Thursday, July 26, 2012

Squash "Fries"

For crying out loud.  I could have eaten the entire plate of these.

There's an abundance of squash in the summertime.  You may run out of ways to serve it to your family.  Kids don't always eagerly gobble up squash that's been sauteed or steamed or boiled. 

These "fries," however, will disappear faster than lightning.

The keys to making these are (1) your little breading station "assembly line" and (2) Panko bread crumbs.  May I extol the virtues of these Japanese bread crumbs?  You can buy them anywhere now.  They make anything they coat crispy and delicious.

I would be inclined to bake these, which is the healthiest way to prepare them.  On this night, though, Curt already had the Fry Daddy fired up for some grouper he had recently caught, so I had him toss in my little squash project.  (Seriously, if you find a good man who can feed the family on what he grabs from the ocean or shoots in a field, marry him on the spot.)  All that to say, fry or bake away, whatever you are inclined to do.

I don't have a recipe to give you...just general steps.  This is FOR REAL easy.

First, the squash prep:
Wash 4-5 yellow squash (more or less, depending on how many mouths you are feeding). Trim ends and cut in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.  Cut the squash into fry-like shapes.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. 

Then, your assembly line:
Line up three bowls. 
1.  In the first, place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour (or cornstarch). Season with salt and pepper. 
2.  In the 2nd, beat one egg.
3.  In the third, place about a cup of Panko bread crumbs.  Season this with salt and pepper, too.

                                  The breading "station" moves smoothly if you order it from left to right. Have an empty plate at end to gather breaded squash.
                                      This same process works for breading most anything else - chicken fingers, green beans, etc.  The kids can help with this!

It's crucial to season in all steps of the process.  Squash is bland, like potatoes - it lends itself well in this dish but needs some salt!

Also, if you run out of an ingredient in a bowl, do not fret, sweet one.  Just add some more. This isn't exact.

First, dip the "fries" into the flour mixture.  Shake off excess, and dip into the egg.  Then roll in the Panko crumbs.  Now you are ready to fry! You can use a deep fryer or fry on the stove with 2 or 3" of oil.  Or, you could bake these in the oven, say 400 degrees until brown and crispy. 

Cook until golden and serve with ketchup or ranch dressing.  Thank me later.

Oh and this would be great with zucchini as well!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tomato Cornbread Salad

Ahhhh, the summer tomato.

Slice and eat with some salt and pepper. Sublime. Or make the finest BLT.  Or a tomato pie.

Or this Tomato Cornbread Salad.  Folks, it's divine.

Every summer, I make this and experiment with ingredients and amounts.  You do the same! If you don't like peppers, but love radishes, use them!  If you dislike basil but love parsley, make the substitution.  It's a salad - it doesn't have to be exact.

Tomato Cornbread Salad

1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 package (8.5 ounces) Jiffy corn muffin mix
3 ears corn, shucked
8 ounces fresh green beans (any kind)
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 or 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped (I used both for color)
3 or 4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 or 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and let stand or store in refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Prepare corn muffin mix in 8" square baking dish according to package directions.  Cool completely.  (You  can do like me and bake it the night before to serve with dinner, but only if a small amount of it will be eaten.  I like to go "heavy on the veggies" anyway with this salad, so if you don't have as much cornbread, it's OK.)

Cut cooled cornbread into 1" cubes and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Put in a 400 degree oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until lightly toasted.  Cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add corn and cook 5 minutes.  Add beans and cook 3 minutes longer or until crisp-tender.  Using tongs, remove corn and rinse under cold running water.  Drain beans and rinse under cold water.  Cut corn off cob.

In big bowl, combine all except for the cornbread.  Add cornbread and toss gently.  Serve immediately or chill.  Even better the second day!  And aren't the colors so pretty?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Perfect Parmesan Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Yummy, restaurant-style mashed potatoes are seriously easy to make.  I made them last night with an entire head of garlic.  OK, you can scale back, but the process and result is the same:  delicious mashed potatoes that your family will love.

Start by roasting the garlic.  This is not (I repeat, NOT) a difficult task.  Simply slice the top off a head of fresh garlic.

Place the garlic head on some foil on a sheet pan.  Take the "top" off and pour on a little olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Put the "top" back on and wrap the foil around the garlic.

Roast the garlic in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour.  In a few minutes, you'll smell its goodness permeating the entire house.  Cue kids salivating and husband smooching you.

Let the garlic head cool, top on.  When you are ready to use it, simply squeeze the soft, caramel-y cloves into a bowl. 

You'll be amazed at how gooey and weird they are in this stage.  As you can see above, roasting the garlic literally transforms it into something completely different from fresh garlic in texture and flavor. The cloves just "mush" out of the bulb like mayonnaise.

Now you are ready to use whatever amount of roasted garlic you'd like in your mashed potatoes.  Store the extra in the fridge in an airtight container and use in another dish this week.  Pasta or garlic bread, anyone?

How easy was that?  Your labor involved a knife cut, pouring some oil, and a few squeezes of the stuff into a bowl. 

Now, on to the main event.

Perfect Parmesan Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This makes 4-6 servings.

1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes (I used a combination this time; use whatever you have.)
1/2 to 1 cup milk (I've also used half and half or some cream to make the dish extra special.)
1/2 to 1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter (Use more if you like if anyone doesn't.)
roasted garlic, amount to your preference
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Wash then cube the potatoes.  I typically leave the skins on - not only is it more nutritious, but I also like the way it tastes and looks in the end. And it saves you the work of peeling.  Win-win-win.  Place potatoes in a big pot of cold water with a liberal amount of salt.  Boil until they are fork-tender. 

While potatoes are boiling, heat the milk and butter in a small pan.  Place this, the Parmesan, and garlic in the bowl of your mixer.

Drain potatoes and place BACK into the hot pan in which you boiled them for a few seconds.  This will help "steam off" any liquid remaining that may make the potatoes mushy.

Add potatoes to the mixer bowl and mix until desired consistency - chunkier or smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

This isn't an exact science. You can experiment with the milk, butter, cheese, and garlic amounts. Sour cream, wasabi powder, ranch dressing... these are options for add-ins, too.

Serve warm, preferably with a hearty slice of meat loaf and a nice green salad.  :) 


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