Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce

We are doing a farm share again this summer, only this time it’s a full share and we’re actually doing a semi-decent job of getting through it each week before it goes bad. Only a few casualties. It helps that we didn’t get weeks worth of greens and lettuce this year, it has been much more diverse of a vegetable selection. The past few weeks we’ve had a fair number of zucchini, and so I’ve been trying out some recipes before I take the remainder of the zucchini and puree it for my son. One recipe I’ve worked on has been zucchini cakes – kind of like a fritter – but haven’t quite gotten the right combo yet. This recipe I tried tonight was a winner though, so I am sharing it here. We stuffed the zucchini with a lamb mixture, and the sauce is a pint of cherry tomatoes (mostly yellow, with a few of the purple ones we are growing thrown in) cooked down and de-skinned:

For the Zucchini:

2-3 fat zucchini (or any sort of summer squash will work)

1 lb ground lamb (you can use pork or veal or even beef)

2 small eggs

1/3 cup breadcrumb

1/3 cup grated parmesan

1 onion, sliced thin

1 large garlic clove, sliced thin

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt & pepper

olive oil

For the Sauce:

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

5-6 leaves of basil

salt

For the zucchini, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a saucepan over medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the sliced onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is soft and lightly browned, stirring often. In a bowl combine the lamb, breadcrumb, cheese, thyme (just the leaves), chopped parsley, eggs, and the cooked garlic & onion mix. Add a generous pinch of salt a pinch of pepper to the mixture and make sure it is all well combined. Set aside.

Take the washed zucchini and cut in half lengthwise – try to make the halves as even as possible. Take a spoon and remove the insides of the zucchini. I just removed the softer seedy portion and left most of the flesh inside so it would make a nice secure boat for the meat. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the inside of the hollowed out zucchini and place it onto an oiled cookie sheet. Fill each half with a generous portion of the lamb mixture.

Place the zucchini into the oven and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until the meat is well browned. If you check and the meat is not cooked through, you can cover the tray with a piece of tin foil and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes to be safe.

For the Sauce:

Take a small saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil and garlic. Brown garlic lightly, and then add the cherry tomatoes and the basil and cook down until the tomatoes are soft and the skins are easily removed. If you start it when you place the zucchini in the oven, the sauce will be done by the time the zucchini is. I remove the skins from the sauce once they are loose because I find them hard to digest (mmm..TMI!) but you can do whatever makes you happy.

To serve just spoon the sauce over the stuffed zucchini and enjoy!

A Word on Meatballs and the Resulting Chicken Meatloaf

I have been absent a long long while. And boy have I missed the blogging. I had a baby (boy) in early March and that has eclipsed my free time and basically every other time in between and so I am just now starting to come up for air. Figures that I need to go back to work in 2 weeks. Not a whole lot of quality cooking going on since the bubs arrived but I did stumble upon an accidental improvement to my meatball recipe which I am pleased about. This applies to any sort of meatball too – in fact I was attempting to make chicken meatballs and this is what happened… sorry no photo this time, but I do hope to get back to a semi-regular posting schedule soon. And by soon I mean some time before my son turns 1.

This recipe is essentially a meatball recipe which ended up turning into a chicken meatloaf instead. I was going to make some snacks to go along with the yummy mint juleps we were sipping for the Kentucky Derby  and I thought chicken meatballs would be an interesting alternative, but the chicken sort of broke down and I added an extra egg and viola! SUPER-moist and tasty chicken meatloaf:

1 lb ground chicken (dark meat is better)

1 small onion chopped small

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

2-3 sliced of bread soaked in water

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take onion and garlic, lightly salted and saute in the olive oil until soft and lightly browned. I find that cooked garlic and onions adds another dimension of richer flavor versus just adding them raw to the mix. Let the onions and garlic cool slightly. Take the bread and squeeze out the extra water and add it to the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. I like the bread a little chunky and will use whatever we have laying around (rolls, white bread, wheat, egg, etc). You could use breadcrumb instead but I couldn’t tell you what amount to use.

Add the cooled garlic and onions and mix thoroughly. If you can do this in advance and allow the mix to “marinate” in the fridge for an hour or two that is good but it will be fine if made immediately as well.

Pour mix into a loaf pan (I used a glass one but I presume metal would work fine) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees.

The extra egg and the bread soaked in water (you could also use milk) are what make this meatloaf extra moist, and the cooked onion and garlic add that extra kick to the flavor.

I eat mine with a little lemon spritzed on it, but it would be great with some tomato sauce or salsa, or a brown gravy if that’s what you prefer.

Random Bag Night – Lamb Meatballs with Sauteed Greens and Spiced Yogurt

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a Random Bag Night mostly because we haven’t been home a lot so there is very little in the way of leftovers and the farm share veggies have kept us occupied on the culinary front. The following recipe is very easy, provided you can find ground lamb in your local market, and is a different spin on something I’ve made a few times for this blog – meatballs. These meatballs differ slightly (aside from the variety of meat) in their contents from traditional meatballs and the turkey variety as I added cooked shallot and garlic which I don’t normally do. The lamb meat needs a little extra flavor to tame the gaminess of it and round it out. To accompany my lamb balls, I sauteed some radish greens in olive oil and garlic and I made a spiced yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below).

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground lamb

2-3 slices white bread soaked in a little milk (I used 2 hot dog rolls)

1/3 cup grated parmesian

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place the minced garlic and shallot in a small saute pan with the olive oil and saute on medium heat until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic & shallots to the ground lamb. Add remaining ingredients above and mix well with your hands, making sure that all the flavors are incorporated. I like to leave the bread a little chunky so it gives added texture to the meatball.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam or olive oil spray, take a small palmful of the lamb mixture and roll into a ball. Place each meatball on the tray. It’s important to make sure the meatballs are all roughly the same size so that they cook evenly in the oven. Once oven is hot, place the meatballs in and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. The meatballs should be good and golden brown like the photo above.

For the yogurt sauce:

1/3 cup greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

6-7 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

pinch of salt

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow the sauce to sit for a while in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes while the meatballs cook) so that the flavor develops.

Cravings – Corned Beef Hash with Eggs + Cheese

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I’ve been craving corned beef hash for weeks now. No idea why, it’s been years since I”ve had it, and NO, I am NOT preggers.  When I was much younger, this was a favorite breakfast treat. It’s in no way a healthy breakfast, but it is definitely high on the satisfaction scale. It’s rich, almost creamy, heavy meaty goodness. And, it’s pretty easy. This recipe will feed 3 hungry people:

1 can Mary’s corned beef hash

3 eggs

1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Place corned beef hash into a frying pan large enough to spread it out into a layer about 1/2 inch-3/4 inch thick. Turn the heat to medium high and start to heat up the hash, stirring occasionally, for about 5-6 minutes or until it is completely warmed through. Make 3 small wells in your layer of hash, and crack an egg into each well. Top the hash with the cheddar and place a lid over the whole pan. Allow the hash to cook for another 5-6 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. The hash will get a nice crust on the bottom and the eggs + cheese just add to the delicious experience.

I like to eat this with toast or a bagel.

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Mango Tomatillo Salsa

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I was craving pork chops today. Not sure why, this kind of thing just sneaks up on me sometimes. So I picked up some pork chops on the way home tonight and now I am happily satiated while I write this post. Over the weekend I had gone to WholeFoods and picked up 2 mangoes and a few tomatillos. I’ve never used tomatillos before so I thought I would give it a shot. I had also picked up some watercress and some baby potatoes which we grilled over the weekend. The end result is the pretty plate you see above. The star of the show was the fresh salsa I made from the tomatillos and mango, though the potatoes with ramps didn’t suck either. Here is the recipe for the mango salsa, etc:

Mango & Tomatillo Salsa

1 ripe fresh mango, cut into small chunks

4 tomatillos, roasted (will explain below)

4-5 thin slices red onion

handful chopped fresh cilantro

Juice from 1/2 lime (i used a whole lime and it was too much)

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon olive oil (for tomatillos)

your favorite hot pepper – I omitted chiles this time because we didn’t have any in the house but you could use jalapenos, serranos, etc. 

Peel the outer leaves from the tomatillos and wash the sticky goo off them. Slice into relatively thick pieces, douse with olive oil and salt and place under your broiler on high for about 5-6 minutes or until it starts to nicely brown. Remove from the heat and allow the tomatilloes to cool. In the meantime, assemble the other ingredients above in a bowl and allow the flavors to mingle for a while. When the tomatillos are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and add the pulp to your salsa. The skin of the tomatillos should come right off – it’s similar to cooked tomato skin.

This salsa would be good with pork, chicken or fish, or just on it’s own with some chips.

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For the pork chops:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

flour – enough to coat the chops in

4-5 chops, bone in (though without the bone is fine, they cook faster)

garlic salt 

Coat the pork chop in flour and sprinkle with garlic salt to taste. In the meantime melt the butter along with the olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling (but not brown), add the pork chops. You may have to work in batches depending on the size of your pan. Allow the chops to brown on one side before flipping over. They should cook about 5-6 minutes per side, depending on how thick they are. 

Along with the chops, I reheated the grilled potatoes with ramps in a tiny bit of olive oil on the stove top to warm the potatoes and crisp them up a bit. And as for the watercress, I dressed it very lightly in olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Grill Ready Ribs ‘n Chicken

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(Updated with Pic !)  I’m sorry I don’t currently have pics for this post…. if I take one after everything hits the grill I will post it up. I couldn’t reach for the camera while my hands were all meated-up and we’ve been busy hosting parents so the house is a bit busy.

But I digress … it is an abso-freakin-lutely amazing weekend with perfect weather and we are totally taking advantage of it with a back yard BBQ. We impulsively purchased a rib rack last weekend at home depot so we are putting it to good use today with some grilled ribs. The ribs, purchased at Costco for cheap (and they are really nice!) are very easy to prepare:

Dry grill rub – even mix of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, some chili powder, and maybe a touch of salt

2-3 tablespoons of aplle cider vinegar per ziploc

several gallon ziploc bags – depends on how much you are making

Rub the ribs down with the dry rub in the morning and place them in the ziploc with the vingar and allow them to marinate all day until you are ready to grill. 

For friends who don’t eat pork, we are making grilled chicken breast with the following marinade:

1 generous pinch of herbs de provence (we got ours from Herb Lyceum farm – it has some lavendar in it)

1/2 cup white wine

generous pinch of garlic salt

Several chicken breasts

Place all ingredients in the ziploc and marinate for the day ! 

I’ll post an update later today with pictures and more recipes for sides and cocktails.

Happy grilling !

Bastardizing Bolognese with Venison Sausage

dsc_0173(I’m going to resist the urge to yet again bitch about the weather, after all, I DID volunteer to move up here 2 years ago…but suffice it to say, the urge for comfort food continues to dominate)

My mother makes an amazing bolognese sauce, simmered for more than 3 hours to a delicious meat-tastic lip smacker of a sauce. My hubby makes an excellent lamb bolognese which he too simmers for hours until it is delicious and slightly gamy (in a good way). So it’s MY turn. And if you haven’t figured it out already, I have no patience and/or attention span, so this one is for the faster cooks out there who like their meat-sauciness to be ready in less than an hour. The ingredients are kind of a crap shoot, since I haven’t been to a supermarket in over a week, and I kind of made things up as I went along. The star of the dish – the venison sausage – was something my future brother-in-law is responsible for (along with my father-in-law) so it isn’t something we have around often or really ever. You can definitely use any sort of favorite sausage in this recipe, but if you are brave (not afraid of snacking on bambi) and you know a hunter, venison sausage is really truly worth trying. Here is what made it into the sauce pot:

Generous coating of olive oil

Approx 1lb sausage, cut into chunks

4-5 small shallots, finely sliced

Generous handful of baby carrots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup sliced carrots)

1/2 package of mushrooms, diced

2 heaping tablespoons (small handful) dried mushrooms, soaked in 1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons half n half (or milk, or cream)

1 can tomatoes, ground or diced (I used leftover tomato sauce from the freezer)

1/2 cup red wine

Pinch of red pepper flakes

small handful fresh chopped parsley

salt & pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan, coat the bottom with olive oil and turn the heat on to a medium setting. Add shallots and carrots and saute until softened (about 5 minutes). I like to salt as I go along, so I add a small pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes at this point. Add sausage, increase heat to med-high, and start to brown the meat (about 3 mins).  Add fresh mushrooms, and allow to soften for about 2 minutes. You should be stirring every so often throughout this entire process.

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Add dried mushrooms plus their soaking liquid and the wine, plus another pinch of salt. Allow the liquid to simmer at a high heat until cooked down some – about 5-7 minutes. Add half & half, stir, simmer for 1 more minute. Add tomato.

At this point you can start your pasta water. Lower the sauce to a med-low setting and allow the sauce to cook down. Once the pasta is about 3-4 minutes from being done, add parsley to the bolognese sauce. I used a short pasta (like Penne) for this sauce, I think it handles the sauce better than a long pasta (spaghetti) would.

When you are ready to serve, add some grated Parm and chow down!