Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oven Dried Zucchini Chips


We grill it, saute it, chop it, pickle it, sweeten it for muffins and cakes, and give tons of it away.

Honestly, I'm just as tired of it as everyone else.  You grow it because it's easy, you buy it because you feel you have to and you throw it away because you simply can't take it anymore.

I get more requests for zucchini recipes then any other vegetable, and it's always...."what ELSE can I do with Zucchini?" Then comes the sigh and the look of total boredom.  I fee your pain, I feel your pain.

I recently decided to "oven dry" zucchini after reading a blurb by chef/instructor John Ash, where he discusses the idea of oven drying vegetables the way we do summer tomatoes.  He suggests drying them (in addition to cauliflower, beets, carrots, even olives) to a nice concentrated chewy consistency of 70-80% dry.  It sounded good to me, so I gave it a try.

My first batch worked well, and it had a nice chewy texture. My second batch, well, I forgot them and they came out as chips.  I promptly tasted them and ate all three sheet pans (3 whole zucchini!).  Love these!! Well, as much as one can love a zucchini.....

Oven Dried Zucchini Chips

2-3 Zucchini, green or golden, washed and sliced thinly (about the thickness of a quarter)
Olive oil
Salt or seasoned salt (Savory Spice shop has some great ones)

Line a few sheet pans with Parchment paper (not waxed paper)

Preheat oven to 250 Degrees F.

Line parchment with Zucchini coins, and lightly (very very lightly) brush or mist One side of the vegetables with Olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper.  

Place sheet pan in the oven for approximately, 30-45 minutes, then rotate the pan, and continue to dry for an additional 30-45 minutes, until your zucchini is crisp. Taste, and adjust your seasonings.

Note: your oven my cook these faster or they may take longer.. It's okay to pull the ones that dry more quickly, out before the rest are done. The chips do not store very well. ( But then we keep eating them  all straight out of the oven, so you may have to let me know if they CAN be stored.) 

Enjoy and see you at the Market!

Chef Deb

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fresh Corn & Tomato Salad w/Summer Basil

Hi everyone!  It's been a long, long time.  While I have not been blogging, I have been working.

I have several bits of exciting news!

**First, we will be offering a Canning Class, September 28, 2010 at the beautiful showrooms of Mountain High Appliance, in old town Louisville.  The class will cover canning basics and will be a hands-on experience.    I will send out details over the weekend.

** Second, I have been working with Miller Farm's lately, and you can visit me at the Fort Collins Farmer's Market (Harmony & Lemay), most sundays.

** Finally, I have been hired by the St. Vrain School District to work with their food service program and help make OUR community school's lunch program reflect our growing desire to provide more nutritious local food to our kids.  The truth is, the director and her staff feed 17,000 students a day and they already receive 30% of their produce from local farms.  Think about it.. Your local school district is ALREADY thinking local, eating local and putting our tax dollars into our local economy.
   While Boulder County receives the press for what they're doing (and I am happy for them), you need to know that our forward thinking Director of Nutrition, Shelly Allen,  is doing it on a much larger scale, and with less conflict, and more buy in from her staff.    You have no idea how exciting it is to be working with someone so supportive and innovative of our community.  Keep your eyes posted for this woman's name, she's impressive and I am very lucky to be part of her program.

So, enough with the news...

No need to use the oven or stove... just cut, chop, and toss and your finished.

This is my "salad de jour" for the summer.....

Summer Corn andHeirloom Tomato Salad

4 ears fresh summer corn, husks removed, cut corn from the cob
2 large heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
(or use the small grape sized, cut in half)
1/4 of a red onion, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, rinsed in cold water
8-10 basil leaved, chopped
1/4 cup goat or sheep feta (or your favorite local cheese)
2 Strips Bacon, diced and cooked crisp (optional)
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Lettuce leaves to garnish
Chives, to garnish
Basil, to garnish

1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3-4 Tablespoons good quality Vinegar (Champagne, red wine, Cabernet, rice wine, etc)
1/3 –1/2 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a jar and shake until combined, mixture will separate, but that is fine.  Taste and adjust seasonings, it should have a nice vinegar taste (the tomatoes will mellow this out)

Combine Tomatoes, corn, and onions in a medium sized bowl, pour vinaigrette over mixture and let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Chill if not serving directly.
Before serving, stir in Basil and adjust seasonings,  place a few lettuce leaves on the salad plate, top plate with 1/2-cup corn tomato mixture, layer with feta, bacon (if using), additional basil, and chives, and fresh ground pepper. Enjoy.

**Please note: only the freshest summer vegetables work with this salad.  Most corn bought at the store will be too starchy to showcase this lovely salad. Corn used within a day or two of being picked is optimal. Also, this recipe is only a suggestion; feel free to increase the amounts, of your favorite ingredients!!

See you at the Market!

Chef Deb

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poached Apricots w/Vanilla Bean & Honey

This recipe was a happy accident. Honestly, I was trying out a recipe I had read about in a new cookbook, where the author stated, "this is one of my favorite cakes, I'd consider moving just to be in an area with a longer apricot season for this cake". With a statement such as this, how could I resist making the cornmeal crunch cake?

Turns out, it was not even worth writing about. As I stood there scraping the pot of the last little bits of apricot vanilla bean goodness (how else would I console myself over the waste of 2 pounds of fabulous apricots?) , I realized the filling and syrup was so perfectly amazing I could forgive the author her misguided and erroneous boast.  For the record, I can salvage just about anything... but gravel would have been a better vehicle for my lovely apricots.  (** In all fairness, I might have used a local cornmeal that was too coarsely ground to do this cake justice... I will try again, as I have received several emails indicating the cake is wonderful.. so until then, please forgive my ramblings..I meant them at the time, but I humbly admit I may be wrong**)

The photo shows the cake with large slices of poached fruit on top,  and for photo purposes they are barely dipped in the syrup.  When you make this at home, it will look more like a jam with large soft pieces of fruit. Notice the golden glaze with the specks of vanilla bean...yummm! As for the cake...blleeeckk! (see note above, ;-))

The recipe we used at the market used unpeeled, chopped fruit. I prefer a combination of ripe, barely ripe, and a few slightly underripe apricots when I cook fruit, because it adds a little tartness and depth of flavor to your fruit jams/syrups.

Side Note:  Save the pits from your apricots, and pry (I used a hammer, softly) the pits open and retrieve the small almond shaped seed from inside.  In many cultures the seeds are used as a flavor agent for cookies, jams and extracts. Think Amaretto!  I boil the seeds for 20 minutes,  toast in the oven and grate them with a microplane and add them to my recipes.   I do need to include a warning:  Apricot seeds in large quantities are reported to be toxic. Please do research if you have any concerns.

Poached Apricots w/Vanilla Bean & Honey
(This is more of a fruity syrup)

2 lbs. fresh apricots, washed, pitted and chopped 
1 Tablespoon Lemon juice
3 cups water
2/3 cup sugar**
1/3 cup honey
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Toss chopped apricots with lemon juice and set aside. Combine water, sugar, honey and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and bring mixture to a boil, and the sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil for 3-4 minutes then add the apricots. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for approximately 8-10 minutes.  Remove mixture from heat and cool. Store in a clean jar in the fridge and use as a topping for everything!  Enjoy!

Note: I like to reserve some fruit to add at the last minute to ensure I have large pieces. Or, gently slide sliced apricots into the simmering mixture for a few minutes, remove and let them cool for later use.  
Lastly, the simmering fruit will produce a little bit of scum on the top.  You may either skim it off with a spoon or add a 1/4 teaspoon of butter the the mixture and it should keep the scum to a minimum.

Peaches and plums are also excellent substitutions!

We will be at the Longmont Farmer's Market this weekend, so...
See you at the Market!!

Chef Deb