Monday, June 25, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms and other Garden Goodies

First off, I wanted to say that I am sorry that it has been so long since my last post. The garden is really starting to explode with tasty, fresh veggies and between family parties and weddings things have been terribly busy at the Happy Husband Diner. I know that I have been posting a lot about meat but there really is a lot to be said for a yummy tapas style vegetarian dinner now and then. Each of the dishes in this post are meat free, delicious and contain at least one home grown ingredient.

When I first mentioned to the Happy Husband that we were going vegetarian for the night I got a bit of a strange look. But then... I told him I was going to make tempura fried, stuffed zucchini blossoms he became very interested. Normally I wouldn't be too excited about sacrificing 5 perfectly viable zucchini babies but one of my engineering classmates turned professional chefs suggested I try this method of preparation. Plus I have 4 zucchini plants and only two people to eat the bounty. (I'm sure there will be other zucchini posts to come.) So I did some reading on how to prep these little beauties. If you can buy them in the store, (I'm sure they will be over priced and not as fresh), then you don't have to worry about this step. If you are lucky enough to pick them within minutes of stuffing and serving, be sure to look out for ants hiding in the blossoms. They probably won't make you sick if you miss a couple but I don't think anyone is in that much need of protein. Once they are clean, stuff them with your stuffing of choice. Make sure the blossoms can pretty much close around the stuffing so that it doesn't melt out during the frying process.

For the stuffing this time, I went with goat cheese, quinoa and marinated artichoke hearts and seasoned the mixture with a bit of salt and pepper. You want to have enough goat cheese (sticky ingredient) that you can ball up the stuffing and it will stay in the shape you make. If you aren't using cheese you can always add a bit of egg to help coagulate the stuffing (make it stick together) during the cooking process. I used a simple tempura recipe from the Joy of Cooking cook book. The basic ingredients for tempura are cold beer/seltzer, flour and baking powder/leavening agent. You can find a recipe anywhere online too.

Dip the stuffed blossoms into the tempura batter and then fry to an even golden brown. I like to drop a little bit of batter directly into the hot oil to tell that it is hot enough/not too hot to cook the blossoms. Needless to say the Happy Husband and I were both pleasantly surprised at the outcome!! The blossoms came out a perfect golden brown and the stuffing was hot but not molten. Not molten is a good thing because the HH has no self preservation reflex. He would pop a still bubbling fried item right into that mouth of his if I weren't there to stop him.
Caprese Salad
The other goodies on our tapas buffet were home grown kale chips (I used garlic salt and pepper to season them), caprese salad (with home grown basil and home made mozz), and pickled home grown beets. Click on the dish names for directions on how to make those items. I have posted photos below of each of the dishes.
Kale Chips
Pickled Beets

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Garden Bounty

This box may not look like much right now but this one day harvest from our back yard garden will be turned into some amazingly tasty goodies for the Happy Husband and I. The radishes will go to my dad because he is the best dad ever! (And possibly because the HH and I don’t eat radishes, ha ha). The beets are destined for pickling thanks to me being introduced to pickled beets back in my Virginia Tech days by my roommate Kristin. Her mother makes, quite possibly, the best pickled beets that I have EVER tasted. The collard greens will be washed and stored in the fridge for a day or two until I am ready to simmer them with ham bits, hot sauce and diced onion and garlic. Tonight, however, the kale and turnips are headed to the dinner plate in two separate preparations.

This is what turnips are more likely to look like if you are searching for them in a store. They might not even have the stems of the leafy tops left but I thought the pale green added to the photo so I left it on. There really is nothing better than pulling these suckers out of the ground and cooking them less than an hour later. Turnips can have a bit of a spicy bite to them but that gives them a fresh flavor and is nothing to be worried about. The spicy mellows out when you roast the turnips. You will need to peel them and cut them into wedges. Toss with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees until the edges just start to brown. I roasted some potato wedges on the same tray until they were starting to brown and crisp up on the edges as well.

Next to prepare the kale. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees or preheat your grill to high if you are feeling adventurous.  Rinse and pat the kale dry. Remove the ribs from the kale and tear it into big pieces. The rib is the hard lighter colored hard part that runs down the middle. It is very stringy and won't get crispy in the oven anyway. If you are a composter these will make a great addition but you should cut them in half to speed up the composting process. Once you have the kale torn into pieces, spread it out onto a baking sheet. Toss the kale with olive oil, salt and pepper. Only use the pepper if you really like a peppery bite, it will intensify in the baking process. I think it tastes just fine, if not better, with just salt and olive oil. This is where it gets a little tricky. The kale can burn quickly so don't walk away from it for more than about a minute. I never walk away because I tend to space out and come back to ashes on my cookie sheet. Never fun. Roast the kale chips until its crispy... it will brown on the edges but this gives it a nice nutty flavor so don't freak out. I like to toss it half way through if its in the oven so that it crisps up evenly.

I served the tasty garden harvest with garlic roasted potatoes and a juicy, tender grilled chicken breast. I didn't take the time to calculate calories on this one but I would estimate it to be around 450 calories for what you see on the plate. Maybe even less depending on the size of the chicken breast that you are using. Thats about one and a half turnips and one potato and a cup and a half of prepared kale chips. I'm very much looking forward to sharing more garden goodies with you guys!