Middle Eastern zucchini fritters

I just love these and the combination of feta cheese, dill and mint takes the flavor so far above anything else.

These are lovely served hot or cold with tsatsiki. (yoghurt, cucumber, mint and onion)

 

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Serves 4

1 large onion, chopped coarsely
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 lb zucchini, chopped finely
3 large eggs
3 tbsp plain flour
3 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
8 oz Greek feta cheese. mashed with a fork
oil for frying

Fry the onion in 3 tbsp oil over a medium heat until it is soft and lightly colored. Add the zucchini and saute, stirring, until they too are soft.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the flour until well blended. Add pepper (there is no need for salt as the feta is salty enough) and the herbs and mix well.
Fold the mashed feta cheese into the eggs, together with the cooked onions and zucchini.
Fil the bottom of a (preferably) non-stick frying pan with oil and pour in the mixture by the half ladle (approx 2 tbsp) to make a few fritters at a time.
Turn each fritter over once and cook until both sides are browned a little.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

“Bacon and eggs” truffle infused custards with crispy prosciutto

Most of Thomas Keller’s recipes (of French laundry fame) are too complicated for my short attention span but this one is not too hard and is absolutely life changing.

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8 large eggs (the fresher the better)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
1& 1/2 tbsp truffle oil
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste

Finishing Touches
1 tbsp chives (finely diced)
1 oz (2-3 slices) prosciutto

Ragout
1/3 c veal or chicken Stock
dash of fish Sauce (or dash of white wine vinegar)
1 tsp unsalted Butter
1/2 tsp truffle oil

A used egg carton

Custards

Prepare the egg shells
With an egg topper or serrated knife, cut off wider end of the egg (make sure cut is low enough that a spoon can fit in the opening.) If cutting with a serrated knife, lay the egg on a towel, and with a steady but gentle sawing motion, cut halfway through width of egg.
Remove knife, turn egg upright, and pop off the top of the egg. Pour 2 of the eggs into a bowl to reserve for the custard, and the others you can save for any other kitchen uses you might have for them. Reserve the paper egg carton. Reserve the shell bodies.
Under running water, using your fingers, carefully remove the membrane from inside the shell bodies. Clean up any loose shell pieces from the edges of the shell cavity, then set aside.

Prepare the Custards
Preheat oven to 275°F

In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream and milk. As soon as it reaches a boil, transfer to a blender. Carefully pulsing, slowly build speed of blender to prevent extreme splattering. While blending, add the 2 reserved eggs, truffle oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher that pours well. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then skim foam from top of custard.
Place the shell bodies upright into a reserved egg carton (cut away extra spaces to make carton smaller.) Carefully pour custards into shells, filling about 85% full. (If pitcher is pouring like a bitch, use a funnel to help aim the pours.)
Using a pan that is a least 3 1/2 – 4″ deep, fill about 1″ of hot water into the pan. Place custards (carton and all) into the water, and top off with more water (if necessary) to have water level reach 3/4 ths up the sides of the eggs. Place pan into oven, cover with a lid or baking sheet, and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until custards are set. Remove from oven and set aside (They can stay in the warm water for about 2 hours if needed.)

Prepare the Finishing Touches and Ragout
Heat a saute pan over med-high heat, add a touch of oil, and crisp up prosciutto (just like cooking bacon.) Dab on paper towels to remove excess oils, then cut into 1/2″x 2″ pieces (there will be spare tidbits you’ll get to snack on.)
Dice the chives.
Put the stock and fish sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon. There should be about 3 tbsp of sauce.

Finishing
Swirl the butter and truffle oil into the reduced stock. Season to taste. Place each egg in a cup, and spoon about 1 tsp of ragout on top of the custards. Add a sprinkling of diced chives, then place a prosciutto crisp in each egg.

A beautiful caper vinaigrette to serve with fish

This is worth posting on it’s own as it is absolutely delicious on a salad or drizzled over a piece of hot salmon or halibut. It also keeps for a long time in the fridge

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2 egg yolks
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup blended oil (1 part olive oil to 3 parts canola oil, mixed together)
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
salt and pepper

In a food processor or in a blender, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and vinegar.
Slowly whisk in the oil. Remove from the blender into a bowl and fold in the capers, mustard and herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle over your seared piece of fish or a salad

Crustless zucchini, onion and ricotta pie

This gorgeous, savory summer pie with a base of fresh ricotta and eggs seasoned with shallots, garlic, and pecorino cheese is the answer to an overly abundant vegetable crop. This version from Italy’s Piedmont region is made with zucchini and onions, but feel free to substitute with peppers, eggplant, squash, even tomatoes.

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Serves 6

1⁄4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
6 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup grated pecorino cheese (not pre-grated)
1⁄2 cup ricotta
1⁄2 cup roughly chopped parsley
4 eggs, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. bread crumbs

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic and shallot until golden, 4–6 minutes.
Add the zucchini, cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Let cool. Stir in the pecorino, ricotta, parsley, eggs, salt, and pepper.
Heat the oven to 350°F
Grease a 10″ pie plate with butter and coat with bread crumbs.
Spread the zucchini mixture evenly over top; bake until golden on top and slightly puffed, 40–45 minutes.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

Giada’s easy cheesy risotto cake

This is a very easy and tasty recipe and perfect for those summer get-togethers.

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Serves 6 to 8

Butter, for greasing the pan.
Rice
2 cups Marinara or tomato-basil sauce
1 cup Arborio rice

Bechamel Sauce
3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

To assemble
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring form pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil.

For the rice:
Bring the marinara sauce and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
For the bechamel sauce:
Melt the butter in a 1 quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer the sauce over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and grated nutmeg.

For assembly:
Mix together the bechamel sauce, rice mixture, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and the prosciutto and peas in a medium bowl. Slowly mix in the eggs, salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture into the prepared spring form pan and cover with foil. Place in a shallow roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the spring form pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese and the breadcrumbs. Broil just enough to melt the cheese and create a crispy crust, about 3 minutes/
Cool for 15 minutes.
Loosen the risotto from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Remove the sides of the pan. Cut into wedges and serve.

Baked butternut squash, ricotta and spinach

Although I’m not a vegetarian, I am always attracted to non-meat dishes and this one, given it’s December and has me making soups, stews and baked dishes, this really attracted me. It’s from the wonderful British website and food magazine, Delicious.

Baked butternut squash, ricotta and spinach

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, halved lengthways (about 2.5 – 3lbs in weight)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 tsp crushed red chillies
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz baby spinach
1lb ricotta cheese
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese,(not the pre-grated stuff) plus extra to serve
1 large egg, plus an extra egg yolk
A bunch of fresh sage leaves

Heat the oven to 400F
Scoop out and discard the seeds from the squash. Sit the squash halves cut-side up in a roasting tin. Score flesh in a crosshatch pattern with a knife and season.
Scatter over the caraway seeds, chillies and whole garlic cloves, then drizzle with the olive oil.
Cover with foil and roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until soft.

When cooked, set the garlic cloves aside, then scoop all but 2 tbsp of the squash flesh into a bowl, keeping it in pieces. Gently stir through the spinach and season.Leave to cool.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into a large bowl and mash into the remaining 2 tbsp squash using a fork. Add the ricotta, Parmesan and some seasoning. Add the whole egg and extra egg yolk, stir then gently stir through the spinach and squash mixture.

Spoon into 4 x 6 oz individual gratin dishes.Top with Parmesan, scatter with extra caraway seeds and the sage leaves, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately

Bacon, sausage and cheese muffins

Well, as it gets towards Christmas, I start thinking of lovely cozy breakfasts in front of the fire. Yes, even in Southern California we have fireplaces and use them a lot. These are steamy bites of savory goodness and are very addictive, so make double what you think you’ll need.

 

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1 cup cooked, chopped bacon
1 cup cooked crumbled sausage meat. I use mild Italian.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated sharp or mature cheddar cheese
1/2 small yellow onion (diced)
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons whole milk
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon. Chop into small-medium bits. Set aside. Using the same skillet, cook the crumbled sausage meat. Set aside.
Chop the onion (you can use other veggies if you choose).
Grease tin cups in a 12 muffin tin pan with butter or shortening.
Whisk together the eggs and milk, a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the bread crumbs, cheese, sausage, onion and bacon, leaving just a handful of bacon and cheese for the topping.
Fill the muffin tip cups evenly with the mixture. Sprinkle the remaining bacon and cheese atop of the egg mixture for presentation purposes!
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, eggs should be completely cooked through (you can test with toothpick). To remove the muffins, run a small butter knife around the cups to loosen and pull up. Serve warm.

Thanksgiving or Christmas breakfast bread pudding

I am a bread pudding nut, and on these festive holidays, there is nothing nicer than to sit in the kitchen in the morning with the fire on, drinking champagne and smelling the aroma of something cooking slowly in the oven. The beauty of this dish is that it can be prepared up until cooking, the night before and refrigerated until needed.

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Serves 4

1 lb good quality pork sausage-meat
6 cups cut or torn up up French bread, about 1/2″ thick
3 cups whole milk
8 large eggs, organic preferably
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 sage leaves
5 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp maple sugar
butter for the pan

The night before- cook the pork sausage-meat until it is nicely browned. If the sausage is in links, then remove the casings and crumble the sausage.
Mince the sage and toss it with your torn/cut bread in a large bowl
Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper then pour it over the bread. Stir it around several times, let it sit, then stir again.
Butter a 9″ by 9″ baking dish.
Stir the bread again. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.
Spread half of the bread mixture in the bottom of the greased baking dish.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage-meat from the pan and spread it over the bread.
Now dot the cream cheese in with the sausage. Top with the remaining bread and pour any unabsorbed custard over the top.
Cover and stick in the fridge overnight. Go to bed.
The next morning…. Preheat the oven to 350 F
Pull the pudding from the fridge and drizzle the maple syrup over it, then sprinkle with the maple sugar.
Put it in the oven. Now it’s going to take a while as it’s dense, so go and enjoy yourself with your family while the aroma slowly seeps around the house.
It will turn a dark golden brown, be crunchy on top and puff up a bit. It might take up to 1 hour 30 mins, but check after 1 hour.
When you think it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for a little bit. This goes really well with mimosas!

Butternut squash, apple, spinach and cheese bread pudding

It’s that time of year when all the winter squash comes out and this is one terrific recipe.

 

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Serves 8

1 good sized butternut squash (about 2lbs) halved lengthways, seeded and peeled
2 apples, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 leek stem, diced
1 cup shallots, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 oz fresh baby spinach
Salt
A good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
A good pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
3 cups half and half
7 large eggs, beaten
1 cup (at least) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 baguettes, crusts trimmed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups)

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Put the leeks, butternut squash, apples and shallots into a large bowl. Pour in the melted butter, olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, maple syrup, salt and pepper and toss until coated really well.
Tip out onto a baking sheet and roast for about 25 to 30 mins until they are slightly caramelized and softened.

In another bowl whisk the half and half with the eggs, 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan, 1/2 cup of grated cheddar and some salt and pepper. Add the bread cubes and toss gently until well coated.

Spoon half of the mixture into a well buttered baking dish, next layer it with half the roasted vegetables and half the fresh spinach sprinkled over. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and repeat the layers, pressing down as you do it, so it fill the baking dish.
Cover the top with the more grated parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese and any extra egg mixture if you have any.
Bake for about 1 hour until the top has golden spots and the center is firm.
Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving

This pudding can be refrigerated overnight, then rewarmed at 350 F.

Crustless Spinach and feta quiche with sumac

 

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This quiche is elegant and delicious enough to serve guests, but also a great pie to have in the refrigerator to slice and eat for breakfast (lunch or dinner) all week long. You can lighten up the filling using all milk rather than half milk and half cream. Consider this your blank slate for any vegetables you have on hand, such as sautéed mushrooms or bell peppers.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 box (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces feta cheese
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sumac, divided
4 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Swiss, Gruyere, or mozzarella cheese

Heat the oven to 350°F. Brush an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with olive oil.
Squeeze the thawed spinach to remove as much water as possible. Shred and scatter the spinach over the bottom of the pie plate. Crumble the feta over the spinach, top with the onions, and dust with a tablespoon of sumac and a healthy pinch of kosher salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with a teaspoon of salt until they are smooth. Stir in the parmesan, milk, and cream. Pour the eggs over the spinach and feta.
Top the eggs evenly with the Swiss, Gruyere, or mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sumac.
Bake the quiche for about 40 minutes, or until it is puffy and golden and doesn’t jiggle in the center when moved. Serve the quiche immediately with more sumac dusted over each slice. Refrigerate and eat the quiche for up to a week.