Monday, August 10, 2015

Summertime Corn Chowder

It's that time of year again....I have too many tomatoes, too much basil , green peppers, etc.   We seem to be eating BLTs all the time.   And the sweet corn!  I bought extra today because it was only $1.50 for a half dozen, with the idea that I'd make corn chowder for work lunch this week.   I googled around and all the recipes seemed too heavy with cream.   I wanted to use bacon (and a little bacon fat) instead.  I wanted something lighter, and to use up some of my garden extras.   Time to's how I made my corn chowder.   I didn't to it this time, but could see even adding zucchini to this.  Perfect for summer!

2 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup small diced green bell pepper
4-5 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs (about 3 cups), cobs reserved (this can be cooked already)
4 cups milk, whole or low fat
1 cup diced potatoes (1/2 inch)
2 small zucchini, diced (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 t. turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

diced fresh tomatoes
basil leaves, cut into thin strip

Place chopped bacon into a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Heat on medium heat until the bacon slightly browns and renders its fat, 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped onions and bell pepper lower the heat to medium low and cook until vegetables soften. Break the corn cobs in half (after you've stripped off the corn) and add the cobs to the pot. Add the milk. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer.  After 20 minutes, add the potatoes, Increase the heat to return the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain the simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Discard the cobs add the corn kernels and zucchini and thyme and turmeric Again raise the heat to bring the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with tomatoes and basil.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Really Good Zucchini Bread

When I was a kid in the 1970s, zucchini bread was all the rage.  I can remember grating tons of the garden's haul and freezing it so we could make it year round, but over the years, zucchini bread fell out of fashion.   I think we all were duped into thinking it was healthy because it had a vegetable in it., but the fact is, it didn't really have a lot in it, and it was coupled with a hefty dose of vegetable oil.   It should have really been called "cake".   When I was watching America's Test Kitchen the other day, they optimized the recipe to pack it full of zucchini as well as lower the vegetable oil.  I tried the recipe out the other day, and it was a winner.    Here's how I made it....

kinda looks like meatloaf but it's zucchini bread!

Zucchini Bread  

1 1/2 pounds zucchini
8 3/4 ounces brown sugar  (about 1 1/2 c. packed)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2  eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Shred squash using a box grater, or even quicker, a food processor.  Place zucchini in center of dish towel. Gather ends together and twist tightly to drain as much liquid as possible, discarding liquid.Whisk brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Fold in zucchini. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg together in large bowl. Fold in zucchini mixture until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake until top bounces back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 65 to 75 minutes. Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

This recipe is spiced with warm spices, but if you are not in the mood for those fall flavors, try this other summery zucchini bread recipe I made last year...raspberry zucchini bread.   Looking back on this recipe from last summer, it feels really odd that my high school parenting days will be over.  Right now, we'd be in the thick of marching band camp and then football two-a-days.   This summer is different, my eldest decided to stay at school this summer for work, and my youngest will be taking off for college in a few short weeks.  There's a corner in the spare room devoted to dorm room stuff already.  Pretty soon, the nest will be officially empty!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cherry Tomato Pasta Salad

It's the start of be cherry tomato season!!   I've searched far and wide for a pasta salad recipe I really liked, and I think I've found one.  It's based on Jamie Oliver's Best Pasta Salad recipe, but I tweaked it to make it better.   I love orzo in a pasta salad because it makes it so much easier to eat.

Best Pasta Salad

8 ounces (half a 1 lb box) orzo
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, chopped fine
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, chopped fine
1 small can sliced black olives olives, chopped fine
2 T. fresh chives chopped fine
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
2 Persian cucumbers, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced1/4 c white wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Prepare pasta per package directions.  To dice the vegetables small, my favorite cooking tool is a food chopper.

It makes a fine dice of all these vegetables....cut the tomatoes in half first. Mix the pasta, herbs and vegetables together.To make the dressing, shake the garlic, vinegar and olive oil in a jar.  Pour over the salad and mix well.   Very refreshing and the ratio of veggies to pasta is higher than the typical pasta salad.   We ate this on a camping trip with shrimp cocktail.  We prepped it before we left and brought it in a cooler. I love to not have to worry about dinner the first night of camp!

Happy summer!