Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I have been known to wish that there were only two seasons in the year: fall and spring. I love mild to slightly cold weather and I have a equal aversion to muggy middays and frigid mornings. But were it not for summer, I would miss out on some of the best produce to be had. And when our Mid-Atlantic temperatures are regulated to high 70s during the day and 60s at night, I become a bit of a sun worshipper.
Tomatoes, corn, basil and zucchini all take on new layers of sweet flavor from the kiss of the warm summer sun, and jalapenos seem to suck the heat from the rays. These last days of summer call for lounging in a hammock in the shade with an icy glass of lemonade, long walks by the stream that rambles through the woods and making the most of the land's bounty by cooking it quickly and simply.
After a weekend of red meat and not-so-healthy (albeit tasty) food, I am craving vegetables. Today has been a vegatarian day for me, and my body already feels better. In a recent issue of Gourmet magazine, this recipe for jalapeno poppers caught my eye. While away this weekend, I had the privilege to raid the Skoda family garden, with permission to take as much as I could. I came home with sacks of vegetal booty, not least of all a bag of jalapenos. Finally a chance to try those poppers! These were the perfect midafternoon snack - but be forewarned - these are HOT. You will need a glass of milk and some soft bread so cut the burn. If you are not a chile-lover these are not for you. But if you're like me, they're a pleasant wake up call on a lazy day.
adapted from Gourmet August 2008
9 freshly picked jalapenos
2/3 cup shredded 2% mexican cheese
1 Tbsp. Frank's Red Hot
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp oregano leaves, crumbled between your fingers
4 cups canola, vegetable or peanut oil
Cut each jalapeno open along one side, slitting from stem to point. Cut a small slit across the top under the stem, perpendicular to the first. Use a paring knife or your index finger to scrape out the seeds and ribs of the peppers, being careful not to split off any part of them. Rinse the insides of the peppers.
Mix together cheese, hot sauce and seasonings. Ready 2 shallow bowls, one with beaten eggs, one with breadcrumbs and oregano (well mixed). Stuff each pepper with cheese mixture, then dunk in egg and toss in breadcrumbs. Return to egg and again toss to coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside and repeat with other peppers.
Heat oil to 325 F in a deep narrow saucepan. Fry five peppers at a time until they are golden and rise to the top. Transfer to a cooling rack placed upside down atop paper towels. Repeat with remaining peppers. Serve immediately.
In addition to my spicy snack, Triple Creek Farm produce showed up in my dinner in the form of a fresh, light summer pizza. H's baseball bat zucchini is paired with a lovely pesto made from her thriving basil bushes. Maryland sweet white corn and plum tomatoes are worthy partners, and it all gets a little bite from brilliant red onion.
Summer Veggie Lovers Pizza
2 lbs of zucchini, seeded if necessary and cut into coins or half rings
1 cup Thai marinade (I used Wegman's but any brand will do)
3 cups fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp low-fat ricotta cheese
1 tsp freshly minced garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp olive oil
one recipe pizza dough through both rises
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Italian 4 cheese blend
1 cob sweet white corn, kernels removed
5 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1/2 large red onion, sliced into thin half moons
Prepare zucchini and toss with marinade. Let marinate in fridge at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat a grill on high. Use a grill pan to grill zucchini until moderately charred. Set aside.
Preheat oven with a pizza stone inside to 500 F for 30 minutes. Combine basil and macadamias in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add cheeses, garlic and seasonings. Pulse until finely ground, then drizzle in olive oil while food processor is running. Set aside.
Roll or stretch pizza dough to stone size on a floured surface. Make sure all other ingredients are prepped. When pizza stone is preheated, remove from oven (carefully!) and place dough on hot stone. After a couple of minutes the dough should release from the stone. Flip crust before topping (this seals the dough's surface, preventing mushy crust).
Spread pesto sauce onto "toasted" surface. Top with grilled zucchini in one even layer. Distribute cheeses evenly, and follow with corn kernels. Lay down tomato slices in an even layer and top with onion.
Return pizza stone to oven and let cook 20-30 minutes, or until crust is crisp, tomatoes and onions caramelize and cheese is bubbly. Slice and serve.