Monday, July 26, 2010

summer fest time again? cukes & zukes week = a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake

i first told you about summer fest a couple of years ago. each week a summer staple from the garden is featured and a group of bloggers share their favorite recipes and then cross promote the other blogs. for readers it is the perfect opportunity to discover cool bloggers and amazing recipes...just when you need them most. as an example...this week is cukes and zukes week. if you have a summer garden, tell me you are not inundated with cucumbers and summer squash right now....or that you have not been given bushels full from friends and neighbors...or, if you are like me and belong to a csa, that your boxes have not been brimming with said produce for the past few weeks.

i always love the creative ideas that come from these weeks...and am inspired by the talented bloggers that participate in the event...everyone from trained chefs to home cooks to beginners...and we all learn from each other.

the schedule is as follows:
■7/28: cukes n zukes
■8/4: corn
■8/11: herbs, greens, and beans
■8/18: stone fruit
■8/25 tomatoes

this week i thought i would share my chocolate zucchini cake...made with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. moist, chocolaty, delicious...a favorite in my house when zucchini gets to be a bit too much. i might hear "oh no! more stir fry with more grilled more stuffed zucchini" (you get the idea)...but i never, ever hear "oh no! more chocolate cake!" the zucchini is a tweak to a recipe i shared a couple of years ago...vegan chocolate cake with figs ...inspired by a cake in the moosewood restaurant book-desserts. their version first introduced me to the concept of using vinegar in a cake. thank you moosewood! this cake is also delicious without the zucchini (or figs)..a bit lighter and more "cakey". the zucchini makes it dense, moist and really you have options depending on what type of cake you want...try both versions(exact same recipe...just leave out the zucchini)...and please let me know what you think...

chocolate zucchini cake

3 cups organic unbleached flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup best quality unsweetened premium cocoa powder (i like scharffen berger)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pure balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely shredded zucchini (i use a box grater)

preheat the oven to 350 degrees. grease a bundt cake pan using extra virgin olive oil. add the first 6 ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. stir with a wooden spoon to mix. add rest of ingredients and stir, using the paddle attachment, until just incorporated. pour batter into the prepared pan and bake 45 min to 1 hour. test for doneness by sticking a skewer, chopstick or knife into center of cake. if your tester is clean when you remove, the cake is ready. rest on a rack for 30 minutes. invert onto cake plate and allow to cool completely. dust with powdered sugar and serve. (this is also delicious with a chocolate glaze drizzled over the cake and served with ice cream or fresh fruit.)

please check out my 2008 zucchini food fest post zucchini madness for additional recipes. is your turn to get involved with summer fest. you have two can add your favorite zucchini recipe in the comments section of this post (link to your blog if you have one)...or you can join the fun and create your own blog post. margaret roach from away to garden and deb puchalla are coordinating everyone's efforts so check out their sites for all the details. (and some amazing recipes)

best, and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™"live a green life of style™ "

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

" turnips again??" a recipe for pan fried turnips in olive oil

so i have been telling you about my weekly csa boxes from hudson ranch here in napa...every thursday i pop over to oxbow produce to get my weekly fix. it feels a bit like christmas morning when i get home and unpack the box. i sort, wash and store the fruit and vegetables, all the while planning the menus for the upcoming week. when i mention that i belong to a csa, i find about half the time people know exactly what i am talking about...the other half i am greeted with a questioning stare. i also have received a number of emails from regular readers inquiring about this concept. the short answer is a csa (community supported agriculture) is a partnership between a farmer and a limited number of "shareholders". you purchase a "share" which entitles you to a regular supply of produce from the farm. my csa includes a weekly box chock full of fruit, vegetables and sometimes herbs. fresh eggs, chickens, guinea hens, wine and olive oil can be added if you wish. you know the food is local, is grown organically or sustainably and is as fresh as possible...picked the morning of delivery in my case. (csa produce boxes photo courtesy of hudson ranch)

the local harvest website includes a much more detailed explanation including benefits to the farmer, to the shareholders and to the well as an interactive program enabling you to find a local csa in your area...

one thing a csa does is really teach you about eating local and in-season food. my csa provides enough produce to last for the entire week....and you get the same items as long as they are in season. there is always a bit of diversity...and i find it really cool to watch the progress throughout the season. the first week we got carrots they were tiny...about the size of my baby finger...each week they were a bit bigger...last week's box contained carrots 8 or 9 inches in length. i feel about as close to the growing process as possible without literally growing it myself. i find that just when i am beginning to get a bit tired of a particular item the season is over and something new appears.
the only possible exception is turnips....turnips have been in the boxes for the first two months. it was a long, cold and very wet spring this year...and summer produce has been late...but the turnips i have made turnips every way imaginable...roasted them a thousand times (just a slight exaggeration) with olive oil and sea salt... yum! i have mashed them with yukon gold potatoes, steamed them, pureed them, used in soups, stews and pasta dishes. last week i was fresh out of ideas....and thought i could not handle one more turnip. i needed something new....and decided to try frying them. not french-frying...but pan-frying in extra virgin olive oil...and serving with italian sausage and pimientos de padrón (a small green pepper you sauté in extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt). you know what? the turnips were was the entire meal...and i added one more preparation method to my recipe file. this week we picked up our box and...guess what? no turnips.

i think this is nature's way of ensuring we really eat seasonally...just when we begin to tire of an item it is items appear....and by the time we begin to crave an item it is back in season. of course for me the only exception is tomatoes...don't get me started on my passion for tomatoes!

pan fried turnips in e.v.o.o.
extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs turnips, sliced into medallions about 1/2 thick
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons italian parsley, torn

bring a large pot of water to boil. salt water like you would for pasta. add turnips and cook until tender when pierced with a fork. pour into colander, drain well and pat dry. add 1/4 cup olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. when oil begins to shimmer add the onion slices and chopped garlic and sauté until onions are translucent. add the prepared turnips, a pinch of sea salt and cracked pepper to taste. cook the turnips until well browned on one side. flip the turnips and cook until the other side is well browned. remove from heat and sprinkle with the parsley and additional sea salt. serve hot

best, and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "
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Friday, July 2, 2010

crisp anyone? a recipe for farmhouse strawberry & blueberry crisp

i think crisps (and crumbles...never really sure the difference) are my favorite summer dessert. sure, they taste delicious...but they are also incredibly easy...and fast...and versatile. just what i want when it is hot outside and the pool is calling. just what i want when i am staring at mounds of beautiful stone fruit and berries...and don't want to take the time to make pies...or cakes...or tarts...or anything tricky.

crisps involve putting the fruit in a dish...adding a topping of oats, flour sugar, spices and a fat...stirring all together...mounding on the fruit...baking...and viola! warm, yummy, fruity, crunchy...and the perfect base for ice cream...or whipping cream...or frankly...just as is.

most crisps call for butter. but i use (regular know what is coming, right?) extra virgin olive oil. i like the taste and texture the oil gives the topping. and, perhaps i am just faking myself out, but the health benefits of the olive oil make me feel less guilty about eating dessert...especially if you saw the serving size i take. (heck, it is fruit people,...fruit!)

this is the 4th of july of my favorite times of year. we have a bbq to attend one day...and different friends stopping by throughout the other two days. all a variation of... " about hanging out by the pool...eating, drinking, swimming, talking and laughing?" i plan to have a lot of ingredients on hand to make simple, fast, delicious (and flexible so i am prepared however many people show up) meals. our farmhouse strawberry & blueberry crisp is perfect for the occasion. the red and blue of the berries spooned onto the white plate seems fitting for the 4th....and i can make them throughout the weekend if necessary to satisfy hungry guests. the recipe is equally good with peaches and apricots and nectarines and plums and cherries....and on and on....keep it handy, you may find yourself making it often.

(the cracked black pepper may seem unusual...but please don't skip it. it adds a subtle flavor that works really well with the fruit...and a tiny bit of heat. no one will know what it is...they will just love the overall taste)

farmhouse strawberry & blueberry crisp
1/2 cup organic rolled oats (not quick cooking kind)
1/2 cup unbleached flour
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
pinch sea salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fruit (i used a mixture of strawberries and blueberries for this one)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp unbleached flour
finely grated rind from one small orange

fresh mint for garnish
homemade or best quality vanilla ice cream (if desired) or whipping cream, or serve with a pitcher of heavy cream

preheat oven to 375 degrees F
for topping: combine first 9 ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork. add the olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, mixing with the fork to incorporate the oil. when all oil has been added the mixture should look moist and a bit crumbly. set aside.

for filling: slice the strawberries in half and add to another small bowl. stem the blueberries if needed and add to the same bowl. add the sugar, flour and orange peel and gently stir.

assemble: add the fruit mixture to a small baking dish 8 inches in diameter. sprinkle the topping over the fruit ensuring all fruit is covered. bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, or until topping has browned and fruit juices are bubbling. remove from oven and let crisp cool down to "just warm" status. ** this is will be tempted to eat right away, but you need to let the juices thicken a bit which happens during the cooling off period. otherwise the juices will run.**

serve warm or at room temperature topped with the ice cream and mint. also delicious the next morning for breakfast if you have any left.

this recipe serves 4 but is easily doubled or tripled for larger gatherings. i use rectangular glass, stoneware or clay baking dishes and casseroles for larger crisps.

the strawberry and blueberry crisp is a favorite for 4th of july parties...easy, delicious and beautiful...filled with local, in-season organic fruit. make one for this weekend...and happy 4th of july everyone!

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." ~Abraham Lincoln

best, and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™"live a green life of style™ "

do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page
& follow me on twitter

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