Saturday, August 29, 2009

Zucchini Cheese Scones

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I think the zucchini plant in my garden has stopped taking fertility pills and is calling it quits. Either that or the normally fecund plant decided enough is enough. How many offspring can one plant be expected to pop out before it shrivels up? I’m sure it came to the conclusion that 10 or so babies was enough. With one of the last of the crop, I thought I’d try to create something I hadn’t seen or tasted before.  Behold the scone – the zucchini cheese scone. My first attempt was less than successful – more like zucchini-laden lead weights. This concoction however, was perfect, especially when eaten warm from the oven. Great with a salad or just a glass of wine.

Just because this is the last of my garden zucchini, don’t get the crazy idea that I won’t be posting any more zucchini recipes. Au contraire.  There are still plenty out there in the markets waiting to be bought. And just wait until you get a load of all the butternut squash recipes coming your way before too long. They’ve been spurting out ALL OVER the place – even in my yew bushes. Another case of unruly vegetables gone wild.

For a printable recipe, click here:

Zucchini-Cheese Scones 

1 shallot, minced

2 T. olive oil

2 1/2 cups flour

3 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/4 chopped herbs (I used fresh oregano, chives and parsley)

1 stick cold butter

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have it, just squeeze a little lemon juice into some milk and let it sit 15 minutes)

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup cheese (Use something assertive. I used a mix of cheddar and gorgonzola since that’s what I had, but parmesan would work too.)

Saute the shallot in the olive oil and set aside. Place the flour, baking power, salt, and herbs in a mixer bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the  flour, mixing just until small clumps of butter appear. The little bits of butter in the dough will give it a more tender crumb when baked, so don’t overmix.  Add the rest of the ingredients – the eggs, buttermilk, zucchini, and cheese. Mix just until everything is blended – don’t overwork it.

Turn out onto a floured board and pat into a circle about 10 to 12 inches across. Brush with beaten egg (I had only egg white and that worked just fine.) and score into eight parts.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Best eaten while still warm.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Melissa D’Arabian - The Next Food Network Star

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In a city like New York, you’d have to be blind not to have a few celebrity sightings and I’ve come across my share of them over the years. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when my daughter and I bumped into Melissa D’Arabian at the Chelsea Market a few weeks ago. She’s the winner of this season’s “The Next Food Network Star,” filmed in the same building as the market, and the host of “Ten Dollar Dinners,” a series that airs on the East coast at 12:30 p.m. on Sundays on The Food Network.

Melissa, who lived in France and worked in the corporate world before starting a family,  is just as down-to-earth and likeable in person as she is on the screen. A few weeks after our encounter, the 40-year-old mother of four girls (all under four!) graciously granted Ciao Chow Linda an interview by phone from her home in Kirkland, Washington.

Q.  What was the hardest thing about competing on the show, especially against some people who were professional chefs?

A.  I think when I first arrived, I let the resumes of the people around me intimidate me. The power for me was to look at my own experience of what I bring to the table and celebrate that - my own experiences as a stay-at-home mom and a working parent. I think that’s how I ended up winning “The Next Food Network star and what “Ten Dollar Dinners” is, as a result of those strategies.

Q. Do you think your experience in the corporate world helped you win the competition?

A. Yes. My experiences of working 80 hours a week and having dinner party for girlfriends on a Thursday night absolutely feed into “Ten Dollars Dinners.”  That was very much my life and informs my culinary point of view and experience. In terms of helping me through “The Next Food Network Star,” perhaps it enabled me to depersonalize the feedback. They were constructive criticisms, but the evaluations lasted about 5 hours. Having come from corporate world, I took that feedback as a professor telling me what to do to earn an “A” on an exam.

It was a fantastic opportunity. When do I as a 40-year-old women have the attention and thought of  people who are so well respected in our field, thinking about just us? It’s the best tuition-free school you’ll ever get.  I really think they were our biggest cheerleaders. They gave some feedback that can be hard to hear but it was all very fair.

Q.  What’s the best thing about having won “The Next Food Network Star?”

A.  Getting to do “Ten Dollar Dinners” and being able to expand the platform for sharing information and ideas that have worked in my own kitchen. That’s the best part. I love to hear from people across the U.S. who connect with me on some level.

Q. What advice do you have for someone who might want to try out for the Next Food Network Star?

A. Absolutely know who you are, what you’re about and what you bring to the table and draw on that. This is what I call playing a game you can win. If you’re not winning the game you put out there you need to change your game. What I bring to the table is having four children under four, and having been a career woman. That’s what I call a game I can win. That’s what I needed to focus on. You have to be true to who you are.

Q. With two-year-old twins, a three-year old, and a four-year old, was it difficult to be away from your family for the six weeks or so of shooting the competition?

A.  It was tricky but my husband and I are very much partners. We take our roles very seriously. We think about our guiding principles and as a family think about what do we want our mark on this world to be. We’re very big-picture focused. Going on “The Next Food Network Star” very much fit into the life plan. It was worth the sacrifice. There aren’t a lot of things out there where I’d leave my kids for a month.

Melissa D'arabian and girls

In the middle of the interview (conducted at 6:30 a.m. her time) her oldest daughter woke up early and scurried to find her mother.  A few minutes later, a little crying could be heard in the distance, as another one of Melissa’s daughters scampered to find her. I’m including a little of Melissa’s response, which I couldn’t help overhearing and which demonstrates what a really thoughtful person she is.. This TV cooking show host is not only a real working mom, dealing with situations that real moms deal with all the time, but she does it with a gentle approach, kindness and plenty of love, as you can deduce from her remarks to her daughters:

“Did you wake up and not know where everybody was? Want to go snuggle with Daddy? No? What’s wrong sweetie? You want to sit on my lap too? You’ll have to share a lap - or no lap – you choose.                                 

I’ve got my two big girls on my lap right now. Everybody can stay as long as we’re quiet.”

Back to the interview:

Q.  Where do you get inspiration for your recipes?

A. It is often about what is in my refrigerator and pantry. Sometimes I have to get food on the table and there’s not time to go to the grocery store. Also it’s driven a lot by what is on sale at the grocery store, especially the produce and proteins.  Over the last eight or nine months, I’ve been cooking more to experiment. After the kids have gone to bed, I like to create new things.

Q. Would you say you have a signature dish?

I probably lean on my four-step chicken more than anything else (recipe below). I make it all the time, but switch it up with different ingredients.  The dishes on “Ten Dollar Dinners” are exactly what I cook for my family.

Q.How much influence does having lived in France and being married to a Frenchman have on your cooking?

A.  Moving to Paris really added another layer to my cooking. Cooking in Paris is very ingredient-driven. Cooking there is very much about going into the markets, asking the butcher and the produce people what’s fresh, what’s best today.  In terms of a cuisine style, French cooking has definitely influenced my cooking more than any other because I lived there and I have family there.

Q. What language do you speak at home with the children?

A. My husband only speaks French with them. When he’s around we speak in French with them. When it’s just me, I speak English with them. When native parents speak their native languages, the kids develop the right accent. We may switch in the future to speak French in the home and English outside the home. But while they are developing their skills, it’s helpful for them to hear the native tongue.

Q. How do you combine family life with taping the show? How long does it take to tape an episode of  “Ten Dollar Dinners?”

A. I taped all six episodes at once. I was gone for little over a week. It’s the perfect job. I  do what I need to do in New York, then the second I’m done with work, I’m back to Seattle to see my family. I’m joining the ranks of millions of working parents, but I confess I’m pretty lucky.

Q. You moved from Texas to Washington about six weeks ago. Why?

A. It’s unrelated to anything in terms of “The Next Food Network Star.” My husband (who works for Microsoft) got a great offer and we decided to go.

Q. What’s the best thing you ever ate? 

A. Fries in Belgium with mayonnaise. One of the best things I’ve every had. I’m not even a salty food fanatic. But something about it all together in Belgium really works.

Q.  If you could choose what to have as your last meal, what would it be?

A. It wouldn’t really matter, I would just want to be with my family.


printable version of recipe, click here

Melissa D’Arabian’s Four-Step Chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced in half crossways (butterflied, cut all the way through)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, plus 1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine, optional
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • Spinach "bed", recipe follows


Season chicken with dried thyme and salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the oil. Dredge the chicken in flour, add to the hot oil and saute until cooked through. Set chicken aside to rest on plate tented with foil.

In same saute pan, over low heat, add onions and fresh thyme and cook until aromatic.

In a measuring cup, measure out wine, if using, and broth, and add the lemon juice. Turn the heat up to high, and deglaze the pan with the broth mixture until starting to reduce.

Remove the pan from the heat and finish the sauce by whisking in butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place a bed of cooked spinach on a serving platter, top with the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Spinach "bed":

  • 1 bag pre-washed fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Microwave spinach in a microwave-proof dish with a few tablespoons of water on high for 5 to 6 minutes, or until hot. Drain, and toss with butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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It’s moist, fudgy, and rich with chocolate flavor. The surprise is that it’s got two cups of zucchini in it, but you’d never know.  Many of the zucchini cakes out there on the blogosphere  and in cookbooks look more like quick breads than cakes, with a dense, heavy texture. This one is different. You could bake it in two round layers and serve it as a special celebration cake and everyone would think you’re a genius. It’s light and is really the texture of a delicious cake from a specialty bakery – only better because it’s homemade and it’s loaded with all those antioxidants from the chocolate and the zucchini.

Yes, chocolate cake that’s good for you. (Well, let’s not mention the sugar ok?) Zucchini are not only rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants. They’ve got beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. And they’re a good source of fiber. So the next time your mom says “Eat more vegetables,” ask her to whip up this chocolate zucchini cake.

I got the recipe from “The Repressed Pastry Chef,” who adapted it from a recipe from the King Arthur Flour company. She changed it to include a chocolate ganache frosting and I did the same. Who could argue with cream and chocolate? Not I for sure. But there are those who would opt for a vanilla frosting, and we’ll forgive them their shortcomings if that’s what floats their boat (or frosts their cake, if we’re staying with the food metaphors.)

Start by grating the zucchini. I used a disc on my food processor made for such a purpose, but you could grate by hand on a cheese grater if you don’t have a food processor. Drain in a colander for an hour or so with a weight pressed down on the top.

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Then proceed as follows:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

For a printer-friendly recipe click here

for the cake                                                                                                                                                                                                1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream or yogurt
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounce) Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional but tasty
2 cups shredded zucchini (about one 10″ zucchini, about 12 ounces)
1/2 cup (3 ounces) chocolate chips

… for the icing
6 oz heavy cream
9 oz chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a 9″ x 13″ pan with baking spray. (I used two square 8” pans instead and gave one away – but it would freeze nicely.)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the eggs.

Stir in the sour cream or yogurt alternately with the flour. Then add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing till smooth. Finally, fold in the zucchini and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 35 - 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack.

To prepare the frosting, heat the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Wait 3-5 minutes then stir to combine. It may take a few minutes of stirring for the ganache to come together… but it will.  It will thicken as it cools… when warm (but not hot) pour over cake and smooth with offset spatula. Allow frosting to set for about 30 minutes before serving… or not.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One-Year Blogiversary

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since I googled “How to Create a Blog,” and started Ciaochowlinda. It’s been nothing but pleasure to be able to share these recipes and posts with all of you, get your feedback and some blogging tips along the way.  I especially love to read your comments – They mean a lot to me. You’ve given me so much encouragement from far-flung parts of the globe and I’ve even gotten to meet a few of you personally. To mark my one-year blogiversary, I’m revisiting ten of my blog posts from the first few months of Ciaochowlinda’s existence, when I think family members and a few very good friends were my only readers.  Thanks for popping in and joining the family.

In case you missed them, here’s a repeat. Click on the words above the photo to open up the post in its entirety.

Fig Crostata


Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms


Pizza with Figs and Prosciutto


Fourteen Reasons to Fall in Love With Rome


I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Gelato


Fennel Pizza


Seafood risotto


Raspberry Christmas Bombe


Lilli’s Biscotti


Perfect Roast Chicken


Friday, August 21, 2009

Squash Blossom Omelet

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Don’t be scared. It’s not a zucchini flower on steroids. It’s an omelet shrouded in squash blossoms. While it make look difficult to make, it’s easier than you think. Just follow the step-by-step instructions in the photos below. The inspiration for this was a recent issue of “La Cucina Italiana” and of course, the plethora of zucchini and squash blossoms greeting me each day in the garden.

I actually used blossoms from butternut squash plants that cropped up in our vegetable garden by accident. My husband composts all our fruit and vegetable peels, cores and other organic wastes by digging a hole and burying them somewhere in the garden. Invariably, some seedlings emerge unintended. In this case, what we thought were more zucchini plants turned out to be butternut squash. The flowers and leaves are nearly identical to zucchini plants, so that’s what I used in this omelet.

In the omelet pictured here, I used red pepper, leeks and bits of zucchini for the filling. I’ve also made it exactly as the magazine suggests (recipe below), with leeks and mushrooms instead. Either way, it’s great, but you can add or subtract any kind of filling you want. I also add some bits of cheese, (one time brie, another time cheddar) which the magazine recipe does not.  You can customize it however you like.

For a single serving omelet: Start by sauteeing a few tablespoons each of chopped leeks, red pepper and zucchini bits in vegetables in some olive oil or butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add one squash blossom that’s been cut into strips. Saute for a few more seconds. Turn off the heat. Remove and set aside the stuffing.

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In a separate cast iron or nonstick saucepan over low to medium heat, melt 1 T. butter or olive oil. Pour in two eggs that have been beaten lightly in a bowl with 1 T.  milk, salt, pepper and a little chopped parsley.

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  When the eggs are nearly set, place the filling and 1 ounce of cheese on top, a little off-center, but in a straight line.

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Using two forks or your fingers, start to flip the omelet over the filling (You can see, I got too ambitious and added a bit too much filling here.)

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Keep rolling the omelet until it closes on itself. Then carefully remove to a plate.

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Take two squash blossoms and remove the pistils with a scissors or pinch it out with your fingers. Cut across the bottom to remove the end piece that was attached to the stem. Open up the flower and lay it flat in the saute pan where you cooked the omelet, but turn off the heat first.  Leave it alone for about one minute. The residual heat from cooking the omelet will be enough to wilt the flower.

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Return the omelet to the pan, centering it on the flower. Fold the flower petals around the omelet and turn the omelet in the pan to help the blossom adhere to the egg.

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Grab a fork and enjoy

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Here’s the recipe from the July/August issue of “La Cucina Italiana
Serves 4 people.
printer-friendly recipe here
Omelette alle verdure
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, trimmed
  • 20 large zucchini blossoms, stems and pistils removed
  • 3 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chervil
  • High-quality aged balsamic vinegar

Cut leek in half lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1/4 -inch pieces and wash. Cut 12 zucchini blossoms lengthwise into strips. 
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add leeks, mushrooms and pinch salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in sliced zucchini blossoms then transfer mixture to a plate. Wipe pan dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs with 1 teaspoon milk,  12 teaspoons chervil and pinch salt and pepper.

Heat 1/3 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beaten eggs; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, lifting edges to let uncooked egg run underneath and shaking skillet occasionally to loosen omelet, until almost set, 1 to 2 minutes. Fill with a quarter of the vegetable mixture, then roll up and slide onto a plate.

Return skillet to heat. Add 2 whole zucchini blossoms and pinch salt, increase heat to medium-high and cook until wilted. Put blossoms on top of omelet, drizzle with vinegar and serve immediately. Repeat to make 3 more omelets. 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Melanzane sott’olio (eggplant in oil)

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The eggplants have been ripening almost faster than I can use them, and so far we’ve eaten plenty of stuffed eggplant, ratatouille and eggplant parmigiana. Now it’s time for melanzane sott’olio, one of the best accompaniments to a crusty loaf of bread you’ll ever try.

It’s also one of those treasures you can put away for a few months and really appreciate when the vegetable garden is a distant memory.

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Add some of this to a sandwich of salami and provolone and you’ll be wishing you had grown a few more eggplants.

Here’s a step-by-step how-to guide to making it:

Start by peeling, then slicing eggplants thinly (about 1/8 inch or so). A mandoline makes quick work of this, but you could slice by hand if you don’t have one. Some of my friends slice theirs in strips, but I prefer the rounds. It looks like a lot, but it reduces greatly in size. For this batch, I used two medium size eggplants and got enough to fill one large jar (in photo) and one small one.

Lay the slices on a sheet of paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let it rest for an hour or so, then press out excess water with more paper towels.

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Drain the slices in a colander and press again with paper towels.August 2009 330

Using clean jars, start by pouring in a layer of really good extra virgin olive oil. Place some of the slices in the jar, sprinkling with some oregano, sliced garlic and hot red pepper flakes, if desired. Keep pressing more eggplant slices into the olive oil, and add more olive oil and other ingredients as needed. Make sure all the slices are covered with oil, then screw the lid on top.

I don’t  process the jars in a hot water bath, but I do store these in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature like my Italian friends and relatives do. They all think I’m nuts since they’ve been making this for generations and no one’s ever gotten sick or died from botulism. I think the boiling in the vinegar takes care of that. Still, I prefer to be super-cautious and put it in the refrigerator after a week or so of “ageing” on the counter.

It really needs a couple of months of marinating to develop the best flavor, but I’m lucky if it lasts that long before all being consumed.

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By the way, for this recipe, I used extra-virgin olive oil from Casale Sonnino, a villa and agriturismo in the hills near Rome owned by my good friend Clo. Sadly, Clo died in May after a long struggle with cancer, but her son George and daughter Claire are now managing the business. This is top-notch quality olive oil, made only from olives that are grown on their property, then pressed and bottled locally under George’s supervision.  To order some, email Claire at or call her at 516-767-7188.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bellini Time

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Pass me the Bellini and some cheese and crackers, would you? And could you ask that gondolier to move his boat a little?

What? Did I just take a quick trip to Venice where Bellinis were invented?  Nah, it’s just the The Boathouse Restaurant in New York City’s Central Park, where there’s actually a gondola for hire.   August 2009 279 It may not be the Grand Canal, but it’s a perfect respite from a hard day gazing in galleries at the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yea I know it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Well if you can’t get to Venice, or even Central Park, you can make your own Bellini at home. A Bellini is made from Prosecco (a sparkling Italian white wine similar to champagne) and white peach puree. It originated in 1948 with Giuseppe Cipriani (founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice) in honor of the 15th century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini. By now, it’s become famous around the world.

Now that peach season is here, it’s Bellini time too. They’re a snap to make. Start out with ripe white peaches. I got mine from a local farmer’s market and they needed a couple of days to ripen. The flavor is more delicate than yellow peaches and a requisite for a Bellini.

For two drinks, just peel a couple of white peaches and put them in the blender. Blend until you’ve got a puree and fill a tall fluted glass with one-third to one-half of the puree. Some people add a teaspoon of raspberry puree to give the drink a “pinker” look, but I left it out in the drinks below. Fill the rest of the glass with chilled Prosecco, stir with a spoon and garnish with a peach slice.

For the kids in the family, you can make a baby Bellini using soda water instead of the Prosecco.

Background music of “O Sole Mio” totally optional.

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I leave you with an image of a painting of St. Francis by the artist who inspired the drink - Giovanni Bellini. It’s only one of the many stunning works of art in the Frick Collection. If you aren’t from the New York area and haven’t ever heard of the Frick, you owe it to yourself to visit next time you’re in the Big Apple. The collection is housed in a mansion at 70th St. and 5th Avenue, built in 1913 by the American coke and steel magnate and art collector Henry Clay Frick.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Avocado-Plum Salad for Ferragosto

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Necessity is the mother of invention, the saying goes, and that comes to recipes too. This is a salad I’d never have thought of if it hadn’t been for the nearly overripe plums and avocado sitting on my kitchen counter. The surprising result was a colorful and delicious burst of sweet and savory flavors.

It’s hardly a recipe since it involves just these two ingredients and lime juice.  Just make sure the ingredients are ripe. Peel and slice the avocado, then squeeze the juice of half a lime over the slices. Slice a couple of plums and add that to the avocados, squeezing the juice of the other half of lime over all. Arrange on a platter and serve.

I served this as a side salad with grilled chicken and sauteed swiss chard, but it would taste great with fish or pork as well.

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Oh, and Happy Ferragosto to everyone. For those of you non-Italians, August 15 is a day when EVERYBODY is on holiday in Italy. The country practically shuts down.

It’s a religious holiday commemorating the assumption of the Virgin Mary (when she ascended into Heaven), but it didn’t start out that way. Originally the ancient Romans took the whole month of August to party and honor the gods, particularly those of fertility and abundance. They named the celebration feriae Augusti, after the emperor Augustus Caesar (from whom we get the name for the month of August).

Once upon a time not too long ago, even modern-day Italians would take a whole month off to relax by the sea or in the mountains. Many of them still do, but it’s more common now to take a shorter two- or three-week vacation instead, always coinciding with August 15.

Today, I’ll be following tradition and celebrating the holiday too. Unfortunately, not in Sardinia or Cortina, but right here in Princeton with friends, complete with music, Italian dancers and plenty of food.

24 Baia Sardinia boys

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Apricot-Raspberry Trifle

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When it’s hotter than a furnace outside, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven. So when I offered to bring a dessert as my contribution to a recent meal with friends, I thought of the refrigerator instead. This apricot-raspberry trifle doesn’t have a custard base as a traditional trifle does. It’s really just a mousse – fancied up with a layering of cookies and raspberries and some splashes of Cointreau – an orange flavored liqueur. It may seem like a long recipe, but don’t let that stop you from making it – it’s not at all difficult. The hardest part is refraining from diving into the mousse while you’re assembling the whole thing. But hey, it’s your kitchen. Who’s to know if you leave a little bit extra on the bowl and spatula?

I used something called “milk cookies,” a package that I’d never seen before but recently found at a local farmer’s market. Savoiardi cookies would work well here too, but not the soft American-type ladyfingers. You need something that’s hard and crisp that will soften in the mousse but not disintegrate.

After you’ve made the mousse, start by breaking up the cookies in the bottom of a large glass bowl if you have one. It would look pretty in individual receptacles too, such as a martini or champagne glass.

After you’ve put in the cookies, sprinkle some Cointreau or other liqueur over the cookies. Apricot schnaps would be perfect here, but even rum or just plain old whiskey is fine.

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Add a layer of the mousse, then half of the raspberries and the soaking liquid of Cointreau, sugar and lemon. If you want, you could also add some cut-up apricots here too.

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Next, add another layer of cookies, another sprinkling of Cointreau, then more mousse, and more berries.

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Finish it with a layer of mousse, then decorate with sliced apricots and berries. Oh yea, and a sprig of mint too.

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Oh dear, decisions, decisions. What to dive into first?  The dessert or the pool?

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Click here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe.

Apricot-Raspberry Trifle

-12 ounces dried apricots
-1 envelope unflavored gelatin
-1/4 cup cold water
-3 eggs, separated
-3/4 c. sugar
-3 T. Cointreau, or other liqueur
-3 cups heavy cream
-2 small containers of raspberries (leave some aside to decorate)
-juice of one lemon
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/4 cup Cointreau
-Savoiardi biscuits, or other similar plain, hard cookies - how many depends on what size the cookies are- I used about 9 or 10.
-more Cointreau for splashing on biscuits
-about 6 to 8 fresh apricots to use for decoration on top

1. Put the apricots in a saucepan covered with about an inch of water. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes until softened.
2. Place the gelatin and cold water in a bowl; stir with a spoon to dissolve gelatin.
3. Put the hot apricots with the cooking water and the gelatin in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside to cool.
4. Mix the raspberries, the lemon juice, the Cointreau and sugar in a bowl and set aside.
5. Beat the egg yolks, sugar and liqueur in a bowl and transfer to the top of a double boiler. Whisk over gently simmering water until lightly thickened. Cool to room temperature.
6. Mix together the cooled egg yolk mixture and the apricot mixture.
7. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
8. Whip the cream until stiff.
9. Fold the egg whites into the apricot mixture, then fold in the whipped cream.
11.In a large glass bowl place some broken Savoiardi biscuits, splash with more Cointreau, then add 1/3 of the apricot mixture. Sprinkle with half of the raspberries and half of the marinating mix. (If you want, you could add some sliced apricots here.) Repeat with more cookies, liqueur, apricot mixture and the remaining raspberries and raspberry marinating mixture. Finish with the apricot mixture.
12. Decorate the top with raspberries and sliced apricots. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tagliatelle with Zucchini Flowers

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One of the joys of a home garden is being able to walk outdoors on a summer morning and find these beautiful, huge yellow blossoms opening up to the sun. They’re highly perishable but if you don’t pluck them today, new ones appear the next day to bid you welcome. My favorite way to enjoy them is stuffed and deep-fried as in this recipe I posted last year, but there are only so many times one can eat fried foods without guilt pangs. This recipe for tagliatelle is also delicious and uses the zucchini as well as the flowers. You could skip the zucchini and make it with only the flowers if you want a really delicate flavor. Or make it with only the zucchini if you don’t have a vegetable garden or access to a great farmer’s market.

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Here is the cast of characters for a meal for two:

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Plus about 8 oz. of fresh tagliatelle (I used the Rana brand available at Shoprite – it’s the next best thing to homemade) – or dried pasta.

I used garlic scapes since I still had some left over from a couple of weeks ago, but you could substitute garlic cloves.


2 small zucchini, or about 1 cup sliced small zucchini

2 garlic scapes or garlic cloves

2 T. diced red or yellow onion

2 T. olive oil


generous grinding of black pepper

fresh herbs (I used some basil, parsley and thyme, but you could just as well use all parsley or all basil – whatever your preference)

parmesan cheese

6 zucchini blossoms

8 oz. fresh or dried pasta

Start the water boiling for the pasta and add some salt.

Saute the onion, garlic and zucchini slices in the olive oil until the zucchini is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. While the zucchini is nearly cooked, add the pasta to the pot of water. After it’s cooked (al dente), drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the water. Add the pasta to the pot with the zucchini, adding a little bit of the pasta water as well. Stir in the zucchini blossoms, the herbs and more freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat and douse with another tablespoon of olive oil and parmesan cheese. Buon appetito.

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