Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Gift of Purples

Majestic is what we say
Harkening back to times of thrones and wealth
Rare and royal; adored or despised; youthful and mature at once

Even the word itself is special:
               Effort needed by both tongue and mind

We foolishly try to capture purple:
               Paint in little girls’ bedrooms
               Jellybeans; Easter eggs; nailpolish; eye shadow; construction paper
               I loved a purple turtleneck once:
                               metal buttons on the cuffs, worn with a purple plaid skirt

I think better to allow nature to provide the majesty surrounding purple:
Sunsets that fill a horizon
Violets under our feet
Shadows on a half-buried shell

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cheesy Cauliflower Mash Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

For whatever reason, my zucchini plants have produced tons of male flowers and very few female flowers the past few years. The male flowers have long stems and never produce any fruit. The female flowers grow very close to the base of the plant, they have stockier stems, and they develop into the squash.

So, I have learned to prepare and eat the gorgeous blossoms! How lucky is that? They are so fantastic! If you are fortunate enough to have blossoms on your zucchini plants, consider stuffing them and treating yourself to the most amazing treat!

Today, I stuffed them with leftover Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower and leftover corn.

Here’s what you do:
Pick the blossoms
Carefully open them, rinse out little critters and bees (I’m serious)
Remove the hard yellow part inside
Carefully stuff them with goodness (usually a cheesy mixture, but whatever seems good is appropriate)
Dip in a mixture of 1 C milk and 1 T cornstarch
Roll them in a mixture of 1 C flour and some seasonings (oregano, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, etc)
Lightly pan fry them until golden on all sides.

Admittedly, these were very delicate because the cauliflower mash was probably softer than the traditional stuffing used in blossoms, but no worries. They were delicious! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Parmesan and Herb Mashed Cauliflower Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I live in a tiny village. One small grocery store (that does not carry tofu), one small Dollar Store (that sells great canned refried beans), one little coffee shop (it’s NOT Starbucks), and one drug store (walking distance from my home and a regular stop when I run errands).

We DO have a fantastic bakery (I’ve been known to eat a cookie or two) and butcher shop (I’ve never stepped foot in it), and we DO have a great library (if they don’t have the book, they will gladly send for it). 

I didn’t grow up in a small town, so it’s always nice to be reminded of the ‘small-town’ feel that surrounds me. People smile and say hello! We wave at each other! Our community Facebook page is *mostly* filled with praise for local businesses, tips on local services, and compliments on particular events. (Oh, we do have our complainers, but let’s ignore them for now.)

Last week at the grocery, Dawn (my cashier, the daughter of my neighbors, and at whose home we store our boat all winter), commented on my mushroom purchase. We had a nice little mushroom conversation; other people in line even chimed in. So nice. Small town. Friendly. Hopefully, I educated about what to do with large, beautiful, delicious Portabella mushrooms.

I hate the name of this recipe, but I wanted to get in all the elements. Please try this! I’m planning to serve this the next time I have a dinner party. A true culinary creation!

Here’s what you need for the Parmesan and Herb Mashed Cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets, non-dairy butter, non-dairy milk
½ C cashew Parmesan (1 C raw cashews, ¼ C Nutritional Yeast, 1 t salt, high speed blender)
Lots of fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley)

Here’s what you do:
Place the prepared cauliflower florets in boiling water and cook until very soft. Place in food processor and whirl until creamy. Add margarine, salt and pepper, and only a tiny bit of milk. Use a spatula to encourage any stray pieces to stay under!

Add the Parmesan and herbs and whirl until blended. Season with salt and pepper. You’ll have way more than you need for 4 giant mushrooms, but you can eat the leftovers exactly like mashed potatoes.

Here’s what you do for the portabellas:
Remove the stem and gills from the underside of the mushroom using a small spoon. Cook on a grill pan, drizzling a tiny bit of oil on the round side of each mushroom. A little salt will help draw out some of the mushrooms’ moisture, and that’s a good thing. Turn the mushrooms over once in a while and do not rush them….you want them completely cooked and knife tender. Use a foil tent to help them steam a bit. They're not going to fall apart, so keep grilling them till they're nice and soft. 

Remove the mushrooms to a baking sheet. Fill with the cauliflower mash. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. DIVINE!!! Super elegant! 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Polenta Croutons

I’ve been known to boldly say, “Bread makes the sandwich.” And today, I boldly say, “Croutons make the salad.” Scatter these on your favorite Caesar and you’ll be thanking me.

Eat your salad and add these croutons!

It could not be easier to make these, but you do need a pizza stone to get the nice chewy edges on the polenta.

Start with a store bought tube of regular polenta. 

Use a sharp knife and turn the tube shape into a rectangular shape. This will not only make it easier to cut the polenta into cubes, it will eliminate the coating that exists on the polenta. Cut the polenta into ½ inch cubes. Drizzle with ½-1 teaspoon olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Carefully place the polenta cubes on a smoking hot pizza stone. (Well, at least preheat your stone in a 450 degree oven.) Bake for about 15 minutes, then turn the cubes over and bake for another 15 minutes or until the polenta is nice and crisp.

I found the best way to turn the cubes over, is to put them back in a bowl, toss them a bit, and then pour them back on to the stone. CAREFUL! Everything is 450 degrees!

It’s difficult not to eat the entire batch of polenta croutons before they even make it to the salad!