Summer garden frittata recipe

While I was away last week, my husband thought it would be a great idea to refinish the cabinets in the kitchen.  No wait, we might as well do all the cabinets in the entire house, he thought to himself.  Why do those four words generally end up as a bad idea?  Why do people think that a small project might as well be a big project?  We had a simple plan.  Mr. Picky and I would go back East to bring Daughter #1 to camp while my husband brought Daughter #2 to camp and we would come back a week later and my house would look like nothing had ever happened except that my kitchen cabinets would look pretty and fresh instead of beaten up because I’ve taught a hundred cooking classes in my kitchen.

Guess what?  This is what my kitchen still looks like!  And so does the rest of my house until who knows when.  So yours truly is in a bit of a funk because she didn’t get to make and photograph the sure-to-be-adorable and tasty raspberry-blueberry-yogurt popsicles she wanted to post today for Fourth of July.  Pouty face.  And yours truly has been eating take-out since she returned home from Long Island on Friday night.  Verrry pouty face.  I’ll get to the frittata in a minute.  What I’d like to discuss is takeout.  I definitely struggle with finding places to eat when I do need to eat out.  Fresh, organic, seasonal prepared food is not as common as you would think, even in Manhattan Beach, California. So I’ve been to Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast two days in a row and Veggie Grill for lunch two days in a row and Whole Foods for one meal.  And here’s what I’ve got to say — holy $$$$$! friends.  How do people eat out all the time?  It’s downright unaffordable.  Not only that, it’s beyond difficult for everyone to agree on what to eat.  Dinner should not be a democratic decision!  Seriously, the last few days have totally reinforced what I have said about cooking at home being easier, cheaper and always more healthful.

Now let’s get to the frittata, which I photographed at my house two weeks ago and again at my parents’ house last week (two different frittatas, naturally.)  I was going to post this recipe next week, but like I said, my husband thought it would be nice to surprise me.  Pouty face.  In any event, a frittata recipe fits in perfectly with my anti-takeout sentiment.  Eggs, and therefore frittatas, are an incredibly versatile and high-quality source of inexpensive protein.  They are also very easy to make on the fly with whatever you’ve got in your kitchen/garden.

I prepare frittatas all year long varying the ingredients based on what’s in season.  Click here for a delicious swiss chard frittata recipe.  A few weeks ago, when I saw zucchini blossoms at our farmers’ market with beautiful, tender zucchini, I knew I had to make what I call “Summer Garden Frittata.”  It’s the frittata I make most often in the summer and it’s really about celebrating whatever my garden or market has to offer.  My family inhaled these last week.  You certainly don’t need to use zucchini blossoms, especially if you can’t find them, but I think they’re so pretty and they have a nice, subtle flavor.  The blossoms without a zucchini attached are the male flowers which basically just sit around the plant doing absolutely nothing while the female blossoms actually produce zucchini.  Why not put those males to good use?  I’m here to tell you that if you don’t find something for them to do, you never know what kind of trouble they’ll create for you.

Summer Garden Frittata
Author: 
Serves: 6 (although when I'm hungry, I could eat a fourth of this frittata)
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + additional
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), ends trimmed and sliced thinly by hand or by the slicing disk of the food processor
  • Fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese or goat cheese or feta (optional, but I used feta in the photographs)
  • 5-6 zucchini blossoms (optional, I used 4 large ones)
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes or 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 10-inch skillet, warm the olive oil. Sauté the scallions until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini slices and a generous pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir the cooked zucchini mixture into the eggs and combine well.
  3. Place the skillet back over medium heat and add a little extra oil if the pan seems dry. Pour the egg and zucchini mixture into the pan. Arrange the zucchini blossoms on the surface of the frittata or chop and scatter on top. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the ricotta and the cherry tomatoes around the frittata. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until firm, about 40 minutes.
Notes
Alternatively, bake in a larger skillet for less time for a thinner frittata.

Or, cook gently over medium-low heat, covered until slightly set on the bottom, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top is slightly puffed and golden, about 3-5 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

 

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free Frosting Recipe

I was married almost 17 years ago, so I guess it’s not crazy that my husband would have forgotten what flavor our wedding cake was.  I’m just surprised, because he was very involved in all decisions.  I know you’re thinking that it sounds sweet to have your fiance interested enough in your wedding to have a say in everything, but trust me, kind of annoying.  Regardless, we were talking about our wedding cake the other day and my husband remembers it as carrot cake, which it was certainly not.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with carrot cake for a wedding cake, but ours was a simple white cake with chocolate chocolate-chip buttercream filling.

He probably thinks it was carrot cake because we both love it so much.  And we both agree that carrot cake should be moist and dense and chock full of carrots and raisins and walnuts.  I remember many a date when we shared a large slice of carrot cake for dessert.  You know the kind.  Two or three layers of sweet, nubby cake sandwiched between even sweeter, creamy, tangy icing.  Sounds great until you learn that a huge piece of bakery or restaurant carrot cake contains about a entire day’s worth of calories.  And don’t think they’re using natural sweeteners, friends.  If I were 22 again and doing two hours of step aerobics every day, I could probably get away with it.  But not no more!

Fast forward two decades later when at least one of us is trying to consume desserts in moderation and bake them with less refined ingredients so we can make it to our 50th wedding anniversary and beyond.  Yes, that’s why I make carrot cake in a 13 x9-inch baking dish instead of as a layer cake.  I think it’s super delicious too, but for me at least, one square is plenty.  And before you think I’m no fun at all, don’t think I’m skimping on flavor here.  This carrot cake delivers the same sweet, spiced goodness that you would expect from the traditional.  Ok, maybe not the same sweetness.  When I got motivated to come up with a higher quality carrot cake, I went to my trusty Ina, who uses a whopping 2 cups of sugar in her cake.  Although in her defense, so does everyone else.  In my recipe I use coconut palm sugar and much less of it.  Listen, there’s a whole pound of carrots in this cake and carrots are sweet.  There are also raisins and even diced pineapple if you choose to use it.  And even if you don’t frost this cake, it’s plenty sweet.  Personally, I was happy as a clam with this cake unfrosted, but I knew my students would be expecting something more.  Of course I couldn’t go with a typical cream cheese frosting, because they don’t come to my kitchen for that.   So I am also offering you something very alternative, but perfectly yummy and thick and creamy and won’t make you sick to your stomach after you eat it.  And it’s vegan!

I’m thinking with Father’s Day coming up, this would be a fun dessert to make.  You can even do it in a muffin tin for individual cupcakes.  There are lots of ways you can adapt this recipe to make everyone happy.  Drop the pineapple if you wish.  Use pecans instead of walnuts.  Add some nutmeg or cloves.  Make Ina Garten’s cream cheese frosting if you don’t believe me that this one is great.  Just don’t ask me if you can make this cake without carrots because that question was already asked in my class last month and my answer is “no.”  Instead you have my blessing to go make the white butter cake with chocolate chocolate-chip buttercream filling that you really want.

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake with Dairy-Free Frosting
Author: 
Serves: makes a 13x9-inch or 2 9-inch round pans
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cups coconut palm sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼-1 ½ cups unrefined oil (I use melted coconut oil, but olive or high-oleic safflower is fine, too)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups plus 1 Tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup unsulphured golden raisins (or dark raisins if you prefer)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped (or frozen, thawed)
  • Raw Cashew Frosting (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 13”x 9” pan.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until thick and sugar has dissolved a bit. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together 2 ½ cups flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the raisins and walnuts with 1 Tablespoon of flour and add to batter. Fold in the carrots and pineapple and mix well.
  5. Pour batter into pan. It should be super thick. Bake for 45–55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely in pan over a wire wrack.
Notes
If you like things very sweet, you can increase the sugar to 1½ cups and the recipe will work fine. I also give a range for the oil. Use 1¼ cup if you plan to eat it all the same day it's made and if you like a lighter cake. Use 1½ cups if you like it a little heavier and if you want it to cake to stay moist for several days. I used 1½ cups in these photos and 1¼ cups in my classes.

Raw Cashew Frosting:

This is a lovely, just-sweet-enough frosting which you can use for lots of cakes and cupcakes. It is dairy-free and if you use maple or agave, it is also vegan. You cannot substitute another oil for the coconut oil, since that’s what helps the frosting become firm and spreadable once it has been refrigerated. I use Grade A maple syrup here, which is less mapley than Grade B.

2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 5 hours

½ cup unsweetened almond milk or water (water is just as good)

¼ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted

3 Tablespoons raw honey, Grade A maple syrup or agave

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch or 2 of fine grain sea salt



Process all ingredients in a food processor, scraping down the sides if necessary, until perfectly smooth. This can take 5-6 minutes. Or use a high powered blender like a Vitamix for about 45 seconds. Refrigerate to allow it to firm up enough to a spreadable consistency. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

 

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Pancake Recipe

gluten-free buckwheat pancakes | pamela salzman

I have two things on my mind this week — eating anything that was forbidden during Passover (like grains) and being mindful of our consumption of limited resources with Earth Day coming up on April 22nd.   “How will she ever revert this to a pancake recipe?” you ask.  Stay with me, peeps.

Passover, which occurred last week,  is a mighty 8-day abstinence from eating all grains, except wheat turned into matzoh.  Giving up bread, pasta and most starches isn’t such a big deal to me, but my hubby and the kids start groaning after about Day 3.  “How much loooooonger?”  “How come we can’t have rice?  Jack’s family eats rice during Passover.”  “What??!!  It ends on Saturday night?  I thought it ended on Friday!”  And so on and so forth.  Same spiel every year.  Yawn.  So on sundown of the 8th day, my people were freed from bondage, ordered pizza and ravaged it like contestants on “Survivor.”   As for me, I will admit, I was missing oatmeal for breakfast.   Sunday morning I made an extra-large batch thinking everyone craved it as much as I did.  Wrong!  Everyone was craving bagels.    That brings me to my other thought for the week which is being efficient with resources and limiting waste.  I needed a creative way to use that leftover oatmeal!

dry ingredients

By now you know I am serious about pancakes.  I make them twice per week, very often varying the flours or even adding pumpkin and spices to the mix.  I love that everyone has fun customizing his or her own with fruit, nuts or chocolate chips.  Yesterday I made a a lovely batch of oatmeal pancakes with some of the leftovers from Sunday’s excess.  I added a good cup’s worth of steel cut oatmeal to gluten-free oat flour and buckwheat flour, which gave the pancakes these fantastic tiny little chewy bites.  I am a big fan of texture and whole grain flavors, so I adore these pancakes.  If you’ve never tried buckwheat flour, it has a great wholesome earthiness, but it does lend an odd, grey color to the batter.  By the way, buckwheat has no wheat in it and isn’t even related to wheat.  In fact, it is a relative of the rhubarb family, which is why it’s gluten-free.

leftover steel cut oats

 

gluten-free oatmeal pancake batter |pamela salzman

Oat flour is quite simple to make yourself if you don’t feel like buying it.  Just process rolled oats in the food processor until powdery.  That’s it!  If you need or want the oat flour to be gluten-free, you must buy oats/oat flour that is labeled as such, because otherwise it can contain trace amounts of gluten.  If you’re like my husband and are wondering how they take the gluten out of oats, they don’t really.  Botanically oats should not contain gluten, but they do share crop space with gluten-containing grains and often they are processed in facilities which also process wheat and barley, for example.  So the oats can pick up gluten that way.  But if you prefer, feel free to use my standard whole wheat pastry flour for the oat and buckwheat flours.  It just won’t be gluten-free and it will taste more like my traditional buttermilk pancakes, but with a little chew from the oats.  I tend to adorn these pancakes with the same yummies that I would add to a bowl of oatmeal — diced bananas, chopped walnuts, and the like.  But strawberries are incredible and plentiful right now, so we all included them yesterday and my husband tossed in his standard handful of blueberries.  Mr. Picky eats these pancakes just fine, but did declare my “normal” pancakes are his first choice.

add fruit to pancakes before flipping | pamela salzman

Extra pancake batter?  We won’t waste it!!  It will stay good in the refrigerator for a few days and can be used to make fresh pancakes later in the week.  If you use buckwheat flour, don’t be put off by the gumminess of the batter.  It’s very normal and still turns out perfect pancakes.  You can also make all the pancakes at once and freeze them for another day.  I like to put a piece of parchment paper in between each piece so they don’t stick together.  Another idea is to use the pancakes instead of bread for a sandwich or a roll-up.  Any other creative ideas for using up oatmeal or pancakes??

 gluten-free oatmeal pancakes | pamela salzman

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Pancakes
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour (or substitute whole wheat pastry flour for all or part of the oat and buckwheat flours)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
  • pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 cups buttermilk*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup COOKED oatmeal (preferably steel-cut)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Melted, unrefined coconut oil for brushing the griddle
Instructions
  1. Preheat a griddle to 400 degrees or medium heat. (Not all built-in griddles are the same. 350 degrees may be fine for you.)
  2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl or 4-6 cup measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, melted butter and oatmeal until well blended. (Or combine all wet ingredients in a blender and add to dry mix with oatmeal.)
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Brush the griddle with coconut oil and spoon about ¼ cup of batter onto the griddle. Add blueberries, chocolate chips or diced banana to the surface, if desired. When bubbles start to form on the surface of the pancake and the edges become slightly dry, flip it over and cook until done. Maintain the heat on medium-low or 400 degrees.
Notes
*No buttermilk? Sub half unsweetened yogurt and half whole milk. Or use 2 cups milk, omit the baking soda and use 1 Tablespoon baking powder instead.

Egg Salad Recipe and Other Things You Can Do with Hard Boiled Eggs

I’m thrilled to have my mother and my 4-year-old niece visiting me this week from New York.  We’re having a great time catching up on magazines, tivo’d shows and of course, cooking.  After she read my post the other day about hard boiled eggs, she said, “so I used to overcook my eggs?”  I speak the truth on this blog and I asked my mother if she remembered the telltale green ring around her yolks.  She remembered.  We reminisced about always eating egg salad sandwiches for lunch the day after Easter, and for old times’ sake I thought it would be fun to make them with my mom again.

The two of us had a little egg salad cook-off with my mom making the version I grew up with, which is no more than chopped up hard boiled eggs combined with mayonnaise, relish and a pinch of salt.  Always delicious and that little bit of sweetness from the relish makes this egg salad kid friendly, unless you’re Mr. Picky who thinks egg salad is one of the “scariest” foods out there.  2 plain hard boiled eggs for Mr. Picky, please!  I whipped up my favorite version of egg salad which is loosely based on a recipe from my heroine, Alice Waters and her fabulous book, The Art of Simple Food.  My more grown-up egg salad may taste more sophisticated than the old version, but I assure you it is just as simple, absolutely delicious, and still kid-friendly (for kids that would actually eat egg salad.)  And look, Mom, no green ring!

Hard boiled eggs are rather bland and the texture is soft, so I like balancing all that out with a little salty bite from some capers, some mild onion flavor from either fresh chives, shallots or green onions, and the smallest dash of cayenne for some kick.  I don’t see how people can eat egg salad on squishy, bland white bread, and not just because white bread is tasteless and devoid of nutrients (maybe I should tell you how I really feel.)  Egg salad just pairs so well with some texture and flavor, like from a nice hearty sprouted seed bread or other earthy, flavorful bread — always toasted.  After enjoying this tasty sandwich with my mom the other day, I asked myself why I never make egg salad.  It was such a simple and satisfying lunch with a side green salad.  Daughter #1 gave the egg salad a try and became a convert, although with mouth half-full announced she liked it just fine, but wouldn’t be taking any egg salad too school for lunch — “I don’t want egg aroma in my backpack all day, thanks.”  Whatever.

If you are in Mr. Picky’s camp and think egg salad is too scary or if you went all out, decorated a bazillion eggs and need something more than just an egg salad recipe, here are some other yummy ideas:

  • Sliced on top of toast with smoked salmon or sliced avocado.
  • Deviled eggs — I think this recipe for Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs at Smitten Kitchen looks interesting.
  • Nicoise Salad — a composed salad of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, tuna and hard boiled eggs.
  • Cobb Salad — here’s a more healthful version by Ellie Krieger.
  • In a filling for empanadas.  I love my recipe which uses mixed greens, to which you can add a chopped hard boiled egg or two.
  • Pan Bagnat — a sandwich with sliced hard boiled eggs, tuna, tomatoes, onions.  Check out Alton Brown’s recipe here.
  • Chopped over steamed or roasted asparagus.  Then drizzle with one of my favorite everyday salad dressings.

Do you have any great ways to eat hard boiled eggs?  I’d love to know!

3.5 from 2 reviews
Egg Salad
Author: 
Serves: makes enough for 2-3 sandwiches
 
Ingredients
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped chives (my favorite), scallions or shallots
  • tiny pinch of sea salt or to taste
  • a few grinds of freshly ground pepper
  • a dash or two of cayenne pepper (doesn’t make it spicy, just better)
Instructions
  1. Coarsely chop the eggs and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Serve on toasted whole grain bread with greens like watercress or your favorite lettuce. I always love a little avocado, too!
Notes
Other delicious additions to the egg salad: diced celery, Dijon mustard, fresh parsley

My Mom’s Egg Salad

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons sweet relish

pinch of salt



Mix everything to combine well.

 

How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

I imagine many of you are getting ready to boil eggs this week, either to decorate for Easter or to include at a Passover seder.  I loved the annual event of dyeing Easter eggs when I was a child.  (It also meant a basket full of candy was only a few short days away. ) My mom would buy a dozen eggs and my 2 sisters and I each took 4 eggs to dye.  It never seemed like enough eggs to us.  But whatever we decorated would also have to be eaten, because perfectly good food was not thrown away in our house.  So 12 seemed to be a good compromise.

I actually liked hard-boiled eggs and I still do.  A quick breakfast for me is a boiled egg or two with a sprinkle of sea salt and a piece of toasted millet bread.  Eggs are a great source of inexpensive, usable protein.  I’m so glad research is showing that the dietary cholesterol in eggs is nothing to get worked up about.  People used to think that foods high in dietary cholesterol increased one’s blood cholesterol, but it’s really saturated fat that seems to be the culprit and most of the fat in eggs is unsaturated.  In addition, the phospholipids in the yolk interfere with our absorption of the yolk’s cholesterol.  Now you’re not going to imagine I said something which I didn’t and go hog wild eating eggs like crazy every day, are you?  Good.  We still need to emphasize plant foods, people.

Sadly, my mom’s hard boiled eggs always came out slightly overcooked and with that unattractive green ring around the yolk, so I was never super enthusiastic about eating more than I needed to.   So on the eve of the great hard boiled egg cook-off, let’s figure out once and for all how to prepare a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg.  I’ve done a few videos for the amazing website, The Chalkboard, including one on boiling eggs which I’ve inserted below.  Click here to see the original post.  Once we’ve got this down pat, on Friday I’ll give you my favorite way to make egg salad, as well as few other creative ideas for eating hard boiled eggs, that way you don’t have to worry about what in the world you’re going to do with them all the day after.

Here are a couple of tips to follow:

  • Fresh eggs are harder to peel, so if you are getting them right from the nest or from the farmer’s market, it’s best to wait a few days before boiling them.  If this isn’t possible, add a half teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water to make the cooking water more alkaline.  Also, allow the eggs to firm up in the refrigerator before peeling.
  • Cover eggs in a pot with cold water and plenty of room to move around.  No one likes cracked shells.
  • Bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat, cover your pot and set your timer for 10 minutes.  Why not boil the eggs for 10 minutes?  Cooking the eggs in boiling water will overcook them, resulting in a rubbery white and a dry yolk with that unattractive ring around the yolk.   You want a solid, but tender white and a moist yolk.  Trust me, you do.
  • After 10 minutes in the pot, submerge the eggs in ice water to stop the cooking process, just like blanching vegetables.  Either remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of ice water or drain the eggs in a colander and run them under very cold water.  I usually run them under cold water if I want to eat the eggs right away and I want them to be slightly warm.  But for decorating, ice water is the way to go.

Video Here

How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Eggs
Instructions
  1. Place the eggs in a pot that’s big enough so the eggs won’t crash into each other. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover eggs by an inch.
  2. Put heat on medium-high and bring the water to a full boil. Cover the pot, turn off the heat and set a timer for 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, prepare a bowl of ice water to accommodate the eggs. When the timer goes off, transfer the eggs from the pot to the ice water bath with a slotted spoon. Or drain them in a colander and run them under cold water if you’d like to eat them immediately.
  4. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

 

Cornbread (with quinoa!) Recipe

Let me just start out with a disclaimer — I am not from the South.  I am a Yankee, which means I like my cornbread with half cornmeal and half flour and a drop of sweet and that’s that.  If you are a true Southerner and wouldn’t dream of adding honey or sugar or maple syrup to your cornbread, I hope we can still be friends.  I didn’t grow up eating it and I have no recipe that was passed down from my grandmother.  But my husband and my kids love cornbread, especially at certain times of the year and I love preparing them good food that makes them happy.

After I posted my Thanksgiving menu a few months ago, I had many inquiries about my cornbread recipe, so I figured I would share it just before the Super Bowl when you might be whipping up a big pot of chili.  Even if you’re not eating something that goes well with cornbread, you will be delighted with this quick bread just by itself.  My husband loves to split a wedge of the bread, toast it and slather it with a little more butter or honey or strawberry preserves for a nice treat.  I typically like a barely sweet cornbread, which this is if you use 4 Tablespoons of honey.  You can adjust the sweetness level according to your preference, but the best part about this bread is how moist and corny it is (even after several days.)     I’m not sure anyone in my family knows that I add cooked quinoa to the batter.  And it’s not because I’m the kind of person that sneaks healthful food into recipes and doesn’t say anything.  I’m not clever enough for that.  But I do try to use food efficiently and one day I had a bit of quinoa left in the fridge and since quinoa and corn go really well together, I decided to add it to the corn bread batter.  You don’t notice it at all, except that I think the quinoa adds a nice moistness to the bread and a great boost of protein.

I’ve made this cornbread so many times with different combinations of ingredients based on whom I am feeding or what is available to me in the pantry and it has never disappointed.  Although I’ve learned something about how certain foods affect the end result.  Dairy, such as milk and butter, result in a slightly more golden color to the finished bread.  Coconut oil leaves a slightly sweet, subtly tropical aftertaste.  The whole spelt flour is slightly coarser than whole wheat pastry, and made the bread feel a little more “whole grain.”  If you use olive oil, you can taste it if the bread is still warm, but not after it has cooled a bit, but that will also depend on the kind of olive oil you use.  Take this as a foundation recipe and have fun with it.  Drop the honey and add diced cooked bacon, finely chopped jalapenos, or shredded cheese.  Or prepare as is with some vanilla extract and blueberries or raspberries for a sweet treat.

Are you entertaining for the Super Bowl?  I would love to hear what you’re making.  I am making guacamole and baked chips, but I’ll also serve it with jicama.  I’ll make a giant pot of Vegetable Chili tomorrow and reheat on Sunday.  I am also doing a Baked Potato Bar with lots of toppings (what in the world is easier to make than a baked potato?)  I actually love a baked potato topped with chili!  A big chopped salad and cornbread for sure!  Daughter #1 told me she’s in charge of desserts.  I’m nervous.  Other fun foods for the big game can be Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas (especially the casserole version), a Taco or Fajita bar, Cilantro-Lime Slaw or a make-your-own sandwich bar with grilled chicken.  I know my family in NY will be making some form of baked pasta, meatballs, sausage and peppers.  Know your audience, I guess!

If you have leftover guacamole and/or salsa after the game, save it for a great soup recipe on Monday.   Have fun!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cornbread (with quinoa!)
Author: 
Serves: makes 1 8x8-inch pan or 12 muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour or your favorite GF baking mix
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground*
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk**
  • ½ cup melted unsalted butter (1 stick) or coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 large eggs***
  • 4-6 Tablespoons honey or Grade A maple syrup (I use 4 Tbs.)
  • 1 cup COOKED quinoa (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish (I usually dip a pastry brush in the melted butter I’m using in the recipe and grease the pan that way.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl or a blender, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and honey until well blended. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the corn kernels. Using an ice cream scooper, divide the batter into the muffin pan or pour it into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Or bake the cornbread in the 8 x 8 pan for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing muffins from the pan.
Notes
*If you like a more tender, less grainy cornbread, increase flour by ½ cup and decrease cornmeal by ½ cup.

**Or ½ cup whole unsweetened yogurt + ½ cup milk of choice. Or 1 cup dairy-free milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

***Or 2 Tablespoons ground flax meal mixed with 6 Tablespoons warm water. Allow to sit 10-15 minutes. And then allow batter to sit 5-10 minutes before baking.

****To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa and then cook 1 cup quinoa in 1 ¾ cups boiling water covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Makes about 3 cups cooked quinoa.

Spinach and feta strata

You know I’m a fan of the do-ahead breakfast for busy (and early) weekday mornings.  But holidays and weekend brunches are also the perfect time to prepare a fabulous breakfast the night before.  On Christmas morning, the kids love to come down in their pj’s and see what Santa left for them and I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen missing out on all the “oohs” and “ahhs.”  It’s also a great feeling to be able to relax after a late night of Christmas Eve revelry and still put a hot breakfast on the table for everyone.  Breakfast strata to the rescue!

A strata is technically a layered casserole, which mine is not since I just mix everything together in a bowl and pour it into a casserole dish.  This recipe is more of a savory bread pudding to which I add lots of spinach and in the summertime, ripe tomatoes.  In my quest for efficiency in the kitchen, I love stratas for using up stale bread and leftover vegetables from last night’s dinner.  In these photos I used a multi-seeded bread, which is not the norm for me, but we loved it.  Usually I buy a whole spelt bread from Le Pain Quotidien or a rustic whole grain bread from Whole Foods.  As for vegetables, you can add anything you would put in a frittata.  No spinach?  No problem!  Take those roasted or sauteed vegetables from last night and add them here.   I’ve used broccoli, cauliflower, every leafy green there is, mushrooms, zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  A couple of pieces of cooked turkey bacon or sausage links sitting in the fridge?  They’re welcome in this strata.

I’ve made a gluten-free strata with gluten-free bread and I’ve also made it dairy-free with hemp milk and a cashew-based cheese.  Sadly, I haven’t figured out a substitute for the eggs for those with egg allergies.  Don’t be afraid to freeze this, either.  Provided you freeze the strata well-wrapped, it will taste exactly the same.  We had about 50 people over for brunch the morning after my daughter’s bat mitzvah, and I had made and frozen several stratas 2 weeks earlier.  It was such a gift to myself to just pop them in the oven the morning of and not to have to cook, especially since I couldn’t walk from dancing all night.  So whether you’ve been “partying” at the shopping mall for the last few weeks or you’re just cooked out, give yourself and your loved ones this one last gift.

Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating!

Spinach and Feta Strata
Author: 
Serves: 8 or you can make 16 mini-stratas in a muffin tin or ramekins
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk or plain, unsweetened hemp milk
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 large tomatoes (when in season), seeded (if desired) and diced
  • 8 cups of whole wheat, spelt or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used Whole Foods' "Seeduction" bread here)
  • Butter or olive oil for greasing baking dish
Instructions
  1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, a few more minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, sea salt and pepper. Stir in the cheeses, tomato (if using), bread and spinach-onion mixture.
  3. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 –inch baking dish and pour the strata mixture into the dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover baking dish and bake for 45-55 minutes or until egg mixture is set and top is golden brown.
Notes
Can be frozen if wrapped tightly. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking. I’ve done it and you can’t tell at all that it’s been frozen.

MINI-STRATAS: grease 16 individual ramekins or muffin tins. First layer bread, then vegetables and cheese. Last, pour beaten eggs mixed with milk, salt and pepper on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

Zucchini-potato latkes

So what does a nice Italian girl from New York make for her nice Jewish husband for Hanukkah?  Zucchini-potato latkes, of course!  Believe me, you don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to enjoy these little patties.  Grated potatoes mixed with a little onion and lots of fresh zucchini all fried to crispiness.  Mr. Picky has declared that this is the only way he’ll eat zucchini.  So be it.  But uh oh.  That fried bit does make latkes an “occasional” food, which is why we only indulge in them a mere once or twice a year.  Even though frying is a rather unhealthful way to cook, I’ll do it since the latkes are so much more tasty that way.

What’s funny about my education in latke-making is that I learned what I know from an unlikely source — my Puerto Rican mother-in-law, who also did not grow up Jewish.  Darn that woman can make the best latkes in the world!  Although she wouldn’t dare put in any zucchini or sweet potatoes in hers, I have accumulated some great tips from her that I will share here:

  • Russet or Idaho baking potatoes have the highest starch content and the lowest moisture content, which is good for making crispy latkes. But Yukon Gold (medium starch) work great, too.
  • Wear disposable gloves so your hands don’t smell like potatoes and onions for a day.
  • Squeeze out excess water from the potatoes — again helps to keep them crispy and keep them from falling apart.
  • Use the shredding disc on the food processor to make this job a breeze.  I also shred my onions (and zucchini), but my mother-in-law chops the onions and pulses them with the metal blade to avoid getting any big pieces.
  • Don’t make them too big.  The interiors won’t get fully cooked and they may not hold their shape well.
  • Fry them in an inch of oil — this helps to get all sides crispy so they don’t fall apart.  (I can’t bring myself to cook in that much oil and that’s one reason my mother-in-law’s latkes are better than mine.)
Whatever you celebrate, here’s hoping your holidays are happy!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Zucchini-Potato Latkes
Author: 
Serves: makes 30 2 ½ -inch latkes or 20 3-inch latkes
 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds medium zucchini, about 6, ends trimmed
  • 1 ½ pounds Russet potatoes, about 2, peeled or unpeeled, and cut to fit a food processor
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • ½ - ¾ cup panko bread crumbs or matzo meal
  • Olive oil for frying (or a refined peanut oil or grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point, although not exactly healthful)
Instructions
  1. Shred the zucchini in a food processor fitted with the shredding attachment and place in a colander over a large bowl (my preferred method.) Toss with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Call your kids to the kitchen so they can watch the next step. Place the zucchini in a kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. There's a ton! Do not add salt to the mixture again. Or shred the zucchini with the potatoes and onions. You will get out more moisture though if you salt them first.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the shredding attachment, shred the potatoes and onions. Again, squeeze out as much liquid as humanly possible. Let the mixture rest for a minute and squeeze again.
  3. Place all the shredded vegetables in a large bowl. Add the eggs, salt (do not add if you salted the zucchini early), pepper and bread crumbs to the vegetables and combine well.
  4. Heat the oil (I use olive) in 2 large skillets until hot, but not smoking. An inch of oil will give you the best results.
  5. Using about 2-3 tablespoons of the zucchini-potato mixture, form the latkes into 2 ½-inch pancakes. Flatten slightly and carefully place into the pan. When the edges are brown and crisp, turn them over and continue cooking until deep golden. I usually flatten them slightly in the pan when I flip.
  6. Lay paper towels on a cooling rack or brown paper bag. Transfer the latkes from the pan to the rack. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired. Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream (if you must).
Notes
TO BAKE LATKES:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking sheet with oil. Place formed (raw) latkes on baking sheet and brush tops with oil. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until undersides are golden. Flip latkes and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden on both sides. They won’t be as crispy as the traditional, but a good alternative if you don’t like to fry.

TO FREEZE AND REHEAT LATKES:

Cook, cool and freeze immediately. Reheat at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until heated through.