Monday, August 23, 2010

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread is probably the most popular food blog post this month.  Every food blog I read has some kind of recent zucchini bread post.  I hate to be like everyone else, but I just can't pass up the chance to make and share zucchini bread.  Of all the breakfast type breads or muffins, zucchini is my favorite!  I never miss the chance to make it when the zucchinis are cheap, fresh or given to me.  I was intrigued by the variety of breads out there on the blogs.  Lots of chocolate zucchini breads, hmmm.  I went super simple and classic.  This recipe is a combination of many recipes. This bread is non-dairy and no nuts this year for my little allergy boy, I really didn't miss either the bread was still moist and delicious.  Since I had fresh ginger on hand we threw it in, made the bread extra spicy.  The boys loved it!  I used this bread as my bride for the week, this was the "treat" they got for good behavior and it worked!

Zucchini Bread
Combination of several recipes found
Yield: 2 loaves

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2+ cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger root
dash of nutmeg
dash of ground clove
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans.  I use the Bakers Joy spray.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.
Combine flour, cinnamon, fresh ginger nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and dashes of nutmeg and clove..
Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.
Bake loaves for about 60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool and serve warm with butter.  I also love it toasted in the morning with butter.  Yum!!!

 Use a box grater to get perfect pieces of zucchini for your bread.  In the ingredients I list 2+ cups of zucchini.  I like to taste the zucchini in the bread so I fill my Pyrex 2 cupper up to the top, it is probably almost 3 cups.  You can't have too much zucchini in a zucchini bread - that's my opinion.

Baking away!  I sliced into my breads too quickly after they were done to actually get a pretty after shot.  Oops.  We just had to eat it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Steamers - Clams or Mussels

Cooking For Fun - Steamers

We spent all of last week on Cape Cod, that is why there has been a shortage in blog posts.  Great week!  We have been spending the same week each August on the Cape for a few years now, in Falmouth the last 3 years.  My brother-in-law from Seattle and his girl friend joined us again this year.  Fabulous week with family, sunshine everyday and sandy tired little boys every night!  One night we had a seafood extravaganza!  OK so we just cooked seafood.  Grilled shrimp and scallops with an appetizer of steamed clams.  I often steam mussels, but guess I never actually steamed clams.  Same process, same great results, but we got some yucky broth from the clams.  They were bought on a whim so I didn't have a chance to properly soak and clean them, maybe you can have nice broth from cleaner clams, we didn't.

I write my blog as a way to share my cooking adventures, but I in no way feel I have the expertise to give hard facts and tips, however I did discover what I guess I already knew was my cooking strength.  No fear.  I just don't care, I'll try anything and if it works great, if not, who cares maybe I learned something.  I realized this as I started making steamers on the Cape.  My friends said she would never make steamers, they are too intimating. I can see how steamers could be a bit daunting, but they are actually soooo easy.  I watched my uncles do it once then just started making them all the time.  I will try to make anything once.  If it works, I will maybe make it again.  That is the strength I bring to cooking and hopefully the entertaining value I can bring to a blog.  Here is a basic and super easy process for making steamers.  Really, have no fear, they are about the simplest thing you can make and turns out it will also impress your friends!

Source:  Various cookbooks - this is a pretty simple recipe

 l3-4 lbs of fresh live clams or mussels (the rule is 1lb per person for an appetizer)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot diced
2 cloves crushed garlic

1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
Big handful of fresh parsley diced maybe 1/2 cup or so

Cleaning:  Place in a large pot and let sit in slowly running cold water for 1/2 hour.

Once your steamers are clean, drain in a colander and set aside as you prepare the pot.  In large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil then add shallot and garlic.  Cook just until the onions are slightly soft, just a few minutes.  Add wine, water, parsley then set all the clams/mussels on top.  Place lid on pot and turn up the heat.  Steam, shaking the pot with the lid on frequently, every minute or two.  Steam like this for 8-10 minute or until your steamers are all open.  Transfer the steamers with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.  If the broth is pretty and clean  you might pour it over the steamers or serve in small bowls for dipping.  Can also provide bowls of melted butter.  Everything is better with butter!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

CSA - Cabbage Rolls 

Used my CSA cabbage to create a very old classic dish - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. My mom use to make these because my grandma use to make them. My grandmother was of German decent from Russia. The story behind the Germans that lived in Russia is interesting and I have learned just a bit from doing a small amount of genealogy. When researching the heritage of Cabbage Rolls, I found many Hungarian and Polish recipes, but also saw a note on Germans in Russia that made Halubtsi or Cabbage Rolls. We learned very little about our heritage from my grandmother because she did not believe talking about the past.  "History, who wants to hear it?  It already happened!" Grandma would say.  No one in the family even knew she lived in Russia until maybe the mid 80's, she never told anyone, she just said she was German. The only connection we have to her German/Russian heritage is in the few classic German dishes she occasionally prepared. 

I never realized how much work goes into making this dish. I think I used every pot and pan in the house! It looked like a man was cooking in my kitchen. The results were great. A big hit with the family, both boys loved it. It takes a bit of time, but a great family dinner with a little family history, even if Grandma never told it to us.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Recipe Source:  American Harvest Cook Book by The American Academy of Chefs
I prepared a variation of the recipe in this book by Thomas A. Berg, CEC, AAC, Chef/Owner of Thomas Berg Catering, Minneapolis, MN


3 Tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
One 35oz can peeled tomoatoes in juice
2 cups tomato sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, grated
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 cup white rice
2 tablespoons ketchup
salt and pepper
8 oz pitted prunes chopped
1/2 cup dark raisins
Juice of 1 lemon

Fill large pot 2/3 full of water.  Bring to a boil and salt.

To prepare sauce, heat the margarine (I used olive oil), in medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the brown sugar and tomoates, crushing them with your fingers as you add them to the pan with their juices. Add tomato sauce and lemon juice. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a large, nonreactive baking dish and set aside.

While the sauce cooks, prepare the cabbage.  Using a parking knife, cut a cone-shaped incision in the bottom of the cabbage to remove the core.  Place the cored cabbage in the boiling water, reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes.  Drain, cover with cold water and drain again.  When cool enough to handle, peel off the leaves whole.  You should have 16-20 good leaves.  Set aside.

To prepare filling, combine ground meat with grated onion, eggs, rice and ketchup; season with salt and pepper.  Mix by hand, adding 1/2 cup of water if necessary, until mixture is moist but still thick.

Place about 1/4 cup of filling in the center of each leaf.  Fold the bottom of the leave over the filling, fold in sides, then roll to enclose securely.  (I use toothpicks to help secure too).  Repeat with the remaining filling and leaves till complete.  Arrange seam side down, in baking dish.  Sprinkle with prunes and raisins then spoon the tomato sauce over the top.  Cover the baking dish and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Post-boiling.  Peeling the leaves off individually.  Some rip, but they all came off pretty well.  There was no Cabbage Patch baby inside. Don't you always think there will be?  He he.

I used more rice in the filling than this recipe suggested.  I also added some paprika and a few other spices.  My mom always secured the rolls with toothpicks.  It was always a tricky dish to eat because you had to look out for the toothpicks. 

Topped with piping hot sauce!  I omitted the prunes and raisins as I just didn't have any, but they sound really good.  Will definitely add them next time I make this.

Bubbling hot out of the oven.  The sauce has a rich, deep flavor very different than a classic Italian red sauce.  It was delicious!  Just like Mom and Grandma use to make.