zucchini fritti, lemon and parmesan salad

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, italian parsley,parmesan and pine nuts

This past week in the month of March has been eventful; what with the Ides of March, Saint Patrick’s Day and the Feast of San Giuseppe going on, you can’t help but notice there’s transition in the air. One foot in front of the other, steadfastly marching toward — Spring.

It’s going to be a few more weeks (at least where I live) before true, seasonal produce will start to influence the next half year of my cooking; garden seeds are starting to sprout and trees are budding somewhere with the promise of summer fruit.

Although I think of them as a full-blown summer kind of thing, at this time of year I’m not ashamed to take advantage of cute little zucchini grown in far more southern climates than the one I live in, to help bridge the gap between darkness and light; brown root vegetables and green, leafy plants.

I’ve been getting itty-bitty zucchini at my local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods markets over the past few months and this salad has become a major craving. It’s a personal preference, but I like small zucchini best, for this recipe and in general; I find as they mature and swell to a diameter larger than about an inch and a half, the flesh will likely have more seeds and become waterlogged and soggy when cooked.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon and parmesan

It could be the inclusion of lemon that gives this combination of ingredients a spirit of freshness, making me think of impromptu, warm weather eating, something I’m looking forward to.

My appetite was sparked a while back by a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, a blog I am both inspired by and admire from afar. I appreciate Gwyneth’s obvious passion for  food. And while I can relate to her clean, modern, yet down-to-earth style aesthetic I have to leave the $150 sweat pants in a neatly folded pile at her web store. Food I will indulge in; my fashion budget is far less opulent.

Shopping aside, Gwyneth has great taste – zucchini fritti are delicious and dare I say healthy (…yes, I did). I took her idea and ran with it. A light coating of rice flour and a little hot olive oil transforms the neutral nature of zucchini and makes me think of tempura.  You could easily eat fritti all on their own as a crunchy snack, but making a salad with the hot, crisp zucchini turns this into a simple meal.

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

zucchini fritti salad with lemon, parsley and parmesan

Serving Size: serves 2 - 4

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound baby or small zucchini, between ½ - 1 inch in diameter
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons brown or white rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup picked Italian parsley leaves
  • Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, for shaving

Instructions

  1. Slice the zucchini into coins about 1/2-inch wide; put them in a bowl with the onion and toss with enough rice flour to coat evenly.
  2. Heat a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium high heat until hot. Pour in the olive oil and heat until it just begins to shimmer.
  3. Put the zucchini-onion mixture and lemon slices into the pan, cut side down. Season with a generous pinch of salt and cook undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes, until the zucchini turns dark golden brown on one side.
  4. Flip the zucchini over, either by shaking the pan or with a wooden spatula, to cook the other side. Add the pine nuts to the pan and sprinkle with a little more salt.
  5. Remove from the heat; stir in the parsley. Squeeze the juice from the fried lemons over the salad and serve right away topped with shaved cheese.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/zucchini-fritti-lemon-and-parmesan-salad/

cream of roasted tomato soup

cream-of-roasted-tomato-soup

My resolution to make more soup slacked a little; I haven’t made soup since the egg drop soup I posted last month.

Well, I take that back; I did add some Chinese noodles to a bowl of hot chicken broth last week when my kids had a sore throat, but that’s about it. For a few seconds there I felt my own self heading toward the flu, and joined them on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket.

That down time felt good, and it worked too. I finally added Downton Abbey to my Netflix queue and got all caught up with the first season during a marathon session – something I hardly ever let myself do.

I’m not a great television person. It’s hard to sit passively for what seems to me like time wasted; I find myself thinking of lists to write, books I need to read and some random details of daily life I think I forgot to do.

Letting all that stuff go once in a while is obviously good for the soul. And how lucky for me that since I’ve missed the first 2 seasons of a show that every person I know seems to be talking about, I now have LOTS to catch up on.

Don’t tell me what happened during last week’s episode – I know there was enough drama to cause sobbing in front of the television, but I’m not there yet!

cream-of-roasted-tomato-soup-recipe

I made a batch of this creamy tomato soup and my kids and I finished it off when they came home from school. When I make it again, I will double the portions to have a little leftover for lunch the next day.

Instead of milk, I used fresh bread as a thickener; thinking of the creamy version of Campbell’s soup my mom would make for me.

cream of roasted tomato soup

Serving Size: makes 2 - 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ large white or yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 pounds small vine-ripened tomatoes, such as Campari, sliced in half
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 or 3 thick slices peasant-style bread, crusts trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan
  • 1 – 2 cups cup vegetable broth or water
  • Crostini, soft goat cheese or ricotta and chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme or basil)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a baking dish or pan that will hold the tomatoes snugly (I used a 14-inch cast iron skillet); scatter the onion evenly over the bottom.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up over the onion and sprinkle with the salt and sugar.
  4. Roast 20 minutes; then scatter the garlic over the tomatoes and roast for about 10 more minutes – the tomatoes and onion should be soft and golden and their juices bubbling. Season the tomatoes with the black pepper to taste and cool 10 or 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the tomatoes to a blender or food processor. Tear the bread slices into small chunks and add to the tomatoes (one half at a time if blending in 2 batches) along with the cheese. Add enough broth or water to barely cover the tomatoes – it will depend on how juicy the tomatoes are after roasting.
  6. Puree until smooth, in batches if necessary, adding more bread and/or liquid to achieve a consistency you like. I prefer the soup with a little body rather than very brothy. Taste for seasoning. Spread the crostini with some goat cheese and sprinkle with herbs to and place one in each bowl of soup.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/cream-of-roasted-tomato-soup/

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Lentil-escarole-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes

I’m on a roll with my Italian bitter greens, looks like. I grabbed a bunch of escarole yesterday while I was grocery shopping, bypassing the baby spinach-arugula-mixed lettuce I’ve gotten into the habit of buying.

Do you remember the time before prewashed salad came in plastic boxes? It seems like a lonnnnng time ago when I used to buy fresh, whole heads of lettuce, wash and dry them in my salad spinner. I know! The labor! The convenience of those containers of greens has made me lazy, I regret.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing whole heads of salad greens. For one, there are certain varieties that don’t come packaged in a little box – like Little Gem, which is like a small, tender version of Romaine. And speaking of Romaine, whenever I buy a head of it to make homemade Caesar salad instead of those bags of pale, wilted hearts, I appreciate how great Romaine is: leafy, crunchy and sweet.

escarole

But back to the subject – I didn’t mean to go off on a salad tangent. Actually, when I was growing up escarole rarely appeared raw in a salad. Rather it was the star – along with tiny meatballs – in a delicious soup my mom would make for holidays or what came before the main course at family weddings. I’m going to have to scout out that recipe…

Escarole was made for a hearty, wintery salad like this one. I cooked tiny black lentils and mixed them with some leftover roasted sweet potatoes. The contrast of colors in the bowl perked up the gray day outside, in a big way.

lentil-salad-with-escarole-and-sweet-potato

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Serving Size: serves 4

Any size or color lentils will be great in this salad, However, I like tiny green French or black lentils because they keep their shape after cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils – any size or color
  • Salt
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons wine or sherry vinegar
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch escarole, outer leaves removed
  • 1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes *

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Trim off the stem of the escarole and slice into bite-sized pieces; add to the lentils along with the sweet potatoes and toss together.

Notes

*To roast sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or chunks (no need to peel) and toss on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20 minutes, until tender and lightly brown.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/escarole-lentil-salad-with-sweet-potatoes/