Sungold Tomatoes & Roasted Broccoli Panzanella

If I can be cliché for a moment, summer is fleeting so quickly. I can’t believe how in the few weeks since the summer solstice, how quickly we’re losing daylight. I mean yes, the sun is now rising and setting at more reasonable hours but the change is noticeable, especially when it’s a reminder that the rainy gloom of a Pacific Northwest autumn will be here all too soon.

But I’m not done with summer yet.

Late summer brings gorgeous tomatoes like these sungold cherry babies. So sweet and an irresistible color too!

These tomatoes ended up being a pretty great muse for me, inspiring a dinner that was about breaking some ruts in our routine.

See normally when we have tomatoes, we eat tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and roasted broccoli– a crowd pleaser all around. That gave me the idea to put bread, cheese (fresh mozzarella pearls in this case,) and the halved cherry tomatoes together in a panzanella. After all, I love the combination of crusty bread that’s been fried in garlicky olive oil and topped with a juicy slice of summer tomatoes. Why not dice up that fried bread for a bread salad?

The salad would accompany bowls of roasted carrot soup and some roasted broccoli to get some green veg in, but at the last minute, I decided to add the broccoli directly to the panzanella to give the salad more crunch and substance.

And there you have it! With slivers of red onion and fresh basil and a dressing that I put together over the salad without mixing it first, this came together pretty quickly and was delicious. I think it was also a nice nod to the transition between late summer into fall: the tomatoes have that summer sweetness that no amount of greenhouse cultivation can achieve year round while the broccoli was hearty and nutty from roasting, reminiscent of comfort in colder weather meals. But what I liked best was how it felt freeing creatively for me, something that I don’t get to feel in my kitchen as much these days as work and kids keep me going to standbys that I know and can cook by rote.

And that inspiration also fired me up to change the look of my blog too. Hope you like it and this salad too!

Sungold Tomatoes and Roasted Broccoli Panzanella

 

Ingredients

1 medium head of broccoli, cut up into small florets

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 slices of country style bread or a crusty bread of your choice

2 large cloves of garlic

1 pint sungold cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a sheet pan, toss together the broccoli florets with a good drizzle (2-3 tbsp) olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 20-30 mins, tossing occasionally, or until florets are tender and lightly browned in places. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While broccoli is roasting, pour enough olive oil into a large skillet so that the oil is about 1/4 inch deep. Smash and peel your garlic cloves and add that to the pan then turn the heat up to medium. Turn your garlic cloves occasionally until lightly browned on all sides. Remove garlic from the pan.

Add the slices of bread– I like to place a slice in one at a time, flipping the bread over before adding the next slice to make sure each side gets evenly coated with oil. Once all slices are in the pan, toast the bread in the oil, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the bread is light brown, about 5-7 mins. Flip the bread and repeat. Sprinkle the bread with salt and remove from pan to cool. When cool enough to touch, cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.

Place the halved cherry tomatoes, roasted broccoli, mozzarella pearls, slivered red onion, and the basil in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine. Drizzle about 4 tbsp of olive oil, the red vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper to taste then mix together again gently. Add 3/4 of the bread cubes and toss again then too with remaining bread and some more basil if you like. Serve immediately.

Makes 6-8 servings

CSA Count: 3 (sungold cherry tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil)

Kid rating (out of two empty plates): 1.25

Note for the working parent: It took me about 35 mins to put this all together, but if you want, you could roast the broccoli the night before, cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in your fridge overnight.

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Golden Beets and Walnuts Tart

I have come to love beets. I even willingly drank a beet beer once. But the abundance of beets that inevitably comes from our CSA fills me with panic and dread as I try to figure out what I can do with them that my kids will actually eat.

I’ve tried making beet chips, which the younger kid seemed to like, but the older kid rejected because it still tasted too much like well, beets. I then put them in smoothies which the older kid liked but the younger kid rejected probably because it tastes too healthy. And although I think these were a success, I’m not feeding my kids cupcakes each week.

When last week’s share brought us our first bunch of golden beets, I hit the Internet up for some inspiration, searching for beet recipes my kids will eat. Among my search results was this beet, walnut, and chèvre tart. I figured at the very least, they might eat the crust without complaining and we’d call it good.

I adapted this tart in a few ways. It starts with swapping in some whole wheat flour in the crust, which you could say is to make it healthier but really, I thought the nuttiness of the whole wheat would complement the walnuts more. Next, I roasted the beets instead of steaming them, adding some flavor by throwing in some thyme sprigs. More color, as well as a healthful boost and frugal use of the beet tops was added by sautéing the chopped beet greens with the caramelized onions. Lastly, instead of chèvre, I used more kid-friendly Beecher’s Flagship cheese.

The result was gorgeous and glorious! But did my kids like it? Well, the older one picked up a beet suspiciously, asking what it was. My husband and I refused to tell her so she took a bite and gleefully declared it to be a carrot. We probably should have lived up the lie, but told her the truth. After that, her interest in the tart suddenly dropped off.
But the younger one? The one for whom it took 3.5 years before she’d willingly eat a strawberry? She begrudgingly declared it “half good,” but she also did not hesitate to eat more bites, greens and all. My husband gave me a high five on the sly. I’ll take that as highest kid praise when it comes to a hard sell like beets!

Golden Beets and Walnuts Tart

(Adapted from here. )

Tart Shell Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Tart Filling Ingredients
3 small beets, halved
Olive oil
2-3 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Beet greens, trimmed off of stems and finely chopped
2 tablespoons dry Sherry or whatever dry wine you have on hand
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Beecher’s Flagship cheese or a hard, nutty white cheese. Maybe gruyere or even a sharp white cheddar can work
1 cup chopped walnuts (Although I think pinenuts might be a nice swap.)
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Start by making the tart shell. In a food processor, add the flours, salt, and butter. Pulse 8-10 times, holding the button down for 2-3 seconds each pulse, until the butter is the size of small peas. With the processor running, add 4 tablespoons of ice water until the dough just comes together. Remove to a sheet of plastic wrap and clump together into a ball, drizzling more water if the mixture is too dry. Flatten the ball into a disk then wrap tightly in plastic. Chill for at least 30 mins or up to two days.

Preheat your oven to 375. Roll out dough to a 13 inch circle then carefully lay it over a 10 inch tart pan, pressing the dough up and into the sides. Cleanly cut off excess dough by rolling your rolling pin over the top and breaking off the overhanging dough. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil over the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake shell on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Carefully remove the foil and set shell aside.

To make the filling, start by roasting the beets. Turn your oven to 400 degrees. Place beet halves on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and top with thyme sprigs. Wrap tightly in foil and bake for 1 hour or until tender. Unwrap beets so they can cool a little.
Heat 1 tablespoon each of unsalted butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat in the butter and oil then cover with a lid and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 7 mins, stirring once halfway through cooking time. Remove lid and continue to cook onions until lightly caramelized, for me, that was about 15 mins more. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped beet greens, then crank up the heat to medium high. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the sherry. Cook until greens are wilted, about 3-5 minutes. A lot of liquid will be in the pan. Using tongs, remove the greens and onions to a colander, squeezing out extra liquid as you do. When all of the greens and onions are in the colander, press on them with a wooden spoon to get rid of more excess liquid.
Set the oven to 350 and place the tart pan on a baking sheet.
Place the greens and onions in the bottom of the tart shell. Peel then thinly slice beats crosswise. Place them on top of the greens– you can layer them decoratively, if that floats your boat. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs then add the 3/4 cup of cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk together until combined then pour over the beets in your tart shell. Break apart the cheese into small crumbles and scatter over your tart.
Bake tart on the baking sheet for 20 minutes then scatter walnuts on top and return to the oven, baking for another 20 minutes or until the filling is firm but still slightly quivers. Remove from oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before scattering parsley on the top and removing the tart from the outside tart shell ring.

Yields 12 slices.
CSA count: 3 (golden beets, parsley, beet greens)
Kid rating (out of two empty plates): 1 empty plate

Notes for the working parent: I made and blind baked the tart shell, roasted the beets, and cooked the greens and onions over the weekend, storing the beets and greens separately in the fridge. I then assembled and baked the tart on a weeknight, giving me lots of downtime while it was baking to shop for workout clothes online, so you know, a relaxed, post-work cooking effort.

Wedge Salads

  

Wedge salads with homemade green goddess dressing and sliced almonds

CSA Count: 2 Two different kinds of little gem lettuces

Garden Count: 2 Parsley and tarragon

Ga

New Life; New Blog

I’ve been absent from this blog for so long. What started as a means of coping with multiple pregnancy losses, unemployment, and stress from studying for the bar exam has been forgotten in the chaos of full-time work and raising two small kids. I still love to cook, especially so when I can share that love with my daughters and with others. Sometimes I think about repurposing this blog to capture the ways I adapt or make my own recipes for meals that are kid friendly and can be broken down in steps so that meals can be put together after work and still get the kids to bed at a reasonable time. But then I worry about having the energy at night to keep up with it.

I think the trick is to not let the blog control my life. So here’s what I’m thinking: this blog will be a mix of short and longer posts: I’ll post pictures here from time to time of ways that we’re using our CSA box or garden harvests to help others find ideas for similar ingredients. When time and energy permits, I’ll post pieces that spell out recipes and tips. Here’s to indulging in a little narcissism again!

Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes

Is it just me or haven’t the berries this season been phenomenal? Plump, sweet blueberries. Juicy, tangy raspberries. Ruby red strawberries. It’s no wonder that the baby has been devouring berries, smacking her lips and savoring the textures and juiciness of each berry as she squishes them before popping them in her mouth. I fear for us when berry season is over.

But for now, it seems like that end is nowhere in sight. Last week we received a flat of strawberries (our first bulk share shipment) plus an additional pint as part of our regular share. All of the strawberries were perfectly ripe. We sailed through two pints in a single day, but couldn’t keep up that rate of consumption without some variation to keep things interesting. So as I stood in front of an open refrigerator on Saturday morning staring at the remaining 6 pints of strawberries, I spied a container of ricotta cheese and instantly knew what I needed to do. Pancakes sandwiching a sweetened ricotta filling and layered with macerated strawberries.

I lightened the ricotta by folding in some whipped cream then brightened the flavors with some lemon zest and a touch of almond extract. The strawberries, although sweet on their own, turned glistening thanks to the juices released from tossing them with a little bit of light brown sugar. I stacked my pancakes with layers of ricotta and strawberries in between. I even made a little baby sized one for the baby! John, who usually takes care of feeding her solids since I take care of the… er… liquids, took a look at the beautiful miniature pancake sandwich and rather alarmed, asked, “How is she supposed to eat this???” Well, like we ate it. It’s beautiful to look at but even better when you demolish it. Each bite cut from the stack, squishes out some of the ricotta filling, mixing it with the berry juices into a delightful sludge that ends up mimicking syrup. Smashy smashy!

Pancakes

  • 8 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz of milk, plus a splash more
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered for larger berries)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Ricotta filling

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

To make pancakes, preheat a griddle over medium heat and preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a large bowl, combine butter, 8 oz milk, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until just combined. There should still be lumps. Add a splash more milk to thin out the batter if you wish. Reduce the heat under the griddle to medium low then lightly butter with 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Pour out pancakes to about 4 inches in diameter (about 1/3 cup). Cook until the edges have solidified and bubbles in the center of the pancake pop and make little holes. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Continue cooking pancakes in batches, placing finished pancakes in the low heat oven. I got six 4-inch pancakes and two 3-inch pancakes.

While pancakes cook, combine strawberries and brown sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

To make the ricotta filling, add the heavy cram to a chilled metal bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Place ricotta in a medium bowl and add the sugar, almond extract, and lemon zest, mixing until combined. Add the whipped cream and gently fold it in.

To serve– plate a pancake, top it with 2 tablespoons of the ricotta filling, a heaping spoonful of strawberries, then repeat two more times.

Yields 2 servings and 1 baby sized one.

CSA Count: 1

Strawberries

Herbed Salmon Cakes

Our first CSA delivery of the season arrived last week! It’s a little sad that I get so giddy about our CSA starting. I love how the box of fresh produce injects some much needed energy into my cooking. I love that moment of panic upon clicking open the email with the packing list for the week, fearing I’ll never know what to do, and then love even more when that moment of epiphany arrives, especially when it’s at the very last minute.

This first delivery brought us much in the way of what I’d say are ingredients, but not much that would make for a stellar entrée or side dish. I’m talking tons of herbs– fresh mint, chives, cilantro, and garlic scapes. (Garlic scapes! I actually yelled, “Woot! Can I get a wha wha?” to myself, all alone in my office, when I saw that on the packing list.) So that moment of panic lingered as the options for using herbs seemed infinite rather than inspiring.

Luckily, the realm of possibilities got a little smaller when I spied wild kind salmon on sale. So far, the baby loves salmon– make that LOVES salmon. Making salmon cakes seemed like a fun way to keep getting her to enjoy eating it. I wanted to make a truly fantastic salmon cake– one where you can see the chunks of firm, pink fish, not bite into a mushy pile of cat food like, fishy puree. I envisioned a salmon cake that was bright in flavor– tons of flecks of green and fresh in flavor from some of the bright herbs, yet rich at the same time, thanks to toasted brioche crumbs to help hold the mix together. (What can I say? The baby loves brioche too. Raising a foodie baby is going to be expensive.)

Once the cakes were formed and pan-fried, then plating was easy. I played up on the bright pink and green colors by sitting my salmon cakes up on a pile of lightly dressed greens, including arugula from the CSA and some sliced pink beauty radishes. The acid from the dressing and the peppery bite of the radishes added contrast and crunch. CSA? You gave me a challenge by giving me lots of ingredients but little “meat” to work with, so to speak, and to that, I answered, “Challenge accepted!” Can’t wait to see what else this season brings!

  • 2 thick slices of brioche bread
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh mint and dill, finely chopped
  • 16 oz wild king salmon fillet, deboned, skinned, and finely chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • mixed baby greens and arugula
  • 3-4 medium pink beauty radishes, halved then sliced at an angle into wedges
  • your favorite, vinaigrette salad dressing

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add brioche slices that you have roughly torn into smaller pieces. Pulse until you have course crumbs. Spread out crumbs on a baking sheet and lightly toast at 250 degrees F (or in your toaster oven on the medium light setting) for about 10 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the chives, mint, dill, salmon, cooled brioche crumbs, salt, pepper, and egg. Mix together until combined. Using your hands, cup together about 1/2 cup size portions into a patty, lightly pressing until they are about 4 inches wide. Place on a plate then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Place a large pan over medium high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Add salmon cakes and lightly fry until golden brown and cooked through (salmon will be opaque)– about 5-6 minutes per side. While cakes cook, add salad greens and most of your radish wedges to a medium bowl and toss with a light coat of dressing. Plate mixed greens then add a salmon cake on top, scattering a few pieces of radish on top. Serve immediately.

Makes about 5 salmon cakes.

CSA Count: 4

Chives, mint, arugula, pink beauty radish