What I Made: Spaghetti Squash with Gruyere Cheese

To someone who has never made it before, spaghetti squash seems so intimidating.  Somehow I’m supposed to take something that looks like a regular, unremarkable squash and turn it into something that looks like spaghetti? Turns out it’s not so hard after all.  Then tossed with cheese and some fresh parsley, it makes a great pasta substitute for those looking to go gluten free or just upgrade to a healthy option.

To get squash into cooked form, you just jab a couple of vents in it with a knife (to keep the thing from exploding inside your oven, the recipe explains!) and bake it for at least an hour until it’s soft, much like baking a potato in the oven. Next, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds, without removing too much of the flesh.  To create the “spaghettis”, just scrape the remaining flesh with a fork and scoop it out from the skin.  Toss it with some butter, gruyere cheese, garlic and fresh parsley, and season with salt and pepper to complete the dish.

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You can tell a dish is really good when all I have is a photo of the leftovers ready for another day’s meal.

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What I Made: Orecchiette with Radicchio

Fresh handmade pasta is something special.  Sure, it leaves my kitchen covered in a thick coating of flour because I am the world’s messiest cook, but it also takes a regular pasta dish and turns up the YUM factor.  Making pasta is my newest interest, and it’s definitely something that is going to require quite a bit of practice. And time. And patience.

This recipe is my second go-round making orecchiette, and I’m steadily improving. At least, my pastas looked a lot more ear-shaped this time, and since that’s how orecchiette gets its name, I’m taking that as a good sign…

To make the orecchiette, roll a portion of the dough into a long log about a half inch thick, keeping the other dough wrapped tightly in plastic wrap while not in use.  Cut into 1/2 inch pieces and roll into a ball.  Flatten the ball with your thumb, then, still pressing, pull slightly to one side to create a dimple.  Then, take the pasta and flip inside out, placing on a floured baking sheet until it’s ready to cook. It will cook to al dente in 8 minutes. Then, the shallots are cooked until softened and wine is added and then reduced.  The herbs, pasta, radicchio, and cheese get a quick toss and the whole dish is served at room temperature.

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What I Made: Corn and Poblano Lasagna

My awesome cousin Anna heard my pleas for more zucchini recipes and sent along a whole bunch!  As I’ve mentioned, I love trying recipes that use more than one of my weekly ingredients, so of course this was the first recipe I tried.

This is a lasagna where the layers are a pureed mix of sautéed corn and cream, no-boil lasagna noodles, and a mix of onions, zucchini and poblano peppers, all topped with Oaxaca cheese. My neighborhood grocery store carries Oaxaca cheese, but if you can’t find it, the recipe suggest substituting mozzarella.

The original recipe says to use an 11×8 baking dish.  Naturally, I only had a 11×7 or a 9×13.  I sized up, but in hindsight, I should have sized down.  The bigger dish meant that the veggies didn’t fully cover the noodles, so they didn’t get soft on the top layer.

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You can see from this photo that I didn’t have enough veggies to cover the top, so the noodles got a little crispy.  Nothing some time in the fridge as leftovers won’t fix! However, this meant that I avoided broiling the lasagna to crisp the cheese, since I didn’t want to burn the exposed noodles.

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What I Made: Stuffed Green Peppers

Ready for a break from zucchini?  I have to admit, even though the recipes make it seem like I’m in zucchini overload this week, the variety of the recipes keep me from getting sick of the squash.

That being said, it’s always nice to try something different. I hesitate to call these TexMex stuffed peppers, but that was my “flavor inspiration”, as corny as it sounds. Prefer Mediterranean flavors? Cajun flavors? The base ingredients (peppers, rice ground beef) would go well with a whole range of different seasoning; swap in whatever you prefer!

Start by cooking 1 cup of rice. While that is going, cut the top off 4 green bell peppers and remove all the seeds and as much of the membrane as possible, reserving the meaty part of the top (i.e., not the stems).

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Hollowed out peppers, ready for stuffing!

Dice reserved pepper and cook until soft in a skillet with a diced onion.

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Add ground beef and brown.
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Meanwhile, parboil peppers for a couple of minutes.  My pot was small so I had to do one or two at a time.

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To the ground beef, add 2 tablespoons of your preferred seasoning. I used taco seasoning. StuffPepp5

Add rice to the ground beef and mix well so rice is distributed in the mixture.

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Fill peppers with meat and rice mixture and set upright in a baking dish. Add water to the dish so it comes about 1 inch up the side of the peppers. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.

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Take peppers out of the oven, top with cheese of your choice (I used a shredded Mexican blend), and return to bake 10 more minutes.

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In a hurry? Make the meat mixture ahead of time and bring to room temperature before stuffing the peppers!

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What I Made: Zucchini Lasagna

The festival of zucchini continues!  This recipe is a bit of a blend: some tips from online recipes and some tried and true family lasagna recipes.  The final product, however, is definitely a winner, proven to make even zucchini haters change their tune. As always, the full recipe is below.

Start by slicing the zucchini thinly, then salt and let drain in a colander.  The idea here is to draw as much moisture out as possible to keep the lasagna from becoming watery.

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Prepare the meat.  I used ground turkey, but ground beef would work great too.

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Next add the sauce and any additional seasoning.  I added some basil, but you can get as fancy or keep it as simple as you’d like.

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Once the meat is done cooking, start the layering!  First up is half the meat mixture, followed by half of the zucchini slices, slightly overlapping.

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Next, spread the yummy ricotta and cottage cheese mixture overtop.

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Then, repeat!  Another layer of meat sauce, followed by another layer of lasagna, finally topped with slices mozzarella and shredded cheese (I used store-bought Italian Blend).

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Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.

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A practical note: My lasagna was still pretty watery and runny out of the oven, even after salting the zucchini slices.  The slicing and serving became much easier after it set up for the night in the fridge!

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What I Made: Stuffed Eight Ball Zucchini

While I do appreciate cooking one dish and having leftovers to last the whole week, there’s something to be said about a singe-serve recipe. I especially like being able to try out a new recipe in a limited portion. When there’s no way to know what might come back in the CSA box from week to week, it leaves me more chances to try different ways of using an ingredient.

Of course, I’ve had zucchini plenty of different ways, but I’d never had the eight ball zucchini variety. It’s a round zucchini (thus the name) with smooth dark green skin. According to my quick internet browsing, one of the recommended ways of preparing eight ball zucchini was by stuffing it and this recipe makes it easy to see why!  The flesh is smooth and soft and the round veggie makes the perfect serving vessel.  This is stuffed with tomato sauce, goat cheese and topped with an egg.  Read on for the recipe.

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The eight ball zucchini in all its rotund glory.

Cut the top off the zucchini and scoop out, reserving the insides for the filling.  I found this plenty easy with a spoon, but it is a little tough to make sure the remaining zucchini shell is close to a uniform thickness. StuffZucch2

Chop up the zucchini and add it to a pan to heat. Meanwhile, rub the zucchini shell with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes in a 375 degree over.
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My tomato sauce was pretty plain, so I added some basil and onion to help out the seasonings.

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Add 2 tablespoons of sauce (I went overboard!) and let it cook down about 15 minutes.

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This is more or less what the cooked version of the filling looks like.  Hopefully, yours is a little less runny than mine was!StuffZucch6

When the zucchini shell is easily pierced by a fork, it’s ready for stuffing.  Check multiple sides if you’re like me and didn’t scrape an even 1/4 inch all the way around.  Add the tomato sauce and zucchini filling.
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Then add the goat cheese.

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This was my attempt at topping with the egg. As you can see, I was not so successful.  The zucchini was cut unevenly at the top and also stuffed too full, so the egg slid right off!StuffZucch9

Finally got the egg on, however, most of the white ended up in the pan.  At that point, I was hungry, and it was good enough, so off to the oven it went for another 15 minutes to let the egg set.StuffZucch10

The finished product!  The egg was strangely cooked on top but the yolk was still runny underneath.  I had trouble telling when the white was set since the cheese bubbled underneath, making the egg white appear runny.  I might suggest either checking often for doneness to not overcook the yolk, or tenting your pan with foil for this last step. Should the egg have been farther down in the overfilled zucchini? I’m not sure what went wrong here.  If you try this, let me know if it worked for you!StuffZucch11

 

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What I Made: Caprese Salad

My apartment has an air conditioning unit in the window, but to call it “air conditioned” can be a bit of a stretch, especially during these hot, humid summer days.  That’s why being able to limit by use of the oven and use the stove only sparingly is critical in my recipe selection. It’s really just another aspect of cooking seasonally, right?

Most people are familiar with caprese salad: tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  It’s simple to make, looks great with the beautiful heirloom tomatoes I got, and perhaps best of all, requires no cooking!

 

Ready for its close up, and to become your summer staple.

Ready for its close up, and to become your summer staple.