Monthly Archives: July 2012

Zucchini Salsa

Zucchini Salsa

If there is one single vegetable in this world that will make my husband cringe with disgust, it’s zucchini.  He has despised zucchini as long as I’ve known him and quite frankly, his extreme disdain for it perplexes me to this day.  He says it’s the taste.  Sometimes he says it’s the texture…   And, I completely disagree with him.  Fortunately, it’s one of the few things that we don’t see eye to eye on…  I look at it this way, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy disagreement.  If Bruce and I were in unison on everything, I think our life together would be so boring :).

Zucchini squash is one of my favorite summer vegetables and I grow it every year in my little garden.  I like zucchini because it is so amazingly versatile.  It cooks quickly and marries well with a variety of flavors.  Not to mention, it grows like a weed and if you are not careful, you can end up with more zucchini than your family can eat.  That’s why I check on my plants everyday and pick my zucchini when they are young and tender.  Any overabundance, I simply bag it up and take to work to share with my coworkers.

My zucchini salsa is a great use for those extra zucchinis that you don’t want to give away.  It’s fresh, bright with flavor and super easy to make.  Zucchini salsa taste great with crunchy tortilla chips or wrapped up in a fish taco.  Be brave and add some fresh jalapeno peppers for a fiery flavor.  Enjoy!  Tessa

 Ingredients

  • 2 cups zucchini (diced)
  • 1 cup onion (diced)
  • 1 cup red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • few dashes hot sauce to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • jalapenos (diced)  **optional**

Begin by adding olive oil to a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and red bell pepper and cook until onion is opaque or about one minute.  Add zucchini, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the zucchini is cooked.  Do not over cook.  Add to a bowl, stir in lime juice, cilantro and hot sauce.  Place covered in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  You want to let this sit and chill so the flavors marry well.

Before serving, add salsa to food processor and lightly pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add a splash of water if the mixture is too thick.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place in serving bowl and serve with crispy tortilla chips.  Makes about 2 cups.

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto

Every year I plant several basil plants in my little garden.  I just love basil…  It’s fragrant, versatile and tastes so amazingly fresh.  I’m really happy because this has been a surprisingly good year for my basil.  The bugs have left most of the plants alone and the weather has been just perfect for the rest of the plants in the garden.   When I walked outside this morning, I noticed immediately that it was time to harvest some of those gorgeous green leaves.

Basil ready to be picked.  I don’t know what I like better…  The beautiful bright green leaves or the fresh herbaceous aroma.

Thyme.  One of my favorite herbs…  The tiny delicate leaves are packed with flavor.

Mammoth Dill.  This is the first time I have tried growing dill in my garden.  I just love the delicate little yellow flowers!

Basil blossoms.  I pinch the blossoms off to encourage additional growth on my basil plants.

The main ingredients for my Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto.

My Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto is easy to make, nut free and delightfully vegan.  I like to use my pesto on pasta, pizza and especially on a warm crusty baguette with fresh mozzarella and sliced heirloom tomatoes.  Makes about 1 cup.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves lightly packed
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (roasted and shelled)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice or to taste (to prevent browning of the pesto)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or more if necessary

Add all ingredients except olive oil to a food processor.  Pulse food processor while adding a steady stream of olive oil.  Scrap sides and pulse until well blended.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Use immediately or store (covered) in refrigerator up to 24 hours.  Makes about 1 cup.

Sunflower Seed Cookies

Sunflower Seed Cookies

Chances are you know someone who has a food allergy. You might even be one of those people yourself.  Whether it be shellfish, wheat, dairy or peanuts, food allergies can be a real nuisance and are not easy to deal with.  First of all, you have to constantly ask questions about what you are about to eat and second, you have to always read the food labels.  I know what it’s like because I personally know from experience…  It’s not fun  and depending on the ingredient or level of allergy, it can be down right dangerous.

Many of you may have noticed by now, I don’t prepare dishes with almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, or even pecans.  I like really like them but they don’t like me. I can’t eat them let alone touch them.  Big, big, big, bummer…  But on the bright side, I have learned to cook with substitutions and have adapted many of my favorite recipes.  And fortunately, I am still okay with peanuts.  I just need to be careful.

Over the years I have learned to adapt.  For example, I like to use sunflower seed butter instead of almond or peanut butter on toast or in cookies.  I’ll use toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for a nutty crunch in pesto and in homemade granola.  The more I learn about using these ingredients the less I miss tree nuts.  It used to be a big obstacle but now I consider my tree nut allergy just a speed bump in my life.  As my sister says, “It is what it is…”  And quite frankly, she’s 100% correct.

My Sunflower Seed Cookies are a riff on Betty Crocker’s Peanut Butter Cookie recipe from my circa 1950′s first edition Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook.  I found my cookbook in a used bookstore a few years ago and I just love it!  It’s 62 years old and is full of amazingly nostalgic recipes.  I adapted the peanut butter cookie recipe from this cookbook by swapping the peanut butter for sunflower seed butter.  I also added a half cup of crunchy sunflower seeds and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  They look just like a traditional peanut butter cookie but with a subtle sunflower seed flavor.  They’re simply delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted unsalted shelled sunflower seeds

In a medium sized mixing bowl cream together the white sugar, brown sugar, sunflower seed butter, egg, and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until blended.  Add the sunflower seeds.  Place cookie dough covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator and chill for about 2 hours or until the cookie dough is firm.

15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Using a small scoop roll the dough into 1 1/4 inch sized balls.  Place dough balls on silpat lined cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  Press top of dough with a fork to flatten slightly.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden in color.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet with a spatula and place on wire racks to cool.  Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Lime Zucchini Pineapple Bread

Lime Zucchini Pineapple Bread

Over 25 years ago I created a quick bread called Lemon Zucchini Pineapple Bread.  I posted the bread recipe on my website about a year ago and it was a real hit.  Since limes are some of my favorite citrus fruits, I naturally thought it would be a great idea to substitute the lemon flavor with the lime.

With zucchinis growing like crazy in my little garden, I thought I would give my new quick bread idea a try…  I grabbed my garden basket, a sharp knife and my camera and headed out to the garden.  While picking my zucchinis I had to stop and check out the other plants in the vicinity.

Fresh picked zucchini.

Grape leaf.  I just love the shape, color and its jagged edges.

Some of the first tomatoes of the year.  These are the Sun Gold variety.  Whenever I weed or water my garden I stop by and pop a few of these juicy tomatoes in my mouth.  I also like to pick a handful for my lunch or for a snack while I am working at my desk.

Part of my little garden.  I try to utilize as much space as possible.  Lemon cucumbers share the same pot as edible nasturtiums.  Winter squash, yellow zucchini and green zucchini share a small 3 by 8 foot planting strip.  There’s even mammoth sunflowers growing behind them in the strip.  No space in my little garden goes underutilized.  Plants have to learn to share space if they want to exist in my garden.  I make it a point rotate my crops from year to year to ensure good soil health.  Rotating crops means I will not put plants in the same place as they were planted last year.  Zucchini squash might get planted where tomatoes used to reside the prior year and vice versa.

Fresh home grown zucchini ready to be picked.  Later on that afternoon this zucchini ended up in my Lime Zucchini Pineapple Bread.  Adding the fresh squeezed lime juice, brightly flavored lime zest and sweet crushed pineapple makes a delicious loaf of zucchini bread.  It’s light, moist and perfect for a quick breakfast or with a cup of coffee on break.

To prove that my recipe was a keeper, I had to test my new bread recipe on Bruce without telling him what was in it…  First of all, the man claims to hate zucchini.  He would not try it in a million years if I told him that there was zucchini in it.  Unknown to him, I slip zucchini in many of the dishes that I prepare for him.  Okay… I guess what he does not know won’t hurt him.  I look at it this way.  I’m doing him a huge favor.  He’s eating his veggies without really knowing it.

After I pulled the loaves out of the oven and let them cool, I walked downstairs with a huge grin and popped a piece of the Lime Zucchini Pineapple Bread in his mouth as he relaxed on the couch.  He looked back at me and told me that it tasted good.  I then happily confessed to him that there was zucchini in it… Makes 2 fabulous loaves.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple drained well
  • 2 cups zucchini grated
  • 1 Tbs lime zest
  • 1 Tbs lime juice

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Grab 2- 4″ X 8″ baking pans and grease well.  In a medium sized bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, canola oil, pineapple, zucchini, lime juice and lime zest.  Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Mix until moistened.  Do not over mix.  This will look like a thick cake batter, and that is okay, it’s supposed to be that way.  Add the mixture to the two baking pans and bake for 1 hour or until done.  Cool on wire racks then remove loaves from pans.  Slice and serve!

Morel Havarti Omelet

Morel Havarti Omelet

One of the things that I love about Oregon is our morel mushrooms.  I never tasted a morel mushroom before until I moved here well over 25 years ago.  Nearly every year I hunt for them on the forest floor of the Cascade Mountains in the spring and early summer.  Some years I am able to find buckets full of mushrooms, sadly, this year, I was so busy with other things, I did not get a chance to go…  From what I heard from people who live in the mountains above the Rogue Valley is that the weather conditions were less than ideal this year and the picking season was terribly short.  So, when I saw these tasty little morels at my favorite food coop, I snagged a brown paper bag full.

Morels are easily identifiable by their shape and their honeycomb texture.  Before going out and picking morels be sure to do your homework and learn how to identify them properly.  There are other mushrooms out in the forest that are similar in shape and size to a morel. Those mushrooms are called false morels and what’s bad about them is that they are not edible and in fact, they may be poisonous.  False morels look similar to a morel so, just be careful…

A half pound of morels.  I always rinse mine before I use them.  The little ridges and pits in the mushrooms can contain dirt and other forest debris.  If you ever get a chance to purchase morels or go hunting for them, by all means, do it.  Morels taste amazing and are super simple to prepare.  You can saute them, fry them, put them in soups, sauces, or use them in ways you would white or crimini mushrooms.  I decided to take some of these mushrooms and put them in an omelet.  I prepared a basic 3 egg omelet and sauteed morels, shallots, thyme, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper in a bit of melted butter.  Filled the omelet with the morel mixture added some Havarti cheese and melted additional Havarti on top.  It was absolutely delightful! Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water
  •  sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 cup morel mushrooms (cleaned and halved)
  • 1 Tbs shallots (minced)
  • 1/2  tsp fresh thyme (minced)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ounces havarti cheese
  • sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

In a small bowl whisk vigorously together the eggs, water, salt and pepper.  In a nonstick pan on medium high heat add canola oil.  Add the egg mixture covering the entire pan.  Lift parts of the egg mixture with a spatula to allow egg mixture to go under the omelet and cook.  Cook until set.  Meanwhile in another pan, saute the morel mushrooms, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper in butter.  Add mushroom mixture to omelet.  Add 1 ounce Havarti cheese and fold.  Add remaining havarti to the top of the omelet, add a tsp of water, cover and melt.  Remove from pan and slide onto a plate.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme.  Makes 1 omelet.

Green Cauliflower Salad with Garlic Caper Vinaigrette

Green Cauliflower Salad

I finally picked the last of my winter vegetables from my little garden.  Earlier this spring I planted some green cauliflower starts and I was amazed at how well they did this year.  I’ve never really had good luck with cauliflower before but, those who know me know that I’m not one to give up that easily…  One of the cauliflower heads that I harvested this year was about 10″ in diameter.  It was just amazing. I could not believe that I was able to grow such beautiful cauliflower in my garden!

In addition to the cauliflower, other vegetables that I have planted are ready for harvest.  My tomato plants are beginning to produce bunches of ripe tomatoes.  I planted several heirloom varieties of tomatoes in my garden and in large pots.  Medford Ace, Green Zebra, Black, Sweet 100, Pineapple, Caspian Pink, Yellow Pear, and Roma are some of the varieties that I selected this year.  Even my zucchini, yellow squash and lemon cucumbers will be ready to pick in less than a week.  I can’t wait!

Fresh picked green cauliflower.  Do you notice that it is almost a lime green unlike the traditional white cauliflower?  What’s cool about green cauliflower is that it retains its pretty green color even when it is cooked.

Green Zebra tomato.  One of my favorite types of tomatoes.  They are mild in flavor with gorgeous green stripes.  I like to slice them, combine with fresh mozzarella from the local creamery, fresh picked basil and drizzle with a good quality olive oil for a delicious and easy caprese salad.

Black tomato.  I have not tasted this variety yet.  It’s not quite ready to pick.  It will be interesting to see what the interior of this tomato will look like when I slice it.

Rainier cherry from my tree.  Rainier cherries are sweet, juicy and perfect for snacking.

The last of the Rainier Cherries. These tasty little fruits never made it into the house :).  Fortunately, I got to them before the hungry birds did…

Green Cauliflower ready to be picked.  You have to know that everything I grow in my garden is organic.  I am one of those people who refuses to use pesticides or herbicides.  I also make it a point to compost my yard debris, lawn clippings and kitchen scraps.  Sometimes I have problems with pests such as snails and slugs but in my opinion, I’d rather deal with them on an individual basis and be confident that the produce that I grow for my family is chemical free.

My Green Cauliflower Salad is a simple dish with fresh picked green cauliflower and a tasty garlic caper vinaigrette.  White balsamic vinegar and lemon zest give the salad a bright hit of flavor.  It can be served hot, cold or even at room temperature.  Makes 4 servings.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of green cauliflower or 1 pound of florets
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • water
  • 6 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs capers
  • 1 Tbs lemon zest
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • garnish with fresh picked nasturtium blossoms

Begin by placing a steamer basket in a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid.  Add about 1 inch of water to the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Add cauliflower, lemon juice and salt.  Add lid.  Steam cauliflower for about 6  to 8 minutes or until tender.  Remove from cauliflower from pot and drain.  Meanwhile, make the garlic caper vinaigrette. Whisk together the olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, garlic, capers, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Add garlic caper vinaigrette and chopped parsley to steamed cauliflower and lightly toss.  Place in serving dish.  Garnish with nasturtium blossoms.  Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini

Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini

As a child, I despised beets.  Hated, hated, freaking hated them…  From what I understood is that beets came out of a can and no amount of money, begging or bribing could get me to eat them.  No way, never, nope, nuh uh, not happening…  Ever.

And then I grew up…

It was only a few years ago when I rediscovered beets.  In my opinion, beets now taste delicious.  Beets are beautifully colored, richly flavored and earthy.  I can’t believe I just said this out loud.  I like beets. I like them roasted, baked or sliced on a green salad.  Red or golden beets.  Either is fine with me.  Even better is that my beets that I prepare for my family are freshly picked and don’t come out of a can.  I just wash and scrub them well, cut off the tops and toss them in the oven.  After they are cooked, I peel them, slice and serve.  All I do is give them a hit of fresh cream butter or olive oil, cracked black pepper and salt.

I got the idea of blending beets and chevre from a recipe for a Roasted Beet and Chevre Spread in a cookbook called “Dishing up Oregon” by Ashley Gartland.  What a lovely cookbook!  Great photos and fabulous recipes from some of Oregon’s finest cooks.

For those who do not know what chevre is, chevre is a delightfully creamy and complex flavored cheese made from the milk of goats.  I loved the mixture of beets and chevre and decided to adapt the recipe for a delicious Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini.

Locally grown red beets ready to be baked…

Chevre from the Mama Terra Micro Creamery in Williams, Oregon.  The absolute best chevre I have ever tasted in my life.  The cheese is made from the milk of a small herd of Nubian goats.  If you see this cheese in the store, do not hesitate.  Buy it.  It’s outstanding.

Fresh picked local organic radishes. Bright, crisp and peppery.  Simply delicious!

Beet, Chevre, and Radish Crostini garnished with chopped chives from my herb garden.  The beet and chevre mixture is a vibrant pink and the thinly sliced radishes adds a wonderful crunch and a peppery flavor to the little toasts.  I sprinkled the chopped chives on the top of the toasts for a flavorful garnish.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound beets (I used 2 medium sized red) washed, scrubbed and tops removed.
  • 8 ounces fresh creamy chevre cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 or 4 thinly sliced radishes (I used a mandolin and then sliced again with a sharp knife to achieve the shredded effect)
  • fresh chives for garnish
  • 1 loaf baguette bread

Begin by washing and scrubbing your beets.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the beet tops and put the beets in an oven proof pan.  Add a little bit of water (about 1/3 of a cup) and cover tightly with foil.   Bake for one hour or until beets are fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, quarter them and toss in a food processor.  Blend well, scraping the sides.  Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chevre cheese.  Pulse until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper.  Add additional olive oil if the mixture is too thick for your liking.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Remove from food processor and set aside.  Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Slice baguette bread into 1/2 inch slices and toast on a grill pan or barbecue.  Spread beet and chevre mixture on top, add radishes and garnish with chives. Makes about 2 cups of beet and chevre mixture and a couple dozen toasts.