25 May, 2011

Garden Summer Squash and Potato Pie

When I was a kid my Dad had a garden in our backyard. I didn't notice. I also didn't notice how amazing the Grand Canyon was when we went to visit. I was preoccupied with important kid things. Growing and killing our own food seemed very "country" to me and I would rather have Hamburger Helper, hold the veggies please.

Fast forward 20 years and a cross country move to California, I now prefer my food to be served from the garden, the farmer's market or the produce section, hold the meat please. I return to the South and  find my Dad hard at work keeping up my Grandfather's garden after his recent passing. Cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes and squash. I drool at the sound of the "Farmer's Market" right in my Grandmother's front yard. I would love to bring my reusable bags and load up.

Why is it that we appreciate things more when we are older? Is there a way that I could get my future kids to appreciate a garden now and not when they are 30? Why do things taste different? Why do we now enjoy being around our parents? Why do we talk and care about the weather more? Why do we drive slower? I often hear people reminiscing and wishing they could be younger and go back to the "good old days". I disagree, personally I would like to be right where I am trying out a recipe using the squash and potatoes from my Grandfather's garden.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetite June 2001

Serves 3-4 as a side dish
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound potatoes, peeled, cut into thin rounds
2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into thin rounds
3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease one 8-inch-diameter cake pan. Toss cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend. Layer potatoes in bottom of pan, overlapping slightly. Next, make a layer of squash, drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Repeat until you reach the top and have enough room to finish with a layer of potatoes and the remainder of the cheese mixture. Press potatoes down to flatten. It will likely be about five or less layers. Cover pan with foil and bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 35 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and the top begins to brown, about 20 minutes longer.

16 May, 2011

The Tiny Sous-Chef and the Tortilla Scramble

A few weekends ago my parents and my 5 year old niece came to visit us in our new home (apartment). My niece was elated to discover we had a huge pool. She has been swimming like a fish since she was about 3 years old. I can't even begin to describe how much she loves swimming. I would not be exaggerating to say that she would swim all day, everyday if she could. On Sunday as she was saying her goodbyes I asked her what was her favorite thing about the weekend and she said "cooking with you". I was shocked and so very excited. My thought immediately turned to the rising percentages of childhood obesity. Could getting our kids in the kitchen be the answer or at least a stepping stone to a healthy relationship with food? Below is the recipe my niece and I cooked together.

Serves 4-5
8 eggs
1 tbsp skim milk
corn tortillas
1/2 large green bellpepper, diced
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt, pepper, salsa

Beat eggs with milk, salt, pepper, and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp butter on medium-high in a skillet. Working in batches, add tortillas and let cook for a minute or two on each side. They will get brown and crisp up a bit.  Once all tortillas are done, cut them into small triangles and set aside. Next add oil to a skillet on medium heat, add green pepper and let soften for about 4 minutes. Add eggs, let them set and continue to scramble. A minute or two before the eggs are done to your liking, add tortillas and cheese and combine. Remove from heat, top with salsa and serve. 

09 May, 2011

Stranded Shrimp Scampi (with a team of red pepper and asparagus)

When I was younger a team didn't really mean much to me except the other kids in my PE class who had the unfortunate luck of having me participate in their volleyball, basketball or softball game. In my older and wiser years I find myself thinking about teams and team work often in my everyday life. The day I married my husband we committed to be team members for life in every and all decisions and challenges that come our way.

A few weekends ago I was in an unusual situation in which after a minor accident I was stranded and in need of rescue. However, I was not alone. I had a team that consisted of the eternal optimist best friend, the supportive and intelligent husband, and the experienced and level headed father. After several uncomfortable hours and a lot of calm decision making we were safely rescued by an upbeat and persistent team of two. While stranded I kept thinking about how different this experience and every experience could be with a different team. I thought about how blessed we were that no one was seriously injured. I thought about how comfortable our daily living situations are. And lastly, of course I thought about cooking and trying new recipes. And while that brings me to the recipe below it also brings me to the conclusion that your life is only as safe, as comfortable, as challenging, as positive, as smart as the team you surround yourself with.

Shrimp Scampi, serves 3-4
Original recipe adapted from one of my favorite blogs written by Ree better known as The Pioneer Woman.

1.5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red pepper, chopped
1/2 pound of asparagus, chopped into 1.5 inch pieces
1/2 pound of angel hair pasta cooked al dente
1/2 pound shrimp, cooked (I used boiled shrimp, you can broil in oven like this recipe)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup white wine
2-3 shakes of hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil and butter in skillet on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and let cook for two to four minutes, add asparagus and red pepper and let cook for two to four minutes. Add shrimp, lemon juice, wine, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Once combined turn off heat and add parsley. Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

 A shrimp tale that also resulted from this same weekend:
Experienced and level headed Dad: These shrimp weren't too bad at $5/lb
Simple Plates: $5/lb! I just paid $8/lb the other day in my neighborhood
Eternal optimist best friend visiting from Cali: $8/lb! I paid $19.99 the other day!
Location, location, location.