Fiori Di Zucchine – Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Fiori Di Zucchine – Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini blossoms

Fresh Blossoms

Saturday night, I had the pleasure of dining at The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, NJ again. It had been several months since I had eaten Chef Francesco Palmieri’s inventive and flavorful creations and once again, it was a great meal.

zucchini blossoms

Blossom Dredging

I absolutely adore zucchini blossoms and was thrilled to also see them served up as an amuse-bouche paired with a roasted plum topped with a hazelnut and Gorgonzola Dolce. It was a simply-presented dish yet it was complex in texture and flavor. When Chef Palmieri came out of the kitchen to present the amuse, I am certain he could see my enthusiasm for the blossoms and gave me a box of fresh blooms to take home when I left. What an amazing treat! The blossoms, much like most of the produce at The Orange Squirrel, are sourced from the Palmieri garden just a few blocks away from the restaurant.

zucchini blossoms

Blossom Frying

I left with my box of blooms like a kid leaving a candy store and I knew I would need to create something special with such a precious present. I opted for Fried Zucchini Blossoms – perhaps the most amazing fried food item ever.

Ingredients:

  • Any neutral-flavor vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 ounces club soda, chilled
  • 12-24 zucchini blossoms
  • Sea salt
zucchini blossoms

Fried Blossoms

Directions:

  1. In a deep, heavy pot, bring about 2″ of oil to 350 degrees (use a candy/deep fry thermometer).
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and the salt. Add the club soda to the flour mixture, whisking until just incorporated with a few lumps. Over-whisking is not your friend here.
  3. Remove the stamens from the blossoms then dip each one in the batter, making sure to allow any excess batter to drip off. The goal is a thin coating.
  4. Place a few blossoms in the hot oil, ensuring the pot is not over-crowded causing the temperature to drop. Cool oil = greasy fried foods. Cook the blossoms for 3 minutes, turning them once, then remove them to a paper towel-lined place. Immediately sprinkle sea salt on the blossoms as they come out of the oil.

Batter is enough for up to 24 blossoms.

Cabot Creamery Seriously Sharp Cheddar Mac N Cheese

Cabot Creamery Seriously Sharp Cheddar Mac N Cheese

Mac n CheeseI make macaroni and cheese using various cheeses and featuring other decadent ingredients (see Porcini and Lobster Macaroni and Cheese) but for cook outs and casual get-togethers, I love the flavor of Cabot Creamery’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar. Crusted with a Panko topping, this mac n cheese gets rave reviews every time.

Ingredients:

  • ½ stick (4 Tbsp.) butter
  • 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. each, ground nutmeg, salt and pepper
  • 4 cups whole milk or light cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups freshly grated Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar
  • 1 ½ pounds tubular pasta (I use Barilla Cellentani) cooked 2 minutes less than recommended on package directions, drained

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

Mac n Cheese MakingPasta Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place butter in a large saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  3. Stir the milk (or light cream) and the heavy cream into the butter/flour mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, whisking often.
  4. Slowly add the cheeses, a handful at a time, and stir until fully incorporated.
  5. Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and mix well.
  6. Add cheesy pasta to a 13×9 baking dish.

Topping Directions:

  1. Microwave butter in a small dish for 45 seconds. Add Panko and cayenne pepper and stir to incorporate the butter and create a crumbly mixture.
  2. Sprinkle Panko mixture over pasta in an even layer.
  3. Bake pasta for 15 minutes until Panko topping has lightly browned. Serve at once.

Makes 8 servings.

Rosemary and Lemon Compound Butter

Rosemary and Lemon Compound Butter

Compound Butter DisksI just love having compound butter on hand for summer grill outs. Compound butter is made by whipping softened butter with herbs or other condiments to boost flavor in food. I’ve played around with add-ons like minced garlic, chopped anchovies (great on grilled romaine lettuce) and various herbs.

This version of compound butter uses lemon zest and chopped rosemary as the flavor enhancers and it’s delicious over grilled steaks.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary, chopped
  • ½ tsp. each salt and pepper

Compound ButterDirections:

  1. In a small bowl, whip the butter using a fork. Add the zest and the spices and whip some more to fully incorporate the aromatics into the butter.
  2. Lay two 12-inch sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the butter mixture between the two sheets and start to wrap the butter to form logs (think sushi roll or jelly roll).
  3. Place the two rolls in the refrigerator for at least four hours (if using within a couple days) or the freezer (if using at a later time).
  4. To use, unwrap the wax paper or plastic wrap and slice the butter in ½” slabs.

Makes about 30 butter slices.

Pork Belly Deviled Eggs

Pork Belly Deviled Eggs

Pork Belly Deviled EggsI love deviled eggs and think they have a place at most parties whether upscale (think caviar-topped eggs) to casual (served plain) to quirky, which I’d consider this pork belly version.

Directions:

  1. Slice the eggs in half horizontally, carefully remove the yolks and place in a small bowl. Add the mustard, Mayonnaise, Paprika, Sriracha, salt and pepper to the yolks. Mash the mixture using a fork until smooth.
  2. Fill the egg white cavities with the egg yolk mixture (can use a pastry bag and tip to make the presentation fancier).
  3. Top each egg half with a piece of pork belly.

Makes 12 deviled egg halves.

Crispy Pork Belly

Crispy Pork Belly

Belly in Water

Belly in Water

This pork belly recipe can be used in many ways, so feel free to experiment. I especially enjoy it in a slider, in a bowl of ramen noodle soup or on deviled eggs.

Simmering Broth

Simmering Broth

Ingredients:

  • 2-pound pork belly
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dry Sherry
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced in in a few pieces
  • ½ tsp. each ground clove and ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha
  • 1 can of coca cola
  • 4 cups of water
Boiled Belly

Boiled Belly

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot or Dutch oven to half full with water then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and place the pork belly in the pot. Cook for 5 minutes then remove to a plate, drain the pot and clean it.
  2. To the same pot, add the brown sugar, Sherry, ginger, spices, soy sauce, Sriracha, cola and water. Bring the broth to a simmer. Cut the par-boiled pork belly in 2-inch pieces and add to the broth. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 3 hours, gently stirring occasionally.
  3. Turn the oven to the broil. Line a couple baking sheets with foil.
  4. Using thongs, carefully remove the pork belly pieces letting them drain off the thongs a few seconds. Reserve the broth.
  5. Place the belly on the foil-lined baking sheets and place under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and spoon a teaspoon of the broth on each piece.
  6. Use as desired or eat right away.
Ingredient Spotlight – Spaghetti Squash

Ingredient Spotlight – Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

I’ve been on a low carbohydrate diet for a few weeks and one of the things I miss most is a big bowl of spaghetti Bolognese. I’ve been reluctant to try making this dish with spaghetti squash instead, but was pleasantly surprised when I finally caved and did just that over the weekend.

Remove Seeds

Remove Seeds

About Spaghetti Squash (Cucurbita Pepo):

  • Although it’s harvested in the fall, spaghetti squash can keep for up to 6 months in a cool place. That’s how we find it at the market year-around.
  • When cooked, the spaghetti squash’s flesh becomes strand-like much like spaghetti, hence its name.
  • Spaghetti squash seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds.
  • Spaghetti squash is full of folic acid, vitamin A, potassium and beta carotene (especially in orange varieties).
  • It’s low in calories at about 40 calories per cup.
Pull Strings with Fork

Pull Strings with Fork

Here’s a fail-proof way of cooking spaghetti squash:

  1. Pierce through the flesh of the squash in about 10 places with a sharp, thin blade knife.
  2. Place a double layer of paper towel in the microwave and place the squash on them.
  3. Microwave for 12 minutes (for medium-sized squash), rotating every few minutes if your oven doesn’t have a rotating plate. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before attempting to handle.
  4. Cut the squash long ways.
  5. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and save them for roasting.
  6. Using a fork, pull strings of squash flesh away from the outer skin. Place the “spaghetti” in a bowl for intended use.
Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

Since I had a major craving for meat sauce, I topped my squash spaghetti with traditional Quebec Meat Sauce I’d defrosted. YUM!!!!!!!

Have you had this fruit and if so, what’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

Veronique

Family, Friends and Food in Quebec

Family, Friends and Food in Quebec

Beet Salad

Beet Salad

Last weekend, I flew up to Quebec to surprise my dad for his birthday. As always, the weekend was filled with an abundance of food and adult libations.

Lobster Dinner

Lobster Dinner

Friday, the weather was nice and we opted to grill pork tenderloin kebabs that my brother-in-law, Etienne, had marinated in his special concoction a good part of the afternoon. Since it was also my mom’s birthday a couple days prior to my arrival, my nieces and me made my Chocolate Éclair Squares, an easy-to-fix, tasty and light dessert (perfect for Memorial Day celebrations).

Wines for Lobster Dinner

Wines for Lobster Dinner

Saturday, my sister Josée, her daughters and me decorated her home for dad’s party and began cooking for the memorable dinner party. On the menu was a springtime salad of roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes, red onions, Mozzarella and basil. My brother-in-law boiled some lobsters and made his now-famous Lemon Butter Cream for dipping – fantastic. Dessert was a plate of vanilla bean cupcakes and my Zesty Key Lime Tart (minus the meringue and topped with whipped cream instead). The wine lineup wasn’t half bad either.

Poutine

Poutine

Sunday morning, mom fixed us a big breakfast of eggs benedict with homefries and after spending the morning at our horse ranch, I headed back to the airport to catch my flight back to New Jersey. As I’ve grown accustomed to doing when I fly out of Quebec, I had a poutine to mark the end of my wonderful weekend.

Hope your weekend adventures were as delicious as mine were.

Cheers,

Veronique

Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback PotatoesHasselback potatoes seem to be everywhere on Pinterest lately (are you following my boards on Pinterest?) and I loved the concept so I decided to use leftover cheeses from a recent cheese course to create my own version.

The accordion-fanned potatoes get their name from the Stockholm, Sweden restaurant that first served them – Restaurant Hasselbacken. While I use Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar and some aged Swiss cheese in this version, any kind of flavorful, melty cheese would work.

Ingredients:

  • 4 baking potatoes (I used Russets)
  • 1 stick of butter, very cold and cut into 16 slices
  • 1 8-ounce bar of cheese, cut into 16 slices
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. sour cream (optional)

Hasselback Potatoes 2Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and pat them dry with paper towels.
  3. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully slice the potatoes very thinly, without cutting all the way through.
  4. Tuck butter and cheese slices into each of the slits in the potatoes. Sprinkle each potato with salt and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Place the potatoes in a baking pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 60 minutes or until tender. Remove the foil, baste potatoes with any butter that sits at the bottom of the pan and bake for an additional 15 minutes to crisp up the potato skins.
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven and serve with sour cream (optional).

Makes 4 servings.

Michael Psilakis Gyro Spiced Sliders

Michael Psilakis Gyro Spiced Sliders

Gyro Spiced SlidersI sampled these sliders at the Morristown Buick Discovery Tour event last weekend. These are by far the most flavorful sliders I’ve ever had and a very good example of how delicious Michael Psilakis’ food is.

Gyro Slider Spice Ingredients:

  • 12 tbsp. Cumin
  • 2 tbsp. Coriander
  • 8 tbsp. Yellow Mustard Seed
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Cloves
  • 2 tbsp. Black Cardamom
  • 4 tbsp. Fennel
  • 2 tbsp. Cinnamon

Tsatziki Ingredients (makes one pint):

  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 shallots, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • 1 1/4 cups strained Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Gyro Slider Ingredients:

  • 12 2-ounce beef patties
  • 12 slider potato rolls
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 12 cornichons (optional)
  • 12 frilly toothpicks

Gyro Slider Spice Directions:

  1. Combine all spices in mixing bowl, transfer to airtight container.

Tsatziki Directions:

  1. Cut the cucumber into very small pieces, even dice. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, vinegar, shallots, and dill. Pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed.
  2. Add the mixture to the cucumbers; add the yogurt. Fold together with a rubber spatula, adding the olive oil and lemon juice.
  3. Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper, starting off with 1 tablespoon salt.
  4. You can store the Tsatziki in a covered, clean jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Gyro Slider Directions:

  1. Preheat a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat and coat bottom of pan with olive oil.
  2. Season sliders on both sides with salt and pepper and dredge sliders in Gyro Slider Spice mixture.
  3. In small batches of 3-4 patties sear sliders for approximately 1 minute per side. Allow to rest once cooked.
  4. Remove excess grease with paper towel and repeat until all sliders are cooked.
  5. To serve, place each slider on bottom of potato roll and top with dollop of Tsatziki sauce and cover gently with bun top and cornichon. Spear with toothpick.

Makes one dozen sliders.

Easy Basmati Rice

Easy Basmati Rice

Basmati RiceMy dad, Jean-Guy, makes the best Basmati rice, period. It’s light, fluffy and delicious served with just about anything. He’s passed the recipe to my brother-in-law, Etienne, who’s been kind enough to share it with me.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions:

  1. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse the rice under running cool water for 1 minute.
  2. Add the water, butter and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add the rice to the water and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the bay leaf, cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook without removing the lid for 35 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat then fluff with a fork gently.

Makes 6 servings.