July – Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin

July – Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin

This is the perfect side dish to serve when you are trying to decide what to do with yet another harvest of zucchini and summer tomatoes.

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

It is also a vegetarian main dish (that’s how we had it) with a big green salad. But you could also serve it as a side dish at a summer BBQ or as a seasonal breakfast dish with a poached or fried egg on top.

If you have the zucchini and tomatoes available, the rest of ingredients are standard pantry staples. I used brown rice but white rice would work perfectly as well. If you have some leftover rice from dinner earlier the week, this comes together quite easily.

I want to make a note about salt. Not all salts are the same. I use almost exclusively Diamond kosher salt in cooking. It doesn’t have any additives or anti caking agents. The grains are slightly larger so I would use more of it in a recipe calling for fine sea salt or regular table salt or even another brand of kosher salt. The amounts in the recipe are designed for Diamond kosher salt (yes, as one commenter reminded me, there is a difference in the grain sizes of kosher salts. Morton brand kosher salt grains are smaller). If you are using another type, please use less and taste, taste, taste. You can always add more later but an over-salted dish is difficult to reclaim.

Zucchini, tomato and rice gratin   

serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of uncooked rice, cooked and cooled
  • 5 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, 3-4 medium, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4-5 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, divided in half

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 450 degrees F. Cook your rice by you favorite method.
  2. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat them with olive oil. Spread the zucchini slices on one sheet and the tomato slices on the other, trying to not overlap the slices. Sprinkle each with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  3. Roast the tomatoes and zucchini for 10 minutes and remove the tomatoes from the oven. Flip the zucchini slices and return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the pan. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the onions are limp and tender, 15-20 minutes.
  5. Grease a shallow medium casserole dish (about 2 quart size) with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. In a bowl combine the onion mixture, rice, eggs, spices, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, and half the parmesan.
  7. Spread half the rice mixture in the bottom of the casserole, cover with half the zucchini, spread the remaining rice on top, then the rest of the zucchini, finish with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. I was a little generous with the parmesan on top.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. I found the best browning is on the shelf near the top of my oven.
zucchini, tomato and rice

zucchini, tomato and rice

This recipe was inspired from one in the the blog Smitten Kitchen, I have made my own modifications. It was originally published by SK in 2012; she adapted it from a recipe published in Gourmet in 2008. But it really feels like came from a small provincial kitchen in Italy or France. Don’t make it too fancy, it should be rustic.

In My Garden – July 2020

In My Garden – July 2020

Here we are already past the middle part of the month and I am only just getting around to chronicling events in the garden. Time is somewhat unreal right now. It’s because I am spending so much more time in the garden than writing about it. It seems like there is always so much to do…weeding, harvesting, replanting lettuce and fall greens, pruning, pulling out spent spring annuals, cutting plants back in hopes they will re-bloom, and watering. We don’t get any summer rain and I don’t have an automatic watering system. I know I should put one in but I get enjoyment out of the constant checking. Do they need more water? What about mulch and compost? Are there any bugs damaging them? What about snails and slugs? It’s a full time job and time is something I have in abundance at the present.

So, how is my garden growing? The lush spring bloom is over and fall plants are starting to take over. Here is a glimpse.

The vegetable garden is still producing zucchini, snap and snow peas, cucumbers and the first green beans.

Covering the raised beds with shade cloth or plastic has created different climate zones. Cucumbers have not been successful in past years.

July 2020 Fort Bragg Vegetable garden raised beds

July 2020 Fort Bragg Vegetable garden raised beds

And for the first time I have tomatoes!!!! Although bets are still out if they will actually ripen.

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

The pollinator garden is still going strong although I have had to water it this year. There are lots of native bumblebees all through the garden, they especially seem to like the lavender plants.

Lavender

Lavender

That’s all for now…back to watering. I will see you next month. How is your garden doing?

Stay well and happy gardening.

If you have any gardening questions or want to know details about a particular plant, please leave a comment or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

July – Raw Beet Dip or ‘Making Do’

July – Raw Beet Dip or ‘Making Do’

I think we are all ‘making do’ right now. It might not be as bad as rationing during the last great wars, but it feels like we are under attack just the same. I feel fortunate to have a large garden and belong to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm where I get a box of fresh produce each week. But, unlike my own garden, I don’t get to choose the contents of the box. Turnips…sorry I just can’t get behind them, even pickled. And, although I love beets and chard, enough is enough. Thankfully they don’t include zucchini, of which I have a plethora. But, I have become creative with other items of abundance in the box.

Kale and chard are easily quickly blanched and frozen in one cup portions for soups this winter. Once cooked a huge bunch of either becomes manageable. Kale also makes an amazing raw kale pesto (see a future post for the recipe). And, I have heard it is excellent in green smoothies. Just a rumor.

Beets are delicious roasted and marinated in a simple oil and vinegar dressing. A jar of them in the fridge will make a fantastic addition to a salad with blue cheese and toasted walnuts. They are also excellent pickled, I understand they are a classic on a hamburger in Australia.

And, they are also beautiful and flavorful in this raw beet dip. Okay, I get it, you have your doubts. But believe me this dip was received with raves at a recent outdoor appropriately socially distanced cocktail hour.

How are you making do?

Butchered and shaggy hair has become a symbol of the age of Covid (our salons are closed yet again) in the same way that many of us are sporting the Covid-10 on our waist and hips. My grey roots betray my age as well as how long it has been since I have seen my favorite professional stylist. I can count the months since a professional pedicure in the polish slowly moving down the length of my big toe’s nail. I choose to wear these signs proudly as a sign of adherence to the rules.

Gone are skinny jeans, instead I wear loose fitting boyfriend jeans and an oversized T-shirt. In addition I sport a boyfriend (or husband) haircut, both of us having had a turn with the scissors. He hasn’t done such a bad job actually although I am glad I can’t see the back except with some effort. Could raggedy and un-dyed hair be a new sign of nobility and and frugality? Will the age of Covid result in a whole new standard and definition of beauty? Will I no longer want or need my quarterly routine of three hours of cut and color at a cost of $250?

Will we all wear our manes with an ownership of our own natural beauty…curly or straight, unencumbered by an outgrown standard of comeliness defined by the commercial artistry of an industry?

Anyway, food for thought.

And meanwhile we have this lovely ruby red raw beet dip to keep us happy.

Raw Beet Dip

Raw Beet Dip

You don’t need to cook the beets for this dip. Nor, if you have young and tender ones, do you need to peel them. My own was on the large side, so I did peel it. I used walnuts, but almonds are fine. In the original recipe there was a smear of labneh or Greek yogurt on the base of the dish, I didn’t have either available and we didn’t miss them. Serve this with sliced pita or pita chips or cucumber spears or even potato chips. If you only have one lemon on hand, zest it before juicing, and set the zest aside for garnishing later.

To start, get out your food processor or blender.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. of beets (2-3 small or 1-2 larger ones) ends trimmed and roughly chopped
    • I peeled my large beet but it probably wouldn’t be necessary with smaller ones
  • 1 1/4 cup of walnuts, toasted in a dry skillet on low heat or a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. 1 cup can be whole, chop the additional 1/4 cup for garnish.
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, plus the zest for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, plus more to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil plus more to garnish
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Optional – 1 cup of labneh or Greek yogurt for serving

Method:

  1. Put the beets, 1 cup of walnuts, 3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice, pomegranate molasses, red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt into a food processor or blender.
  2. Puree on high until the beets and nuts are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides and blend again until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
  3. Add the olive oil in a steady stream and blend again. You want a mostly smooth puree.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. You may need more molasses, or lemon juice, or salt.
  5. If desired and available, spoon the labneh or Greek yogurt into a small bowl, smoothing it with the back of a spoon. Spread the beet dip over the top, smoothing again. Top with the 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, the lemon zest, and a generous drizzle of olive oil

Serve with cucumber spears and chips for dipping.

Dip will keep for a week in the fridge, covered.

Raw Beet Dip

Raw Beet Dip

What are you doing to ‘make do’?

This recipe came to me via Alexandra Stafford who writes the blog Alexandra’s Kitchen, she in turn found it in the New York Times by Tejal Rao. We have both made some modifications and adaptations.

I wonder how the folks at Fiesta Friday are making do??? It’s a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie, this week it’s #338 on the Fiesta week list cohosted by Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau

Please come by to sample all the yummy recipes, and get craft and decorating ideas. And please consider adding your own post to the party if you are a blogger. We would love to read what’s going on in your life and kitchen, how you are making do in this crazy time.

July – Spicy Grilled Pork Kabobs with Fennel, Cumin and Coriander

July – Spicy Grilled Pork Kabobs with Fennel, Cumin and Coriander

If you have been following this blog for any time at all you will have noticed that I adore the combination of fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds. This recipe for spicy grilled pork kabobs adds coriander leaves, lime juice, garlic and jalapeno to that magic combo.

See Turkish Lamb Chops for another example.

Turkish Lamb Chops

Turkish Lamb Chops

Those spices char in the high heat of the grill or under the broiler, turning them into an aromatic counter point to the cubes of juicy pork.

If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least an hour before you thread on the pork. I find an empty wine bottle (of which we have an abundance these days) is the perfect size.

If you have time, marinate the pork in the spices for 24 hours before cooking.

Spicy Grilled Pork

Spicy Grilled Pork

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 cubes
  • kosher salt
  • 1 lime, plus extra wedges for serving if desired
  • 1/4 cup cilantro or basil or mint or a combination
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed an peeled
  • 1 jalapeno or other green chili, seeded if you want a milder flavor (I used only 1/2)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds

Method:

  1. Season the pork lightly with kosher salt (use less if using sea or regular salt) and put it into a bowl or resealable plastic bag.
  2. In a small dry skillet toast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds until they become aromatic and golden brown.
  3. Juice the lime into a blender or food processor. Add the cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, jalapeno and honey. Blend until the jalapeno and garlic are pureed. Add the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds and pulse four or five times to bruise the spices and mix them in.
  4. Pour the mixture over the pork, tossing to coat all sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  5. When ready to cook, heat the grill or broiler with a rack 4 inches from the heat source.
  6. Thread the pork onto skewers, leaving a little space between each piece.
  7. Grill or broil over the highest heat possible (2-5minutes) then turn the skewers or pieces and continue cooking on all sides until browned and charred in spots. A little pink in the center is fine but there shouldn’t be any red spots.
  8. Serve sprinkled with additional sprigs of herbs if desired.

 

Spicy Grilled Pork

Spicy Grilled Pork

We served this with grilled zucchini from the garden and sliced tomatoes.

Spicy Grilled Pork

Spicy Grilled Pork

Spicy Grilled Pork

Spicy Grilled Pork

It’s grilling season here in the Northern Hemisphere and this is a perfect dish to bring to Fiesta Friday hosted by the lovely Angie. It’s Fiesta Friday #336 and I am the lucky cohost this week. Click on the link to join the party, discover delicious recipes, fun crafts, decorating and gardening ideas. Please consider adding your own link as well, we would love to get to know you.

In My Kitchen – July 2020

In My Kitchen – July 2020

Another month has passed and we are well into summer. It’s a strange summer with none of the usual holiday markers to indicate the march of time. No Memorial Day, no 4th of July, and I don’t think Labor Day will be different from any other day of the week. I am losing track of time and the date as one day seems much like the one before and the one to come. I’m not (necessarily) complaining as we are all well, have plenty to eat and I am not worried about where the rent payment will come from. I feel very fortunate. But, it seems unreal with so many sad and horrifying events happening around the country and the world. I try to avoid being political on my blog, but I am deeply embarrassed and humiliated by my country right now.

So I retreat into my kitchen (and garden) which has a bounty of richness.

The flowering sweet peas are blooming like crazy. They need to be picked almost daily or they will set seed and stop blooming. I can see the blooms on the dining room table from the kitchen and they smell divine.

Sweet Pea Flowers

Sweet Pea Flowers

On the edible side, I have both snap and snow peas in the garden. It takes a few days to harvest enough for a meal but they are delicious!

Snap and Snow Peas

Snap and Snow Peas

In my kitchen I have the first of the cucumbers from my plastic covered raised beds. I haven’t been able to get any to ripen in past years but the plastic has done the trick, raising the temperature.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

In my kitchen I have zucchini, lots of zucchini, which we adore simply grilled and splashed with good olive oil. I usually salt them for a few minutes before cooking which improves the sweetness and draws out excess water.

Grilled Zucchini

Grilled Zucchini

In my kitchen I have lettuce, this one is so beautiful as it looks like a flower. It’s almost too pretty to eat.

Lettuce

Lettuce from the garden

Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from Nye Ranch has contained bunches of regular and golden beets the last couple of weeks. I pickled a two of pints of each. The golden beets are with rice vinegar and ginger, the red ones with red wine vinegar and star anise.

Also from our CSA I have turnips. I don’t really like turnips, I try but am not having any luck. I hate to throw them into the worm bin so this time I made a quick refrigerator pickle with them. I do like radishes and I know they are in the same family. But, I am simply not a fan. I will let you know if the pickled ones turn me around.

Quick Refrig Pickled Turnips

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Turnips

And in my kitchen I have this lovely broccoli Romanesco.

From Wikipedia:

Romanesco broccoli is an edible flower bud of the species Brassica oleracea. First documented in Italy, it is chartreuse in color. Romanesco has a striking appearance because its form is a natural approximation of a fractal.

Broccoli Romanesco

Broccoli Romanesco

Isn’t it beautiful? Although it looks closer to cauliflower the flavor is more like broccoli.

And, for comfort there has to be something sweet…in our case that’s chocolate, especially milk chocolate.

This post is part of an ongoing monthly summary from kitchens around the world. In My Kitchen is hosted by Sherry, from  Sherry’s Pickings.

Click on the link above for entertaining reading. And consider adding your own post if you are a blogger. We would love to read what is going on in your kitchen.