Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pecorino-Crusted Baked Zucchini Crisps

The garden is still putting out plenty of zucchini and I'm trying to prepare it every which way I can think of to keep us from getting sick of it. While some people bemoan the excessive productivity of zucchini plants, I love it! There is so much you can do with zucchini - from savory dinners to easy sides (like this recipe below) to sweet treats. Having 2 zucchini plants along with 2 squash plants in our garden has definitely cut down on the produce bill this summer.

For tonight's meal, I made some pecorino-crusted baked zucchini crisps to go with our grilled chicken. These are fairly quick to prepare and full of texture and flavor. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside -- and lots of flavor from the pecorino cheese.*

*Pecorino is similar in taste to Parmesan cheese, but has a slightly more assertive flavor and a little more saltiness. I prefer Pecorino, so that's usually what I have on hand, but Parmesan would also work fine in this recipe.

Though I cut my zucchini in rounds, you can also cut them into spears to make "fries." I've done this before and served them with burgers -- much healthier than french fries. I bet they'd be a great way to get a child (or partner) who might not normally love "green stuff" to eat his or her veggies, too!
On to the recipe~

Pecorino-Crusted Baked Zucchini Crisps
printable recipe
(Serves 2-3)

1 medium zucchini (about 6-7" long and 1.5-2" wide)
2 egg whites
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
dash of ground pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese (or Parmesan)

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray lightly with oil
Cut zucchini into slices about 1/4" thick.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Set aside.
In another medium-sized bowl, combine flour, sea salt, dried basil and ground pepper. Set aside.
On a plate, mix together panko bread crumbs and grated Pecorino cheese.
Place zucchini slices in the flour mixture. Toss to coat all sides.
One at a time, dip each zucchini slice into the egg whites, then into the panko-Pecorino mixture. Turn zucchini over a few times to make sure it's well covered with panko. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all zucchini slices are coated. (Lay them out in a single layer on the baking sheet.)
Bake at 425°F for 14-16 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
Serve immediately. (They will start to lose their crisp after 10-15 minutes.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nectarine Turnovers

Unlike last year, our nectarine tree was not an overachiever this year. In fact, we didn't get a single fruit! I chalk this up to the fact that we gave it a good and long overdue pruning this winter. I have high hopes for plenty of sweet peachy goodies next year. Fortunately, our next door neighbor's tree was quite the producer this year and we received a bag of freshly picked fruit.

We enjoyed many of them fresh, but since they spoil fairly quickly, we were having a bit of hard time keeping up with the bounty. So, when it came time to make some finger food for a picnic dinner with friends this weekend, I had a light bulb moment - nectarine turnovers! They'd be easy to transport and taste good hot or cold - all key for the perfect picnic food.

I'm happy to report they held up just as well as expected and were a definite crowd pleaser.

As an aside, you may be interested to know there are what seems like a 101 names for turnovers depending on where you're from and what they contain. I started out calling them pocket pies, acquiescing to my husband that yes, I meant turnovers. Empanadas in Mexico, hand pies in the southern US, samosas in Asia - all other variations of these dough pockets filled with whatever your heart desires. Call this sweet nectarine version whatever you like - it'll taste just as great!

Nectarine Turnovers
(Makes 12)

1 double pie crust recipe OR 2 refrigerated, packaged pie crusts (I was short on time, so I used premade this time)
1-1.25 pounds nectarines (or peaches)
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. white flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extra
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
2-3 Tbsp. sanding sugar

Remove chilled dough from fridge and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Flour a large board and roll out dough until about 1/8" thick.
Using a 4" round cookie cutter (or small bowl), cut 4 rounds out of dough. Knead scraps back together, then roll out again and cut out 2 more 4" rounds.
Repeat with remaining pie crust so you make a total of 12 4" discs of dough. Spread discs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or stack between sheets of parchment. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Drop in nectarines and boil about 1-2 minutes just until skins start to break.
Fill a separate large bowl with 1/2 ice cube, 1/2 water.
Drain nectarines and place immediately into ice water bath. Let sit until cool, then peel off skins. Dice nectarines into small chunks (about 1/4"). Add to a bowl with sugar, flour and vanilla.
Remove dough discs from fridge and let sit about 2-3 minutes. Line a large plate with parchment paper.
Starting with your first disc of dough, place 1 heaping tablespoon of nectarine mixture in the center of the circle.

Wet your finger with cold water, run around the edge of the dough, then fold one half over the nectarine filling to make a half-circle.

Crimp edge all the way around with fork to seal in the filling.

Place onto parchment lined plate.
Repeat with remaining 11 discs of dough, then refrigerate stuffed turnovers for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line baking sheets with parchment or greased aluminum foil.
In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 1 Tbsp. water.
Remove turnovers from fridge. Brush with egg and water mixture. Sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. (Sanding sugar is just a larger grained sugar that resist melting. It may also simply be called coarse sugar. If you can't find it - you can just use granulated sugar or omit entirely.)
Place onto prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Cut 1-2 slits in the center of each pie. Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fresh Cherry Chocolate Brownies

Sweet cherries are in peak season and I couldn't resist picking up a big bag full of those beautiful dark red orbs on one of my last shopping trips. After snacking our way through them for a week, we still had quite a few left, so I decided to make a dessert to help use them up.

Cherry and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations, but most recipes I have (and that I could find online) call for dried cherries. Those obviously weren't going to work, so I decided to kind of wing it. I knew that brownies could be a little forgiving in terms of their moisture content, so went ahead and added fresh chopped cherries to my favorite brownie recipe. The results were delicious - very chocolaty, with just a hint of that sweet cherry flavor scattered throughout.

If you have a couple of handfuls of cherries hanging around in your fridge, I highly recommend giving them a try!

Fresh Cherry Chocolate Brownies
(Serves 12... or less, depending on how your degree of chocoholicness)

1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped and pitted fresh cherries

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with oil or butter, or line with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter and water over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and add 1 cup chocolate chips (saving 1/2 cup for later). Mix until chocolate is fully melted. Add cocoa powder, eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add to chocolate mixture. Mix until well combined.
Stir in chopped cherries and remaining 1/2 c. chocolate chips.
Spread into prepared baking dish. Bake at 325°F for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean.
Cool completely before cutting (if you can resist!).