Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stuffed Swiss Chard Leaves

Swiss Chard - It's known as "The Queen of Greens" and for good reason. It's packed with valuable nutrients and a flavor that delivers - something like spinach but punchier. Growing up in an Italian household, it was not unusual to eat it cooked with a little olive oil, garlic and a dash of red hot pepper flakes. I still love to prepare it that way, but when I find myself with an abundance of the crinkly green leaves, like the one in the picture, I can't resist stuffing them with ground meat and brown rice and stashing them in the freezer for those days when I don't have time or inclination to cook.
I have served them with a bread crumb/parmesan cheese topping or smothered in tomato sauce. Either way, this recipe has a way of winning over any skeptics who've never tried this relative of the beet family.
You can be creative and use anything you like in the stuffing. I happened to have tomatoes and mushrooms on hand, but you can vary it and use anything you like - from carrots and celery to zucchini and peppers. You can even eliminate the meat entirely if you want to go strictly vegetarian.
For this recipe I chop off the thick stalks and use them separately in other recipes - soups or gratineed in a casserole. It's like getting two vegetables for the price of one.

Stuffed Swiss Chard Leaves

1 cup raw brown rice, cooked in 3 cups water
Make this ahead of time and let it cool.

swiss chard leaves, about 16-20 large

1 1/2 pounds ground meat
1/2 medium onion
3 T. olive oil
several cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
6 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
salt, pepper

either a tomato sauce OR a mixture of:
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried basil
dash of red pepper flakes

Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil. Cut off the stalks of the swiss chard and cook them in the boiling water for about two or three minutes. The point is to make them pliable enough to stuff easily. Drain and run cold water over the leaves to stop the cooking and to make them easier to work with.
Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil until translucent, then add the meat and saute until cooked through. Drain off any remaining water or oil and put into a large bowl. Saute the mushrooms until cooked, then add them to the bowl, along with the diced tomatoes, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooled rice to the bowl, then the beaten eggs and mix everything well.
Dry the swiss chard leaves a little, and lay them out on a counter top. Place about 1/4 cup of stuffing on each leaf, then start rolling up the leaves from the stalk end, folding in the sides as you roll. Place in a greased casserole. Top with either a tomato sauce or a mixture of bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and herbs. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 1/2 hour.

Growing and Eating Healthy Food for A Healthy Life

I've met a lot of remarkable people in Princeton, N.J., and Dorothy Mullen is one of them. Several years ago, she decided to try her hand at organic gardening, borrowed a book from the public library, then set about following the instructions, beginning with plowing under her front yard.
Not only did she create a garden where she generously encourages neighbors to help themselves to the abundant flowers, herbs and vegetables, but she has since expanded her vision to encompass local school children.
At several elementary schools in the community, she organized the establishment of organic gardens where kids learn first-hand where their food really comes from. It encourages healthy eating and an interest in helping the environment as well. Some of the bountiful mint grown at the schools is an ingredient in ice cream made by "The Bent Spoon," an outstanding gelato shop in Princeton's Palmer Square. Nearly all the proceeds from the ice-cream are donated back to the garden projects at the school.
As if that weren't enough, Dorothy, who is a holistic health care practitioner, also can take credit for helping people with addictions of any kind - cigarettes, alcohol, food - move past them and live a healthier life. Through a program called Suppers For Sobriety that she conceived while working on her masters degree in counseling, members can learn how to move past their addiction and turn around years of damage to the body and spirit. It all starts out one supper at a time. According to the website,, the format includes preparation of a simple, stability-promoting meal, a brief meditation or stress management exercise, time to share, and the Suppers forum, which involves readings of materials that may help people in recovery find the help they need. Some meetings also include outdoor walks or cooking lessons.
The only requirement for membership is the desire to lead a healthier life in body, mind and spirit, Dorothy says. "If you can make a pot of coffee, you can make a pot of soup."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Onions

I've stared at that head of cauliflower in the fridge too long. It's not that I don't like cauliflower. It's just that when I bought the monstrous thing two weeks ago at a farmer's market, it was enough to serve the whole neighborhood. We just can't eat it fast enough. I've made side dishes with it several times, but since it was as large as a soccer ball to begin with, I still had half of it begging me to come up with some other ideas. And a few brown spots were starting to appear, so the time had come to get serious. What to do, what to do? A soup came to mind, especially since the weather had taken a turn to remind us that fall is around the corner.
This is not a pretty soup to look at. It's a rather dull-looking monochromatic exercise in brown and beige. I could have made it a white soup, had I not browned the cauliflower in olive oil first. But that step gives the soup more taste. And the taste, especially those caramelized onions resting on top, makes up for the homely appearance of this soup. DO NOT scrimp on the time needed to cook the onions. They really need the full 20 to 30 minutes to achieve that sweet and crunchy flavor. And if you're like me, you'll probably be wishing you had a secret stash of those caramelized onions for an extra serving.

Cauliflower Soup With Caramelized Onions

Start by peeling one large onion, slicing it, and cooking it in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan. Keep cooking and stirring for at least 20 minutes while the soup is simmering.

For the Soup:

1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
one head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken stock
salt, white pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the cauliflower and continue cooking the florets for about 10 minutes, or until they are partially browned. Add the potato, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. The first time I made this, I under-salted and over-peppered. My husband loved the piquancy, but I drank an entire large bottle of San Pellegrino before the heat in my mouth was tempered. To be on the safe side, try making it with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked. Finish by pureeing in a blender or with an immersion stick blender.
Ladle into bowls and add the caramelized onions on top.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Risotto With Herbs

Today was one of those top 10 weather days in the Northeast U.S., so off I went to the tow path that traverses a nearby lake and canal in my town. No radios or tvs to remind me of the financial morass or the political hyperbole that has been omnipresent in the U.S. Just me and my bike and peaceful waterside scenes of ducks paddling by, muscular young men and women jogging by and long, sleek collegiate racing sculls with oarsmen gliding by.
Before I knew it, it was nearly dinner time and I wanted something quick. Chicken breasts were already thawed, so they could be easily grilled. But what to accompany them? Potatoes? no, too much time. Besides, I had none in the house. But I did have rice, and a risotto would take only 20 minutes. I could add some of those herbs growing in my garden too, similar to a risotto I had eaten earlier this summer with friends at their home in Italy's Val D'Aosta region.
That night we dined in their restored, 17th century house overlooking a castle that Disney might have designed, had he been alive in the 11th century, and the distant peaks of Monte Bianco, Europe's tallest mountain. I'm not exactly sure which herbs my friend Marisa used in her risotto, but it doesn't really matter.
Use whatever you have on hand. And it can be only one or two herbs, rather than the mixture I used -- a combination of fresh thyme, oregano, chives and sage. Whatever you choose, make sure they're fresh, not dried herbs. With the addition of a salad and the grilled chicken, dinner was ready in a half-hour and I had gotten in my exercise for the day too. It might not have been the Val D'Aosta, but my bike ride -- and my risotto -- were pretty special too.

Risotto With Herbs

3 T. olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1 shallot or 1/4 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup white wine
4-5 cups hot chicken broth
salt, ground white pepper
1/4 heaping cup minced herbs
2 T. butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Pour the olive oil into the pan and add the shallots or onion and garlic. Saute until translucent. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes to coat with the olive oil. Add the white wine and let it reduce until it's almost gone. Start adding the chicken broth, a ladle at a time, stirring and letting it cook down until it reduces. Add salt and pepper, being careful to add only a little salt. The parmesan cheese that you later add will contribute to the salty taste. Keep adding more chicken broth, a little at a time, until the rice starts to become more tender to the bite. If you find yourself running out of chicken stock, keep the tea kettle boiling and use hot water. Add the herbs after about 15 or twenty minutes, when the risotto is nearly done. If you add them too soon, they'll darken and you'll lose some of the flavor. Stir for a few more minutes and then add the butter. Remove from the heat and add parmesan cheese - anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, depending on your taste.

variegated sage, thyme, oregano, chives and rosemary

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sea Scallops With Red Peppers and Mushrooms

I'm a sucker for scallops. If they're on a restaurant menu, I don't give anything else a chance. It's not just that I love the way they taste. It's also that I could never figure out how to cook them properly at home. Chefs in restaurant kitchens use high BTU-stoves that most home kitchens lack. They're able to quickly sear foods such as scallops without cooking the interior so long that it tastes like a rubbery hockey puck.
Which is how mine used to taste -- until I figured out how to make scallops every bit as golden on the outside and silky on the inside as a professional chef's version. What's the secret? Well, heat has something to do with it. But the first hint is to buy the largest sea scallops you can afford. Yes, they're expensive, but you will only need three or four per person -- or a quarter pound each. Remember, there's no waste, and since they're large, the outside has a chance to brown before the inside gets completely cooked through. Be very picky at the fish market and exercise your veto power. Watch as the fish seller selects each scallop and reject any small ones he chooses. Then follow the technique in the recipe below very carefully, sit back and savor the results. You just might find yourself ordering roast duck next time you're in a restaurant -- since now you'll be cooking scallops at home like a pro.

Sea Scallops With Red Peppers and Mushrooms

This recipe is for two people but can easily be doubled or tripled. Read through the entire recipe and have ingredients prepared and ready to go next to the stove. You don't want to be squeezing lemons or opening a bottle of wine while the scallops are simmering. The whole recipe takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish.

1/2 - 3/4 lb. large sea scallops (about six to eight scallops)
flour for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
4 large white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup diced red pepper
3 T. olive oil
1/2 dry white wine
1 T. butter
salt, pepper
juice of one lemon
parsley, chopped

Turn the fan on above your range. Place a cast-iron skillet over your most powerful burner and turn the flame up high under the skillet. Let it heat for a few minutes until it gets very hot to the touch. Then add the olive oil and let that heat for a couple of minutes until it is nearly smoking. Don't leave the kitchen for an instant. Dry the scallops with paper towels and lightly coat with flour. Add the scallops one at a time to the hot oil and cook for about 30-45 seconds on each side. DO NOT CROWD THE PAN with too many scallops or they will start to release liquid and reduce the temperature in the pan too dramatically.
Remove the scallops from the pan and put aside on a plate.
Take the pan off the heat and wipe the inside clean with a paper towel. Let the temperature cool down to medium, then add the 3 T. olive oil. Saute the shallots, mushrooms and red pepper in the olive oil for about five minutes or until cooked through. Put the scallops back into the simmering pan with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate, and pour white wine into the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste over everything. Let the scallops cook for just a couple of minutes more, then add the butter for flavor and to help emulsify the sauce. Add the lemon juice and parsley, swirl the pan for 30 seconds, then serve.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fig Crostata

Most Italians living in the U.S., no matter how much they love their adopted country, yearn for the familiarity and beauty of the landscape in their native homeland. Who wouldn't miss the majestic Alpine peaks, the sparkling Mediterranean Sea or the rolling Tuscan hills of the Italian peninsula?
But so many of my Italian friends grow something in their gardens that evokes the Italy they know and love: a fig tree. Granted, they have to insulate it every winter to keep it from freezing. But the payoff is worth it. Come the end of summer, the trees produce succulent fruits that are hard to beat -- perfect for eating out of hand or with a slice of prosciutto, and perfect for making jam that can be used as the filling in a crostata - or pastry tart. The pastry used in Italy -- a "pasta frolla" -- differs from American pastry due to its inclusion of egg yolks and sometimes a whole egg too. In mine I use only one egg yolk and a full stick of butter. It's almost like a rich cookie dough. The trick is to handle the dough as little as possible so that the butter doesn't completely assimilate into the dough. What you want are small bits of butter solids that will melt into the pastry as it bakes, giving it a tender bite rather than a tough crust. I mix it all in a food processor to avoid excessive handling. The recipe is for a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom plate, but if you have a larger tart pan, you can easily make 1 1/2 times the recipe for the dough and add more jam as well. If you don't have homemade fig jam, you can purchase it in jars in specialty shops and even some supermarkets. If figs are not your thing, crostata can be made with any kind of jam. The ones most commonly found in Italy are made with either plum or apricot jam.

Fig Crostata

1 recipe for pasta frolla
1 1/2 cups fig jam

Pasta Frolla

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 stick of cold unsalted butter
1 T. grated lemon peel
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup ice water

Place flour, sugar and baking powder into food processor and pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter in small pieces and pulse again, along with the lemon peel, until it resembles coarse sand. Beat the egg yolk slightly with the water and add to the food processor, pulsing until the mixture starts to form a ball. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, if necessary. Remove from food processor and refrigerate for at least a half hour. Divide the dough into 2/3 for the bottom and 1/3 for the strips. Roll the bottom onto a floured surface and fit it into a buttered tart pan, letting any excess hang over the edge.
Fill the crust with jam. Roll the remaining 1/3 of the dough on a floured surface and cut into strips. Place them lattice-fashion over the jam, attach them to the dough along the rim, then trim the edges of the crostata. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until the dough is golden brown.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Anyone who's ever eaten or made ratatouille has an opinion on what the dish should taste like and how it should be prepared. Let me just say there is no definitive version. There's only the version you like. The version I like? It spoke to me at a Provencal restaurant along the Mediterranean Sea nearly 25 years ago. "Use more olive oil," it said. "Use more red peppers," it said. So I listened. And I made it. But it wasn't the same. So I made it again. And again. And again. After years of trial and error, I finally figured out why I so loved that particular ratatouille in a little French village near the Italian border on that particular night. Yes, I liked the heavy hand the chef had taken with the olive oil, and yes I liked the abundance of red peppers. But it was technique as much as ingredients that made the dish special. The key to this particular recipe is layering. Don't just throw all the vegetables into the pot and expect it to transport you to St. Tropez. Read the instructions and you'll see what I mean.
This makes a great side dish, particularly with sausages or pork as a main course. But it's wonderful as a main course too, in individual casseroles topped with grated parmesan cheese and placed under the broiler for a few minutes. It's the next best thing to being in Les Baux.


Serves six as a side dish or four as a main course.

I prefer more red peppers (a lot more) and zucchini and fewer eggplants than most ratatouille recipes, but you can substitute anything you like.

1 medium size yellow onion, chopped into small pieces
3 medium size zucchini, cut into chunks
1 medium size eggplant, partly peeled (I make "stripes" down the eggplant with a vegetable peeler) and cut into chunks
6 large red peppers, cut into chunks
8 cloves of garlic, minced
6 fresh plum tomatoes, or 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. freshly ground sea or kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. herbs de provence

Saute the onions in part of the olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until translucent and golden. Remove the sauteed onions to a plate or bowl.
Add more of the olive oil and the zucchini. Saute for five minutes or just until the pieces begin to soften. Remove and place on a separate plate.
Add the peppers and saute for five minutes. Then add the onions and zucchini back into the pot with the peppers. Add the garlic and let it saute a few minutes.
Add the remaining olive oil and eggplant pieces. Saute all the vegetables together another five minutes at medium heat. (The eggplant should be added last since it will disintegrate into unrecognizable pieces if given the same cooking time as the other vegetables.)
If using fresh tomatoes, peel the skin ahead of time by placing in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then cut in half, clean out the seeds and dice the flesh. Add the tomatoes to the pot. If using canned tomatoes, do not use the liquid in the can at first. You can add it later if the mixture looks too dry.
Add the salt, pepper and herbs de provence and simmer at medium heat for 20 minutes with the lid off, to help evaporate some of the liquid.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pasta with Porcini Mushroom Sauce

For all you meat lovers out there (and I'm one of them), this is a recipe that will have you forget that you ever made friends with a T-bone steak. For those of you who have ever eaten freshly harvested porcini mushrooms, grilled and dressed simply with olive oil and garlic, you know what I mean. The ones in the first photo were gathered by a local resident in Cassimoreno, a small hamlet in Emilia Romagna where my cousins Maria Luisa and Angelo have a country home and where nearly everyone hunts for mushrooms in the fall. But alas, we're not as fortunate here in the northeast U.S. to have a mycologist as a next door neighbor -- or a forest nearby with porcini nestling beneath the leaves waiting to be plucked. Fresh ones in the markets where I live are hard to come by, and when you can find them, they're practically as expensive as a flight to Italy.
Fortunately, you can find dried porcini mushrooms in many specialty shops and even supermarkets nowadays. You might pay $6 or $7 for a one-ounce package wrapped in cellophane, and that's enough for this recipe that will serve four people.
These meaty fungi, which you see rehydrated in the middle photo, have an intense smell that will fill your kitchen with an earthy aroma as soon as you open the package. You might be tempted to soak them in hot water, rather than at room temperature, to speed up the process, but that would be a mistake. Too much of the intensity of the mushroom flavor would be released into the water. Speaking of the water, there are two schools of thought on what to do with that water, after you've finished soaking the mushrooms. One Italian chef I listened to regularly in Italy claims you should throw away the soaking liquid because it's full of impurities. I always respected his opinions on food, but this was one place where we parted ways. To me, it would be criminal not to add that aromatic liquid to this recipe. Just make sure you strain it first. I also use canned San Marzano tomatoes in this dish, and they really do make a difference. They are easily available in supermarkets. Grown in an area near Naples, where the volcanic soil influences the outcome of the product, they are much sweeter, much stronger, and less acidic than the typical Roma plum tomatoes that are used by many canners. You can use other types of canned tomatoes, of course, but this dish just wouldn't be the same.

Porcini Mushroom Sauce

(Makes enough for about 1 pound of pasta. Don't use a thin spaghetti here like angel hair pasta. This sauce requires a more robust type, like rigatoni or pappardelle.)

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups room temperature water

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced carrot
1/4 cup minced celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
red pepper flakes, to taste

Soak the porcini in the water for an hour or until mushrooms are soft.
Pour the olive oil into a saucepan, then add the minced onion, carrot, celery, garlic and saute until translucent.
Drain the porcini mushrooms, but reserve the liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add to the pan, along with the tomatoes, breaking them through your fingers.
Add 1/2 cup of the strained soaking liquid, wine, and remaining ingredients.
Simmer for about 3/4 hour and serve over pasta.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tender Chocolate Cake

I love layer cakes as much as anyone. Give me a slice of a three-tiered chocolate cake oozing with frosting and I'll finish it off quicker than you can say "red velvet."
But I'm also partial to the cakes that are more common in Italy -- low, one-layer desserts that typically are served with just a dusting of confectioner's sugar or no embellishment at all. This is one of those -- dense, not too sweet, delicious, and easy to make in just ten minutes. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top, and you've got the perfect ending for a meal any night of the week or even for company.
The recipe comes from the handsome young newlyweds you see in the photo -- my cousin Matteo Passeri and his wife Silvia de Domenicis, who live in Piacenza, about 40 miles south of Milan. The cake served at their wedding in June wasn't chocolate, and it too, was very different from what you see at American weddings. Picture a giant sheet cake, with one very low layer of white cake, anchored on the bottom with puff pastry, then smothered entirely in whipped cream. Now picture rows of strawberries marching up and down the perimeter of the cake and you've got a dream of a confection that will make you forget you ever asked for a towering layer cake on your birthday. Maybe this recipe will become your annual celebratory request instead.
I've tweaked Matteo's recipe just a tad by adding a teaspoon of vanilla, which adds another layer of flavor and enhances the chocolate.

Torta Tenerina

3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
***For the recipe, I used all but three small pieces of a 4.25 oz. bar of dark chocolate. Those I ate. (Well, the cook needs anti-oxidants too, you know.)

1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 T.
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
a pinch of salt

Place the butter and chocolate into the top portion of a double boiler. Let the ingredients melt over gentle heat. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a mixer and beat for about a minute, then add the sugar and beat for about five minutes, or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow in color. Add the vanilla, salt and the flour and beat another minute until all ingredients are blended. Take the chocolate and butter mixture and stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the ingredients in the other bowl. Pour into a greased and floured 8 inch cake pan and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a cake rack for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a butter knife and invert onto serving dish. After cake is completely cooled, place a paper doily on top, sprinkle confectioner's sugar over all, then carefully lift the doily to reveal a beautiful pattern.
Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gatto' di Patate

So many of my friends are good cooks, including Lilli, who originally hails from Salerno, about 30 miles south of Naples. She made the potato cake in the photo and gave it to me shortly before dinner tonight.
Boy, was I lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It's the ultimate comfort food all'Italiana. Think of mashed potatoes all dressed up and ready to show off. It's also a terrific party food too, to make ahead and bake later.
There are as many variations of this recipe as there are varieties of pizza. Some recipes call for adding bits of salami, some for ham, and some for both -- but you can omit the meat entirely if you like. You can also add provolone cheese in addition to the mozzarella, or pecorino instead of parmigiana. Like so many Italian cooks I know, Lilli keeps a lot recipes in her head, including this one. She did, however, spell out the basic ingredients, and I have approximated proportions in the recipe that follows.
The gatto' (accent on the second syllable) is a traditional Neapolitan recipe that takes its name from the French "gateau" or cake. If you make the mistake of accenting the first syllable, you've got yourself a potato cat, not a potato cake.

serves 6
2 lb. potatoes
1 egg
4 T. butter, plus more to grease the dish
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, diced
1 cup cooked ham or salami, diced
2 T. Italian parsley, chopped
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup milk, or more as needed to keep the mixture from getting too hard
salt and pepper

bread crumbs
2 T. butter

Boil potatoes until tender and drain. Place the 4 T. butter into a bowl. Peel the potatoes and pass through a "ricer" or mash by hand directly into the bowl over the butter, so that the hot potatoes melt the butter. Cool for five minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients except the bread crumbs and the 2 T. butter. Mix it all together until blended. Grease the bottom of a pie plate or other oven-proof dish with butter and smooth the mixture into the container. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and gently press down with a fork. Dab with bits of butter. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Zucchini "Carpaccio"

With this recipe, I didn't start out on the right foot, or shall I say, finger. I bought a mandoline two months ago and the box was still unopened. I'll bet you already know where this is going.
The zucchini plants in the garden were still producing glossy green spheres, so I thought I'd inaugurate the contraption with them. It was time to open the box and get started. Unfortunately, my thumb and a slice of flesh got in the way.
Six Band-Aids, two pints of blood (ok, so I exaggerate a little) and a half hour later, I tried again -- this time using the protective thingamajig that comes with the mandoline.
Although it's the beginning of September and the weather should be starting to cool off, we had a nearly 90 degree day here in New Jersey -- hot enough so that a cold salad seemed like just the ticket to accompany the grilled steak I was planning for dinner.
I pulled out the mandoline --not essential for this salad, but it does slice the zucchini paper-thin. In the photo, you can see how nearly-transparent the slices are. It's hard, but not impossible, to get them as thin if you are slicing by hand. Just make sure you're slicing by hand, not slicing a hand, like I did.
I used one large round zucchini, but you can make this recipe with the long ones as well. One large zucchini generously serves two people.
This isn't a true carpaccio like beef carpaccio, the thinly sliced raw delicacy, which by the way, was named after Vittore Carpaccio, a Renaissance artist who used lots of brilliant red in his paintings. But when your mandoline demands a pound of flesh from you, I think you can take liberties with the name. Besides, I used my share of brilliant red too. That is, if you're counting hemoglobin.

Zucchini Carpaccio

1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. white balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 T. toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
salt, pepper
minced chives

Slice zucchini and assemble on plate. Grind salt and pepper on zucchini slices. Sprinkle with chives, crumbled goat cheese and pine nuts. Whisk olive oil and vinegar together and drizzle on top.

Peach Crisp

Our friends were here for dinner Saturday night, and I had planned this dessert for them, but the peaches weren't quite ripe. Instead we had the ice-cream that was meant to accompany the peaches, with a dense dulce de leche sauce my daughter had brought back from a trip to Buenos Aires. By Monday however, the peaches were perfectly juicy and ripe and ready for prime time, so I made the crisp. Of course by then, the ice-cream, which would have made a luscious topping, was all gone. Still, the peach crisp was delicious in its own right. But if you want to gild the lily, you can't go wrong with a creamy vanilla ice cream on top.

Peach Crisp
(serves 6 people)

6-7 large peaches
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. flour

1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
6 T. unsalted butter

Peel and slice peaches and mix with the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and 1T. flour. Place into a buttered, 4-quart casserole.

For the topping, mix flour, oatmeal, brown sugar and cinnamon, then cut in the butter. Use your fingers to evenly distribute the butter. Place on top of the peaches. Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour. Wait at least 15 minutes before eating or it will be very runny.