Monday, June 25, 2012

When The Moon Hits Your Eye

If you picked up on the Dean Martin reference, you must be thinking, "Yes! She's finally made a pizza!" And you'd be right! It was beautiful! See?

My roommates and I had dinner together the other night, and I had an abundance of cherry tomatoes from Julie's garden and yet more basil from both my backyard and Karen's. What can you do with basil and tomatoes? Well, many things. But margarita pizza might just be my favorite. The small tomatoes actually made for a great topping.

Even though I would be content eating pizza all day, everyday, I wanted to add something healthy. We had even more tomatoes from my roommate's nameless friend, plus cucumbers from Julie and said nameless friend:

With all this fresh produce (plus some non-garden greens and carrots we needed to use up), salad was in order. I really like the salad/pizza combination, especially when an Italian vinaigrette is in the mix. I don't have a picture of it, but I made a simple balsamic dressing which included some local Goodflow honey. The salad was very pretty on its own:

I also must confess that I did not make the pizza crust -- I bought it at Central Market. I've always been pretty impressed with their in-store bakery items, and their pizza crust is great. This meal overall came together at the last minute, and my roommates and I had a great time sharing it.

What Happens When I am Lazy in the Kitchen

Most of the time, I plan my meals ahead and create my shopping lists based on recipes. As I've been receiving all this great garden produce, I've been planning my meals around those local ingredients. But on occasion, life will catch up to me. I'll realize I have extra garden food and no more meals planned and I'm just too lazy to go back to the grocery store. That's when something like this happens:

I've been calling it "zucchini hash", and truthfully, it was only so-so. Definitely not my best meal. I grated one of Jessica's zucchinis, sauteed it with olive oil and Vidalia onion. Then I threw in some Japanese green beans from Karen's garden. The green beans were incredibly long -- almost two feet! Take a look at them next to the zucchini:

I topped the "hash" with feta from Wateroak Farms and some oregano from Karen's garden. The green beans were the highlight. They turned out rather sweet and complemented the sweet onion and cheese. The zucchini unfortunately soaked up too much oil, so I've learned my lesson for next time (if there is a next time for this dish...) Here's a closing shot:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Oh Me-oh, My-oh, Pico de Gallo

It's been a while, I must admit. And I've had some lovely meals since my last post, but sadly, not enough of them were at home. However, last weekend, I was bestowed with a near-truckload of garden-grown tomatoes and jalapenos, and I could think of nothing better to make than pico de gallo.

It's the simplest of recipes -- chop tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and some cilantro, throw it all in a bowl with some salt, and voi la (or should I say "aqui es"?) Anyway, I was short on cilantro and didn't feel like going out to get some. So I sufficed with the rest, and it was as tasty as it looks:

I should also point out that this pico contained a purple Cherokee heirloom tomato and some adorable little jalapenos, all from Julie's garden. I also used tomatoes from my roommate's friend's garden (and I don't know her, so I can't give her proper credit, but her tomatoes were lovely). Here's the produce:

And just for good measure, here's a shot of the whole bowl. It lasted for almost a week, and it made for a good snack while watching HBO's John Adams miniseries for 4 hours straight.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My (Zucchini) Muffin Top Is All That

Confused by the title of this post?

When Jessica gave me the onslaught of zucchini, I knew immediately I wanted to make zucchini bread for the first time. Jessica recommended I use a large zucchini for bread because it tends be dryer than small-to-medium pieces. I wish I had gotten a picture of the big boy, but you can see that it singularly produced a colander full of shreds:

The recipe I used was from Smitten Kitchen, and it called for 3 eggs. I didn't have any, so I went over to Karen's and picked up half a dozen eggs. Her hens just started laying, and some of their eggs are adorably tiny:

Due to a lack of bread pans, I decided to make muffins. I was a little worried as to how they'd turn out. But everything came together, and I ended up with two dozen muffins. Aren't they pretty?

Eat Your Heart Out, Garfield

As I said in my last post, my lasagna is kinda famous. People love it so much, they want to have babies just so I'll make them one. Generally, I try to be modest, but one thing I'll own, completely and unwaveringly, is my ability to make a damn good lasagna. Take a look at the one I made this week (using the last of that beautiful marinara):

Is your mouth watering? It should be. This one is a bit healthier than my normal recipe. I used whole wheat noodles, mixed the ricotta with leftover tofu, and layered it with sliced zucchini.

The zucchini is from Jessica's garden. Remember Jessica? She's the apocalypse-proof urban homesteader, and she is growing mammoth zucchinis. She sent me home with a bag full, so the next few posts will involve zucchini in some form. Here's a shot of them, pre-lasagna:

Because this lasagna was so pretty, I have to show more pictures:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Healthy and Italian: Not an Oxymoron

I really love bringing food to families just after they've had a new baby. One of my single friends once told me that she would have a baby just so I'd make her lasagna. I don't know that it's worth pushing a tiny human out of your vag and then raising it for 18 years (and supporting it financially indefinitely) just for a Gina-made meal. But I appreciate the sentiment.

I recently brought some food to a couple who had their first child, and they said they like Italian and healthy food. I had a childhood of Nutella, white bread, and chicken parm, so I know fully well that these two categories do not often go together. But they are not mutually exclusive. Italian food is often healthy, as long as you don't fry things or smother them in chocolate-hazelnut butter.

The solution, then, was to make a variation on my grandmother's exquisite tomato salad recipe. It is one of my favorite dishes. Ever. It's simply tomatoes, garlic, onions, olive oil, salt, and basil. The beauty of it is when the olive oil mixes with the tomato juice. Italian families fight over the last bits of bread so they can sop up this tomato-olive oil juice after eating the salad.

For this meal, I used the rest of the lovely yellow tomatoes, along with some classic reds. I also added the last of Karen's cucumbers. I mixed them with straight-from-Georgia Vidalia onions and garlic, plus more basil also from Karen's garden. It is summer incarnated into food. Here are the glamor shots:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let Me See Your Casserole

I'll just say this up front -- I'm not ashamed to be cheesy. When I came up with the title for this post, I was thinking of this early 90s classic. I'm not so good at booty dancing, but I am good at throwing together a bunch of ingredients in a Pyrex dish, topping them with cheese, and baking them for 30-45 minutes. Simply put, I love casseroles.*

So, despite the increasing June temperatures, it should come as no surprise that I made a casserole last Sunday. I made a variation on a spinach-rice caserole recipe that's in a Better Homes & Gardens vegetarian cookbook that my mom gave me. (It's probably as old as that rap video. I'm pretty sure it's the only vegetarian cookbook my mother has ever owned.)

Anyway, I used this kale from Karen's garden instead of spinach. Kale is definitely on its way out for the season, leaving these greens pretty bitter. Hence, the caserole was the best way to make them tasty.

The recipe also called for 8 oz. of tofu, and I used locally-made, non-GMO tofu from a little company called White Mountain. I know some people get weirded out by tofu, and I'm sure this picture will do it, with the bumps on the side. But trust me, if you're gonna go with tofu, this is the stuff to use:

I also used some of the marinara sauce, previously seen on the spaghetti squash. The final product was hot, cheesy, and delicious, the way a casserole should be. Unfortunately, it was hard to get a good plated shot of it, but you get the idea here:

*Over the years, I have had a number of roommates of South Asian decent, who have mothers who make amazing, non-casserole food.  When my roommate from grad school met another former roommate, she asked her about my casserole habit. It was pretty funny.