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Friday, August 29, 2014

Zucchini and Broccoli Gratin

One of my favorite side dishes are gratins. I've made a broccoli casserole (gratin) and decided to combine the broccoli with some zucchini and came up with a simple recipe combining those two vegetables. Using some on sale items kept this dish at a low cost. Feeding 6-8 people at a total cost of $5.71.
The zucchini and broccoli gratin goes with just about any protein and would also be nice along side fish. My casserole dish is 9 1/2" x 6 1/2".
  • 2 cups zucchini - grated
  • 2 cups broccoli - finely chopped (I used fresh but frozen is also fine. Just thaw it out and get the extra liquid out of it by placing in a clean kitchen towel and squeezing out the water.)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese - grated
  • 1 10.5 oz. can cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • cooking spray
I used my food processor for all of the prep work.
  1. Using the blade grind the onion by pulsing until you get a small dice.
  2. Switch to your shredding blade (or use a box grater) and do the zucchini. Place the zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and let rest for a while. Squeeze any excess water out of it prior to it going in the dish.
  3. While the zucchini is releasing water, put the blade back in the food processor and pulse until the broccoli is finely chopped.
  4. Clean the processor out and put the shredding blade back in and grate the cheddar cheese.
  5. Once you have all of the prep done combine the zucchini, broccoli, onion and cream of celery soup, the mayonnaise salt and pepper with 3/4 of the cheese. Mix well to combine. Hands work well.
  6. Spray your casserole dish with non stick cooking spray and pour in the mixture. Spread evenly and top with remaining cheese.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350° oven covered with aluminum foil for about 45 minutes to an hour. Uncover and let the cheese get as brown as you'd like it.

Let me say that I was not entirely thrilled with the way the photographs came out for this post. I was loosing daylight and it was difficult to get the right lighting. However I can assure you that this was very, very good. I truly hope you enjoy making this for your family.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Potato Crusted Sea Bass

It is so great to have a friend with a fishing boat and a husband who loves to fish. Of the fish he caught a week ago we froze a few fillets for a second dinner. This fish a week later was just as wonderful as when he caught it. I don't generally like freezing proteins and when I do I really try to use them in a week or two weeks tops.
Wondering how to do the fish I thought about how I had seen chefs prepare fish with a potato crust and thought I would at some point during the day look up a recipe. Lo and behold I turned on the Food Network in the afternoon and Anne Burrell was making Potato Crusted Halibut. What good fortune that was to see how she did the potato crusting.
I based my recipe loosely on hers and it turned out incredible!  I used regular russet potatoes in place of the Yukon gold and left out the thyme as I did not have any. (We plan on making this again as it was such an outstanding dish, that I purchased fresh thyme today at the store.)
I squeezed some lemon over the fish when finished as I did not have a whole lemon to zest in the oil. Despite changing this up I am so impressed and can only imagine that the full recipe is to the moon and back scrumptious.
Now you can do this with any hearty white fish - halibut, cod or sea bass which ever fish suits your budget at the time. Also, make sure your potato is super thin because it's crucial to get the fish wrapped properly.
My potatoes did turn brown, but no worry you are going to cook them up and it's not that they are bad. The next time I make this I will do the full amount of oil also so I can baste the fish for better browning. When I made this I was going strictly from memory after watching the show and well the memory is not what it used to be.

Here in all it's glory is her recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (I used regular and it was fine.)
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 thyme bundle
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, zest removed from the lemon with a vegetable peeler in wide strips
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 4 (6-ounce) sea bass fillets
  • Kosher salt
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil then turn the heat off and let it sit for at least 1 hour. (*Big tip: This can be done ahead and used for LOTS of different things.)
Cook's Note: In this case it is important to work quickly and to slice the potatoes for 1 halibut fillet at a time. We are NOT going to soak the potatoes in water, this will help them maintain their starch so they will stick to each other and to the fish, but could cause them to turn brown.
  1. Using a mandolin, slice 1 potato extremely thin, (paper thin), in elongated rounds. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a clean, dry work surface. Arrange 3 potato slices in an overlapping vertical line pressing them together as you put them on the parchment. Repeat this process until you have a 4 by 6-inch overlapping potato rectangle that replicates fish scales.
  2. Brush the potato "scales" with the infused oil and sprinkle with salt. Season the halibut with salt. Lay the halibut fillet closer to 1 end of the potato rectangle than the other and then roll the fish up in the potato slices, using the parchment to help facilitate the rolling. Press to compact and really adhere the potatoes to the fish.Brush the outside of the potatoes with the infused oil to seal the potatoes and to prevent the potatoes from turning brown, this will also help make a nice tight "fish package". Reserve the fish in the refrigerator while preparing the remaining fillets. Refrigerate the fillets for at least 1 hour before cooking.
To cook the fish:
  1. Add the infused olive oil to a large nonstick saute pan until the bottom is generously covered and bring the pan to a medium-high heat.
  2. Season the fish with salt and add to the pan. Cook the fish on both sides for 3 to 4 minutes frequently spooning the excess oil over the fish to "baste" it.The potatoes should be crispy golden brown and very well flavored and the fish will be succulent inside its crispy "scales". Transfer to serving plates and serve.
The fact that you have a starch around a protein, all you need is a vegetable or salad to go along side for a wonderful meal. This just might make a seafood lover out of your kids!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Carnival Pizzas

This originally was a guest post a while back on Foody Schmoody I'm Just Cookin's website and she was kind enough to allow me to post it again from here. I so appreciate that.

Now that everyone has gone back to school you may long for those Summer Nights of you and the family going to local fairs and carnivals. It doesn't have to go away just because the owners packed up the rides and moved on or the food trucks have all disappeared. You can bring back the carnival feeling at home by recreating some of the foods that were served.
Carnivals and fairs are petty much standard summer and late summer entertainment here in Connecticut and in our neighboring state, Massachusetts. At these events you can ride the rides like the Ferris Wheel, the Scrambler or see a live horse or oxen pull. There's also music along with a variety of entry submitted prized garden vegetables and home baked goods all vying for a ribbon to take home. While it definitely has gone up in price over the years for entry fees and tickets for the rides, a lot of people set money aside for events like these - it's tradition. They remember going with their parents and siblings and now want to carry that tradition on for their own children.
One of the best parts of these carnivals and fairs is the food from the various food trucks that set up shop for the duration of the fair or carnival. And the one truck my family doesn't want to pass up ever is the one that serves Fried Dough Pizza.
So if for some reason you miss out on the carnival or the fair, you can make some of the food right in your own home - and that's what we are doing today. It is simple and easy especially if you buy store made pizza dough or buy some from your local pizzeria.

You can purchase a jar of your favorite marinara sauce or make my simple recipe that is here on the blog. Just click on the link. If you have spaghetti sauce made or jars of your favorite brand in your pantry by all means use it.
  • 1-2 bags pizza dough
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 10-12 inch skillet with 1 inch vegetable oil
  • marinara sauce (or spaghetti sauce)
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • flour
  1. Place the dough in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil rubbed over the dough. Cover in plastic wrap and keep in a warm place until it rises to about double the size.
  2. Punch the dough down and using a lightly floured surface cut the one pound dough balls into four equal pieces approximately four ounces each. Make them a round ball.
  3. Lay these on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise a second time for about an hour until they are about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Our net for 2 balls of dough was 9 pizzas.
  4. When the dough has risen again, lightly flour a clean surface and roll or push the dough down with your fingers into circles or rectangles and keep covered with the clean towel.
  5. Make sure you have your marinara sauce made (or you could use spaghetti sauce as well)
  6. Once the sauce and dough are ready, heat the oil in your skillet over medium high heat to 350°.
  7. Place the dough in the hot oil and press down lightly with a pair of tongs. Cook for a minute or so until golden brown and flip over and do the same for the other side. Drain on paper towels.
  8. Do this in batches keeping the already fried dough warm under a heat lamp or in a very low oven.
  9. Assemble each pizza with sauce and grated Parmesan cheese for one variety.
  10. For the second variety, make up some cinnamon and white sugar mixture to sprinkle on the top.