This was another short week of cooking. My sister’s wedding was in Halifax, so I we left just a few days after I picked up my share. My freezer is full now that it’s received a Summer’s worth of pesto-packed ice cube trays, garlic scapes bagged in their raw state, and an arrangement of fully-cooked meals that would make a new mother swoon. So we ate some pretty big meals in an attempt to whittle down our Bialas Farms pile of goods, which included:
- Green Beans
- Italian Eggplant
- Fresh Dill
- Bok Choy
- Kirby Cukes
Starting with this zucchini butter, which in fact contains no butter at all. I saw a gorgeous version posted on Local Haven’s website, and had to make it for myself.
I made Local Haven’s recipe almost to the letter, adding a little bit of lemon thyme to the zucchini while it was cooking. It does end up the consistency of butter, hence the name. It’s soft and spreadable, and perfect on lightly toasted focaccia. I topped mine with some of my abundant corn supply using my new technique of scoring and microwaving the ears, which you can read about in this post.
I made a ton of zucchini butter. Perhaps I was expecting a visit from the President and had anticipated that he would like zucchini butter. Having no clear indication about whether it would freeze well, I ended up incorporating the remaining butter into a great veggie-packed Bolognese sauce.
I actually made the sauce in my slow cooker, having no desire to monitor a pot for a few hours. Usually I brown the meat as well, but came across a recipe that said to brown the vegetables and then just crumble the raw meat into the slow cooker. I thought no browned meat, no flavor? But gave it a try because I was a) feeling lazy or b) curious (I’ll let you figure out the answer to that one). Turns out that it was really flavorful with all of the vegetables, and the sauce had a pleasantly soft texture – just make sure to cook your noodles al dente or you’ll be eating hospital food.
To make the beef & zucchini Bolognese:
I made a recipe that I found at the Cooking Channel , using only 1 lb of ground beef instead of a pork/sirloin blend. In place of the extra lb of meat, I swapped in about a half pound of zucchini butter during the stage where you sautee the vegetables.
On Sunday night we made a big feast in my attempt to use every last bit of green in my fridge. We ate a yogurt-marinated leg of lamb, which I’ve made in the past – it’s moist and crispy all at the same time, plus it allows me to get my grill on for something other than burgers. Also on the table were some marinated beets, a simple tomato and feta salad, homemade tzatziki, tabbouleh and a big green salad. Served with some grilled flatbread, it was a total winner – the type of dinner where the kids are satisfied because, well, buffet – it’ll please them every time.
In my opinion, the best thing about these dinners is the leftovers. Some people hate leftovers, their mistake being that they eat them in the exact same format as the night before. I love leftovers – they’re a quick-fix meal, delicious because you’ve already put effort into the individual components – the key is to arrange the ingredients into a new format. Sometimes I even cook some additional food and throw it into the mix to really change things up.
These tabbouleh bowls were nothing more than a heaping plate of tabbouleh, piled with sliced meat from the night before, the beets, and then some newly-sliced radishes and cucumbers. I ended up dolloping some of the tzatziki on top, but you could make a really great tahini dressing by mixing a few tablspoons of tahini with some lemon juice and olive oil.
I’ve already mentioned the fresh mozzarella that I get at the farmer’s market. On Saturday I picked up another 1 lb ball which immediately I tore into chunks and ate with some heirloom tomatoes and some fresh basil from the garden. I’m silently weeping about the fact that this meal will disappear from the repertoire in only a few short weeks.
So I’m consoling myself with chickpeas, recognizing that they’re available in canned or bagged format every day of the year. And they’re pretty darn good when they’re fried and topped with some sliced veggies. In the picture you’ll see some sliced cucumbers and zucchini chips – I figured with my beet and potato chip success that zucchini would be a natural in chip form. But…..they’re a tough texture to nail with such a high moisture content. I’m sure that with the right equipment (e.g. a dehydrator) they’d be a cinch to bake into crispy form but with an oven they weren’t the total success I was hoping for. At 20 minutes: floppy; 30 minutes: floppy; 35 minutes: floppy, 40 minutes: burnt. But still tasty.
I made two trays and while they didn’t make it into a festive bowl to join us for sunset-watching, I did snag a few right from the baking sheet, and ate them alongside the chickpeas. Topped with some lemon juice and a drizzle of liquid gold, aka Other Brother olive oil from my Hatchery box.
By the way, did I just mention sunset-watching? RIP bottle of Patron, you’ve been the star of the show all Summer. Don’t tell the vegetables.
Generally when you see this kind of something-in-a-mason jar action shot on another food blog, it’s an almond milk smoothie, or perhaps a layered vegan coconut yogurt parfait. There is nothing healthy about this – it’s 100% margarita, built for our sunset viewing pleasure.
I made these with some of my leftover lemon verbena simple syrup from the garden, a ton of juiced limes, Patron, Cointreau, and because I’m now obsessed with fancy salted rims, some more of that salted chipotle pepper business.
And now, from margaritas to kid-friendly cakes. A natural segue.
Emma’s 3rd birthday happened while we were away in Halifax for my sister’s wedding, so on Tuesday before we left for Canada, we baked her a cake. I’m not sure if birthdays follow the same policy as weddings where the goods are not to be viewed until the very last moment. Should a cake be hidden from the guest of honor until the candles come out? I’m not sure the answer, but maybe a kind, informed reader will know.
With three munchkins eager to help with the cake, it’s hard to keep things under wraps. So I put Emma to work and she helped decorate her own cake, which I still feel is along the lines of buying your own gift. We plowed ahead regardless, keeping things simple by layering a whole bunch of strawberries as the decoration. Was it part of my master plan to make a strawberries and cream cake to use up 4 containers of leftover strawberries from my overeager farmer’s market purchase? I’ll never tell; what matters is that Emma was over the moon about the strawberries on her cake. Which she ate with a uniquely 3-year-old method of picking up the entire slice and burying her face in it.
To make the strawberries & cream birthday cake:
This cake is pretty simple – bake your favorite two-layer vanilla birthday cake. I like the version from The Magnolia Bakery. When the cake is cooling, make your frosting. Any old frosting will do as long as it’s white. My favorite approach is to make a really good buttercream and then make some additional whipped cream which I fold into the frosting to lighten it. I didn’t do that this time because my whipped cream had separated into butter in the fridge and there was no way of whipping it at that point. But the cake was still delicious, so you can go either way.
Take your first layer, slicing the very top with a serrated knife if necessary to make it even, and then spread the frosting over the whole bottom layer. You can crumb coat it if you’d like, but since this is a kids’ birthday cake, I didn’t make the extra effort. On top of the frosting, layer sliced strawberries to cover the cake entirely. Place the second layer on top, frost, and then place your final layer of strawberries over the top.
Alongside our cake we ate a simple dinner or roast chicken, green salad, and corn on the cob. My husband asked me what he wanted me to do with the chicken bones, and if you’ve read this post about homemade stock, you’ll assume that I likely froze the bones for down-the-road stock-making. But with limited freezer space, my only option was to make the stock overnight in the slow cooker. I don’t tend to make things overnight, but I’m going to start doing it more- who needs chicken bones taking up space in the freezer when your slow cooker can produce a golden stock while you sleep? And lo and behold, I was able to use up some leftover CSA carrots, onion, and herbs in the process. Victory!
When I strained my broth the next morning I was left with about a pint of stock that wouldn’t fit into my quart-sized freezer container, so I did what any harried parent would do on a morning that involved international travel: I made soup.
Under Rodney’s sidelong murderous glance, I hurriedly chopped a full zucchini, simmered it in the leftover stock, whisked an egg & lemon in a separate bowl, tempered the yolks, and added it back to the soup on the stove to thicken. Add some torn dill, and in 5 minutes flat, I had a pretty tasty avgolemeno-style chicken soup. Not classic breakfast food, and certainly not the kind of food that you eat when you’re in a rush, but sometimes a CSA will induce strange behaviors and this is Exhibit A.
To make the zucchini avgolemono soup:
If you’re making this soup for one person, heat a pint of chicken stock in a small pot on medium heat. While the stock is warming, dice 1 small zucchini into smallish pieces and then add to the soup. Let the zucchini simmer for a few minutes to soften. While the zucchini is simmering, whisk an egg and the juice of a small lemon in a separate bowl. When the zucchini is soft, but still has a little bit o bite, turn the heat to low and slowly ladle some of the soup into the egg/lemon mixture, whisking while you incorporate. Then add this mixture back to the soup, whisking still to make sure that you’re not scrambling the eggs- you want a thick and creamy mixture. Cook the soup slowly for about a minute, and then season with salt, freshly-ground black pepper and some chopped dill.
So that’s a wrap for this week. Next week will not be a CSA post because I wasn’t able to pick up my box while traveling. Hopefully my vegetables found good homes and have sautéed their way into a few dazzling dishes. But I will have something to replace the post, so stay tuned….