Tag Archives: zucchini

A Semi-Grilled Supper: Bruschetta Pasta with Sausage and Zucchini

Summer marches on at a breakneck pace. Not only is the time going by far too quickly, but the school year will be starting in just over two weeks. Summer has been wonderful even if I’ve only made a small dent in the plans I had for this time. Here in the Midwest, the weather has been on the hot and humid side. Yes, I know that’s what summer in the Midwest is like, but the hot and humid seems to cling to the days like static cling to polyester.

Grilling is still the cooking style of choice, but Mama and Papa can’t live by the grill alone. Once in a while we want pasta. I do not intend to put pasta to the “Can You Grill It?” challenge, at least not in its uncooked state. There is certainly the possibility of grilling the sauce ingredients and that’s what I did not long ago.

It really started because I had some tomato bruschetta ( click here for more about bruschetta) left over. It met all the pasta sauce requirements. Tomatoes in a highly flavorful liquid complimented with red onions, basil and garlic. I also had some Chicken Italian Sausage and zucchini (it isn’t summer without it). I had just enough whole grain penne left to make it a meal.IMG_2167

So the main characters were assembled and the sausage and zucchini begged to be cooked on the grill. Well, I may have had something to do with their decision. The whole grilling process was pretty quick since the sausage was already cooked and the zucchini (combined with some onions and dressed with some olive oil and  Italian seasoning) doesn’t take long to char lightly.IMG_2172

While everything was cooking I pondered what else might make this dish even better. A little fresh mozzarella and a hearty handful of basil seemed like the perfect additions. These were already on hand so it was one of those “no brainer” choices.IMG_2170

When the pasta was cooked to my liking, I saved several ladles of the pasta water to give the sauce a little more “umph” Everything came together in rapid fashion and a simple yet delicious supper was on the table.IMG_2173

Bruschetta Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Zucchini
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Bruschetta Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Zucchini
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the Zucchini, Onion, Italian Seasoning, and Olive Oil in a bowl. Toss to mix and set it aside.
  2. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook to your favorite level of "al dente" Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
  3. While the pasta cooks, heat your grill to medium high. Place the sausage on the top rack. Heat a grill basket and add the zucchini onion mixture. Grill until the sausage is browned and the zucchini is lightly charred.
  4. Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch thick coins.
  5. Combine the drained pasta, sausage, zucchini and the reserved pasta water in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss to mix everything together. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss once more to combine.
  6. Transfer to a large bowl and serve.
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This is a wonderful way to use the bounty from the garden or the farmer’s market. Use whatever sounds or looks perfect to you. There is never a right or wrong when it comes to a supper filled with freshness and love.

 

Another Meatless Monday Creation (yeah, really) – Zucchini Pasta Frittata

We are still enjoying Meatless Mondays in Mama D’s Kitchen. I’ve shared many meatless recipes here and not to flog the proverbial dead horse, but one more is about to be shared. You can consider this your spoiler alert. My feelings will only be hurt a little if you choose to bypass this offering, but before you turn away, give this little treasure a “lookie see”, you may be impressed.069

Eggs were speaking to me one recent Monday and they were telling me that they wanted to be a frittata when they grew up. That seemed like a reasonable request, so I embarked on a search to find worthy companionship for them. The refrigerator yielded several zucchini and a jalapeno, the pantry offered a jar of roasted red peppers, and onions and garlic left their place of honor on the counter to join in the merriment. I even found a lonely sliver of mozzarella cheese that begged to tag along.

I wanted to do something different with the zucchini, after all it is pretty standard fare in the frittatas that come out of the kitchen. I remembered seeing several recipes for Pasta Frittatas that made use of left over spaghetti. I had no left over pasta and it being Monday and all, I was trying to get things on a less “carb heavy” track after the weekend. We all know that “Zucchini Pasta” is a current darling of lighter cooking, so it was a natural leap to get out the spiralizer and crank out a pile of green (and white) goodness to replace the starchy alternative.049As with any good fritatta, it is at its best when layers of flavor come together. Mama D’s Trinity (Garlic-Onions-Olive Oil) was joined by the chopped jalapeno. They cooked to golden loveliness before I added the zucchini.057The zucchini took mere minutes to cook to “al dente” creating a bed of veggie delight ready for their egg bath. The eggs were gently cooked to the point of almost being set. everyone has their own technique for cooking a frittata. I’m of the shake, lift, and be patient school. All of this paid off, and the eggs cooked to almost set perfection. As a crowning touch, I added some shredded mozzarella and roasted red pepper strips before dispatching it to the broiler.

A quick note here: I do not have an “oven friendly” medium skillet. I know, shame on me. I did however, have a skillet with a non-ovenproof handle and some foil.  Wrapping the foil tightly around the handle made the pan more or less oven safe. See, it was worth reading this just for that handy little tip.  070The magic happened and the frittata came out golden and bubbly. This was the perfect  size for two (we’re talking Mama D size servings here), but it could easily serve three or maybe four if you added some crusty bread, a nice salad and a killer dessert. 073

Zucchini Pasta Fritatta
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Servings
3
Servings
3
Zucchini Pasta Fritatta
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Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium oven friendly skillet. If you don't have one, wrap the handle of a non-oven friendly one tightly with foil.
  2. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook for 3 minutes or so until things get soft and fragrant.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until everything is golden and smells heavenly.
  4. Add the zucchini and toss to combine with the oil and veggies already in the pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the zucchini begins to wilt and takes on some color.
  5. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl with the half & half. Add a little salt and pepper or any other seasoning of your choice.
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the pan and shake the pan to distribute the eggs and begin the "not sticking" process.
  7. As the eggs cook around the edge, lift gently with a spatula to allow the uncooked egg to get to the bottom. Continue to cook, shake, and lift until the eggs are almost set.
  8. Top with the red pepper strips and the grated cheese. Place the pan under the broiler and allow to cook until the top is set and the cheese is melted and golden.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
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With warmer weather more or less coming to stay (except for the almost frost last night), light suppers will be occurring more often. Eggs are such a versatile base and the choice of vegetables, herbs, and seasonings are as wild as your imagination. Give a frittata a try. It’s easy, quick and almost foolproof.

Moving Beyond Meatless Monday and a Mediterranean Farro Bowl

Let me start by saying, I am proud to be a carnivore. As this site attests, meat, in all of its forms is my friend, however, there is more than enough room in that  circle of friends for non-meat members. This site can attest to that as well. I’ve often shared recipes that don’t feature beef, pork or poultry in a starring role. Beans, grains, eggs, and dairy are well represented in the Recipe Archive.  Lately I find myself drawn to more recipes that do not feature meat at all. I have completely embraced “Meatless Monday” and I’m working towards Meatless Wednesday or Thursday on occasion.

Speaking of Meatless Monday…how did we come to call it that? We have to look back to both World Wars when rationing food was the law of the land and Meatless Mondays happened in every home. Entering into the new millennium, the concept was revised to improve people’s eating habits. The story goes that Monday being the first weekday was a time to get back on track after a weekend of indulgence. Think of all those diets we’ve started on Monday morning…it kind of makes sense.

Personally, I’m probably in that camp. I tend to eat more on the weekend and often look upon Monday as a clean slate, but that’s not the only reason. Meatless meals tend to be less expensive and some are downright cheap. Especially when there are beans involved. Mama D does have a “thing ” for beans. Soups and chilies of course, but she’s dipped her toe into the pond that is the veggie burger, just look at the Black Bean and Cannellini Burgers from some time back. Besides being low in fat, high in fiber and full of protein, beans are versatile and dare I say (again) cheap.

So, today’s entry into the Meatless Monday category is a Farro Bowl that has a distinctly Mediterranean flair. Farro of course, comes from Italy and many of the other ingredients originate from not too far away in Greece. It has the bright vegetable colors that are featured in both cuisines and then there are those Chick Peas,  Garbanzos, or Ceci, whatever you choose to call them.IMG_1195

It’s quite an easy dish to prepare. While the farro is cooking, the topping comes together in a skillet. The onions and the squash went in first, followed shortly thereafter by  a little garlic (yes, a little… I know) and the beans. I think that garbanzos taste wonderful when they are cooked to a light golden brown. It gives them a nutty, creamy taste that doesn’t happen with most other beans.IMG_1200As the picture indicates, a good many ingredients came out of jars…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Coarsely chopped, they waited on the sidelines until the time was right.IMG_1202Once the garbanzos and squash were what I considered the perfect color, the rest of the veggies went into the pan.IMG_1205All that was needed now was a little lemon juice, a bit more olive oil, some Italian herb blend and fresh rosemary. The farro created a rich brown bed of grainy goodness (absolutely love this stuff) that cradled the vegetables nobly. Some crumbled feta  sat on top in blinding white splendor. This was truly a meal for the gods…Greek or otherwise.IMG_1213The beauty of this recipe is that is the entry-level to so many other creations. Try it with your favorite veggies and grains; go for a different ethnic flavor; or just give my recipe your own personal spin.

Mediterranean Farro Bowl
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Mediterranean Farro Bowl
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Rinse farro and drain. In a medium pan, combine the farro with 1-1/2 cups stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the farro is as tender as you like. This will take 20 - 30 minutes. While the farro cooks, prepare the vegetables.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squashes and the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes until everything begins to soften and become fragrant.
  3. Add the garbanzos and continue to cook until the beans are beginning to brown. This should take around 5-7 minutes. Make sure you stir often so that they brown evenly.
  4. Add a little of the reserved stock to keep things moving. Add the olives, peppers, and artichokes to the skillet, tossing to combine. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.
  5. Add the lemon juice, herb blend, and rosemary to the skillet and toss one more time and heat another coupe of minutes.
  6. Divide the farro between 2 bowls creating a little well in the middle. Top each bowl with half of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle 1 ounce of the feta on each bowl and serve.
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The best part of this is you don’t have to wait for Monday to make it. You can go Meatless any day of the week…Can you say Meatless Sunday Supper?

Mama D’s Garden Adventures

It’s harvest time in our community garden. This year won’t be remembered as stellar, but it was an adventure and ongoing learning experience. This isn’t farewell to the garden. I know there will be several more weeks of happy discoveries on each visit, but some of the splendor is gone. Plants that were once lush and full are now a little wispy, putting their strength into bearing fruit instead of leafing profusely. Recent harvests haven’t yielded bushels, but there were enough things to make for some interesting kitchen adventures.

As a tip of the hat to my son, I planted a Cayenne Pepper plant. While there aren’t enough to make vats of hot sauce or even a couple of bottles, there are plenty to liven up a dish with enough left over to dry. Yes, that is dental floss…gotta love the internet. I’m well into my second string now and the plant seems to be producing more peppers every day. Maybe there will be hot sauce in the future.

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On one recent trip to the garden I gathered a lovely cast of characters that would become a roasted vegetable side dish. Generous handfuls of grape tomatoes and green beans were joined by a few carrots, radishes, zucchini, and herbs. The result was a tasty medley that was really homegrown.

2015-08-18 16.44.09A RECIPE FOR ROASTED GARDEN VEGETABLES:               Gather the freshest vegetables and herbs you can find.   Clean and trim them. Toss them in olive oil, using one tablespoon of oil for every two cups of vegetables.Sprinkle with salt and pepper.                              Put them in a baking dish starting with those that will take the longest to cook. Place the dish in a three hundred seventy-five degree oven and roast, stirring occasionally and adding the veggies that take the least time. Check often to avoid burning.                                       When everything is tender crisp and the tomatoes (if you use them) are just beginning to break down, bring it to the table and let it bear testament to your green thumb.

I planted Spaghetti Squash and while the bees and other insects didn’t see fit to pollinate much of the zucchini, they did work their magic on the squash. They also were responsible for what I think is a cross-breed. Along with the lovely pale yellow spaghetti squash there are several green striped varieties on the same vine. I’m not a botanist and I don’t play one on TV, but I think that I grew the love child of a zucchini and a spaghetti squash. Was it good to eat? There was only one way to find out.2015-08-16 14.38.23

2015-08-21 12.24.24I conducted a non-professional experiment. I cut open the striped squash and compared it to its brother. The inside was more zucchini like while the seeds reminded me of other winter squash. It smelled like zucchini, it looked like zucchini, but it had a thicker skin. I decided I had to taste it to resolve the conundrum, but how to cook it? I cut it in half and roasted one side while I sliced and grilled the other. The roasted half tasted a little like zucchini and it didn’t become thread like when I raked across it with a fork. The grilled side tasted  zucchini like as well, but the skin was now hard like winter squash and the seeds fit more of the winter profile as well.2015-08-21 19.42.24 Let’s just say it was interesting. There is one more of these mutants still on the vine so I may give it one more try.

The true spaghetti squash, however, was wonderful.2015-08-16 07.18.05 The flesh was the palest of yellows and once it was roasted and raked it gave forth a mountain of “spaghetti” that was the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. I’ve shared other recipes for this squash that can’t seem to decide what it is. Hard shelled and slow growing like its winter cousins but with flesh that flakes into tender strings tasting a bit like summer squash. What ever it is, it’s fun to play with in the kitchen. Who can ever forget the fabulous Spaghetti Squash Lasagna adventure.DIGITAL CAMERALooking back, it is obvious that I tend to treat this squash like pasta though it has no resemblance in taste or texture to pasta. It is, however a gluten-free choice that packs a bit more fiber in its carbs than the real thing. These are facts that only make me love it more, not to mention that it is quite tasty with an interesting texture.

DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve topped it with lentils and tossed it with spinach and bacon. It alsoDIGITAL CAMERA makes a stunning side dish when combined with other vegetables. For all of these quick cooking dishes, the spaghetti squash must be pre-cooked. My favorite way to prepare it is to roast it in the oven. Okay, it’s also because I don’t have a microwave, which is a slightly quicker technique though I’ve found that squash explosions can be nasty to clean up. Experience has also taught me that boiling a large heavy squash in scalding hot water can cause some pretty serious burns. Kitchen mishaps not withstanding, it looks so pretty after it is roasted.2015-08-16 18.32.10

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH: Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Drizzle each half with olive oil and season with salt and cracked black pepper.                               Place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with foil and lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake in a 375 degree oven for  30 – 40 minutes. The squash should give slightly when pressed.  Allow to cool slightly.                                                                                           Using a fork, rake the flesh. It should turn into thread-like ribbons. Use this golden wonder as a pasta alternative or let it be part of a vegetable stir fry. The possibilities are endless. 

Now that I have shared my garden adventures and two non-recipe, recipes, I’ll leave you to check out my earlier squash adventures. Just click on the red links to see where spaghetti squash has taken me. Oh, and do make every effort to enjoy these last few weeks of summer…you know what is just around the corner.

Turkey Burgers Italian Style: Summer Supper on the Grill

The grill is Mama D’s summer kitchen. This is not news to anyone who spends any time here. Grilling recipes have filled many a summer post. My summer kitchen is now quite small, some might call it tiny; almost as tiny as my regular kitchen. I am proving to myself that at least in this, size does not matter. Our little grill has turned out some amazing meals and its location on the balcony offers a room with a view.

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This is a sandwich that was made in burger heaven or at least the heaven inside my mind. It features veggies from our community garden paired with turkey Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella. This turkey burger was moist and juicy thanks to a very hearty dose of grated zucchini. The flavor was elevated by onion, garlic and Pecorino Romano cheese. A dash of Italian bread crumbs and an egg ensured that it retained its shape while it cooked to golden perfection.

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This sounds very much like a meatball and the inspiration came from Turkey Italian Sausage Meatballs that I made not long ago. Those were broiled in the oven and graced a sandwich that was also quite delicious.

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This time, it was a beautiful summer evening and the grill beckoned so I decided to make the leap to burgers and I’m so glad that I did. This recipe is the same for both the meatballs and the burgers and if you wanted to turn it into a meatloaf, I’m sure you will be happy with the results as well.

I started with a package of Turkey Italian Sausage links. It weighed in at around 20 ounces. I removed the casings by squeezing each link in the middle until the filling fell out. A childish method I admit, but I find it cathartic. I grated two heaping cups of zucchini which would be 4 – 5 small squash or about half of a baseball bat sized one. While the grater was out, I used it to grate a small onion and several cloves of garlic.

The sausage that I used was sorely missing fennel and red pepper flakes so I added some of each along with half a cup of each bread crumbs and pecorino romano cheese. The resulting mixture was quite wet so I added an egg. Yes, it initially makes it wetter, but it will help hold it together in the cooking process.

I chilled the bulk mixture for an hour or so (and you could even let it sit in the fridge over night) before I even tried to form the patties. Once I had four thick beautiful patties, I laid them on wax paper and put them back in the refrigerator and let them set up for several hours. If you are strapped for time, 30 minutes or so in the freezer works well. I strongly advise taking these steps. To ignore my directions could result in a mess on the grill and yes, I am speaking from experience.

I used a grill tray to cook the burgers. Once again, experience has taught me that you can never be too careful with turkey burgers. After somewhere near 6 minutes the burgers let me know they were ready to be flipped…they din’t stick to the grill when I went in for the single turn. Soon, thick slices of fresh mozzarella went on top so they could melt slowly as the second side cooked.

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Tomatoes fresh from the garden grilled alongside the burgers in a makeshift foil pan that took advantage of a skinny space.

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I even managed to toast the ciabatta rolls by propping them up against the burgers. If I do say so myself, my use of a small space was nothing short of brilliant. Once the burgers were done, my final flourish was some garden greens tossed lightly in olive oil and mounded on the bun to create a savory bed. The sandwich was a monster of deliciousness. We didn’t even need or want a side dish.

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Italian Turkey and Zucchini Burgers
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Turkey and Zucchini Burgers
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the sausage meat and the zucchini in a large bowl. Toss lightly. Grate the onion and garlic directly into the bowl. Add the pepper flakes and fennel seeds and mix lightly again.
  2. Add the bread crumbs and cheese, tossing once again. Add the beaten egg and stir one last time until everything is completely incorporated. Cover the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours or as long as overnight.
  3. Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and form into 4 large patties. Place each patty on a piece of wax paper, cover and chill for 2 hours. You can also put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Heat the grill to high. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and allow it to heat up on the grill. Place the burgers on the grill and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and allow to cook for 6 minutes or so.
  5. Turn the burgers. If they stick let them cook another minute or two until they flip easily and are golden brown. Top each burger with two thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Put the lid on the grill and cook for another 6 - 7 minutes.
  6. While the burgers continue to cook, place the tomatoes and onions in a foil pan. Season with some Italian herb blend and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the pan on any vacant space on the grill.
  7. Spray the cut sides of the rolls with cooking spray and add them to the grill the last 3 minutes of cooking. In the meantime, toss the lettuce with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Assemble the sandwiches: Divide the lettuce mixture between the bottoms of the rolls. Top each with half of the tomatoes. Place the burgers on top of the vegetables. Top with the remaining tomatoes. Add the top part of the roll and serve.
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Summer is here for at least another month, maybe more if the weather continues in its hot and sunny Midwestern pattern. The grill will be taking center stage for many weeks to come. It’s a pretty safe bet that you haven’t heard the last of Mama D’s grill adventures.