Entrée, Summer

ROASTED ZUCCHINI PASTA BAKE

My bounty of summer zucchini has regrettably not been very exciting lately. I have been grilling it or grating it into the kids morning muffins, neither of which has been particularly tasty. I do like zucchini noodles and I've been picking up those pre-zoodled ones from Target to saute with the pesto I always have on hands along with tomatoes and white beans and dinner in done in 10 minutes. So how else can we jazz it up? Amidst pasta and cheese of course! If you have other zucchini recipes you love, please point me towards them in the comments. I told you I would try to get more easy weeknight dinner options going on here and this one is not to be overlooked. 

ROASTED ZUCCHINI PASTA BAKE // Serves 4

If you are making this in advance, follow the directions all the way through the last baking step. It can probably sit overnight at the most, and then be baked the following day. To reheat, warm it, covered, at 350' for about 20 minutes. 
If you do eat meat and want to add sausage of some sort, crumble and cook it, and add it in when you are mixing everything together before baking. My guess is about 3 links would be plenty and would not change other amounts drastically. You can use gluten free pasta shells if you'd like but I have nothing to offer those of you who will ask if this can be dairy free ;)

2 lbs. zucchini (about 4 medium)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more for pasta water
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
pinch of red pepper flakes
zest of one small lemon
1/2 lb. large pasta shells
8 ounces/ 1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 lb. grated goat cheddar, divided
fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1/8 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400'. 
Cut the squash into 1/4" coins. If there is a thicker end or seedy part of the squash, scoop the seeds out with a spoon, halve and slice those parts. Pile the zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. Toss to coat and spread evenly on the baking sheet. Roast in the upper third of the oven for 25 minutes, tossing once halfway through, until you get a few browned edges. Remove to cool completely.
While the squash bakes, cook the pasta in well salted water until al dente, or following package instructions. Drain and return to the pot. Let it cool to the touch, and then add the creme fraiche, half of the grated cheddar, a handful of chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper and the fresh grated nutmeg. Stir everything to mix well. Add the zucchini and give it one more stir. 
Butter a baking dish and transfer the pasta mixture into it. Sprinkle the remaining goat cheddar, parmesan and another few generous pinches of parsley over the top. Pop the dish in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to set before serving. 



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Chocolate, Dessert, Summer

ICE CREAM COOKIE SANDWICHES

There was a recent article in Bon Appetite with some recipes for making perfect cookies for ice cream sams. They were thin and crisp, one of which read a bit overly fussy to me, but I can appreciate the extra effort to get something just right. That is not my life right now, I'm more about ease and speed, but I appreciate it. They looked pretty and would undoubtedly be delicious, but I'm quite happy with our current "house cookie" acting as book ends to a creamy scoop of ice cream... or as a skillet cookie, I'll put those notes below. The recipe started at Tara O'Brady's chocolate chip cookies but they're looking pretty far from her original at this point, so I'll leave you her words here. I replace some of the flour with oats and reduce the leaveners for this reason (and also because I don't want a poofy cookie for an ice cream sam). I skip browning the butter out of sheer laziness, though I assume you could handle that step if you wish. I also let the dough sit overnight a la Jacques Torres which he swears makes all the difference and is habit for me now. All sorts of cookie science here on Serious Eats. 

I made these for a dinner with friends, which is great because a sit in the freezer is necessary, making them a great make-ahead dessert. When you eat them straight off assembly, the cookie and ice cream are both too soft and they make a big mess. When you assemble them, and then freeze them again together, they become the same temperature/consistency, so they are just easier to eat. Because thin and crispy is also delicious and homemade is not always possible, in a pinch, the Tate's cookies (or gluten free chocolate chip ones from Trader Joes which are private labeled from Tate's) are perfect. Just have dinner with friends, that's the important part. xo

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ICE CREAM COOKIE SANDWICHES // Makes 14ish
To make this a skillet cookie, simply press half the dough into an 10" skillet and cook it at 325' for about 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. The center will still look tender but that's ok, it will set more as it cools. Let it rest for 10 minutes before topping it with ice cream and serving.  
You can halve this cookie recipe and end up with about 16 cookies/8 sandwiches. Specifics will depend on how big you make your dough balls. 

2 sticks/ 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar or muscavado sugar
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chips
flaky salt, for finishing
1 quart vanilla bean, coffee, or chocolate chip ice cream

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars for a good two minutes. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and mix again, scraping down the sides so it is all incorporated. Add the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and mix again until just combined, do not overmix. Add the chocolate, one more quick mix, scrape down the sides, and store it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, up to overnight. 
Preheat the oven to 350'. Make golfball size rounds and arrange them on cookie sheets or baking pans. Press down the center gently and sprinkle them with flaky salt. Bake on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes until the edges are browned and the center still looks slightly tender. You want them slightly underdone. Remove the tray, smack it on the counter, and let them cool a few minutes. Remove from the tray and let them cool completely on a wire rack. 
Assemble each sandwich with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center and then gently smush them together to press down the ice cream ball. Freeze them for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. 
*I put a long skinny tupperware in the freezer and just stash them in there as I assemble. They should last for about a week, or longer if you keep them individually wrapped in plastic wrap. 

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Beverage, Breakfast, Gluten Free, Summer

COLD BREW WITH COCONUT CREAMER

I actually don't buy fancy drinks often but I love them. We spend a large part of our income on food and it seems like one place I can tighten things up. However, in a "treat yo'self" moment, I recently picked up the new one from Trader Joes and after spending nearly $5 on this tiny beverage, I had high expectations that were not met. Hugh makes us cold brew in the warm months so I'm putting him on explaining some of that to you. Tools, beans and such. He made the coffee, I made the coconut creamer from The First Mess and now I can make a special iced coffee on my own terms. The creamer is easy, it just requires a blender and a few staple ingredients. It does get a little firm in the fridge so I leave out before I need to use it or let it sit in a warm water bath to become a little more liquid. In the dairy free creamers you get at the store, there are a handful of funky ingredients that keep them a liquid and emulsify into your coffee, hot or cold. This creamer has more of a homemade texture to it and I like it that way. Makes me want to keep this as a fridge staple. We have two other coffee posts, Chemex and a video with the French press (in our old apartment! nostalgia!) if you fancy. 

In other summery news, I wrote a salmon taco recipe for Food52 and that avocado sauce has been a fridge staple. On eggs, veggie bowls, tacos, thinned to salad dressing, everything. Take a peek if you need a dinner idea!

COLD BREW COFFEE
Makes about 6 cups

There are all sorts of variations for this process, but we use a Toddy T2N Cold Brew System. It's simple, relatively inexpensive, and easy to use. The following brew method is adapted from their instructions, and makes about 6 cups of cold brew coffee concentrate.

12 ounces fresh roasted coffee - ground slightly finer than you would for drip. I grind at setting 10 (of 40) on a Baratza Virtuoso, for reference.
7 cups cold, filtered water


COCONUT CREAMER
Makes about 14 ounces

Creamer adapted from The First Mess

4 pitted dates
1 14-0z. can full fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. sunflower oil (or other neutral oil that is a liquid at room temperature)

COLD BREW

Fill - First, insert the stopper into the outside bottom of the brewing container; then, dampen the filter and insert it into the inside bottom of the brewing container. 

Next, add 1 cup of water into the bottom of the Toddy brewing container and 6 ounces of ground coffee. Slowly pour 3 more cups of water over the grounds, in a circular motion. Then, add the remaining 6 ounces of ground coffee. Finally, wait 5 minutes and slowly add the last 3 cups of water. DO NOT STIR (stirring the bed of grounds can result in a clogged filter). 

Lightly press down on the topmost grounds with the back of a spoon to ensure all grounds get wet. 

Cover - lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the grounds with as few air bubbles as reasonably possible. The idea here is to minimize the amount of oxygen interacting with the steeping slurry. 

Brew - Steep your coffee grounds at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours to create a smooth, rich flavor. 

Filter - Remove the plastic wrap and the stopper and let your coffee concentrate flow into the glass decanter - stays fresh for 1-2 weeks in your refrigerator.

Serve - Into a glass full of ice, we went with a ratio of 2 parts coffee (which is a concentrate) to 1 part water to 1 part creamer. Not super sweet or decadent, so you can adjust that based on your own mood. 


COCONUT CREAMER

If your dates are soft, move forward with the recipe. If they are a little dry or tough, soak them in boiling water to soften then drain completely. 

In a high powered blender, run the dates, coconut milk, vanilla and oil until you have a smooth, thick liquid with minimal chunks of dates. Strain the creamer with a fine mesh strainer. 

Into a glass full of ice, we went with a ratio of 2 parts coffee (which is a concentrate) to 1 part water to 1 part creamer. Not super sweet or decadent, so you can adjust that based on your own mood. 

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