Home cooking: Zucchini, tomatoes and summer squash, oh my! (column)
Recently I attended a Breck Music Fest chamber concert at a private home. Imagine attending a concert in the intimacy of a living room with three or four of the finest musicians in the country and you get the picture. I was in heaven.
What elevated the intimate evening to another level was the lovely catering provided by Julia Paradysz, owner of Cacao Breckenridge (CacaoBreckenridge.com). The starters were a sumptuous array of antipasti. But the highlight was three simple but decadent petits fours which she served after the concert. There was a dark chocolate Grand Marnier truffle, a delicate puff pastry filled with lemon cream and topped with a candied blackberry, and finally a white chocolate truffle enrobed in crushed pistachio. I’ll admit, being a lover of dark chocolate, I ate two.
On the drive home, musing on the delicious ending to the evening’s concert, it occurred to me that Julia’s desserts proved one of my favorite laws of cooking: When we use the best ingredients, at their peak of flavor, the dish needn’t be complex, in fact, simple is better. That’s when their flavors are allowed to sing.
Which is exactly the goal of every column I present here: cook with the seasons, using produce that is at its prime. Because that’s where the flavor is, that’s when we are likely to be able to buy locally grown Colorado produce, which supports our state’s economy, shortens the food’s carbon footprint, and is more likely to be on sale, saving our weekly food budget.
Today’s column features late summer vegetables at their peak, the dishes are quick and easy to prepare as our schedules become hectic with back-to-school events and thoughts of the approaching holidays.
Southwestern Roasted Vegetable Galette
So fun and so easy … a great way to get kids to eat their veggies
1 premade pie crust
1 summer squash
1 red pepper
1 red onion
2/3 cup ricotta cheese or Greek yogurt drained overnight
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Southwestern seasoning mixture (cumin, oregano, coriander, garlic, salt and pepper … make your own at home to have on hand, or buy a prepared mixture)
Preheat the oven to 375F. Lay the pie crust out on a baking dish. Spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese in a circle on the pie crust, leaving a 1 ½-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the ricotta cheese with Southwestern seasoning mixture, then the grated cheddar cheese. Layer the sliced vegetables in a circular pattern until the entire circle is filled. Then gently fold the edges of the pie crust up, forming a 1-inch lip around the vegetables, pinching the edges of the pie crust. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pie crust is baked through and the vegetables are tender.
Zuchinni, Tomato, and Blue Cheese Tian
This is an easy and elegant way to roast vegetables. Serve it as a side dish or toss it into a bowl of pasta and serve as a hearty vegetarian main course.
2 zucchinis sliced
3 plum tomatoes sliced thin
Sprig of rosemary
1/3-cup blue cheese crumbles or creamy roquefert cheese
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease the bottom of a baking dish with EVOO. Create alternating slices of zucchini and tomato in rows. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Covering with foil will keep the vegetables from drying out. Remove the baking dish after 30 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle the vegetables with blue cheese crumbles. Return baking dish for another 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
Greek Yogurt Chicken, Peach and Zucchini Kebabs over Turmeric Rice and Dates
Try these two shortcuts: Toss the chicken pieces into the marinade in the morning and refrigerate. Instead of buying and chopping individual vegetables, buy to vegetable kebabs in the produce section and use them for the chicken kebabs.
Two skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
1 summer squash
5 grape tomatoes
½ red onion
2 peaches cut into ½ inch slices
Greek Yogurt Marinade
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch each of cumin, cinnamon, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper
Mix marinade together and stir in chicken pieces. Marinate for one to two hours.
Preheat oven to 450F. Using bamboo skewers, skewer vegetables, peaches and chicken pieces on five skewers. Place in baking dish, drizzle with EVOO. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. While kebabs are cooking, cook 1 cup of rice, stir in 1 tablespoon of turmeric and ½ cup of dates. Garnish with fresh curly parsley, finely diced.
Honey Balsamic Glazed Roasted Carrots with Pistachios
This is a perfect side dish with the chicken kebabs and rice.
Whole carrots lightly peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons roasted pistachios roughly smashed
Preheat oven to 450F. Place the whole, lightly peeled carrots in a baking dish. Mix together the vinaigrette, pour over the carrots, lightly coating them. Roast carrots until easily pierced with a knife, about 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle with roasted pistachios.
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