Rollin’ With My Zucchinis

zucchini rollatini, plate

ready to roll

You probably don’t think prosciutto can come from Serbia. At least I didn’t before a few weeks ago. But silly me, it does. And my friend Boris (who’s Serbian) was nice enough to bring me back some from his recent trip home. He promised it would be different from the Italian stuff: meatier, smokier, not as dry. Which, come to think of it, is a lot like Boris.

Of course you don’t need Serbian prosciutto for this dish, but it would be a great touch. Just be careful slicing your zucchini so that it’s not too thin. Then it might be too delicate to roll after sautéing. And while Serbian prosciutto isn’t a must-have, please don’t use some boring jarred tomato sauce. Making your own is so, so much better.

Zucchini Rollatini
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8-inch thick lengthwise
6 to 8 slices of prosciutto
8 oz of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 ½ to 2 cups of tomato sauce
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
8×8 baking dish, or similar

Heat your oven to 425º.

Season the zucchini slices on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini in batches and cook until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes. Let cool enough to handle.

Top each zucchini slice with a piece of prosciutto cut to fit, a slice (or two) of mozzarella cut to fit and 1 basil leaf. Carefully roll each stack into a pinwheel and secure with a toothpick. Place the tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and then place each rollatini side by side in the dish. (You can remove the toothpicks at this point, or wait until after baking.)

zucchini rollatini, dish

bake & roll

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Plate and then eat.

Say Queso!

chile con queso

i dip you dip we dip

We can all be little cheesy now and then, right? Right? Just say yes and agree with me and this will go a lot smoother. Probably as smooth as melted cheese. And just as creamy.

Wait, what are we talking about? Oh right. Cheese. As in smooth and creamy chile con queso.

But you know what we’re not talking about? That over-processed brick of “cheese” in that yellow box. If you want to use that stuff, fine by me. You’re just not going to find it here. Real cheese, both cheddar and Monterey Jack, and can be melted and chile’d up just as well as that fake stuff.

Wait, it’s even better than that stuff. No comparison whatsoever.

Chile con Queso
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
½ of a small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chilies, drained
8 oz of cheddar, shredded
8 oz of Monterey Jack, shredded
½ cup of sour cream
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (Scoops preferred)

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and jalapeno, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Next, stir in the diced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese a little at a time until melted. Stir in the sour cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the sauce is smooth and creamy and the consistency you prefer. Transfer to a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.

Frittering Around

corn fritters

fried & true

You know what I like? Lazy Sundays. When there’s nothing on your schedule, you’re free to catch up on crappy TV or read a good book (or a good-bad book) or leisurely make yourself dinner.

You know what’s easy? Removing kernels from a cob. I know they make gadgets that do that now, but why bother? A knife will do just fine. Plus, it’s very satisfying running your knife down the side of an ear (that sentence sounds scarier than it actually is, btw) to make little strips of kernels fall off.

You know what’s weird? Those little white hairy threads that you find between kernels of corn.

You know what’s really tasty? Hot corn fritters with lime aioli on top. If you’ve ever squeezed fresh lime juice on your salt and peppered corn, you’ll understand how awesome and refreshing a combo that can be.

Corn Fritters with Lime Aioli
For the fritters:
½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 cup of 2% milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups of fresh corn kernels (about 2 to 3 ears of corn)
½ cup of scallions, finely diced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

For the aioli:
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 clove of garlic, minced

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder. Add the milk and egg and whisk until smooth. Add the corn, scallions, red pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop 1/4 cups of batter into the skillet (don’t overcrowd the skillet) and cook until the top bubbles and the edges are golden, about 2 minutes. Flip the fritters and cook another 2 minutes or until golden. Place on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Continue with the additional batter, adding more oil as necessary, until all the fritters are fried.

corn fritters 2

you know what’s a good supper? these fritters

To make the aioli, combine the mayo, lime juice and minced garlic in a small bowl. Top with each fritter with a dollop of aioli.

Chip In

zucchini chips

betcha can’t eat just one

Okay, for those of you keeping count (and I do hope some of you are), it’s been more than 2 weeks since my last post. Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong – I’m still making eggs and crafting bad puns. I’ve just taken a little time off to rest and recharge.

A quick recap: I got a bad sunburn. I’ve nearly melted due to the oppressive Boston humidity. I spent some time way (way) up in Maine with my friends. I’ve been testing and re-testing new recipes, some that will definitely find their way onto this blog in the near future, including a cake that just might have done away with my long-standing notion that “I don’t like cake.” But more on that later.

For now, I’m offering something quick and easy and tasty. My old friend zucchini is back for a visit, this time in crispy chip form. These little guys would make a great alternative to potato chips, or even french fries. I thought about concocting a complementary dip for them, but you know what? They don’t need it. They’re that good on their own.

Zucchini Chips
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (the mandolin is your friend)
½ cup of breadcrumbs, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons of Adobo seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
3 tablespoons of milk
Cooking spray

Heat your oven to 425º.

Combine the breadcrumbs, Adobo seasoning and pepper in a shallow dish. Put the milk in another shallow dish. Dip the zucchini slices in the milk and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the slices on a wire rack lightly coated with cooking spray, and then place the rack on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned and crisp.

Little Tarts, Lotsa Flavor

mini romesco tarts

bite-sized wonders

These appetizers will have people thinking you’ve spent all day crafting miniature tart shells and a laboring over a special sauce. Well, the sauce is special but super easy. Romesco is a bit like a red (pepper-y) version of pesto, since it has nuts and olive oil, and is made entirely in a food processor. I couldn’t decide which cheese to use, so I bought some mild gouda and this Catamount Hills cheese from Cabot Creamery, which is an Italian cheese that’s like a cross between Swiss and Parmesan. I think I prefered the “bite” of the Catamount Hills, but any cheese that melts nicely would work really well. You’ll definitely have some romesco sauce left, which would make a nice dip for crackers or breadsticks.

Mini Romesco Tarts
1 cup of roasted red peppers, drained
2 cloves of garlic
cup of toasted almonds
cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
24 mini phyllo tarts, defrosted
½ lb of cheese, cut into cubes
Dried oregano

Start by making the romesco sauce: Place the roasted red peppers, garlic cloves, almonds, olive oil, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat your oven to 425º.

Place the mini phyllo tarts on a baking sheet. Spoon a little bit of sauce into each tart and then add a cube of cheese. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the cheese melts. Sprinkle dried oregano over the tarts and serve warm.

Irish Potato Cakes are Smiling

Irish potato cakes

bangers & mash 2.0

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. And whether or not you believe Irish people love potatoes just as much as pint of Guinness, you’ll certainly love making good use of your mashed potatoes for these fluffy cakes. Pair them with some pork sausages, and you’ve got a new twist on bangers and mash.

Potato Cakes
– 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes
– ⅓ cup of flour
– 2 tablespoons of milk
– 1 tablespoon of chives (or a mixture of herbs)
– Salt and pepper
– Butter

In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, flour, milk and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place a large spoonful of the mixture (or roll into a ball and then flatten) into the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining mixture, but make sure not to crowd the skillet. Add more butter to the pan if necessary. Then serve.

Super Snack Showcase

Okay. I’m a bad food blogger. One of the biggest eating events of the year is happening this weekend and I have nothing new to contribute. I know, shame on me. But – I’m no stranger to the delights of appetizers and party foods. Here are some of my favorites, any of which would be perfect for your Super Bowl celebration. (Click on the photo for the recipe.)

Avocado Fries with Cilantro Lemon Dressing – these are awesome, and the dip is super tasty

fiesta on a plate (thanks scott!)

fiesta on a plate (thanks scott!)

Pan-fried Cajun Shrimp – the game IS in New Orleans this year

pan-fried cajun shrimp

bon temps

Soft Pretzels with Spicy Cheese Dip – I would eat these every day if I could

Soft Pretzels with Spicy Cheese Dip

twist & shout

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms – a favorite of dads everywhere

sausage stuffed mushrooms

dad’s a real fun guy

Deviled Eggs – it’s not a party without them

they only look like angels

they only look like angels

Squash Crostini is Coming to Town

butternut squash, ricotta & sage crostini

butternut pout, butternot cry … unless you run out

I’m visiting my family in Texas this week, and wouldn’t you know it – my mom put me to work making appetizers for their annual Christmas party. It’s funny how things change as we get older, right? I was very happy to oblige, of course. Now I can finally (start to) repay all those years of her working away in the kitchen for every holiday, birthday and special event throughout my life. My dad requested the sausage stuffed mushrooms I made for him on Father’s Day, and for another one, I decided to make these butternut squash, ricotta and sage crostini. They seem fancy but are actually really simple to make. All of the parts taste great on their own, but when combined on top of a lightly toasted slice of bread – it’s practically a Christmas miracle. So you butter watch out, these go quickly. You don’t want to pout if you don’t get one.

Butternut Squash, Ricotta & Sage Crostini
– 1 2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into small cubes
– 1 ½ teaspoons of brown sugar
– ¾ cup of ricotta
– ½ teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
– Pinch of garlic salt
– 24 fresh sage leaves
– 1 baguette, sliced thin
– Olive oil
– Sea salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 425º.

In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the brown sugar. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is golden and tender. Stir once during roasting. Let cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, lemon zest and garlic salt, and season to taste with pepper. Cover and let chill until ready to use.

Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet, lightly drizzle with olive oil and toast for a few minutes. At the same time, heat a tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few sage leaves and fry until the edges begin to curl and they turn dark green, about 1 to 2 minutes. Place on a paper towel-lined plate and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat until all the sage leaves are fried.

While bread is still slightly warm, spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on each slice. Top with a few cubes of roasted squash and a fried sage leaf or two. Then serve.

Kiss My Grits

cheesy grits with roasted tomatoes

tomatoes? bacon? does it really matter?

This really isn’t a recipe about tomatoes I got at the tomato festival last weekend. I mean, it is, because I roasted a mixed medley of cherry tomatoes that I got. (They were gorgeous, and varied in color from bright red to a striped, deep purple.) No, it’s really about grits. Cheesy grits in fact. Cheesy grits topped with roasted tomatoes and crumbled bacon. Just wait until you try it. Then you can apologize for thinking: “Man, this guy adds bacon to everything!” You’ll see.

Cheesy Grits with Roasted Tomatoes
– 1 pint of mixed medley cherry tomatoes, cut in half
– 1 ½ cups of milk
– 1 ½ cups of water
– 1 cup of stone ground white grits
– ¾ cup of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
– 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
– 3 slices of bacon
– ¼ cup of diced scallions
– Olive oil
– Garlic salt
– Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400º.

Toss the tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet cut side up and bake for 45 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft, shriveled and brown around the edges.

Meanwhile, bring the milk and water to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the grits. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of salt (or more depending on taste). Slightly cover and cook, whisking frequently, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes.

At the same time, fry the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool and then crumble and set aside. Reserve 2 teaspoons of bacon grease.

Whisk the cheese into the grits until melted and cook 5 more minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the bacon grease. (If the grits are too thick, add a splash of milk.) Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Add a few spoonfuls of grits to a plate. Top with a handful of roasted tomatoes, bacon crumbles and diced scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and then eat.

Ragin’ Cajun Shrimp

pan-fried cajun shrimp

bon temps

So, these shrimp aren’t really filled with rage. They’re actually quite happy because they’re filled (covered?) with tasty Cajun spices. They’re perfect for a quick appetizer or, if paired with a salad and a side dish, make for an easy supper. Perhaps a supper you can eat while watching a TV show about vampires and werewolves and fairies down on the bayou. If you’re into that sort of thing. Best of all — there’s no deep fryer required.

Pan-fried Cajun Shrimp
– ½ to 1 lb of shrimp, peeled & deveined
– ¼ cup of flour
– ¾ teaspoon of Cajun seasoning plus ¼ teaspoon
– Pinch of salt
– ¼ cup of milk
– ½ cup of breadcrumbs
– 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
– 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
– Tabasco hot sauce
– Olive oil
– Half of a small lemon, cut into wedges

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, Cajun seasoning and salt. Pour the milk and the breadcrumbs into two separate shallow dishes. Dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture, then dip into the milk and then into the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat on medium-high. Add half of the shrimp and cook 2 minutes on each side, or until done and golden brown. Place on a paper towel-lined plate. Continue with the remaining shrimp, adding more oil if necessary.

To make a tasty dipping sauce, whisk together the remaining Cajun seasoning, mayo, Worcestershire sauce and a few dashes of Tabasco. Place into a small ramekin.

Plate the shrimp along with the dipping sauce and the wedges of lemon. Squeeze some lemon juice over the shrimp right before serving.