July 2010 Archives

Zucchini Moussaka

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Even before there was Too Much Zucchini
moussaka-browned.jpgmoussaka-zucchini.jpgCavelli is the variety of summer squash we planted, not knowing what it would look like. In mid-July we harvested our first one: a soft skinned, sea green specimen about 8 inches long. There were several on the vine right behind it in maturity, so we decided to start thinking about what to make with this zucchini.

The eggplant were not nearly ready -- just lavender flowers under beautiful leaves -- so we decided to try substituting zucchini for the eggplant in our traditional moussaka recipe.

Cut the squash in slices (about 3 to the inch) then quarter them if more than an inch across.
Arrange the pieces in a casserole pan with similarly sliced potatoes.

1 big zucchini
1 lb of potatoes
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbs fresh parsley

Saute sliced onion and chopped garlic, add chopped fresh tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes while you brown the lamb in another pan. I added some fresh onions from a Farmer's market to the lamb.

When the ground lamb has lost its pinkness, add the cinnamon. I used a fresh ground cinnamon from Savory spice shop that is from Vietnam, and is not actually cinnamon but Cassia. True cinnamon comes from Ceylon and has a very spicy and almost curry smell and flavor. The Cassia is what we have come to think of as cinnamon, and the taste I wanted for this moussaka.
moussaka-beans.jpgLayer the meat sauce with more zucchini and potatoes and layers of tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese.

Pour about 1/4 cup of milk (no less than 2%, or cream if you can handle the fat) over all the layers. And finish by grating some very nice Parmesan on top.

After baking at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. You'll have the golden brown dish pictured here.

Chicken better than any chicken salad. chicken-veronique.pngThat's what Elizabeth David promised with this recipe in her Mediterranean Cooking. The result ... lunch by the pool, a setting as secluded as a honeymoon suite, delivered effortlessly by the perfect lover.

The recipe will follow, and so will the ideal rice salad to serve it with, according to David's cookbook. But first, let's start with how to make summer food prep easy ... and end with the sublime delivery of Chicken Veronique.

One: Roast a whole chicken, on the coolest night you've got, or one when you can sit  outside and read a good book. Start the oven at 425 degrees F. Rub chicken with a butter paper if you intend to eat any skin. Cut a lemon in two, rub the outside of the chicken with it, toss the lemon parts inside (remove gizzard, etc.), add a cup of white wine and roast breast up in a LeCreuset or similar (can there be a similar?) casserole, covered. Turn the oven down to 350 after 15 minutes. In less than 1/2 hour the chicken breast should be done -- reached a mere 150-155 degrees. Use an instant read thermometer, or better yet, one that calls you when it gets to temperature. See, this is easy, and doesn't heat up the house too long. But, do leave the oven on for a few more minutes.

The breast will be tonight's dinner, and the leg-thigh I'll use for the Chicken Veronique. So, I cut off the wings, then the leg and thigh as one unit each and cut the breast from the back. I cut the breast in two and put these on plates -- dinner for two, or maybe here I reserve a little for chicken enchiladas. If my kids were going to be at home, I'd make this go four ways. If I want a sauce, I take out a cup of juice from the casserole and add a thickener and flavorer. (1 egg yolk and a few spoonfuls of tarragon infused vodka.)

While the sauce is warming and thickening, return the leg-thigh, and the rest of the chicken to the casserole and let it cook until it reaches 160 or 165 degrees F. This will take about 15 minutes and give you time to serve that roast chicken breasts.

Just before you head to the table, turn oven temp to 200, remove the leg-thighs  (remove the skin if you've got the time and inclination) and put the pair of appendages in the refrigerator to cool. (You can reserve a few big pieces of the back for chicken enchiladas, quick soup, etc.) 

Remove the lemon, but put everything else you removed from the chicken, including the gizzards that were crammed inside the body before you started cooking, back into the casserole. If you have the outside edge of an onion, skinny garlic too small to peel, carrot ends, you can add these too.  Cover with water, return the uncovered casserole to the oven. This will turn into a great chicken stock just by letting it cook in this low oven overnight. Or simmer on the stovetop if this method is easier (cooler) for you.

Next day, strain the contents of your casserole, remove fat from the surface and use the chicken stock for any kind of soup. If you cool the stock (uncovered or it will get a touch sour), you can skim the fat easily. It solidifies on the surface.) And now, make the Veronique.

I don't like cutting meat off the bone at the table, so I remove the meat from the cold chicken first, but you don't have to do it this way. Have chicken meat ready -- as you'd like to eat it -- in a serving dish, or on individual plates, then, make the sauce Veronique by warming gently in a saucepan: 1/2 cup of sherry, 1/2 cup of cream and 2 egg yolks. Heat and whisk until they just start to thicken and pour over the chicken. Refrigerate.

Eat whenever.

Dukkah, the dry dip

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Hot Day Lunch
dukka.jpgThe excuse to get together was to take pictures of food. Food like the Egyptian dip called Dukkah.

It has all the flavor of a dip, concentrated so a bland thing like a chip or cracker compliments and carries it, but Dukkah is dry. No gooey skin to form while it sits out at the party, and it stores well as a leftover. It's as easy as putting out chex mix only it tastes fresh and crunchy, and has a smell that's the best part of a taco seasoning package.

Michele made the dip, some grilled asparagus (she'd picked it while running on a trail near her house in Boulder) and a hollandaise and a lemony mayonnaise to go with it. Beth took the photographs and I ... did the talking.

Adapted from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
1 cup sesame seeds
1 3/4 cups coriander seeds
2/3 cup blanched (skinned) hazelnuts
1/2 cup cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp pepper (I like using Aleppo)
Put each nut/seed on a separate tray & roast them separately in a 325 degree oven till they begin to color & give off a slight aroma.  Do not let them become too brown, you will need to watch carefully.  Put them together in the food processor with the salt & pepper & grind until they are finely crushed but not pulverized.  Be careful not to over blend or it will become a paste.  You want more of a crushed, dry blend.  Add more salt if needed. 

Serve with pita bread cut in pieces and very good olive oil. Dip the pita in the oil, then dip in the Dukkah.

Watermelon Hard Lemonade

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Watermelon, Vodka and Lemon/Lime Juice.

watermelon-vodka.JPGLet the watermelon be the sweetness. Watermelon's best quality. I don't love the texture or the the thick bitter skin, or it's plethora of seed. Like lavender is to herb, watermelon is to fruit. Its a smell of summer.

Watermelon's second best quality is wetness: a desirable summer taste.

We were sitting outside on a very hot, very dry summer day in Santa Fe, with a watermelon in the frig. How about a watermelon lemonade? Scott asked, like it was an ordinary think. Pretty soon he returned with tall glasses with watermelon chunks like ice cubes in a glass of lemonade, and challenged us to make this wonderful taste more wonderful.

I instantly thought of vodka, and Steuart suggested we smash and strain the watermelon to get more of its fragile distinct flavor into the glass. We discussed how much sugar it might need, and I think fresh juice is always better, and since this is an adult drink, there's no need to candy it up with too much sugar.

watermelon-lemonade.JPG1/3 Watermelon, cut in pieces and seeded
5 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tbs. sugar
1 cup of cold water
Garnish: mint, lime or lemon wedge, watermelon cubes

Press the watermelon through a strainer and add to citrus juice. Mix with water, pour over ice in a tall glass and add one shot to each of vodka from a bottle kept in the freezer. If watermelon is not sweet enough you may need to add a little more sugar, but go slow or you'll lose the taste of watermelon. These quantities should make about six tall lemonades, but the mixed fruit juice can be saved if there is extra.  Serve with a fresh sprig of mint or a slice of lime.