Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Zucchini-Feta Pie

Over the years, eggs and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship. On the one hand, we go way back. Scrambled eggs were one of the very first meals I learned to cook by myself. (And the first meal Stan cooked for me.) On the other hand, not too long ago I didn’t eat eggs very often because I didn’t like the egg-y taste. In the past year though, I have embraced eggs with a vengeance – and with good reason. Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein around, and they are fast and simple to prepare. Eggs are also incredibly versatile, lending themselves to traditional breakfast dishes as well as heartier lunch and dinner fare.

Today’s recipe for zucchini-feta pie is sort of a cross between a quiche and a frittata. The eggs serve as the glue that holds together a savory mix of shredded zucchini, onions, and garlic. Feta cheese and cottage cheese add richness, salt, and a little tang. We ate the pie for dinner along with roasted sweet potatoes and a tomato onion salad. The leftovers reheated beautifully and made a delicious lunch the next day. The pie would also, of course, be a fantastic addition to any brunch menu. I plan on making this again in the near future, perhaps experimenting with adding spinach, broccoli, or other veggies in place of the zucchini. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

I had another recipe I planned to tell you about today. Actually I have quite a few recipes lined up to tell you about over the next few days. But these biscuits just couldn’t wait. They are total line jumpers, and I am okay with that. Because these biscuits are so fluffy, so rich, so tender, so simple, so… well, amazing, that I needed to tell you about them today.

Since moving to the South, I have had the pleasure of trying many biscuits. Usually they are the kind that have been rolled out and cut into perfect rounds. While they are delicious, I don’t often have the patience to make that kind of biscuit at home. When it’s breakfast time, I’m hungry, and I want to get to the eating – not to the rolling and the cutting. Enter the drop biscuit, the lazy biscuit-maker’s best friend. These little beauties require no dough rolling and no cutting; you just drop spoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheet and pop them in the oven. Easy as could be and quick enough to get on the table before rumbling tummies start to roar.

This particular recipe uses melted butter and buttermilk to give the biscuits rich flavor, a tender crumb, and a crisp exterior. Brushing them with a little melted butter right after they come out of the oven makes them even more decadent. They are delicious on their own, but you could certainly sweeten them up with a drizzle of honey or a smear of jam. I also think they’d make incredible breakfast sandwiches with some eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, or whatever else you like tucked into the middle. However you serve them up, I dare you to eat just one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live, but down here in Nashville, it is beautiful outside. Gone are the days of 100 degree weather and extreme humidity. In their place are clear blue skies and lovely 80 degree days and 60 degree nights. Basically, the weather right now is perfect. And perfect weather demands spending lots of time outside. We’ve been hiking, playing tennis, and selecting restaurants based on their patios. (If you live in the area, the patio at Rosepepper Cantina in East Nashville is one of our warm weather favorites!)

Weather like this is also perfect for cookouts and picnics. Today’s recipe for Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad would be a great addition to any outdoor meal. It’s colorful, flavorful, and easy to put together. You can use any small pasta shape you happen to have in your pantry. I used Israeli couscous because it’s what I had on hand. The little pearls were a fun change from the more commonly used salad pastas. Juicy fresh tomatoes, tangy banana peppers, creamy Monterey Jack cheese, and salty salami and capers round out the dish and make it a fun, different on traditional pasta salad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dimply Plum Cake

In case my last post for Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake didn’t exactly ring your bell, I have another cake to tell you about today. It also has fruit in it, but this time we’re talking plums. Ripe, juicy plums that get syrupy sweet when baked in the oven. And oh my gosh, they are so good. Cooked plums were a new one for me, and they are a revelation. I want to buy more plums so I can bake them, roast them, grill them… and maybe top them with vanilla ice cream.

But I digress. Let me tell you about the cake that turned me on to the wonder of cooked plums. Dimply Plum Cake. A funny name I know, but this cake is simple, flavorful, and versatile. It is a perfect cake for weeknights or unexpected company as it comes together quickly, with relatively few ingredients and little mess. I served it for Rosh Hashanah dessert last night to rave reviews. Which reminds me, Happy New Year to my Jewish readers!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake

I know. This is a weird recipe. Definitely the strangest thing I’ve posted about… and possibly ever made. Before you roll your eyes and close your browser, hear me out. This was not a case of me picking an exotic recipe just so I could blog about it – far from it, in fact. And don’t worry, I’m not turning vegan on you. I love cheese and ice cream waaay too much to give that a go. So what prompted me to make a vegan chocolate cake with avocado buttercream frosting? True friendship.

Recently, one of my dear friends has had to go completely dairy-free. That means no butter, no milk, no sour cream, no buttermilk – pretty much anything that typically goes into cakes and frostings to make them rich, moist, and delicious. So what does that leave you? Apparently avocado, which I discovered while searching for a dessert recipe I could serve to my friend when she and her husband came over for dinner last week.

I’ve used things like apple sauce in cakes before, so the idea of using creamy avocado as a replacement for butter in the cake didn’t seem like such a stretch. As a replacement for the butter in buttercream though – I wasn’t so sure. It turns out that the mashed avocado in the cake isn’t half bad. It doesn’t make the cake taste like avocado and it keeps the cake very moist. In the frosting, well, avocado and butter are definitely not the same thing, so the texture and flavors were not quite the same. However, the avocado flavor was not overwhelming and the frosting was a nice compliment to the cake.

All in all, Stan and our friends really enjoyed the cake. I must admit I didn’t love it, but I’m pretty critical of the things I bake. I found the cake a bit dense and the frosting a little too sweet. However, since my friends and husband liked it, I was plenty happy and wouldn’t hesitate to make the cake again for dairy-free or vegan friends. If you’re looking for vegan recipe, or just want to surprise your family and friends with a green cake, give this one a try.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spinach and Black Plum Salad

Recently I have developed a new addiction. Actually, it’s not a new addiction, just a seasonal one. Every summer since I can remember, I develop compulsive fruit-eating behavior. I blame my parents; they always kept the kitchen stocked with every summer fruit you could ever want. Now, when good fruit is in season, I just can’t stop buying and eating it. Maybe it’s less about my parents and more about growing up in Ohio where there is such a short season for delicious summer fruit. It makes you appreciate it more. Regardless, when peaches, plums, cherries, grapes, figs, and so on are available, it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’m meeting my daily fruit requirement… and then some.

The recipe for today’s salad comes from Padma Lakshmi, the ridiculously gorgeous host of television’s Top Chef. When I first saw her on the show several years ago, I was skeptical of her food chops, assuming she got the job based on her looks rather than her culinary prowess. And while I’m sure her looks didn’t hurt, the girl knows her stuff when it comes to food, having developed her palette through years of world travel. Since I’m a fan of the show, I decided to check out her cookbook. This is the first recipe I’ve tried, but since I found it to be incredibly delicious, I will certainly be trying more.

Today’s salad features some unique flavor combinations and is incredibly easy to make. The base of the salad is tender, leafy spinach mixed with torn fresh mint leaves. At first I was unsure about using so much mint in the salad, afraid it would make the salad taste like dessert – or toothpaste. In reality, the mint adds pops of freshness to the salad without being overwhelming at all. Juicy plum slices add sweetness and nicely counter the slightly tart citrus-balsamic dressing. A sprinkle of sea salt just before serving adds a nice crunch and basically ties everything together. All in all, this simple salad is the perfect vehicle for enjoying fresh summer plums… you know, if we’re not talking about including buttery, sugary toppings.


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