasants needed a way to use stale bread. Today, you can make the recipe your own with all kinds of yummy add-ins. Here's what I did.


6 c. rustic Italian bread OR 1 whole French baguette, cut into chunks*
1/2 c. olive oil, divided
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
3 large, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes (3 to 4 inches in diameter)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsp. drained capers (optional)
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread chunks with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange bread in single layer on baking sheet and bake on middle oven rack for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Bread will be hardened and crisp and golden when done.

Meanwhile, cut tomatoes into chunks and put in a colander over a large measuring cup or dish to drain and catch juices. Toss tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir periodically, letting drain for at least 15 minutes. Try to reserve 1/2 cup juices.

Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, sugar and pepper into reserved tomato juices to create a vinaigrette. Toss thoroughly with toasted bread pieces and let stand 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, feta, capers, basil, or whatever your heart desires. Serve immediately.

*Choose a bread that is dense and crusty, not fluffy like French bread.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Once a decade

Having freshly cooked artichokes with dinner is a fun experience, but I think doing it about once a decade is enough. They're kind of a hassle to eat. I remember having them as a child at my friend Brooke's house. My kids were also very intrigued by them. It's worth introducing your kids to something unique and new, just this once.

Here is the classic version of preparation and method of eating, as given by Better Homes and Gardens.


2 artichokes
Lemon juice
1/4 c. butter or spread
1/4 tsp. dried dill, tarragon OR oregano
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Wash artichokes and cut off stems. Cut off 1 inch from the top of each artichoke, and snip off the sharp leaf tips (see photo). Roll the cut edges in a little lemon juice. In a large pan, bring salted water to boiling and add artichokes. Return to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a leaf pulls out easily. Drain artichokes upside down.

Meanwhile, melt butter and stir in dried herb and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Serve artichokes with butter sauce.

*Note: To eat artichokes, pull off one leaf at a time and dip base of leaf into sauce. Draw the base of the leaf through your teeth, scraping off only the tender fleshly part. Discard the remainder of the leaf. Continue removing leaves until the fuzzy choke appears. Remove the choke and eat the remaining heart with sauce.