Thursday, August 27, 2015

RECIPE: Red Pesto

Difficulty Level: EASY

1 pound dried linguine fini or other thin CSA pasta
4 ripe plum tomatoes
15 basil leaves
1 tablespoon celery leaves
1 tablespoon parsley leaves, plus more for serving
1 clove garlic
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup sliced (or whole) almonds
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 ears fresh corn
Parmesan, for serving (optional) or CSA hard cheese

1.Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, following the instructions on the package. Plunge into an ice bath, drain, and let cool.

2.Bring another pot of water to boil. Drop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute, until their skins split. Transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, peel the skins and remove the seeds.

3.In a food processor or blender, combine the peeled tomatoes, basil, celery leaves, parsley, salt, garlic, almonds, pepper, and olive oil. Process until smooth.

4.Shuck the corn and slice the kernels off of the cob. In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the sauce and the raw corn. Serve topped with chopped parsley or grated Parmesan.

RECIPE: Pico de Gallo

Difficulty Level: super easy

An all around great condiment that can be used as a dip for chips or tortillas, added to more diced tomatoes to create a salsa, mixed in with scrambled eggs, tossed on top of a piece of grilled meat or fish, etc.

equal parts diced:
white onion
cilantro (stems can be used too)
tomato (remove seeds first for a less soupy pico)
salt and lime juice to taste
diced, seeded jalepeno (for some heat, optional)

Mix!  Adjust seasonings to your personal preferences.

RECIPE: Summer Succotash

Difficulty Level: Easy

One onion, diced
2-3 zucchini, diced
2-3 ears of corn, shucked and kernels removed*
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil, and when hot, add onions.  Cook until softened, giving it a stir or two.  Add the zucchini and cook until softened and lightly browned on the bottom, give everything a good stir and add the corn.  Cook for just a few minutes more, about 5 or so, until the corn is looking bright and plump.  Take the pan off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste.

*Corn Tips
I find that storing corn in the crisper drawer of the fridge, husks intact, is the best way to prevent them from drying out.  They can be easily husked by holding them in one hand, silky top pointing away from you.  Grab ahold of the silk with your free hand and pull it towards you.  Repeat all the way around until all the wrapper leaves are bunched around the stem end and bend everything away from you until it all snaps cleanly off.  Lingering corn silk can be simply washed or brushed off.

To cut the kernels from the cob, hold the corn over a large bowl in the palm of one hand with the pointy tip facing away from you.  With a large, sharp, knife, position it against the kernels at the tip, perpendicular to the cob.  Then, tilt the tip of the knife upward until the blade is at a 45 degree angle facing away from you.  Start to pull the knife towards your body slowly, cutting off the kernels as you run the blade along the cob.  If your knife is sharp and at an angle like this, it should cut through the base of the kernels easily, separating them from the cob.  If the knife seems to get stuck, gently jiggle it a bit until it starts moving again.  DO NOT try to force it through at the risk of the knife slipping. 

I find that this is the fastest way to remove corn from the cob.  If you know that you won't be able to get to all the week's corn, it is a good idea to cut the kernels off the cob and freeze them in ziplock bags.  They freeze beautifully and can be used months later for a little taste of summer.

RECIPE: Zucchini Pesto

Difficulty Level: Easy
3/4 cup blanched almonds (4 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
3 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), half of 1 zucchini cut into matchsticks and the remainder chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Black pepper
1 pound pasta
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano (4 ounces), plus more for serving
1/2 cup chopped mint, plus more for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Reserve 1/4 cup for garnish.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the chopped zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Scrape the zucchini into a food processor and add the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped almonds; pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly add the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil until combined but still slightly chunky. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain. Off the heat, return the pasta to the hot pot and add the reserved pasta water, the pesto, zucchini matchsticks, lemon zest, 1 1/2 cups of cheese and 1/2 cup of mint. Stir until well combined and saucy. Transfer the pasta to bowls. Garnish with mint (if using) and the reserved almonds.

RECIPE: Zucchini Puff

Difficulty Level: Easy
Time: 1 hour
Yield:  4-6 servings

4 Tbs. butter
1-2 cloves garlic, split
2 pounds zucchini (4 medium) note: any summer squash works, and you can mix them
2 eggs, beaten
Salt & pepper
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375º.

2. Slowly melt butter with garlic.  Let stand while preparing zucchini.

3. Cube zucchini. Cook until just tender in just enough water to cover.  Thoroughly drain. 

4. Mash zucchini. Add beaten eggs and melted butter (leave garlic in if you like, or remove.) Salt & pepper to taste.  Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 quart deep casserole.  Sprinkle parmesan over top and bake about 45 minutes, or until nicely browned and puffy.

RECIPE: Zucchini Mash

Difficulty Level: Easy
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Active time: 15 min
Total time: 35 min

Toss aside the mashed potatoes and welcome this appealing alternative, a spirited mix of zucchini, tender sautéed bell pepper, and refreshing scallions.


    * 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped (1 cup)
    * 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    * 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
    * 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
    * 6 medium zucchini/squash (1 3/4 pounds), halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
    * 1/2 cup water
    * 3/4 teaspoon salt
    * 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    * 1/3 cup chopped scallion greens
    *  2 tsp. vegetable bouillion powder
    * 2 TBSP. non-fat plain yogurt


Cook bell pepper in oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a wide 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add zucchini, water, salt, and pepper and vegetable bouillion and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, then cook at a brisk simmer, covered, 6 minutes. Remove lid and simmer until most of liquid is evaporated and zucchini is soft, about 15 minutes.

Pour off remaining liquid, and coarsely mash zucchini in food processor, adding 2 TBSP. yogurt.  Add scallion greens and stir, adding 1 more TBSP. butter if desired.

Monday, August 17, 2015

RECIPE: Zucchini Chips

Difficulty Level: EASY 

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 10 mins

1 large zucchini
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt

Note: you'll need a mandolin for this recipe...

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets (e.g. two 17" baking sheets) with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.

2. Slice your zucchini on a mandolin. Mine had 1, 2, or 3 for thickness and I used 2.

3. After you slice your zucchini, place the slices on a sheet of paper towels and take another paper towel and sandwich the zucchini slices and press on them. This helps draw out the liquid so it'll cook a bit faster.

4. Line up the zucchini slices on the prepared baking sheet tightly next to each other in a straight line, making sure not to overlap them.

5. In a small bowl, pour your olive oil in and take a pastry brush to brush the olive oil on each zucchini slice.

6. Sprinkle salt throughout the baking sheet. Do NOT over-season, in fact, it's better to use less salt initially because the slices will shrink; so if you over-season, it'll be way too salty! You can always add more later.

7. Bake for 2+ hours until they start to brown and aren't soggy and are crisp.

8. Let cool before removing and serving.

9. Keep in an airtight container for no more than 3 days.

Friday, August 14, 2015

TIPS: Escarole

Escarole is a variety of endive whose leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of the endive family. Like radicchio, kale and chard, escarole is a hearty green that thrives late into the growing season. The heart of an escarole head is less bitter because the leaves haven't gotten as much sunlight. High in folic acid, fiber, and vitamins A and K, escarole can be eaten raw or gently cooked.

Wrap unwashed escarole in paper towels and store in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for 4-7 days.

Fill a large bowl or dishpan with cold water.  Add greens and swirl around vigorously. All the dirt and sand will sink to the bottom.  Lift greens out of basin and into a salad spinner or colander.  Spin greens to dry or drain as best you can and dry on towels.

General Cooking Tips:
Escarole is most often used in soups and salads.  Escarole has crisp leaves with a rather sharp, bitter taste, and should be mixed with other greens when used in salads. The inner leaves are more tender and less bitter. Escarole also pairs well in salads with fruit (pears, apples, figs, etc), and strong flavored cheeses.  You can also saute escarole and combine it with pasta and roasted vegetables.

RECIPE: Escarole and Radish Salad with Vinaigrette

Difficulty Level: EASY

3 anchovies
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
Small bunch radishes
1/2 large head escarole

1. To make the vinaigrette, chop the anchovies finely and put them in a medium bowl. Add the vinegar, a good pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify the dressing. Set aside.

2. Scrub the radishes under running water and trim off the tops and tails. Slice them into thin matchsticks (you should have about 1 cup julienned radish). Put in a large salad bowl.

3. Clean and dry the escarole and slice it into 1/2-inch ribbons (you should have about 5 cups). Add to the salad bowl.

4. Toss about two-thirds of the dressing with the salad, taste and add more if you like. Serve immediately.

RECIPE: Zucchini and Avocado Soup

Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Makes 4 (1 cup) servings
Per serving: 108 calories, 7.5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat),
10 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 285 mg sodium.

1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups chopped zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion, divided
1 medium Hass avocado
1/8 tsp. ground cumin, optional
3/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk

Cucumber Salsa (as topping for soup):
1 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumber (about 1 medium cucumber)
1½ Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, divided
Salt to taste


In large saucepan over high heat, combine broth, zucchini and 1/4 cup onion. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat and let simmer 6 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 20 minutes.

To make salsa: In small bowl combine cucumber, remaining onion, cilantro and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Season with salt to taste. Toss well, cover and refrigerate.

In blender, combine zucchini mix, avocado, cumin, if using, remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and almond milk. Cover and purée until smooth. Leaving soup in blender container, refrigerate it for 2 hours.

When ready to serve, re-blend soup. Add additional almond milk for thinner consistency, if desired.

Pour into serving bowls. Top with salsa and serve.

Friday, August 7, 2015

RECIPE: Shamir Yogurt Soup

Difficulty Level: EASY

Note: For those of you who like tzatziki and other cucumber soups, this soup was invented by my Israeli cousins, The Shamirs. It so happens that shamir means dill in Hebrew, so this is a great pun since it uses dill as a main ingredient. Don't forget the walnuts - they are a great addition! -Aliya Cheskis-Cotel

-Equal proportions yogurt to water (get a big container of yogurt, empty it into a bowl, fill container with ice water and empty the water into the bowl)
-Peeled cucumbers sliced very thinly
-1 tbsp. Oil
-1 tbsp. Vinegar (not Balsamic)
-crushed garlic
-walnuts (whole)
-a big bunch of dill (aka shamir), chopped (or cut up with scissors)

Combine all ingredients, and enjoy!

TIPS: Cucumbers

Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon (the Cucurbitaceae family). Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, which means eating them on a hot summer day can help you stay hydrated.

However, there's reason to eat cucumbers all year long. With vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese, cucumbers can help you to avoid nutrient deficiencies that are widespread among those eating a typical American diet.  Plus, cucumbers contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.

Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator - this will extend their life by a few days as opposed to storing them on the counter.  However, they typically won’t stay fresh for more than 5 days.  One recommended method for storage is to wrap each cucumber individually in a paper towel, then put all cucumbers wrapped in paper towels inside the plastic bag.  Put the plastic bag with the cucumbers in a refrigerator and keep the bag on a  shelf toward the front of the refrigerator, which tends to be warmer.

Best uses: Peel waxed cucumbers; unwaxed ones need only a light scrubbing. Cucumbers are tastiest served raw, as in a side salad.

RECIPE: Sweet and Tangy Pineapple-Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 to 6
Difficulty Level: EASY
Serve as a side dish or condiment. It is also delicious rolled into lettuce wraps.

• 3 cups chopped fresh pineapple
• 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced
• 2 green onions, thinly sliced
• 1/4 cup roughly chopped mint
• 1/4 cup lime juice

In a large bowl, gently toss all ingredients together and serve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RECIPE: Creamy Poblano Pepper Strips (Rajas)

Total Time: 45 min
Prep: 10 min
Inactive: 10 min
Cook: 25 min
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (or 2 cups)

Difficulty Level: Easy
6 fresh poblano chiles
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 ears corn, kernels removed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Mexican crema or creme fraiche
1/2 cup, shredded Monterrey jack cheese
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


Char the poblano chiles directly over the gas flame on the stove or under the broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in a plastic bag and let steam for about 10 minutes. 

Add the oil to a heavy large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the corn and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Set aside. 

Peel and seed the chiles. Cut the chiles into 1/4 to 1/2-inch strips (rajas) and add the strips to the onion and corn mixture and saute until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and Mexican crema and cook until bubbling, about for 8 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Season the rajas with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and serve.

TIPS: Poblano Peppers

1)  Short Term Poblano Pepper Storage:

Place the fresh peppers into a brown paper bag and store in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Poblano peppers will hold their flavor and quality for 1 week.

2)  Long Term Poblano Pepper Storage 

Poblano peppers freeze quite well. Poblano peppers will keep their best quality for 6 to 8 months if stored in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag and frozen at 0 degrees F.  There are various ways to do this:
- Spread out the individual raw peppers on a baking sheet, freeze them solid, then transfer the individually frozen peppers to a freezer container, OR

- Slice or chop the raw peppers; blanch, cut in half, de-seed, then freeze, OR
Roast the Poblano peppers, leaving the skin on, then freeze, OR

-  Peel the Poblano peppers to improve the texture by removing the waxy skin, then roast, then freeze.