Home Cooking: Thanksgiving Leftovers

photo credit: The Washington Post

I’ve always thought that one of the best things about Thanksgiving was the leftovers, and in the past I always made sure we roasted a turkey big enough to give us several days of meals following the holiday. Even if we ate at someone else’s home, or went out to a restaurant, I would still either roast a small turkey or buy some roasted turkey breast, and make the sides so we could enjoy “leftovers” for a few days following Thanksgiving.

My favorite leftover dish has always been a nice, big hot turkey sandwich, very easy to prepare using leftovers, and 100% comfort food. Ron Paul’s restaurant in Portland always had a hot turkey sandwich on the menu, and it was what I always ordered whenever we dined there, no matter the occasion. Hot turkey sandwiches were always our dinner the day after Thanksgiving, usually followed in order by turkey divan casserole (my version was adapted from a much fancier recipe), turkey Waldorf salad, a turkey pot pie, and we always ended our turkey binge with turkey noodle (or rice) soup, made with a rich broth and filled with lots of meat and tasty vegetables. Our daughters especially love the turkey divan casserole, and it’s still requested any time we get together, no matter what time of year. The Waldorf salad is also good no matter the season, and a complete meal when served with a good crusty bread, like fresh sourdough or French bread. The pot pie is based on a recipe I saw in a magazine one year and although I keep my version pretty basic, there are loads of ways to adapt it.

Below are the recipes for our four favorite ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. None of them is complicated or fancy, but all are very, very good:

photo credit: Pinterest

Hot Turkey Sandwiches (for four)

  • 4 big, thick slices of good sourdough or French bread
  • 4 thick slices of turkey breast, enough to cover each slice of bread
  • Leftover stuffing
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • Leftover turkey gravy
  • Leftover cranberry sauce

Lightly toast bread slices and place one slice on each plate. Top with warm leftover stuffing and turkey slices. Reheat mashed potatoes and place a large scoop on each plate, then top everything generously with hot turkey gravy. Serve with leftover cranberry sauce.

photo credit: bettycrocker.com

Laura’s Turkey Divan Casserole

  • 1 16-oz bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 2 cups turkey, either cut into 1-inch cubes or shredded
  • 2 10.5-oz cans cream of chicken soup
  • milk
  • 1-2 TBSP curry powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 16-oz bag eggs noodles
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook broccoli florets according to package directions; drain well. Cook egg noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large bowl mix together the cream of chicken soup, a small amount of milk (enough to create a thick but creamy sauce), at least 1 TBSP of curry powder (more if you want), and salt & pepper to taste. Add cubed or shredded turkey and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the sauce and mix well. Add the cooked broccoli florets and noodles to the turkey mixture and combine well. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is melted and browned on top. 

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Easy Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

  • Crust for 2-crust pie (premade crusts are OK)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or diced turkey
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup carrots cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup potato, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 cups leftover turkey gravy
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare crusts for a double-crust pie. Line the bottom of a 9″ pie plate with one crust. Steam together the peas, carrots, and potatoes until tender but not soft or mushy (or use already cooked leftover vegetables instead). Combine the vegetables and turkey in the pie plate up to the top edge, then pour turkey gravy over everything (you may not need all the gravy). Cover the pie with the top crust, crimp the edges to seal, and make five small cuts in the top to vent. Bake at 400° for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with cranberry sauce, if desired.

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Turkey Waldorf Salad

  • 1 large apple, washed, cored, and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup red or green grapes
  • 1 cup turkey, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves or large pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 TBSP curry powder

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, celery, turkey, and walnuts (and dried cranberries, if desired). In a separate bowl mix together mayonnaise, yogurt, and curry powder until well blended. Pour over salad and combine all. Serve chilled with some good crusty bread.

Other great leftover turkey recipes are Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches (turkey and bacon on toasted bread with a big tomato slice on top, then covered with either a Mornay sauce or cheesy rarebit sauce); Goodbye Turkey casserole (a creamy turkey and rice casserole), and of course, a big pot of turkey noodle or turkey rice soup! 

Home Cooking: Quick Farmers’ Market Pasta

photo credit: food network.com

I don’t often watch Food Network (because we don’t have cable), but one day a few years ago I happened to come across Tyler’s Ultimate when he was making this pasta recipe. It was just the kind of dish my family enjoys eating, and that I enjoy fixing. It’s easy to make, contains no processed foods, and doesn’t cost that much to make or require any strange, expensive ingredients. The sausage can be purchased bulk or links used. Depending on the time of year, the tomatoes, zucchini, and basil can actually come from a farmers’ market or right from the garden, but they’re also easy to find year-round in any supermarket. On the show Tyler actually peeled and added fresh artichoke hearts, but canned work just as well.

Having made this several times, I’m not so sure I would exactly call this recipe “quick,” but it’t not difficult to put together. The results are, as WenYu put it the first time we tried it, amazing. Not one bite is ever left over at our home, and everyone in our family considers it one of the best pasta dishes we’ve ever had.

The recipe as written uses an incredibly large amount of olive oil in my opinion, nearly one cup. I cut back the oil back to four tablespoons (1/4 cup) and it comes out fine. I use two tablespoons to cook the tomatoes, and the other two to saute the zucchini and artichokes and it was more than enough. The only other change I’ve made is to cut back on the amount of sugar added to the tomatoes. Our family all thought the sauce turned out a little too sweet when I used the full tablespoon. One teaspoon of sugar would probably be enough, especially if the tomatoes are fresh and naturally sweet from the garden or farmer’s market.

QUICK FARMER’S MARKET PASTA

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup olive oil plus more as needed (I use 1/4 cup)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 TBSP sugar (or less, if desired)
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3/4 pound pork Italian sausage (chicken or turkey Italian sausage can be substituted)
  • 2-3 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained well and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil leaves (optional)

Place the sliced garlic and tomatoes in a large, heavy saute or frying pan, and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the pan over low-medium heat and cook slowly until the tomatoes are falling apart and the juices are mixed with the olive oil, about 35-40 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, squash the tomatoes to make a chunky sauce; mix in the sugar and set aside, keeping warm.

Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain.

In another large saute or fry pan, add some olive oil and saute the sausage until brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, and add the zucchini, sauteing until caramelized around the sides, then add the artichoke hearts and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the sausage back to the pan, then toss in the pasta and tomato sauce and mix over medium heat to make sure everything is heated through.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and shredded  fresh basil, if desired.

Home Cooking: Autumn Apple Cheesecake Torte

photo credit: tasteofhome.com

If you have ever thought that cheesecake and apple pie might not go together, then this could be the recipe that changes your mind! Set in a cookie crust, this torte combines a creamy cheese filling with spiced apples and nuts for an absolutely delicious autumn dessert.

This recipe is another from the old Ron Paul’s restaurant in Portland. I have served this as a Thanksgiving dessert, but it’s good any time. The only change I’ve made to the original recipe was to halve the shortbread ingredients and have the crust only on the bottom of the torte versus up the sides as the recipe calls for. I’ve used both sliced almonds and walnuts for the nuts and both work well.

In spite of what looks to be an intimidating list of ingredients and steps, this torte goes together easily and more quickly than one might think. While the shortbread crust is chilling and then baking, both the apple topping and the filling can be prepared. The torte is then easily assembled and put back into the oven to bake. Surprisingly, the longest step is chilling the finished cake. Because the filling sets during baking though, the torte could also be served warm, if desired.

AUTUMN APPLE CHEESECAKE TORTE

For the shortbread crust:

  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch salt

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the apple mixture:

  • 3 tart apples, cored, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

For the nut mixture:

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or slivered almonds
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar

Grease a 9″ springform pan. To make the crust, blend butter and sugar at low speed in mixer or food processor. Add flour and salt and mix until dough forms a ball. Press the dough on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, then place in the freezer until the dough is cold. While it’s chilling, preheat the oven to 350° and prepare the apple mixture. Core, peel and slice apples, then toss with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and lemon juice; set aside.

Bake the cold crust at 350° for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth, then add in the eggs and vanilla.

When the crust comes out of the oven, pour in the cream cheese filling, then top with the apple mixture (you can either arrange the slices in a pattern or casually place them on the top). Mix together the nuts with brown sugar and spoon over the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is set. The torte can either be served warm or chilled, with whipped cream if desired.

Home Cooking: Coconut Curry Chickpeas with Pumpkin & Lime

photo credit: The New York Times

As “pumpkin month” comes to a close at The Occasional Nomads, this last recipe was a new one for me – we just had it for the first time this past week. However, as far as ease of preparation and great flavor it knocked it all out of the park and will be placed in regular rotation here. This yummy curry recipe comes from the The New York Times via a recommendation from Reader Laurel, to whom we will be forever grateful for sending it our way.

The list of ingredients looked rather intimidating at first, and I thought it might be a tricky recipe to get through, but once all the chopping was done and the cans opened it came together very quickly and easily. Garam masala, an Indian spice blend used for curries, is not an easy ingredient to find, but I actually have a small jar purchased from Penzey’s spices earlier this year when I was putting together the pantry. Besides curries, garam masala is used in dishes like tikka masala and butter chicken among others. Indian cooks traditionally make their own garam masala, but Penzey’s affordable blend is a worthwhile addition to my spice shelf. I also keep a bag of jalapeños in the freezer – they are a little soft when defrosted but can still be seeded and have as much flavor as fresh ones. The two small-ish peppers I added were just enough heat for us without being too spicy, but more jalapeño can be added if hotter is preferred.

I admit to not adding cilantro when I made it this week, but that’s because I forgot to pick some up at the farmers’ market last week. The recipe made more than enough though that leftovers were frozen for later, and cilantro will be added when we have those as it will make this fabulous vegetarian/vegan dish taste even better.

COCONUT CURRY CHICKPEAS WITH PUMPKIN & LIME

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded or not, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed
  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (do not use light coconut milk)
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro, (additional for for serving, if desired)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
  •  Cooked rice

Heat oil in a large skillet, then sauté the chopped onion, jalapeños, and bay leaf until the onion starts to turn golden, about 8 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook and additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garam masala, cumin and turmeric and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the chickpeas, coconut milk, pumpkin, 1/2 cup water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors come together. (You can add more water if it becomes too thick.) Finally, stir in the chopped cilantro and add lime juice to taste.

Serve the curry over rice and top with more cilantro and lime wedges on the side. The Times also suggest couscous as an alternative to rice.

Home Cooking: Pumpkin Bread Pudding

photo credit: livewelbakeoften.com

Pumpkin is currently in short supply on Kaua’i. I don’t know if that’s because people here love pumpkin, or because tourists have been coming from the mainland and buying it all, but the shelves where it should find it in stores have been emptied out. Seriously – we went to three stores this past week and finally found a few (overpriced) cans of pumpkin puree on the back of a bottom shelf at Big Save Market. Safeway and Walmart were completely sold out.

Anyway, this is another great pumpkin recipe to add to this month’s theme. I love bread puddings and stratas, especially because they’re so versatile and, depending on the ingredients, can be used for breakfast, as a main dish, or as a dessert, and this one with pumpkin was a great addition to my collection of favorites. I’ll never forget that Meiling’s reaction when she took her first bite of this was, “It tastes like Christmas!” I remember as well that the whole house smelled like the holidays when the pudding was baking.

One fun thing about making a dessert bread pudding is that you don’t have to stick entirely with the bread called for, or even entirely with bread for that matter. Leftover muffins, pound cake, croissants, and other baked items can be added to the regular white or French bread or whatever that’s typically called for to punch things up a bit. I like to use challah, a sweet egg bread, for dessert bread puddings, but brioche is delicious as well.

This recipe came from C&H sugar along with a coupon I received. The ingredients listed below are the original from C&H, but I usually lightened things up a bit and used egg substitute for the whole eggs and yolks and nonfat milk instead of heavy cream. I also used actual rum for the flavoring when I made this, but rum extract would probably work just as well, as would vanilla. I also skipped adding the butter on top. Raisins or chopped pecans are walnuts were also a nice addition to the recipe, layered in among the toasted bread.

Leftovers were delicious for breakfast, so besides being a great dessert this also worked well for a breakfast/brunch dish. I usually served it with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt in the morning, but whipped cream or ice cream were added otherwise.

PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

  • 4 cups white bread, cut into small cubes
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP rum or brandy
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 TBSP cold butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the bread cubes on a large baking pan and toast in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Place the toasted bread cubes in a well-greased 9″ x 13″ pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, yolks, pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, rum or brandy and spices; stir until well-blended and sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over bread cubes.

Let everything sit for around 10 minutes, or until all the bread is fully soaked. Place pieces of butter around the top of pudding, then bake for 40-50 minutes, or until center is set but not dry.

Pudding can be eaten warm or chilled.

Home Cooking: Addictive Pumpkin Burritos

photo credit: allrecipes (I think someone went a little nuts with the cilantro)

Several years ago a friend sent me this recipe for burritos and when the girls were young they quickly became a favorite and a nice change from more “traditional” burritos. They’re not only delicious and easy to make and the ingredients don’t cost a lot. They’re also quite nutritious, and surprisingly low fat (and can be vegan with the cheese left out). They can also be wrapped individually and frozen to reheat later for snacks or a quick meal.

The original recipe called for cooked and mashed sweet potato, but I substituted pumpkin and it worked perfectly. With pumpkin, add the water to the bean mixture gradually though as canned pumpkin tends to be a bit “wetter” than  baked sweet potato and the bean mixture doesn’t need to quite so wet (which risks making the burritos soggy). Canned refried beans can be substituted for the kidney beans in the recipe to save on time, although I personally never thought it took all that much time to mash the kidney beans. There’s no reason either why other types of beans, such as black beans or pintos, couldn’t be substituted if you prefer them, and pureed butternut squash or a large can of sweet potatoes (follow the same advice about adding the water) can also be substituted. The spices might seem excessive to some, but I happen to think they’re just enough (and we have also added salsa as well). The friend who sent me the recipe halved the chili powder, cumin, mustard and cayenne pepper and said they still tasted great.

If you do end up with some leftover bean mixture it can be added later to scrambled eggs for a breakfast burrito!

ADDICTIVE PUMPKIN BURRITOS

  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cups water or less, as needed
  • 3 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp prepared mustard
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 4 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin puree, sweet potato, or butternut squash
  • 12 10-inch flour tortillas, warmed
  • 8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Pepper Jack if you’d like a little more spice)

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a medium skillet, and saute onions and garlic until soft. Add beans and mash well. Gradually stir in water, and heat until thick and warm. Remove from heat and stir in chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper (if using) and soy sauce. Divide bean mixture and pumpkin puree evenly between the warm tortillas; place next to the lower edge and top with some cheese. Fold the edge over tightly, then fold up the sides and fold over again to close. Bake for 12 minutes in the oven and serve warm. Chopped green onion and sour cream go well with these burritos.

You can freeze these burritos for later use. Don’t bake them, but wrap each one individually in foil, then place in a bag and freeze. Heat by taking off the foil and microwaving for two and a half minutes, or defrost and bake according to directions.

Home Cooking: Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

photo credit: Sunset Magazine

Back in the days when I was making breakfast for the girls, I used to think that pancakes were only for weekends because no way was there time to make them on a school morning. And, there was definitely no way I was going to find time to make pancakes that involved me grating or chopping an apple.

These pancakes changed my mind.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always seem to have a bit of pumpkin puree left over whenever I make pumpkin bread, or some other pumpkin recipe. I won’t throw it away, but it’s still  never enough where I can easily figure out how to use it. But, when I found this recipe in Sunset magazine, I knew I had found a perfect and delicious way to use up that last bit of pumpkin.

The secret to making pancakes on a busy morning, I’ve discovered, without having to get up earlier than usual or making anyone late, is to have everything ready to go the night before (slap to the forehead). Prep the dry ingredients and set them in a covered bowl on the counter, and blend together the wet ingredients and set them in the refrigerator. Also set out the griddle or skillet you’ll be using so that everything is ready to go. In the morning, all that needs to be done is blend the wet ingredients into the dry, and for this recipe, peel and grate an apple in the five minutes it takes for a griddle or skillet to heat up. Voilà! Yummy, fresh, hot pancakes with no one late for school or an appointment, and no one grumpy because they had to get up too early.

Two of our three girls were not big pancake fans, but they both liked these and would eat three big pancakes with butter and maple syrup, so this recipe was made fairly frequently. I liked knowing the girls got a hot and healthy breakfast, on a school morning no less, and that I was able to use what I had on hand to make them – no special ingredients needed. I also liked that the recipe made nine pancakes, just enough for the girls’ breakfasts, although it would be a snap to double for a family meal. Brett and I enjoy pancakes for breakfast now and again these day, and canned pumpkin and an apple are already on our shopping list so we can enjoy these again! 

PUMPKIN APPLE PANCAKES

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each salt, nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped or grated
  • Butter and maple syrup

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, vegetable oil and pumpkin puree, then blend together with flour mixture. Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan; as it heats peel, core and chop or grate apple and add to the batter. Spoon approximately 1/3 cup of batter onto hot griddle or pan to make each pancake, and cook, turning when edges are cooked and bubbles appear. Serve with butter and maple syrup, or the topping of your choice.

Home Cooking: Guacamole Salad

(photo credit: Food.com)

Avocados are currently in season here on Kaua’i. Trees we see around are loaded, and there are mounds of them at the farmers’ market. We found some beautiful big ones this past week at the farmers’ market and decided to spend a little extra and pick up a couple so I could make this yummy salad. The recipe comes from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I saw her show one day several years ago when she prepared this to serve with grilled blue cheese burgers and I knew immediately I had to try it. It quickly became one of our favorites and is a great accompaniment to everything from burgers to fish. The salad comes together quickly and is easy to make all year as avocados are available everywhere these days, year round (we can even easily find them in Japan now), as are cherry tomatoes and peppers. I’ve even added shredded chicken in the past (shrimp would be great too) to turn this into a main dish salad, and served along with corn chips for an easy warm-weather meal.

The secret to making a great guacamole salad is to make sure the avocados used are perfectly ripe, and not mushy, so that they don’t fall apart or collapse in the salad. Ripe avocados should be judged by two characteristics: color and feel. A ripe avocado will most likely be dark greenish-black, but not always so it’s important to also use feel to test for perfect ripeness. A ripe avocado will give slightly to firm but gentle pressure using the palm of your hand (not the fingers). An unripe avocado will not give at all, and an overripe one will feel mushy and give easily to the slightest pressure. Also, check avocados for bruises and soft spots as they may indicate rot or overripeness. Unripe avocados can be ripened by placing in a dark cabinet for 4 -5 days, one that isn’t opened frequently (just don’t forget them, which I have sadly done more than a few times).

GUACAMOLE SALAD

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • (optional) 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • (optional) 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and veins removed than diced

Blend together the lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper and cumin (if using) and set aside. In a large bowl lightly mix together the yellow pepper pieces, tomato halves, red onion, black beans, jalapeño pepper (if using), and chopped cilantro. The salad can be chilled at this point, if desired. Just before serving, cut the avocado and place the cubes in the bowl, pour the dressing over everything and gently toss to blend the salad (over-mixing will make the avocado mushy).

Home Cooking: Zucchini Frittata

(Photo credit: Real Simple magazine)

Mid-September always meant the last of the zucchini when we had a garden, sad because our plants always provided so much and because zucchini was a favorite summer vegetable. Thankfully zucchini is now available year round in supermarkets, and here on Kaua’i we’re fortunate to find it almost all year at the farmer’s market, both the green and yellow varieties. I pick some up more weeks than not as Brett and I love it, especially roasted or grilled.

This long-time favorite recipe comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book and uses quite a bit of zucchini so it’s a great recipe if you’re being overrun, and it’s delicious both hot and cold. A frittata is nothing more than an Italian egg-based dish similar to an omelet or quiche, and it can be either simple or enriched with additional ingredients including meats, vegetables, herbs. It’s easy to make, and can either be baked or started in a skillet and finished in the oven. Along with some good bread and a salad, a frittata makes an easy and low-cost meal.

Getting as much liquid squeezed out of the zucchini is crucial to getting this frittata to set set up properly. Our method for squeezing out the liquid it to put the grated zucchini in a clean cotton dishtowel, roll the towel up lengthwise, and then twist the ends in opposite directions (over the  sink, or outside if that’s not possible). One of the girls usually helped me with this task when they were at home, but these days Brett helps me, and between the two of us we’re able to get a tremendous amount of liquid squeezed out using this method.

By the way, what I remember most about growing zucchini was that in spite of checking our plants every day and harvesting what was ready, I could often go out the next morning and discover a squash the size of a baseball bat! Did it grow that big overnight, or was it just well hidden and I missed it ??? It was one of the mysteries of the garden that I never could figure out.

ZUCCHINI FRITTATA

8 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 3 pounds)

1 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp butter

2 TBSP finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely minced

6 eggs

2 TBSP milk

1/2 tsp crumbled oregano

1/2 tsp crumbled dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

dash of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Squeeze as much liquid out of the shredded zucchini as possible – try to get it as “dry” as possible. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) and sauté the onion and garlic for around 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and cook over moderately low heat, stirring often, until the zucchini is just tender. If any liquid still collects in the pan, pour it off.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, hot sauce or cayenne and 2 TBSP of the Parmesan cheese. Add to the zucchini mixture and pour into a well-greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Top the mixture with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350° oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the cheese has browned on top

OR

If you are using an ovenproof skillet, you can add the egg mixture to the zucchini in the skillet and cook everything together, stirring often, until the eggs begin to set. Sprinkle the frittata with the remaining Parmesan cheese and place the pan under the broiler or in a 500 degree oven and cook just until the top is lightly browned. (This only takes a very few minutes, so watch carefully).

Let the frittata stand for a few minutes before slicing. The frittata can easily provide six servings. It can also be garnished with tomato slices or a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or with sliced olives, if desired.

Home Cooking: Vegetable Side Salads x3

Wilted cucumbers (photo credit: almanac.com)

Because of my lettuce intolerance, other than bland (but cool and crunchy) iceberg lettuce, and an occasional spinach salad, I cannot eat a green salad. No romaine, no bib, no mache, no endive, no other leaf lettuces can pass my lips without unpleasant results. The rest of my family enjoys salads though, so we have grown lettuce in the past and I have made lots of tossed salads for them, but I have always had to avoid them. My parents never got it when I was young, that my avoidance of salads was more than not liking the taste of lettuce, that lettuces other than iceberg actually made me sick, so I was often stuck at the table until I “finished my (romaine or other variety) salad.” What that meant was that I became very good at hiding salad in my clothes or napkin, or at passing it over to my sister or a brother.

I’ve always loved vegetables though, so was always happy when there was something other than a green salad being served. When I began cooking for my own family, I often made vegetable side salads so I could enjoy them right along with the rest of the family (who also all like vegetables). We still enjoy these salads frequently, but especially in the summer.

The wilted cucumber salad comes from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It is easy, versatile and inexpensive, and the cucumber slices are a nice addition to a variety of sandwiches as well as being enjoyed on their own. I always make a big jar of this to take camping as they kept well (but usually were eaten fairly quickly). The three bean salad is an old standby from years ago (I can’t remember where I got my recipe), and again is inexpensive and easy to make. I often look for cans of beans on sale when I go to the market to have them on hand, and the type of beans used in the salad can be varied depending on what you have in your pantry. The cauliflower salad recipe comes from my grandmother, who lived on a farm and cooked with what came out of her garden. I never really enjoyed this salad all that much when I was young, but when I found the recipe one day in my mom’s recipe file I figured out why: Mom always made it with Miracle Whip, which I didn’t (and still don’t) care for, instead of the sour cream the recipe calls for. With sour cream, it is cool, crunchy and completely yummy.

WILTED CUCUMBER SALAD

Make at least a day ahead so that the cucumbers can fully “relax” and absorb the marinade. When the marinade is first poured over the cucumbers it won’t seem like you made enough, but as the cucumbers wilt, the marinade will fully cover them. These can keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, although they never seem to last more than a few days at our house.

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (rice vinegar works well too)

1/3 cup water

4 TBSP sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

black pepper to taste

2 TBSP minced fresh dill (optional)

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan; heat just to the boiling point, then remove from heat. Layer the onion and cucumber slices in a medium-large bowl, and pour the hot liquid over them. Cool to room temperature, then add pepper and dill (if using). Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and chill until cold.

Classic three-bean salad can easily accommodate four beans if you prefer! (photo credit: food.com)

THREE-BEAN SALAD

The canned beans listed below are for the “classic” salad, but can be varied, although there should always be either a green bean or yellow (wax) bean. I have used garbanzos, white beans, and others, depending on what’s on hand in the pantry.

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup sugar (or less, to taste)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 can each, well-drained:

  • wax beans
  • green beans
  • kidney beans

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup finely chopped green pepper (optional)

Combine oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper; stir until sugar is dissolved. Place beans, onions and pepper in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. marinate for at least 8 hours before serving. Can be eaten cold or at room temperature.

CAULIFLOWER SALAD

3 cups finely chopped raw cauliflower

1 cup seeded and diced fresh tomato

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 tsp cider or rice vinegar

1/3 cup sour cream

salt & pepper to taste

Mix together the vinegar, sour cream and salt and pepper. Combine cauliflower, tomato and celery in a bowl; toss with sour cream mixture and chill well before serving.