Stuffed Summer Vegetables

Tonight I made more good (in fact, delicious) use of the summer vegetables I bought the other day at the farm. The recipe I used is from Alain Ducasse, and the concept is to stuff a variety of vegetables with several meats, mushrooms and cheese, along with a small amount of the vegetable that is being stuffed.

Chef Ducasse suggests that the stuffed vegetables may include: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and onions. For this meal I used just tomatoes and zucchini. When you are stuffing the eggplant and the tomatoes, the vegetables that go into the filling are supposed to be pre-roasted. I did not have time to do this step, so for the tomatoes I used the filling straight, omitting the tomato confit that was called for in the recipe. Otherwise I followed the instructions more or less as written. The quantity made by the recipe is enough to serve 4-6 people.

First, mince 4 small shallots, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/4 lb mushrooms. Saute the shallots for a minute in a little olive oil and butter over medium heat . Add the garlic, and saute for another minute.

Next add the mushrooms, and saute for an additional minute, then add an extra tablespoonful of olive oil. Optionally, add 2 tablespoons of chopped black truffles to the mixture along with a tablespoonful of truffle oil in place of the olive oil. I added the truffles and they were wonderful!

Set the mushroom and shallot mixture aside.

Next chop 3/4 lb chicken breasts and 2/3 lb boneless leg of lamb into 2-inch chunks, and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat. Season with salt, and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Alain Ducasse advises to leave the meat a little undercooked to avoid drying it out, as it will finish cooking inside the vegetables later on.

Add 1/2 lb of chopped boiled ham to the mixture, then finely mince the meats.
Add the minced meats to the mushroom/shallot mixture, along with 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

Next scoop out the flesh of the vegetables you want to use, and leave the shell to be stuffed with the filling. You can reserve the flesh of the tomatoes, as I did, for a later use. (I will probably use them in a sauce.)

Stuff the vegetables, topping them with their reserved "caps" if desired, as I did with the zucchini below.

Drizzle the vegetables with a little olive oil, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the edges of the vegetables are browned. I put mine under the broiler for a few minutes at the end for extra browning.

Compose a simple salad by drizzling a mesclun mix with lemon and olive oil and sprinkling with a little salt, then mound the salad on a plate and top with the vegetables.

Bon appetit!

Summer Salads! Courtesy of the NY Times


Trofie with Zucchini, Pesto and Walnuts

Tonight I made a meal that felt like a celebration of summer both in its fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as in its simplicity of preparation, important on those days when all you've done is play outside under the beautiful blue sky!

I stopped by a local farm at the end of the day today without a shopping list or any idea at all in my mind of what I would prepare for dinner. Inside, I was met with the sight of so many varieties of wonderful produce - the bounty of summer! - and I filled my cart with all the things that looked best. While in the dry goods section, I noticed a pasta I had never tried before, called trofie. Trofie is a pasta from the Italian region of Liguria, and I learned once I got home that it is most commonly served with a pesto sauce.

I had bought a basket of zucchini while at the market, and as I was flipping through cookbooks for ideas I serendipitously found Alice Waters' recipe that combines zucchini with toasted walnuts and pesto to be served over a pasta, and it seemed all too perfect that I had purchased the trofie to go along with it all.

The first step was making a simple pesto sauce. I combined about a quarter cup of toasted pine nuts with two cloves of garlic and mashed them into a paste with my mortar and pestle.

Next I took a heaping handful of basil leaves from my garden, processed them lightly in my food processor, and mixed them into the pine nuts and garlic along with some salt and pepper, 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Then I julienned one very large zucchini to approximately match the length of the pasta.

Next I put a small amount of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and toasted some walnuts until they became medium brown.

I immediately added the zucchini at this point to stop further browning of the walnuts, and sauteed it until it became just limp, adding a touch of salt.

I boiled the trofie, then just before draining it I added a ladleful of its cooking water to the zucchini mixture, then mixed in the drained pasta along with the pesto sauce and served immediately.

It was very good! It was light but flavorful and took only about 25 minutes from start to finish.


My Dinner Party, July 17, 2009

Tomato Gazpacho

Pain a l'Ancienne

Corn Agnolotti with Summer Truffles

Quail stuffed with Chanterelles, Proscuitto and Marjoram

Chocolate Lavender Pot de Creme


Rice Pudding

Recently our family tried a great rice pudding at an Italian restaurant, which inspired me to look for a better rice pudding recipe than the one I had previously used. I found a recipe online which I adapted a little bit to suit my tastes, and it turned out to be pretty tasty! It was very creamy, not too sweet, and the arborio rice retained a nice texture.


2 quarts whole milk
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
cinnamon, for garnish

Combine milk, rice, sugar, cinnamon stick, butter, vanilla and salt in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Lightly beat the eggs, then temper them by whisking in some of the hot rice mixture. Add the tempered eggs into the rest of the rice, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Pour the pudding into a large serving dish, sprinkle with cinnamon, and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.


Potato Leek Soup and Fresh Tomato Salad

Summertime rocks! We have a new farmer's market in our neighborhood and couldn't resist picking up some huge, wonderful leeks and field-fresh tomatoes.

Tonight I made potato leek soup with a cream and chive garnish. And to accompany, a fresh tomato salad with unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, fresh basil, and cracked salt and pepper.


Chicken Soup

This is one of the recipes that no one ever taught me how to make, I just did it in my own way from the outset. It is so simple, yet so satisfying, and it even has a special "signature ingredient" without which it would not be "my" chicken soup and would definitely seem to be missing a certain something to me and my family.

My special ingredient is tarragon, a wonderful herb that is reminiscent of anise in its aroma. I use it either dried or fresh, depending on what I have on hand. I always add it toward the end of cooking, so that the flavor is fresh and pronounced.

Another component that always goes into my chicken soup is fresh, homemade egg noodles. Making fresh egg noodles is a key technique in this household, as I have made many an impromptu meal from this simple dough consisting of only flour and eggs. It yields a fresh, classic pasta that can be topped with any number of other ingredients or filled to make a ravioli. When I use it in soup as egg noodles, I roll it out just a little thicker than I would for a pasta.

First I start just as I would for a chicken stock, filling a pot with water, a whole chicken, and aromatics such as celery, leek tops, parsley. onions (skin on for color), a small sprig of thyme, peppercorns and a little salt. This cooks for about 90 minutes.

I remove the chicken and chop it up.

Meanwhile I make the pasta dough by kneading together 3 eggs with 2 cups of flour, and then passing the dough through a pasta machine.

The dough is then cut into strips.

To finish the soup, I strain the broth through a colander into a clean pot to remove all of the stock ingredients, then I add some sliced carrots to the boiling broth. After they have become almost tender enough, I add the noodles to cook for about 2-3 minutes, along with the fresh or dry tarragon and extra salt to taste. The chopped chicken pieces are then added back to the soup and it is ready to serve.

A perfect bowl of nourishment on a rainy night or for a family member who is feeling a little under the weather...

(A little note: if I make this soup in advance I always refrigerate the broth overnight before finishing the soup so that I may skim off the chicken fat that floats to the top; in that case I would make the noodles the following day.)