Archive for July, 2012

See a map of Caitlin’s and Sarah’s postcards to each other.

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by Caitlin Saniga

I love the idea of taking a familiar summer ingredient like zucchini and basically reinventing by simply slicing it in a new way. If you like zucchini ribbons in this dish, you might like it in a throwback dish: Zucchini ribbons with Parmesan, pine nuts and basil.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 pounds medium zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
  • salt and pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Trim the ends of the zucchini. With a vegetable peeler, shave lengthwise into long, wide strips about 1/16 inch thick. When you get to the center of the zucchini, turn it over and slice from the other side until you get to the center again.

Place the zucchini ribbons in a large bowl, add the chopped mint and olives. Toss with the vinaigrette to lightly coat.

Top with crumbled feta and pine nuts, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from: Gourmande in the Kitchen

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by Sarah Steimer

This summer I’ve frozen raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.

This time of year I tend to go a little overboard on the summer berries. I go to two farmer’s markets each week and somehow get more berries than I could possibly eat before the fruit goes bad. The best solution to the quick-aging berry? Freeze it. This way, you save yourself from having to throw out food — which is like throwing out money. Freezing berries now also means you can use your own, local fruit in the dead of winter rather than buying strawberries by way of Mexico at the grocery store.

Possible berries to freeze:

  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cherries (may want to pit them first)
  • cranberries (fall)
  • raspberries
  • strawberries (hulled)

For the sake of this how-to I’ll focus on raspberries and blueberries, two of the easier berries to freeze.

Step 1:

Rinse and pick.

Rinse the berries in a colander under cool, lightly streaming water. Do not turn the water on very hard as the berries are delicate and can bruise. Pick out any sad berries or stems that made it past the farmer’s eye.

Step 2:

At ease, raspberries.

Place one or two paper towels on a cooling rack. Gently shake the berries in the colander to remove as much excess water as possible. Transfer the berries to the towels using your hands — do not pour the fruit directly from the colander as it will dump extra water on the towels. Arrange the berries in a single layer. Fruit such as blueberries and strawberries can be arranged on the racks at random, but I like to sit raspberries and blackberries upside down (as pictured above), so their insides have a chance to drip-dry. It takes a little more time, but will save you from having tiny icicles inside the berries later.

The berries should dry completely (or close to it) for about an hour or so on the counter.

Why make sure the berries are totally dry? Because if you toss them into a bag while they are still wet, you wind up with an icy block of fruit. Using this drying method, it will allow you to grab a cup of frozen fruit without having to thaw the entire bag.

Step 3:

Semi-frozen blueberries on a baking sheet.

Once the berries have dried fully, place them on a clean baking sheet in a single layer.

I also found it helpful to set the raspberries on end even while they froze. Raspberries tend to stay a little more soggy than blueberries, so the less they touch one another, the better.

Freeze for 1-2 hours, or until the berries are relatively hard to the touch.

Step 4:

Bagged and ready.

Label freezer bags with the date and fill ‘em up! Berries can stay in the freezer for a very long time because they contain a high amount of sugar. From what I read online, some people have used frozen berries up to four years after freezing them. Of course, I would suggest using them within a year, that way you can freeze a fresh new round next season.

To thaw the berries, either leave them out at room temperature or in the refrigerator over night. Some recipes, such as blueberry muffins, actually work without ever needing to thaw the berries at all. Frozen berries also make excellent smoothies because they create an icy texture when blended with yogurt and other ingredients — no extra ice necessary.

If you have any additional questions about freezing berries — or other foods — leave a comment below!

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by Caitlin Saniga

What’s your favorite part of lemon meringue pie? Mine’s the meringue. And that’s basically what pavlova is: a big pile of meringue (topped with fruit). Fun fact: This dessert is big in Australia and New Zealand and is said to have been named after famous Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova during one of her tours through the region.

  • 5 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced, pitted cherries
  • basil or mint for garnish, if desired

This was one of my first attempts at pavlova. I didn’t beat the egg whites nearly long enough, so my mound was fairly flat. When the pavlova baked, some bubbled over the edge of the pan. Don’t make my mistake! Beat the egg whites until they’re almost hard. When you “spread” the mixture on the baking sheet, it should be kind of difficult because the egg whites are almost solid. This will ensure that the mound remains standing through the bake time. Also! Notice the magnets holding down the edges of the parchment paper. I found this trick handy! But don’t forget to remove the magnets before baking.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Trace a 7- or 8-inch circle on parchment paper and line a baking sheet. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites in a standing mixer (with a whisk attachment if you have one) until foamy and thick, about 3 minutes. Pour in half of the caster sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the remaining sugar and beat until the mixture forms firm peaks, another 2 or 3 minutes on high.

Using an offset spatula, spread the meringue on the parchment, using the circle as a guide, to create a uniform mound.

This is what the pavlova looks like after a night of sitting in the oven. The top gets all crackled and crispy. It’s the best! Also, a note about caster sugar: It’s a super-fine sugar that dissolves quickly in liquids. If you can’t find any at the store, make your own by running white sugar through the food processor.

Using a fine-mesh strainer or sifter, shake powdered sugar over the meringue.

Place the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Bake for another 35 minutes, until slightly golden, and turn off the oven, leaving the meringue to dry out overnight. Do not open the oven door! Use the oven light to check on things instead.

Serve the next day with the strawberries and cherries, and garnish with basil or mint. You should be able to slice the pavlova with a flat-edge knife. Store leftovers at room temperature, loosely covered with parchment paper for up to 1 week.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted from: Urban Pantry

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by Sarah Steimer

I’ve never been a huge Bloody Mary fan, but this may have turned me. You can, of course, leave out various ingredients such as the kale or the bacon.

  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 1 small kale leaf, stem removed and roughly chopped
  • a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • a few dashes hot sauce, to your liking
  • 1-2 shots vodka (or you can cheat like me and use whiskey – I just can’t get into vodka)
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • lemon, optional
  • 1 strip bacon, for garnish
  • cherry tomato, for garnish
  • 1 small kale leaf, for garnish

Add the tomato juice, kale, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and liquor to a food processor. Pulse until the kale is blended into the drink to your preference (you can always strain some out if you choose). Add the ice cubes, crushing a bit before hand if your blender is a little weak like mine.

Season with the salt, pepper and lemon, adjust to your taste (maybe even adding more liquor or hot sauce if you really need it).

For the bacon garnish:

You could crumble the bacon and add it straight into the drink itself, but I really loved the look of this garnish.

Take one piece of raw bacon and arrange in a squiggle or another cool shape it on a wooden skewer — NOT a metal or plastic skewer. Place the skewered bacon between four paper towels, two on the bottom and two on top. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes.

* Power Trio is our July guide that features BLT recipe ideas — including bacon, leafy greens and tomatoes, minus the two slices of bread. See all of our Power Trio BLT recipes here.

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by Caitlin Saniga

To make a spicy ketchup dipping sauce for these super-crispy rings, mix together 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 3/4 cup ketchup in a small dish. Delish!

  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Cut onion into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and separate into rings.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour the flour into a small bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg white in another small bowl. Mix the panko and Italian seasoning in a third bowl.

Dredge the onion rings in flour; dip in buttermilk mixture, coating well. Dredge in the panko mixture, and place on a baking sheet. Arrange as many rings as possible on each baking sheet, avoiding overlap or contact between rings.

Place the baking sheets on the center racks in the oven. Bake 10 minutes. Using a pair of metal tongs, flip the onion rings. Bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until the rings are crispy and golden.

Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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by Sarah Steimer

If you don’t have a pasta roller or if you just don’t have enough time, you can purchase fresh sheets of pasta at some grocery or speciality stores.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yolk whisked with 1-2 tablespoons of water for egg wash
  • 6 small balls of mozzarella, cut in half OR quarter-sized pieces of mozzarella cut from a larger ball if you cannot find the small mozzarella balls
  • 12 cherry tomatoes (can pre-roast the tomatoes, but that is optional)
  • 12 basil leaves
  • pesto, for serving (need any ideas? Take a look back at our pesto guide!)
  • balsamic vinegar, for serving
  • shredded Parmesan, for serving

    Always lay everything out in advance so you aren’t racing all over the kitchen.

In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the dough blade or an electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook, mix together the flour and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue mixing. Drizzle in the olive oil. At this point the dough should begin to form into a ball. If this does not happen, add a little bit of water at a time until the dough begins to stick.

Once the dough has formed itself into a ball in the mixer, turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth. Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit for at least a half hour.

When the dough is ready, separate it into about three even and rectangular pieces, flattening each with your hands. Feed the dough through a pasta machine about two or three times at its widest setting. Continue to move up the settings until the dough is rolled through as thin as possible. Cut out the ravioli shapes using a cookie cutter or a drinking glass. Continue will the rest of the dough until you have 24 pieces of ravioli.

I only used half of the small mozzarella balls because my cookie cutter did not make a very large round. If you have a larger cutter, use the full ball.

Place the pieces in sets of twos, making 12 pairs. Brush one side of one piece of dough with the egg wash. Arrange one half of the mozzarella ball, a cherry tomato and a basil leaf on the egg-washed side of the dough. Cover with another piece of dough and press closed using the tongs of a fork. Flip and press with the fork on the other side as well. Continue this until you have 12 filled raviolis.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the stove. Place about six of the raviolis in the water and let cook for about 10-12 minutes. Remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon and cook the remaining pieces.

Serve with pesto, balsamic vinegar and shredded Parmesan.

The finished product!

Makes 12 pieces of ravioli, which serves 3-4.

Pasta recipe from: Tyler Florence via the Food Network

Filling recipe from: Proud Italian Cook

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We quietly closed voting on our first reader survey on Wednesday about noon, but most of the votes were cast long before then. Thank you for opening up to us! With the help of some pie charts, we’ll take this post to look back at your answers and give our reactions.

Thanks again for your input and time!

— Caitlin and Sarah

How many times per week do you cook?

Based on 20 votes

How many times per week do you cook?

“Never” was an option, but no one selected it. And we guess that makes sense. If you care enough to take a survey on a cooking blog, you likely care at least a little about cooking. We were happy to see that about 45% of you cook at least 5 times a week.

How many recipes have you tried from the blog?

Based on 20 votes

How many recipes have you tried from the blog?

While we’d like to think all of our readers have tried at least 1 recipe from our blog at some point, we know that’s not realistic. But to whomever responded that they’ve tried more than 10 of our recipes, that made our day! Which recipes have you guys tried?

How many times per week do you eat a meatless dinner?

Based on 18 votes

How many times per week do you eat a meatless dinner?

What does “meatless” mean? We define it as any meal that includes no meat or fish. It can include eggs or dairy products, though. These answers were about on par with what we expected to see.

How many people do you usually cook for?

Based on 19 votes

How many people do you usually cook for?

Apparently we cater to a lot of people like ourselves! Caitlin usually cooks for just herself, and Sarah usually cooks for two. The option of “More than 4″ was on the survey, but no one selected it.

Where do you buy produce, dairy and meats?

Based on 19 votes

Where do you buy produce, dairy and meats?

“A natural foods store” was also among the choices for this question, but no one selected it.

Do you have any dietary restrictions?

Based on 18 votes

Do you have any dietary restrictions?

We expected to see more people who have dietary restrictions to respond — especially those of the vegan and vegetarian persuasion.

How likely are you to try new foods?

Based on 20 votes

How likely are you to try new foods?

A couple of other options were offered but went unselected — “Not at all” and “I almost never eat the same meal twice” — which were the two extremes.

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by Sarah Steimer

The onion, red pepper and garlic base to this dish is a pretty powerful starting point – so don’t lose it to weak tomatoes. If you buy your tomatoes at the farmer’s market see if you can try a taste first.

  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 2-4 slices of good bread, sliced thick
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • parsley or basil, for garnish

Chop the onions and peppers very finely – OR – pulse the vegetables a few times in a food processor for the fine mince, being careful not to puree.

Heat a medium or large pan over the stove, then add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and peppers and season with the salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are very soft. Add the garlic and tomato paste, stirring and cooking for a few minutes more.

I didn’t add the rest of the broth so mine was a little dryer than I think most ragouts. Next time I will definitely use all of the broth.

Add the beans and about 1 1/2 cups of the broth to the pan, stirring to remove any vegetables that may have gotten stuck to the pan. Allow the mixture to cook over medium heat until about half of the broth has evaporated. Mix in the sliced cherry tomatoes and the remainder of the broth, unless you prefer a less runny mixture.

Drizzle the slices of bread with olive oil and, if you please, rub with garlic. Place the slices under the broiler in the oven until well-browned.
Remove and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Stir the rest of the cheese into the bean mixture.

Spoon the bean and tomato mixture over the slices of bread and garnish with the parsley or basil.

Serves 2-4.

Recipe adapted from: Epicurious

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by Caitlin Saniga

What goes better with quiche than a nice little side salad?

For crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water

For filling:

  • 5 strips bacon
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, seeds removed (from 1 medium tomato)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 cup chopped arugula
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

No need to roll out the dough for this crust. Just use the palms of your hands and your fingertips to press the dough into the shape of the pan. It’s likely to be a little uneven, but don’t sweat it!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crust, combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Use a fork to whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and water. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and use a fork to combine. Use your hands to press the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling, start by cooking the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the grease for this recipe. Place the bacon on paper towels until it cools, then crumble it. Cook the tomatoes in the reserved tablespoon of bacon grease for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over top. Add the onions and cook for 5 more minutes. Deglaze the pan with wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the chicken stock and vinegar. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the pan from heat. Add the herbs and bacon, and allow to cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the cream and gently whisk together. Mix in the bacon mixture and arugula.  Pour the mixture into the pie shell. Top with feta. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the egg has set.

Makes 8 servings.

Crust recipe: Food.com

* Power Trio is our July guide that features BLT recipe ideas — including bacon, leafy greens and tomatoes, minus the two slices of bread. See all of our Power Trio BLT recipes here.

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