Heirloom Treasures

This is not about cooking, and certainly not a recipe except for the fact that I often find adding one special beautiful and tasty thing to an ordinary meal can turn the evening into a celebration.  Heirloom tomatoes can do that. I like to grow them, so I find that joy part of their goodness. Besides, they are way too expensive in the stores when you can find them. Each type of heirloom tomato has a distinctive color and flavor.

I like just about anything with a story, and every variety of heirloom vegetables comes with history, with story.  My daughter in law, Kristen, also loves to grow these beauties, and she arranged these with some of our garden basil and a few olives on a platter for a family meal last week. On this plate are Cherokee Purple, Eva Purple Ball, Louisiana Pink, Kosovo, and Paul Robeson tomatoes.  I believe the bright yellow slices are from a Russian Heirloom tomato, but I misplaced the tag when planting and I honestly do not remember.  Another favorite way to use these tomatoes is in Caprese salad, made by simply adding slices of whole milk mozzarella and a few splashes of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Quoted from another of my blogs, http://www.mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com, which is a collection of family stories.

I find heirloom plants intriguing, and am thankful for the pleasure gardening brings to all of us.  I believe the love of gardening is another heirloom, one passed down to me and mine from my parents and grandparents, who first showed me how to garden, but also introduced me to delicious fresh food on our table.  Long before the current farm to table trends, I knew that eating local (as in very local, our own garden) tasted better and helped to keep us healthy.  

Celebrating Heirlooms!

Parmesan Roasted Yellow and Zucchini Squash with Red Pepper

It is summer vegetable time again.  We are doing lots of grilling for meats, vegetables, pineapple – but if it is not good weather for grilling outside, oven roasted meats and veggies are great too!  We recently had this beautiful roasted squash, pepper, and Parmesan dish with roasted pork tenderloin and fresh fig sauce. Great combination!  My version of this recipe originates from Dan Kluger, ABC Kitchen.

7 or 8 medium sized yellow squash and zucchini, sliced in diagonal chunks

1 Sweet red pepper, cut in large pieces

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

Zest of 1 lemon,  rest of lemon reserved to add before serving

 sea salt

Crushed red pepper flakes

Put squash, pepper, and zucchini chunks into a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the  olive oil (save some for drizzling on top), salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Add Parmesan and toss until vegetables are well coated.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a rack; spray rack with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread squash, pepper, and zucchini pieces evenly on prepared rack. Transfer to oven and roast until tender and lightly caramelized, 12 -15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and let cool slightly; transfer to a large platter. Drizzle vegetables with remaining olive oil. Zest lemon over squash and cut lemon into wedges; squeeze lemon over squash. Season with sea salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper; serve immediately.

Stuffed 8 Ball Zucchini

Last Saturday I found these little squash at the Farmers Market in Sugar Land.  They are a hybrid squash, named 8 Ball Squash, that can be used much like Zucchini.  They are perfect for stuffing.

The stuffing I used is a variation of a recipe I found online, but any number of ingredients can be used.  I will try adding some fresh herbs and pine nuts the next time I make these. You could also try different cheeses or even add cooked ground meat.  I have often stuffed long zucchini.  My family calls those Zucchini Boats.  These look a bit like Zucchini Muffins!  I have planted a squash in my garden called Cupcake Squash and I can’t wait to see what that squash looks like!

Stuffed 8 Ball Squash

3-4   8 Ball Zucchini

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 tomato, peeled and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)

Salt

Ground black pepper

1 cup water, or less.  See directions.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the tops off each zucchini. Set aside and reserve for later. Hollow out with spoon, chop,  and reserve the pulp.

Add bacon pieces to skillet and cook until bacon is brown.  Add the reserved chopped zucchini pulp, tomato, Italian seasoning, and onion and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked down. Remove pan from heat, add bread crumbs and 2/3 of the cheese reserving some for topping. Stir well to combine all ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. Stuff each hollowed zucchini with mixture. Place in a shallow baking dish or pan and add chicken stock to a depth of about 1/4 inch. Place the pan in oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and top each zucchini with extra cheese. Place the reserved zucchini tops in the pan, return to oven and cook for 20 more minutes or until the zucchini is tender. Lift out stuffed squash to serving dish and add tops.

Garden Vegetable Pie

There are a variety of recipes for pies or tarts using summer vegetables. I find some in my cookbook collection; many more are found online. Some recipes use a crust for the pie, others do not. A combination of eggs and cheese makes the dish set up so that it can e sliced into wedges.  Some would say that makes this a fritttata or crustless quiche, but plain old pie works just fine for me. Almost any assortment of fresh vegetables can be combined but I got great responses last week when I took this zucchini pie to a friend’s home. The entree was roasted pork tenderloin, and guests were asked to bring salad, vegetable, fruit, and dessert. The combination of pork, spinach salad, fruit salad, and this vegetable pie was delicious and hearty. We almost did not need Key Lime Pie for dessert, but it was yummy, too.

Garden Vegetable Pie

4 tablespoons butterhalf

1/2  onion, diced

2 ears sweet corn, kernels removed

2 large zucchini, sliced very thinly (about 4 cup

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

12 ounces shredded cheese (I used white cheddar)

4 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the butter in a large, deep skillet. Add onions and zucchini. While the veggies saute, cut the corn kernels off the cob. Add them to the pan and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.. Remove from heat.

Once the mixture has cooled for a few minutes, stir in basil, oregano, salt, cheese, and the beaten egg. Line a pie pan (9-inch or larger) with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Arrange a few zucchini slices so they lay flat and look nice. Top with a little extra cheese, cover with greased foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes to brown the top. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into slices.

Kale, Beet, and Apple Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

kalebeetapplesaladAfter seeing a beautiful salad recipe posted by my friend Debra this week, I adapted ingredients we had to make one that looks much like hers and used the same delicious vinaigrette with a bit of extra curry. The result is colorful and tasty –  a work of art  with layers of flavor!  Since we have an abundant crop of kale in our garden, we will have this often in our winter menus. This salad rates very high on the nutrition scale as well. I used pickled beets but you can add roasted or steamed fresh beets instead.

Kale, Beet, and Apple Salad

4 cups ruffled kale, shredded.

2 cups coarsely chopped peeled apples

2 cups pickled beet pieces

Curry Vinaigrette, recipe below.

Wash and pat the kale leaves dry before stripping from center stems.  Roll leaves and slice crosswise to shred.  Add chopped kale to a large bowl.  Add apples.  Drain beets and add, tossing with Curry Vinaigrette at least 4 hours before serving. Store covered in refrigerator.  Toss gently when ready to serve.

Curry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) hot curry powder.  Use mild if your family prefers.

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger

Whisk all ingredients together before pouring over salad.

Kale with Cherries and Apple

kale

Even though our garden beds are newly planted, we have lovely winter greens that have begun to thrive in recent cooler weather.  Kale is a favorite, so we planted both red and green ruffled kale as well as Cavallo Negra, or Tuscan Kale.  For a side with baked chicken this week, I sauteed kale leaves, chopped apple, and dried tart cherries. Delicious! For this skillet, I only cut 3 large kale leaves!

Kale with Cherries and Apple

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Kale leaves, stems stripped, and chopped

1 Honey Crisp apple, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

salt and pepper

balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in iron skillet.  Add kale tossed with apples, and cherries, and saute until kale is wilted.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

 

Colcannon

ColcannonSt. Patrick’s Day 2016!  No green beer here, just some good hearty Irish food, combining 3 favorites – cabbage, potatoes, and leeks!  We cut a small head of cabbage growing in our garden, peeled some potatoes and cleaned 3 leeks and before long, this tasty lunch was on the table.  I diced some bits of ham and bacon to pass in a bowl separately for topping, and baked some 2 ingredient yogurt bread to serve with it – what a feast!

Colcannon

1 small head of cabbage, outer leaves included if they are not too tough

4 medium potatoes, or about a pound, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 leeks (use a bunch of green onions if you do not have leeks)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

diced ham and/or bacon, optional, for topping

Wash and cut cabbage into pieces.  Bring to simmer in salted water over medium heat and cook until tender. Remove from water and set aside, keeping water to add potatoes.  Cook potatoes until fork tender.  While potatoes are cooking, carefully wash and slice leeks, both white and green parts, and drop into bowl of water, separating rings and letting any additional sandy bits fall to the bottom.  Lift leeks out with fingertips (pouring just gets the sand back on) and place in a sauce pan with 1 cup milk.  Simmer in milk until leeks are tender,

Cut cabbage into smaller pieces.  I do this by placing the cabbage in the large bowl I intend to serve in, and cutting them with kitchen shears.  Drain and rough mash the potatoes (there will be some chunks) and add to the cabbage along with the leeks and the milk they have cooked in.  Blend well, make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour melted butter into this. Pass a small bowl of diced bacon and ham cooked crisp for topping. Serve with a nice crusty loaf of bread.

 

Spiced Pork Chops with Red Cabbage and Apple

20160216_181654

Since we bought both green and red cabbage at the Farmers Market last week, I wanted to make red cabbage and apples.  This skillet dinner with pork chops was a hearty and delicious meal. The list of ingredients is long, but the layers of flavor produced are worth it!

Spiced Pork Chops with Red Cabbage and Apples

Step 1. Thyme and Dijon Butter (optional)

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried French Thyme

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

4 TBSP softened butter

Blend all ingredients together  and refrigerate until pork and cabbage is ready to serve!

 

Step 2.  Pork and Cabbage Skillet

4 center cut pork chops, 1-inch thick

2  TBSP olive oil1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup  diced onion

1/3 cup diced carr0t

1/3 cup finely diced celery

1 small head red cabbage, quartered, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 clove garlic

6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried

1 small bay leaf

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 TSBP balsamic vinegar

 Trim excess fat from outside edge of the chops, leaving a small rim.. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and brown chops well on both sides. Remove and season with some of the salt, thyme, and pepper. Saute onion, carrot and celery in the pork drippings for 5 minutes. Add cabbage, apples, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and saute for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage has begun to wilt. Season with the remaining salt and pepper; add wine, broth and vinegar. Arrange chops in the pan, basting with the cabbage and juices. Reduce heat, cover and cook slowly for about 45 minutes, turning and basting once or twice, until chops are tender and cooked through. Arrange cabbage on hot serving plates, removing the bay leaf and garlic clove. Place a pork chop on each plate and top with the mustard-thyme butter.
Note: The butter can be omitted

 

 

 

Lemon Zucchini Pickles

IMG_3796

I have loved this recipe for a long time and have always made it with zucchini. However,  it is a great refrigerated cucumber pickle as well. We have a bumper crop of Meyer lemons so I am delighted to say my granddaughters went out to the tree the day before Thanksgiving and brought in a bucket full of lemons for our holiday cooking. This is a perfect side for so many meals,adds a fresh veggie touch that is more condiment than salad, but so good that you want to eat a bowlful!  It keeps in the refrigerator for 3 weeks, but never lasts that long around our house.

Lemon Zucchini Pickles

5-6 medium zucchini, sliced very thin.  Do not peel

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons celery seed

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 lemon, sliced very thin into rounds, then halved

Cut thin zucchini slices and combinewith green pepper, celery seed, onion, and salt in large bowl.  Toss gently and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Combine sugar and lemon juice and stir to dissolve. Pour over vegetable mixture and add lemon slices. Stir gently to blend, cover, and refrigerate at least 24 hours. This will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Purple Hull Peas

IMG_3109

I grew up in Cherokee County, in East Texas. In the summertime, along with all the other fresh melons and vegetables, fresh peas from the garden were often on the table. My mother was fond of Lady Cream Peas, Black Eyed Peas were favored by many (there is even a Black Eyed Pea festival in an East Texas town), Field peas, and the delicious peas in the photo, Purple Hulls.  You can buy them by the bushel at farm stands along the road and shell them yourself, but most often now I visit our Farmer’s Market in Sugar Land and buy a bag already shelled. I keep them refrigerated until I cook or pop them right in the freezer.

The plainest way to cook them after shelling is with some ham or salt bacon and seasonings in a big soup pot. Often I add bacon, chopped onions and peppers from the garden.  When they are ready, add some green onions, a slice of cantaloupe, and a pan of hot cornbread and you have a feast!  I never really think about having a recipe for cooking peas, but here is the list of what went into this pot. After the growing season is over, I always put a few bags of peas in our freezer so we can prolong the goodness.

Purple Hull Peas

2-3 cups of fresh purple hull peas, shelled and rinsed (my grandmother would have called this a “mess” of peas!

4 strips thick bacon, chopped

1 onion, coarsley chopped

1 sweet red pepper

1 green pepper

1-2 jalapeno peppers

water to cover (you may use chicken stock for extra flavor)

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)

Add all ingredients to large pan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Cook, adding liquid as necessary for an hour and a half, or until tender. We like to serve hot in bowls so we can add some cornbread to the soupy part.