Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fried Cucumbers

“Everything is better fried.” That’s one of my cooking mottos. That and “Everything is better with cheese.” So when I received a load of cucumbers in my farm share two weeks in a row I wondered, what should I do with all these cukes!? Pickles were an option (and an idea I might try out soon!), so was slicing them up for salad. But I wanted to do something new, exciting, fun… adventuresome!

The internet is really a magnificent thing. I don’t know how my cooking would go without it. I typed “unique cucumber recipe” into Google and alas, I found myself a recipe for fried cucumbers. FRIED CUCUMBERS?! You say. Well, of course! There are fried green tomatoes, so why not cucumbers. Remember the motto: Everything is better fried.

I made this recipe as an appetizer to a casserole that was cooking in the oven, and they were a wonderful treat to snack on before the actual meal was ready. These tasty little cucumber rounds were crispy and fried on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. Oh, yum. Even though I made these on a very hot evening, and while it heated up my kitchen even more, I didn’t care, because they were so delish!

I posted the recipe as I found it online, there are a few things I will note that I did/would do differently from their directions: First, it calls for 5 eggs but there was quite lot of egg/milk batter left over, you could probably do with just 3 eggs. Second, I used sunflower oil instead of vegetable oil and just lightly coated the bottom of a frying pan (since I didn’t have a deep-fryer) and that worked out pretty well… probably saved a bit of unnecessary oil/fat too.

Fried CucumbersRecipe compliments of

Ingredients --

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 large cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Directions --

  1. Whisk the flour together with 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons pepper in a mixing bowl; set aside. Beat the eggs in a separate mixing bowl; whisk in the milk, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper until smooth.
  2. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  3. Dip the cucumber slices into the beaten egg, then press into the flour. Gently place the cucumber slices into the hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, allowing to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pretty Pesto

I am typically not a fan of traditional red sauce on pasta, but I do love pasta and I love sauce. So what’s a girl to do? Enter pesto. Only recently did I learn that there are numerous ways to make pesto, featuring various different ingredients – Arugula? Mint? Basil? Oregano? You betcha. The options are really endless as long as you have something leafy and green.

I received an arugula bunch (an aromatic green, typically added to salads) in my recent farm share and figured I would try this whole pesto thing out. Gotta make use of my little food processor, right?

I hunted around the internet for a recipe, and most of them seemed pretty similar… some mix of arugula, nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cheese. I wasn’t quite satisfied with any one in particular so I figured I would create my own. Especially since I didn’t have pine nuts or walnuts on hand (which many recipes suggested to use) I created my own variety using pumpkin seeds. Note: if you’re going to make this with pumpkin seeds use the good pepita kind, not those white salty ones you usually find at the gas station or supermarket. (You can most likely find them at Wegmans -- for you Rochester readers -- or Trader Joe's and Whole Foods -- for you Boston readers.)

I like arugula but I was a little concerned about making a whole pesto out of it considering how bitter it is. But, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it had a bitter kick (so if you don’t like that, this recipe is not for you) but once it sat in the fridge for a few hours, some extra salt was added. and the pesto was poured over pasta it mellowed out enough to be quite enjoyable. A wonderful pasta accompaniment for hot weather, that’s for sure!

Jillian’s Own Arugula Pesto

Ingredient suggestions are based off of what I did, you can obviously add more or less depending on your taste.

Ingredients –
• One bunch of arugula
• ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon kosher sea salt
• ¼ cup shredded 3 cheese blend

Directions –
• With a knife chop the arugula just enough that it will fit in your food processor.
• Chop/gate the arugula in a food processor.
• Add arugula to a large bowl.
• Mix in all other ingredients.
• Return the whole mixture to the food processor and chop/blend.
• And salt and pepper to taste.
• Serve with pasta as prepared by box directions. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tasty Tabouleh

One of my favorite restaurants back in Rochester is a Greek/Mediterranean place called Aladdin’s. On their menu (which includes many pitas, wraps, and pasta dishes) is also a substantial amount of appetizers and dips for pita, including tabouleh, which is where I fell in love with this delightful dish.

According to Wikipedia “tabouleh is a Levantine salad dish. Traditionally a mountain dish from the Lebanon, and one of the Lebanese main dishes, it has become one of the most popular salads in the non-Persian side of the Middle East. Its primary ingredients are finely chopped parsley, bulgur, mint, tomato, spring onion, and other herbs with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings, generally including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice. In the Arab world, but particularly the Greater Syrian region, it is usually served as part of the mezze, and is served with romaine lettuce. The Lebanese use more parsley than bulgur wheat in their dish.”

Now that we have the details out of the way I can tell you how much I love tabouleh. It’s refreshing and tasty and perfect with pita. That’s why I was super excited that I received a bunch of fresh parsley in my farm share a few weeks ago AND that the weekly newsletter came with a recipe for tabouleh! And lucky for me, I already had some fresh mint in my refrigerator that my dad had sent me a few days earlier. Again, the cooking fates align.

Since I was already well-equipped with the herbs and spices I needed I didn’t feel like going out to the store to buy the bulghur wheat that the recipe called for so I just substituted a packages of couscous that I already had on hand (making it according to the box directions but not including the spice packet.) That worked out really well and the tabouleh came out phenomenal! It was very tasty with crackers, and pita, and these wonderful herb pita chips that my mom found at the Rochester Wegmans. Oh Wegmans, how I miss you. I made the tabouleh only a day before I ventured back to Rochester to do some research for the book I’m currently writing so both of my parents had the chance to sample the tabouleh (including my Dad who had supplied the mint.)

I would gladly make this again and I think it could be a real hit at a summer picnic or a casual dinner party.



Tabouleh (recipe compliments of Enterprise Farm Newsletter)

Ingredients --
  • 1 cup bulghur wheat 
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped 
  • 1 box grape tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juice 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 3/4 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • Freshly ground pepper 
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions --
  • Soak the bulghur in cold water for 10 minutes. 
  • Drain in a sieve lined with damp cheesecloth, squeezing out all the water. 
  • Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork. 
  • Stir in the tomatoes w/ their juice, the parsley and the scallions. 
  • Add the lemon juice, salt, and oil. 
  • Season with pepper. 
  • Toss to coat. 
  • Just before serving, mix in the mint.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How does your garden grow?

My little garden is growing. My basil plant has taken off and is reaching new heights every day and I have also introduced a rosemary plant to the mix. Petit sous-chef kitty says “I approve!” Sous-chef kitty was very eager to check out the rosemary plant when I first brought it home but she has thankfully since left it alone to do its thing… you know, sit by the window and grow. I’m thinking of buying a catnip plant so Mittsy can have fresh nip whenever she wants it… I’m really such an over-indulgent cat owner.

In sad news, I can not get a grasp on growing cilantro and my cilantro plant kicked the bucket a week ago. Also, neither of my attempts to grow an avocado plant from the pit were successful. But I’m not letting this discourage me, there will be more growing attempts in the future!

In other news, I’m moving into a much bigger apartment in September and it has a little outdoor area! I can’t wait to buy some more plants and pot some things like veggies and herbs. Currently on my list are tomatoes and mint.

Anyone have suggestions on good veggies and herbs to grow in pots that aren’t too tricky (as I am not yet an expert grower)?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Toast En Français

It’s only fair that I celebrate Bastille Day with a second cooking blog post honoring our beret wearing friends across the Atlantic. Ah, the French. They bring us such culinary delights as escargot, frog legs, croissants, brie, wine, champagne, crepes, and baguettes… my mouth waters just thinking about it. I really love French food. And of course, there is French toast! Although I had a feeling French toast is not truly part of French cuisine, and the internet has proved my suspicions right:

According to Wikipedia, French toast is a breakfast food served in North America and some countries in Europe. In the United Kingdom it is sometimes known as Eggy Bread. It is a Christmas time dessert in Portugal and Brazil (rabanada) and an Easter dessert in Spain (torrijas). "French toast" can be found in print in the United States as early as 1871. The Oxford English Dictionary cites usages of "French toast" in English as early as 1660 (toasted bread with wine, orange juice, and sugar), and cites an egg-based recipe of the same name from 1882 According to the International House of Pancakes, French toast is not necessarily French in origin; it is likely that the recipe dates back to medieval times, as "torrijas" in Spain already existed in the 15th century.

Oh well, I’m posting about it anyway!

French toast was a staple of my childhood. I like pancakes and waffles and all, but French toast is my favorite of all the breakfast foods. My mom always made it with regular sliced bread but recently I’ve learned of an even more French-y way to create this breakfast dish using French bread or a baguette (thanks to Byron for educating me about this way of making French-y French Toast.)

Why I love this recipe:
  • The use of French bread/baguette makes wonderful little bite-sized toasts that are a lot more fun than plain bread. Note: It’s best to use a baguette or French bread that is a day old, which actually makes this recipe perfect because you don’t have to go shopping in the AM for bread and can buy all your supplies the day before.
  • Plus, I’m a real sucker when it comes to vanilla, so the inclusion of pure vanilla extract in this recipe makes it all the yummier and gives it a nice rich flavor.

French-y French Toast

Ingredients –- (These ingredients are an approximation based on how much French toast you want to make. Feel free to eyeball it and add more or less of things as you see fit. Mostly you just want to create a nice batter out of the eggs/milk/OJ that will be soaked up by the bread.)
  • Day old baguette or French bread 
  • Cup of orange juice 
  • Cup of milk 
  • 4-5 eggs 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon 
  • Powdered sugar 
  • Butter 
  • Pure maple syrup

Directions --
  • Slice the baguette/French bread about 1-1 ½ inches thick so you have a bunch of nice round pieces. I ate about 5 pieces, so use your judgment for how hungry you are to determine how many slices to make.
  • Whisk milk, orange juice, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and cinnamon together creating a nice eggy batter. 
  • Place the baguette rounds in a large casserole dish and pour the batter on top. 
  • Move the baguette rounds around and flip them over so both sides are covered with the batter. 
  • Leave them to marinate/soak up the batter for approximately a half hour. 
  • Heat a skillet/pan over medium-high heat and cook the batter-covered baguette pieces until they are brown on the outside and done. 
  • You will probably have some leftover batter which you can turn into scrambled eggs to accompany the toast. 
  • Serve with butter, powdered sugar, and pure maple syrup. 
  • Enjoy!

Greens with Envy

As I’ve mentioned before, I started out my summer with very little knowledge of greens. Had you asked me to name you some greens I probably would have looked at you cross-eyed and said “um, lettuce?” Sure, lettuce is green, but the category goes far beyond that. Thanks to my farm share me and greens are becoming very well acquainted. So are me and my wok.

"So what ARE greens?" you ask. They are big leafy green plants that taste delicious! Lucky for me, the farm that I chose to do my farm share with here in Massachusetts is well-versed in growing greens and I get plenty of them each week in my share.

Here are a few of the things I’ve been cooking with. Wikipedia definitions to the rescue:

Chard: Also known by the common names Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, Spinach Beet, Crab Beet, Seakale Beet and Mangold, is a leafy vegetable, and is one of the cultivated descendants of the sea beet. Although the leaves are eaten, it is in the same species as beetroot (garden beet) which is usually grown primarily for its edible roots.

Kale or borecole is a form of cabbage, green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts.

Collard greens are various loose-leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea, the same species that produces cabbage and broccoli. The plant is grown for its large, dark-colored, edible leaves and as a garden ornamental, mainly in Brazil, Portugal, the Southern United States, many parts of Africa, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain and in Kashmir.

Callaloo: Jamaican callaloo is a Jamaican vegetable that resembles spinach. Though it tastes almost like spinach it is not as sour. Jamaican callaloo is though to have its origin in South America however it has been recorded as being in Jamaica from as early as 1752. (From

Bok Choy is a Chinese leaf vegetable used often in Chinese cuisine. These vegetables are both related to the Western cabbage, and are of the same species as the common turnip.

I like greens for their simplicity and ease of cooking. I’ve cooked up a few different kinds of greens so far and in different ways. I’m finding the best way to start of cooking them is to sauté them in a wok with oil and garlic for a few minutes until they have cooked down (look sort of soft and wilted and not so much like lettuce anymore) and then I add other stuff to the wok.

Lately I’ve tended not to work directly from a recipe when cooking greens, which makes the whole experience a bit of an adventure. Lucky for me, everything has turned out well so far! Things I will throw into the mix include potatoes, onions, tomatoes, spices, turnips, and all sorts of odds and ends that I’m left with from my farm share when the week comes to an end. You can also sautéed everything up and serve as is or add broth and turn the whole thing into soup or sprinkle with cheese and bake in the oven for a bit to make a casserole. Really, the possibilities are endless. Not to mention, if you want to stick to real recipes there are LOADS of great recipes for greens available online which you can always tweak yourself as you see fit.

Some of my favorite creations so far have included:
  • An assortment of greens (beet greens and chard) sautéed with turnips (see fourth picture)
  • A kale, sausage, and potato casserole (see first picture & fifth picture)

Greens on their own (or with a few other veggies and spices added) make a great accompaniment to a meat dish or they go very well with some rice or pasta. Tomorrow I’m going to be making Jamaican style callaloo (see recipe below) and will be serving it with some baked chicken drumsticks and steamed rice.


PS: If you have any greens recipes you would like to share post a comment below!!

Jamaican Style Sautéed Callaloo (recipe compliments of Enterprise Farm newsletter)

Ingredients --
  • 1 bunch callaloo 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (to taste) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme salt and pepper
  • 1 large tomato, diced
Directions --
  • Cut the bottom 1/2—1 inch off the bottom of the callaloo stems. 
  • Peel the remaining stems (as you would with broccoli). 
  • Slice everything into small ribbons, wash well and spin dry in a salad spinner. 
  • In a large skillet (or wok) heat oil. 
  • Add onion and garlic, sautee for 3-4 minutes, until onions are slightly translucent. 
  • Add callaloo, season with cayenne, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and thyme. 
  • Allow to wilt. 
  • Add tomatoes and cook for 2 more minutes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Lobster-tastic 4th of July Feast

What better way to honor our fine nation’s independence than with a truly American backyard feast? And nothing compliments America more than lobster. (Yeah, I know you could say burgers, or hotdogs, or something like that, but for we were going for being classy this 4th of July and there’s nothing classier than lob-stah.)

It’s funny to think that years ago people thought lobsters were the scum of the sea and they were served to prisoners who complained about the copious amounts of lobster they were fed: “MORE lobster? Can’t we just get some plain old bread and water or something? Geeze.” And now lobsters are a delicacy, oh how times change.

I ate my first lobster (in its pure un-cracked, un-bisqued, un-anything-elsed form) back in January –- you know, when they plop a big red lobster down on your plate and you have to actually DO something to it before you can eat it. I was terrible at cracking it open and I made quite a mess, but, a mess that was well worth my effort because lobster is DELICIOUS. With those sentiments, we settled on 10 lobsters for our America feast. Before you call me a glutton, I must tell you that these 10 lobsters fed 7 people and I personally ate one and a half. Feel better?

Our original intent was to cook the lobsters ourselves (something that I am completely terrified of doing). I like animals, A LOT. I feed stray cats and throw bread to pigeons and name raccoons that crawl up onto my fire escape. My biggest worry was that once I brought home a lobster and saw him crawling on my floor that I would start to do silly things like give him a name (Mr. Pinchers), make him race the other lobsters, etc. And then I would no longer have dinner, I would have a friend… and nobody wants to drop their friend into a boiling pot of water. But, thank goodness, the Star Market will steam them for you while you wait so you don’t have to deal with the potential of be-friending your future dinner.

What I love most about grilling/barbecues is the aspect of all day eating. From 2pm until 9pm the food never really stopped. Something goes on the grill, something comes off, and something replaces it on the grill. It’s a wonderful cycle of deliciousness.

Here’s what our feast looked like:
  • 10 lobsters (pre-steamed)
  • Veggie kabobs with red, yellow, and green peppers and a Vidalia onion (pictured to the right)
  • Potato Packets: Diced red and russet potatoes (1 inch cubes) which I brushed with olive oil and then sprinkled with garlic powder and kosher sea salt. I wrapped the potatoes up in aluminum foil packets and put them on the grill for approximately 15 minutes. These potatoes were so yummy and so easy to make that I want some right now as I write this. I received both types of the potato from my Enterprise farm share and I’m eager to get more soon since this was a great accompaniment to any backyard grilling. (pictured above)
  • Sliced and grilled zucchini (pictured to the right)
  • 10 ears of corn (pictured to the right)
  • 2 pounds of clams baked on the grill: Just stick them on the grill on medium heat and they pop open when they’re done. 
  • Grilled leek
  • Homemade garlic butter: Crushed garlic mixed with softened butter. This went really well with the lobster and clams.
  • Homemade chili-lime butter: I asked Byron to pick me up limes at the supermarket and he came home with a bag of key limes. Little did I know using key limes made this butter all the more tasty! The key limes added a tang and sweetness that made this butter perfect for the grilled corn. (pictured to the right)
  • Sliced cantaloupe melon
  • Skirt steak
  • Another steak

Wow, is all I have to say... the day ended with fireworks and a very happy tummy. I can’t wait for another holiday to do it all over again… National Teddy Bears Picnic Day on July 10th anyone?

Overall score: 10 out of 10.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Heaven in a Bowl (If you Like Tomatoes)

I once dated a guy who hated tomatoes so much that if they came with a meal he had ordered in a restaurant he would evacuate them from his plate as if they were bombs about to explode at any second. Me? I like tomatoes. Let me clarify though for those of you who have seen me order things sans tomatoes. I don’t like tomatoes on my sandwiches, they make it all soggy. I guess I’m a big peculiar too. But, there is a time and a place for tomatoes and one of those places is salad.

So far each week I have received a little carton of grape tomatoes with my farm share, which I love. Grape tomatoes are the best because you can throw them into soup, add them to salad, or really do anything you want with them. For lunch I decided to whip up something quick and tasty using these tomatoes. About a month ago I bought a little potted basil plant at Whole Foods and since that time the thing has grown into a monster -- it’s taking over my apartment, really. I figured it was time to give it a little trim-down and finally put some of those leaves to good use.

I really enjoy caprese salads so it though I would make my own Jill-ized version using things I already had on hand in my apartment/fridge. The result was absolutely amazing, and healthy, too! True to form I abided by one of my cooking mantras: “Everything is better with cheese.” (Going Vegan sounds like the worst thing ever to me, EVER… I don’t know how those people do it! Cheese is just TOO good.)

When making your own version of this salad I highly suggest that you invest in a high-quality vinaigrette, it really makes a big difference. I found this delicious “Roasted Hazelnut & Extra Virgin” vinaigrette at Whole Foods from Lucini of Italy. It was absolutely great in this recipe and I’m quite excited to try out a few more of the flavors that they offer.

This salad was the perfect accompaniment to an 85 degree afternoon and the 10 seconds I had to eat before class. Ah, summer.

Overall score: 10 out of 10


Tomato, Basil, Goat Cheese and Vinaigrette Salad

Ingredients –
Handful of grape tomatoes
A couple of spoonfuls of goat cheese crumbles
5-8 fresh basil leaves sliced up into little pieces
A few dashes of vinaigrette dressing

Directions –
Mix together in a bowl and enjoy!
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