Tag Archives: basil

Garden Pizza, Gluten Free Crust, and Pizza Day Giveaway

finished sauce with tomato2 copy

In my newest book, Pizza Day, which will be released by my publisher Tuesday, there is a pizza recipe at the end of the story called Garden Pizza.

To win a signed and personalized copy of Pizza Day and its the companion, Soup Day, please go here!

Pizza Day and Soup Day Melissa Iwai 2017-72

Garden Pizza is what a little boy and his dad spend the day making using some of the ingredients that they have grown in their garden.

pizzaday_int_garden-Melissa-Iwai

These are some of the vegetables that they gather:

Pizza-Day_int-10-11-Melissa-Iwai

Sadly, we don’t have a stellar garden like theirs, so I made this pizza the other night for my guys using ingredients I bought instead.

Sauce igredients4 copy

Some of my sauce ingredients: diced carrots and onion, dried oregano and basil, garlic, tomato, and olive oil (I forgot to include the tomato paste here!). I use the fresh basil as a garnish to top the pizza when it’s done.

First I made the dough and let it rest and rise while I cooked the sauce.

dough pre rise 2 copy

My sauce gets its sweetness from the carrots. No sugar needed! Plus the carrots add nutrients and fiber.

pizza sauce

After the sauce cooked down and the flavors melded together, I pureed it in a blender, just like the boy in my book!

Pizza-Day_int-20-21-Melissa-Iwai-2017

Then when the dough was finished, I kneaded it, let it rest a bit, and rolled it out.

rolled out dough copy

It was time to top! Denis and Jamie just wanted sauce and cheese.

cheese pizza PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

I made mine veggie and turkey and used a cauliflower crust I had made (see recipe below), because I was doing reintroductions after the Whole 30 and hadn’t gotten to gluten yet!

PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

Riced cauliflower with egg and almond meal prebaked

PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

Baked crust (you must bake it before topping)

veggie pizza PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

Topped with pepper, tomato, onion, sauteed kale, and turkey

Then into the oven our pizzas went.

The final product:

finished pizza 3 copy

Crispy on the outside, chewy crust

 

vegie pizza closeup PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

My mini pizza with veggies, turkey, mozzarella, and fresh basil

Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017
Cheesy!

Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Pizza Day and the board book version of Soup Day here!

Pizza-Day_int-30-31-Melissa-Iwai-2017

 

Garden Pizza from Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai

Pizza Dough:

Ingredients:

Non-stick spray or oil for greasing

1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

3 cups flour, divided, plus more if needed

non-stick spray

 

Pizza Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

¼ chopped carrot

1 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic, about 2 cloves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 ½ cups chopped vine-ripened tomatoes, about 3 large

¼ cup tomato paste

  1. Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together yeast, water, olive oil, and salt in another large bowl until combined. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups of the flour to mixture and mix together until well blended.
  4. Add a little bit of the leftover flour gradually (you may use half or all) until dough forms a ball.
  5. Sprinkle flour onto a large board or counter top, and dump out dough. Knead for 5 minutes, adding a bit of the remaining flour each time it starts to feel sticky. You want to end up with a smooth, elastic mound of dough.
  6. Shape dough into a large ball. Place in greased bowl and turn over to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
  7. Heat olive oil in skillet and saute onions, carrots, garlic, salt, and herbs until onion is translucent.
  8. Add tomatoes and paste. Simmer until softened on very low heat, covered, about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  9. Pulse in blender or food processor to desired chunkiness.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F for 10 minutes.

  1. Divide pizza dough in half, and roll each into a ball. Let rest 10-15 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust two baking sheets and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out each ball of dough into a round on each baking sheet.
  3. Spoon pizza sauce on top and spread onto each. Top with fresh veggies, pepperoni, cooked sausage, shredded cheese, grated parmesan cheese, goat cheese, whatever you like!
  4. Bake for 10-13 minutes, depending how crunchy you like your crust.

Makes 2 medium pizzas.

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Nonstick olive oil spray

1 1/2 cups of riced cauliflower (I buy mine bagged from Trader Joe’s. You can also make your own by ricing or grating raw cauliflower), steamed for about two minutes

1 egg white or 1/2 whole egg

1 tablespoon almond meal

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare  two square pieces of parchment, about 6″ x 6″. Place one square on baking sheet and spray with non stick spray; set aside.
  3. Mix rest of ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Spoon mixture on top of prepared parchment sheet on baking tray. Flatten into a circle with a spoon.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven. Place other square of parchment on top of crust and flip. Then peel cooked piece of paper off.
  7. Your crust is now ready to be topped with toppings of your choice. After topping, bake in oven for another 5 minutes.

Makes one mini pizza crust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Books, Children, Dinner, Gluten Free, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

72 weight watchers

I’m embarrassed that I have had this cookbook and have been meaning to post a review of it FOREVER.  The nice folks at Saint Martin’s Press sent it to me, and it’s a fantastic cookbook.  The more I use it, the more I love it. I’ve never done Weight Watchers, but I know a lot of people who have with great success.  Even if you are not dieting or involved in Weight Watchers, though, this this is a great cookbook to have in your library.  The recipes are not all about using fat-free ingredients, and shunning food groups, etc.  The focus is on fresh ingredients and healthy cooking tips.

Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad

Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad

There is a blurb about each recipe (a lot are favorites that have been updated).   Servings and portion sizes, and nutritional information with PointsPlus points (if you are following the Weight Watchers 360 program) are also included with the recipes.  Recipes that are vegetarian and/or under 20 minutes to prepare are noted. The recipes are very easy to follow, the photography beautiful, but best of all, the dishes are wonderful.  I have made the Lemon Basil Three Bean Salad about four or five times.  It is my new go to side dish for grilling or having a get together (see recipe below).

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

I made the Pork Chops with Onion Gravy last night, and it was AMAZING.  The cool thing about it is that you cook the onions in chicken broth, rather than sauteing them in a lot of oil and butter (a la The Barefoot Contessa), but you don’t sacrifice flavor at all.  So you are only using 1 teaspoon of olive oil for the whole dish.  I will definitely make this again.  It is key that you use bone-in pork chops so they stay moist, and this is noted in the recipe.

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Another recipe I absolutely love is the Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups.  I make this for myself all the time now. I’m the only one who likes spicy foods, so I just make a single portion using our toaster oven.  I love the idea of making the cups using an inverted ramekin or muffin tin.  It works like a charm. And I love baked eggs and Mexican food, so this is one of my favorites.

There are a lot of really simple recipes that I’ve tried out that I am not reviewing here, but that I use regularly and vary to my liking.  Omelettes for Two (you use 2 large eggs and 3 whites),  Canadian Bacon-Cheddar Frittata, Potato Leek Soup, Kale Chips,  Banana “Ice Cream”, Oven Fried Fish and Chips, Vegetable Quesadillas, to name a few.

I chose to highlight these three because they were all very good, and I learned something from them that I think is valuable and that I’ll incorporate into other recipes (e.g. Including edamame in bean salad, and using lemon juice and zest, rather than vinegar; making tortilla cups; and cooking a pile of onions and softening them in chicken broth).

And there are  TON of recipes I want to try out in the future, like:  Bubble Bread with Herbs and Sun Dried Tomatoes, Southwestern Chicken Vegetable Soup, Mexican Chicken Wraps, Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy, Individual Beef Wellingtons, Boston Cream Pie.  These are just a handful of them.  If I were to wait until I made everything, photographed the dishes, wrote about them, and posted about it, this review would take even longer than it has to get out!

Please enjoy these three dishes from Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook, and buy the book for more great healthy and delicious recipes!

Lemon Basil Three-Bean Salad

From The Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

Serves 6

20 Min or Less

Vegetarian

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 (15-ounce) can small white, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup cooked shelled green soybeans (edamame)

1/3 sweet onion, finely diced

1/3 red bell pepper, finely diced

5 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, salt, and ground pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the black beans, white beans, soybeans, onion, bell pepper, and basil; toss to coat evenly.  Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Per Serving (3/4 cup):  160 Cal, 3 g Total Fat, 0 g Sat Fat, 0 mg Chol, 427 mg Sod, 26g Carb, 8 g Fib, 9g Prot, 94 mg Calc.
PointsPlus value: 4

bean salad

Skillet Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

From Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook

Serves 6

4 (6-ounce) bone-in pork loin chops, trimmed

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced

1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1        Sprinkle the chops with the salt and pepper.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I used a cast iron one).  Swirl in the oil, add the chops and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

2        Add the onions, ¼ cup of the broth, and the garlic to the skillet.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender, about 12-15 minutes.

3        Sprinkle the onions with the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add the remaining 1 cup broth, mustard, and thyme.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce bubbles and thickens.  Return the chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chops are heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Per Serving (1 chop with ¼ cup sauce):

253 Cal, 11 g Total Fat, 4g Sat Fat, 76 mg Chol, 420 g Sod, 9 g Carb, 2 g Fiber, 29g Prot, 30 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value: 6

Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups

Serves 4

Vegetarian

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onion

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup canned diced mild green chiles, drained

2-3 tablespoons mild peepper sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 large eggs

¼ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

  1. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 425 F.  Lightly spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick spray.  Place 4 inverted custard cups on a baking sheet, and drape a tortilla over each to give it a bowl shape.  (You may also use an inverted 12-cup muffin pan, placing the tortillas over alternate cups.)  Bake until the tortillas are crisped and lightly golden around the edges, 10 minutes.  Remove the tortillas and set them on a rack to cool.
  1. Combine the diced tomatoes, beans, chiles, pepper sauce, cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in an ovenproof skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors are blended, 4 minutes.  Break the eggs one at a time, on top of the sauce, spacing them evenly apart.
  1. Immediately place the pan in the oven and bake until the eggs are almost set, 6-8 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs and bake until melted, 1 minute.  to serve, place the tortilla cups on serving plates and spoon the eggs and sauce into the tortilla cups.  Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

Per Serving  (1 filled tortilla cup):  289 Cal, 8g Total fat, 3 g Sat Fat, 216 mg Chol, 840 Sod, 40g, Carb, 8 g fib, 17g Prot, 200 mg Calc.

PointsPlus value:  7

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Filed under Breakfast, Eggs, Lunch, Pork, Sides

Creamy Pesto Sauce

creamy pesto ravioli


When it comes to gardening, my thumb is pretty much black.  The one thing I have success with every summer, though, is basil.

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

And everyone knows, the best way to use copious amounts of basil is to make PESTO!  I make a lot during the summer and freeze it for future use.  When freezing, the one thing you want to remember to do is omit the cheese — it messes up the texture.  Then after the pesto is thawed and heated, add grated parmesan to it.

Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which can be really expensive. I buy the Chinese ones instead of the Spanish ones.  Also, you can substitute walnuts for the pine nuts if the price is too great in your area.

Mmm.  Toasted pine nuts!
Mmm. Toasted pine nuts!

You just process the nuts with basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and olive oil, and you end up with a great sauce.  You can also thin the sauce with some hot pasta water (from the pot you boiled your pasta in).

pesto with pasta

With some extra grated parmesan of course!

I also love pesto on sauteed zucchini “pasta”.  You may like this low carb alternative.

pesto with zucchini slices

Another great pesto sauce is a creamy version.  Heat cream cheese and milk in a sauce pan, whisk until smooth, and then whisk in about 2 large spoonfuls of pesto.  It makes a wonderfully creamy pesto sauce that is not as rich and fattening as one made with heavy cream.

creamy pesto ravioli2

Which do you prefer?  Regular or creamy pesto sauce?

Pesto Sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup  pine nuts

a huge bunch of basil leaves, washed and dried

2 garlic cloves, smashed

about 1/4 cup olive oil or more as needed

grated parmesan to taste

kosher salt to taste

1.  Toast pine nuts.  I use my toaster oven.  Watch carefully, because they brown quickly!  You could also toast them in a skillet on the stove.  Keep stirring and watch them so you don’t burn them.  Remove from heat and let cool.

2.  Wash and dry basil leaves.

3.  Process basil in a food processor until chopped up fine.  Add garlic and pine nuts and process until fine.  While processor is running, add olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add grated cheese if you plan to use immediately, rather than freezing the pesto.  Taste.  Add salt if you think it needs it. Or more olive oil.

4.  Cook pasta until al dente. Dress with the pesto sauce — thin if you need to with pasta water.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

1/2 cup light cream cheese

1/4 cup milk

2 large spoonfuls of regular pesto sauce (see above)

1.  Heat cream cheese and milk in saucepan over low to medium heat.  Slowly whisk together until smooth.

2.  Whisk in dollops of pesto sauce.

3.  Serve over you favorite pasta.

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Filed under Condiments, Dinner, Pasta, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Pumpkin Custard and How to Use Leftover Ingredients

Let me tell you something about myself:  I hate wasting food.

One of my pet peeves used to be recipes that only used a small amount of an ingredient, as in one tablespoon of chopped, fresh parsley or two tablespoons of tomato paste, etc.  The leftovers would languish and eventually go bad in the refrigerator — only to be discovered later.  I say “used to be” because I’ve found ways around wasting the rest of the ingredients through various methods.

I realized I did not clarify that with the last recipe I posted! The pumpkin granola bars only call for 1/4 cup each of pumpkin puree and applesauce.   So I wanted to use this as an opportunity to share some tips for using leftover ingredients.

Whenever I have extra, I either use it up right away (e.g. we ate the leftover applesauce over the next days), or I freeze it.  It can drive my patient husband crazy, but I’ve been known to fill our ice cube trays with all sorts of leftover ingredients:  Coconut milk (leftover from curry —  frozen coconut milk is great in smoothies!), tomato paste, marinara sauce, chicken and beef broths, apple sauce, milk and coffee creamer (before we go on a long trip and I know it would go bad otherwise — these are also great in smoothies and frapuccinos!)  Yes, I’ve even frozen pumpkin puree in ice cube trays.  The resulting pumpkin cubes are great in smoothies and this terrific pumpkin frappucino (I use the frozen pumpkin and less ice, so it has more flavor).

My ice cube molds hold about 2 tablespoons.  I freeze the food in them and then transfer the cubes to a labelled freezer bag — the key word being labelled!
Don’t skip this step — believe me, frozen chicken broth looks a lot like applesauce.  To defrost, I zap them in the microwave.  I know each cube is 2 tablespoons, so two cubes are 1/4 cup and four cubes are 1/2, etc.

Frozen coconut milk cubes.

For the leftover pumpkin from the pumpkin granola in the last post, I decided not to freeze the rest of the pumpkin puree and instead made a simple pumpkin pie dessert minus the crust.

I blended the pumpkin, sweetener (I used stevia), cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and milk to taste  in a blender.  Then I added an egg and blended some more. I transferred the mixture to little ramekins and nuked them in the microwave for 2 minutes, then 1 1/2 minutes each until they looked done.  They were delicious with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice on top.

A less decadent pumpkin “pie” dessert.

For leftover ingredients that do not lend themselves easily to freezing, I make other things.  For leftover parsley, I always make tabouleh.  Here is a crunchy version inspired by Mark Bittman.  When I have leftover basil, I always make fresh pesto (which you can freeze or use immediately).  Here’s a recipe that I used when I had leftover basil after making stuffed zucchini.

Recently, I threw together a shrimp curry and had leftover coconut milk (which I froze as mentioned above) and chick peas.  A great way to use leftover chick peas is to puree them with tahini, lemon, garlic, salt, and olive oil to taste and make hummus.  If you only have a little bit though, I would recommend roasting them at a high temperature.  They make a yummy snack or salty treat to throw on your salad.  Just coat with oil or nonstick spray, kosher salt, and/or other seasoning and roast at 400 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes or so.  Roast until they are crunchy.  They are SO good.  I usually end up eating them all in one sitting.  They would probably be good mixed with popcorn, but I never save enough to try it out!

Do you have tricks for using up or saving leftover recipe ingredients?  Do share — I’d love to hear about them!

*******************************************************************

On a literary note — I just want to let you all know that this weekend Denis and I will be on a panel with other authors of Halloween themed books at the wonderful Books of Wonder this Saturday at 12-2 pm to share Hush Little Monster.

Oct 27th
Saturday

12pm -2pm
HAUNTED HALLOWEEN FUN!
KARINA WOLF – The Insomniacs
MICHAEL LEVITON- My First Ghost
LEO LANDRY- Trick or Treat
DENNIS MARKELL – Hush, Little Monster
MELISSA IWAI – Hush, Little Monster
GIANNA MARINO – Too Tall Houses

On Sunday, we will be at Book Court in Brooklyn at 11 am.  I will be bringing these (mini) monster cookies to pass out.  If you are in the area, please stop by and say “boo!” 🙂

For info on upcoming events, check here.

****************************************************************

Now for the “recipes” — these are really just guidelines!  It depends on how much of the ingredient you have.

Pumpkin Custard

almost a can of pumpkin puree

sweetener of choice to taste

cinnamon to taste

pumpkin pie spice to taste

1-2 tablespoons or more milk, depending on how thick you like it-for a richer flavor and texture, use heavy cream

1 egg

1.  Blend everything in a blender except egg.  Then taste and adjust spices and milk.  Then add egg and blend some more.  You could also do this in a food processor.

2.  Transfer mixture to ramekins.  Microwave for 2 minutes.  Then again for about 1 1/2 minutes until custard looks cooked.  Serve with whipped cream and extra cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

These are quite addicting. If you like them a lot, just go for a whole can!

Roasted Chickpeas

Leftover chickpeas

Non-stick spray

salt and or other seasonings of your choice

1.  Spray chickpeas with spray and sprinkle with salt on foil or parchment lined baking sheet.  Roast at 400 degrees F, shaking pan every 15 minutes, until chickpeas are crunchy — about 30-45 minutes.

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Filed under Books, Desserts, Sides, Vegetarian

Roasted Potato, Tomato and Cheese Stuffed Roasted Zucchini


Another zucchini recipe here.  It’s one of the few vegetables that my husband eats, so I try to figure out a lot of different ways to cook it!  This one is an old favorite, and zucchini is so abundant and inexpensive now, I thought I’d share it with you all.

It’s based on a recipe I saw many, many years ago in Cooks Illustrated, which has evolved over the years.

First, prepare the zucchini.  Cut in half lengthwise and spoon out flesh.  A melon baller works the best, but if you don’t have one, use a spoon.  I also cut a small slice on the bottom of each zucchini half so it has a flat surface to rest on, preventing it from wobbling so much.

And don’t throw out the flesh!  It is great in soup another day.  See note below.

For a readable, printable version, click here.

Roast the zucchini halves with some potatoes tossed in olive oil and salt.  While it’s roasting, saute onion, garlic, tomatoes until soft.  Then add the roasted potatoes and some cheese and basil.  Fill zucchini halves with stuffing, top with more cheese and roast or broil until cheese as melted.

Garnish with some fresh basil if you like.

You know it has to be delicious if my vegetable averse husband eats it!

Roasted Potato, Tomato and Cheese Stuffed Roasted Zucchini

4 medium sized zucchini

3 medium red or Yukon potatoes, cut into small cubes

kosher salt and pepper to taste

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

non-stick spray

1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup

2 cloves of garlic pressed through garlic press, about 1½ teaspoons

1 plum tomato, cored and deseeded, chopped

1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese or other cheese you like (Mozzarella also works well here)

1/2 cup chopped basil, divided

  1.  Place two foil lined baking sheets in oven, one on top rack and one on bottom rack.  Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out interior flesh with a melon baller or spoon creating a zucchini “boat”.  Reserve flesh for another time.  Cut off a sliver from bottom of each zucchini “boat” so that it can rest without wobbling.  Brush cut halves with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast in oven for 10 minutes on top baking sheet, cut side down.
  2. Toss potato cubes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Gently remove heated empty baking sheet from oven.  Spray with non-stick spray and transfer potatoes onto sheet, spreading into one even layer.  Return to bottom rack in oven.  Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking period.
  3. While zucchini and potatoes are roasting, heat remaining olive oil in large non-stick skillet.  Sauté onions, stirring constantly, until onions are soft.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and the roasted potatoes.  Cook until tomatoes are soft.  Off heat, add ½ cup cheese and 1/3 cup of the basil.  Stir to combine.
  4. Turn zucchini halves over and divide potato filling among them.  Sprinkle each with remaining cheese (about 2 tablespoon per zucchini half).  Return to oven and roast for about 5 minutes on top rack, until cheese has melted.  Garnish with remaining basil.  Serve immediately (2 halves per serving).

Yield: 4 servings.

Note:  I used to throw out the extra zucchini flesh I scooped out.  Now I save it in a container in the refrigerator and steam it later or throw it into a stir fry.  There is a lot of it, so it’s really no point in throwing it away when you can use it in something else!  You can use it with more zucchini to make an easy creamy soup.  Or halve the soup recipe amounts to make 2 servings with the leftover zucchini from this recipe.

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Filed under Dinner, Vegetarian

Roasted Potato, Tomato, and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

This is one of my husband’s favorite meals, and considering he only ate brown food before he met me (peanut butter, bacon, meat, bread, etc.), that’s saying a lot.  I’ve been making it for years and have experimented with it along the way.  Sometimes I add mushrooms to the saute. I’ve also added ground meat.  It’s a very forgiving recipe.  Basically you roast the zucchini “boats” and potatoes (I’ve also tried sweet potatoes) in the oven while you saute the onion and other ingredients.  Then you pull the whole thing together by throwing in the roasted potatoes with the sauteed ingredients and add some cheese and fresh herbs (I like basil).  You stuff the “boats” with this mixture, top with cheese, heat until it melts and garnish with more herbs.  It’s a really vibrant and healthy vegetarian meal!

Who knows the best way to store unused basil?  The green market guy told me to place in a glass of water and leave out — DO NOT put in the refrigerator! he commanded.  So I didn’t.  It makes a lovely bouquet, but it wilted within a day and made our kitchen smell like “a pizzeria “, according to my husband.  I’ve also tried washing the leaves, spinning them as dry as possible in a salad spinner, and storing them wrapped in paper towel in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator.  The basil seemed to last longer, but some edges of the leaves still turned brown.  If anyone has a fool-proof method, by all means let me know!

Instead of risking it going bad, I usually just wash the whole bunch and make pesto.  I toast some pine nuts, crush some garlic, and process it with the basil.  While it is processing, I add some olive oil, then taste it and add salt.  If I’m using the pesto immediately, I also process it with grated parmesan cheese.  But if I’m freezing it to store, I omit the cheese and add it later after it’s been defrosted. I can’t remember where I read about this tip — I believe it was in a Mark Bittman column when he used to write for the New York Times.

pesto without cheese

The pesto can be used to flavor pasta, steamed or roasted veggies, as a dip or sandwich spread.  You can add water or more olive oil to thin it out.  For me, this has been the best way to avoid throwing away an ugly bunch of brown basil that never got used!  It’s just a matter of having the other ingredients on hand (if you don’t have pine nuts, other nuts such as walnuts, almonds, even hazelnuts can do the trick, altering the taste a bit, but the pesto is still delicious– it’s fun to improvise) and taking the time to make the pesto.  It is well worth it!

Roasted Potato, Tomato, and Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

4 medium sized zucchini

3 medium red or Yukon potatoes, cut into small cubes

kosher salt and pepper to taste

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

non-stick spray

1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup

2 cloves of garlic pressed through garlic press, about 1½ teaspoons

1 plum tomato, cored and deseeded, chopped

1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup chopped basil, divided

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place two foil lined baking sheets in oven, one on top rack and one on bottom rack.  Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out interior flesh with a melon baller or spoon creating a zucchini “boat”.  Reserve flesh for another time.  Cut off a sliver from bottom of each zucchini “boat” so that it can rest without wobbling.  Brush cut halves with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast in oven for 10 minutes on top baking sheet, cut side down.
  2. Toss potato cubes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Gently remove heated empty baking sheet from oven.  Spray with non-stick spray and transfer potatoes onto sheet, spreading into one even layer.  Return to bottom rack in oven.  Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking period.
  3. While zucchini and potatoes are roasting, heat remaining olive oil in large non-stick skillet.  Sauté onions, stirring constantly, until onions are soft.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and the roasted potatoes.  Cook until tomatoes are soft.  Off heat, add ½ cup cheese and 1/3 cup of the basil.  Stir to combine.
  4. Turn zucchini halves over and divide potato filling among them.  Sprinkle each with remaining cheese (about 2 tablespoon per zucchini half).  Return to oven and roast for about 5 minutes on top rack, until cheese has melted.  Garnish with remaining basil.  Serve immediately (2 halves per serving).

Yield: 4 servings.

Note:  I used to throw out the extra zucchini flesh I scooped out.  Now I save it in a container in the refrigerator and steam it later or throw it into a stir fry.  There is a lot of it, so it’s really no point in throwing it away when you can use it in something else!

Pesto

A bunch of basil

Kosher salt to taste

About 2 heaping tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted (or other nut)

Clove of garlic, smashed

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, depending on taste

Grated parmesan cheese to taste

1.  Process basil, pine nuts, and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Scrape down edges.  While processor is running, slowly pour in olive oil through feed tube.  Season with more salt to taste.  If using immediately, add parmesan and process again.  If freezing, omit and add parmesan after defrosting.

Makes about 1/2 pint.

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Filed under Condiments, Dinner, Vegetables, Vegetarian