Curcuzza Side Dish: Delish

A zillion years ago my best friend’s mom, Sparky, used to grow these long skinny Italian squashes on long string trellis’ in her tiny back yard.  They lived in a narrow row house in Harrisburg so space was at a premium.  Sparky was 100 percent Italian and a great cook. She used to make this simple but delish side dish of small cubes of curcuzza squash cooked in tomato sauce. I never had access to this old time variety until I saw them at my sister’s garden last summer and searched until I found seeds at superseeds.com.  They go by the name of trombolini heirloom Italian summer squash.  You can pick them from small to very large sized.  They can be allowed to harden and dry and then used like winter squash particularly as butternut squash. They grow on long vines and are really cool looking. So this summer they are growing wildly and I’m learning how to cook with these unusual squash fruits.

 

The other week I made a delightful sauté. Success led me to feel I should try the special dish Sparky made all those years ago. It was simple actually, with just a few ingredients and some loving attention.

I strongly suggest you find trombolini squash but in a pinch any other summer squash will do; just cook it for a far shorter time.

trombolini squash with sauce and sausage

Sparky’s Curcuzza in Red Sauce

2  Tbsp.  EVOL

½ cup diced yellow onion

3-4 cups cubed trombolini squash

1 large garlic clove

1 15 ounce can tomato sauce; good quality

2  Tbsp. dry red wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan, add onion, cook about 4 minutes until it starts to soften.  Add cubed squash, cook 5 minutes, add minced garlic clove, cook one minute.  Add tomato sauce. Put 2 tbsp. red wine in can to rinse it out and add to pan.  If you don’t like wine; use water.  Cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until squash is cooked but still holds it’s shape. Stir it a few times to make sure it is not sticking or burning. If you used zucchini your cook time will be more like ten minutes.  I add salt before the 30 minute cooking; maybe ½ tsp of it and a few grinds of my pepper grinder.

Serve over hot spaghetti pasta.  You can serve it with some Italian sausage or fried eggplant or top your plate with grated fresh Parmesan cheese if desired. My pasta was gf of course.  This can be made vegan, gf, a side to a meat entree or just a delightful snack. Manga!trombolini squash with sauce

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Blueberry Tartlets That Thrill!


Blueberries rule my universe right now; plentiful and sweet.  The flavor can’t be beat. My guy loves them and I have to agree; they are the tastiest and healthiest fruit for me. Haha! Seriously this is all true and I am in love with these tartlets. The crust to fruit ratio is perfect and I made them with a minimum of sugar as these ripe berries are already quite sweet. I got my fruit at Aldi’s for a great price; every grocery store has blueberries by the pint, often on sale. They are very good for your body; full of fiber, low in sugar, and full of other nutrients. They are especially you have blood sugar issues.  See http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php for more information.

Tips: Try not to bake in a hot kitchen; it makes it hard to roll out dough or even make the crumb mix. If it gets above 76 degrees you should turn on the air to keep your crust from acting weird.  I had to put mine in the freezer for a bit to help it hold the desired shape.

Don’t eat these tartlets fresh from the oven; they should be cooled to just warm or room temperature or even a bit chilled. They were perfect, just like a big pie only tiny each is one individual dessert.  You could certainly serve them with vanilla ice cream. We had them that way the other night and that was a treat indeed.

My apologies: these pictures were taken in a hurry; hot day and there was no spare time so they are looking rustic and crumbs dot the baking pan but frankly rustic tartlets are lovely. Be as tidy as fits your needs.

Angie’s GF Blueberry Crumb Tartlets: makes 6

Crust:

1 c plus 2 tbsp brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

You will need 6 flat bottom 4 inch tartlet pans if you make them all at once. My pans are 4 in an attached group. I baked 4 one day and 2 the next day

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Filling:

2 1/3 cups fresh blueberries, place in medium bowl

Mix with:

6 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. quick tapioca

¼ tsp. cinnamon

Let stand while you prepare the crumb crust. This is important so the tapioca can soften and absorb some juices before baking. If you like things tart add a tsp or two of fresh lemon juice to the berries.

Tartlet construction: Break dough into a large ball and a small one. Roll out big ball in a pie bag or between the two sheets of wax paper, try to get the thickness even and somewhat thin, no thick middle! Peel off one side of paper and place in 4 set tartlet pan, centered.  Remove other slice of wax paper.  Cut into 4 pieces with a sharp knife. Mold the crust to fill each tartlet shape with no holes or thin spots. Do the same with the smaller ball and create 2 more tartlet crusts. If you only have one pan you can refrigerate the dough and make the two other tartlets later.  Fill each tartlet with fruit mixture to the top of the dough… after you have the crumb topping ready to go.

Crumb topping

Put all four ingredients in the same mixing bowl you made the bottom crust in and mix well with mixer paddle until crumbs form. If you let them go extra long you get big fat crumbs if you want that look and I did!

¾ c brown rice flour mix

½ c sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

1/3 c cold butter cut into six chunks

Sprinkle the top of each tartlet with crumb mix; use as much as you like.  I didn’t measure; just sprinkled until the fruit was barely visible through the crumbs. Up to your personal taste… It sinks partially into the fruit mixture and adds lots of sweetness and eye appeal.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-32 minutes until bubbly and the crumb crust is light brown.  Cool at least a half hour before serving at room temperature.  I think it is best served the same day you make it, or no more then 12 hours after baking for optimal flavor.  The crumbs will get soggy if too much time passes. Mine was still very good the next day; just not as great as when really fresh.

blueberry tartlet 2017

Note: if you find your bottom crust is not browning enough bake it empty at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes before filling it with the fruit.  I have a bottom heat pizza style oven which gives me perfect pie crust so I don’t ever have pale pie crust. This is a big benefit of having this type of oven; it is a two oven range with a full sized lower oven.

Brown Rice Flour Mix (Same as King Arthur GF All purpose blend)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch – Not potato flour

1/3 c tapioca flour

Note: the crust and crumb recipe are out of Annalise Roberts cookbook, Gluten Free Baking Classics, Second Edition. Adaptation and filling recipe are mine.

Smashing Summer Squash Saute

 

It is zucchini season and the deluge of large green baseball bat veggies has begun. I prefer them a bit more tender; picked well before they become gigantic. I like yellow crookneck squash as well, especially home grown and picked very tender.  You can get a yellow zucchini (absolutely there is such a thing!) at Giant Grocery stores and it looks great mixed with slices of green summer squash.  Then there are patty pan squash which are generally pale green and yes, shaped like a flying saucer.  Kinda different you might think but similar flavor to other summer squash.

You may think you know summer squash until you come across a tromboncino summer squash which is an Italian heirloom variety. It looks sort of like a zucchini and a gourd had a baby: it is pale green with a swollen end and long curvy stem. My sister grows them and I remember that my college roomie’s parents grew them up strings in their narrow back yard.  They have long vines like a gourd so a trellis works much better than just letting the vines sprawl. So, I bought a packet of the seeds from superseeds.com last winter. I have one vine at my house and one at a church community garden I administer. I picked my first one last weekend. It was 27 inches plus long not counting the curve; more like 30 inches if you ran a tape measure along the whole thing.

What to do with my lovely long squash? Bernie’s mom used to cook it in thin tomato sauce and some garlic. She called it a gourgutza! I call it tasty… I had a just picked Japanese eggplant, fresh basil in the garden and a red onion.  So I went with them as the other major components of my dish. A can of chopped tomatoes was added to create a fresh and un-homogenized sauce.  Finally, I had some red lentil rotini pasta from Aldi’s; been meaning to try it in something special. They all came together in a lovely fresh tasting one pan entree I know I will make again soon. Use what ever summer squash you have but don’t cut it thin; leave it chunky for this dish. If you ever get a tromboncini do give it a try; very tasty.

Angie’s Summer Squash Sauté

2 cups cubed or half round summer squash; cut thick; ½ inch diameter

1 Japanese eggplant

1/3 lb ground chicken or pork

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 15 oz can finely chopped tomatoes

8 or 9 fresh large basil leaves chopped fine

2 tbsp. dry white wine

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 1/3 cup dry rotini pasta; cook it until very al dente

Directions: Cut the eggplant on the diagonal into slices, cut into long strips; put in colander, sprinkle with sea salt, let drip for about 20 minutes, wipe clean with paper towel.

Heat your pan, I used my smaller wok. sauté the ground chicken in 1 tbsp. olive oil; pressing it down to a thin layer, brown and turn, add red onion, brown the meat on other side; chop up; cook about 5-7 minutes total until done; remove from pan and place in a bowl for later use.

Heat the salted water for the pasta and cook it while you are sautéing all the veggies. Reserve at least ½ cup of the cooking water to add back as needed to the final dish.

Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the same pan, heat until fairly hot, add the eggplant. Cook on both sides, after a couple minutes on each side add ¼ cup water to keep it from sticking. As it cooks after the water goes in add the minced garlic and the summer squash. Cook 3-5 minutes more, while it cooks add the juice from the can of tomatoes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly and after a couple minutes add the can of drained tomatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes and cover.  Let cook 4 or 5 minutes, add white wine, cook 2 more minutes until squash is barely fork tender. Add cooked pasta, the meat and red onion mixture and then the finely chopped basil, cook one minute, taste and add some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to your personal taste. If it seems dry add some of the pasta water. Serve immediately.

It was still very tasty the next day. I added a touch more of the pasta cooking water when I put my leftovers away in the refrigerator, to keep things moist. The red lentil pasta did not get crunchy or soggy as many gf pastas do. I don’t know if Aldi’s still carries it as their gf stuff changes constantly.  But if I see it there I am definitely buying more.  Enjoy!

Japanese Eggplants with Ground Chicken or Pork: Delightful!

There is this recipe for chowed eggplant with ground pork that I make often when I can find skinny Japanese eggplants. Chowed means stir fried.  It comes out great every time I make it, slight addiction is my position on this recipe. This latest version uses ground chicken thigh meat instead of ground pork. If you get tired of pork or don’t eat it this is an excellent choice.  I bought it at Valley Farm Markets; their meats can’t be beat for flavor and value! I suppose you can used ground chicken breast too. Anyway, it worked very well.

I added some sticks of fresh zucchini from my garden  and a bit of sliced cabbage.  It was delish for sure. The original recipe is by Jeff Smith, out of his cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines; China, Greece and Rome. It is full of great recipes; where I got my potsticker and other dim sum recipes.  No judging here of Chef Smith; just enjoying great food…

Notes; can change out zucchini and or cabbage, for green beans, carrots, pea pods…but you can’t change out the eggplant.  Ground pork is excellent this way as well. Can use yellow onion rather than green if you prefer; cook a bit longer than scallions if you do.  You could also serve this with rice noodles; the wide kind you let soak in boiling hot water for ten minutes; that’s all the cooking it needs.

Angie’s Eggplant with Ground Chicken

1 lb skinny Japanese eggplant

1 tsp salt

½ tsp. light soy sauce, gf

1 ½ tsp. dry sherry or rice wine

½ tsp. grated fresh ginger

½ lob ground chicken, preferably thigh meat

2 tbsp. mild olive oil or peanut oil

2 cloves of garlic minced

3-4 green onions sliced in 1 to 2 inch lengths and cut in half if white part

1 cup zucchini strips; long rectangle shape

2/3-1 cup sliced green cabbage; not too thin

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Pinch sugar

Directions:

Cut unpeeled eggplants into ½ inch thick diagonal slices and cut each in half the long way. Sprinkle with salt, let stand ½ hour draining in a colander.  Pat dry with paper towels.

Mix meat with soy sauce sherry and fresh ginger, let stand 20 to 30 minutes.

Slice or chop veggies.

Heat wok and add 1 tbsp. oil. Add ground meat mixture and flatten a bit; cook until browned lightly; flip over and brown other side; no pink showing; chop up with utensil and set aside.  Add rest of oil and then garlic, cook 30 seconds, add eggplant, cook until it appears more than half done; about 5 minutes; then add zucchini and cabbage, stir for 4-5 minutes, add sesame oil and green onions. Stir a minute, add pinch sugar, wok until cabbage is crisp tender.

eggplant stir fry on plate

Serve with brown or white rice.  I made my brown rice in my handy instant pot pressure cooker.  I did a cup of long grain brown rice, 1 ¼ cup water, 1 tsp. oil, ½ tsp. sea salt; Manual high pressure for 20 or so minutes, ten minutes natural release.  Easy peasy.


 

Strawberry Shortcake – GF 2.3

Strawberry shortcake is a classic and no one turns down a slice of it at at a family gathering. I am not sure where I got the gf shortcake recipe; maybe my old Bette Hagman Gourmet Cookbook. I used to make shortcake a lot when I could still use all purpose flour but my gf biscuit version is pretty tasty. But there is one thing, you gotta make it with the best freaking strawberries you can find.  None of those ultra firm ones with whitish cores that are shipped in from far away.  You need juicy ripe scented red berries that are served over a gluten free short bread.  Yes, my local season is done but it can be done with other than local produce – the riper the better and it will taste great!

My mom always made a gorgeous version of strawberry shortcake. When I was a kid she would serve it as an entire meal.  I have done that and it is kinda cool.  Pre gluten free I generally made a huge oval biscuit with a smaller topping biscuit that I split off and buttered the split area before topping with berries and the smaller biscuit and topped with more ripe berries and a pillow of softly whipped heavy cream.  Oh berry perfection!  Now I bake it in two separate pans but the construction of the final product is the same otherwise.

Mom’s Strawberry Shortcake, GF2.3

Biscuit dough

1 cup white rice flour

2/3 cup potato starch flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. xanthan gum

6 tbsp cold butter

1 medium egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

2-3 tsp. sugar (optional)

2 tsp. soft butter

Other ingredients:

2 quarts ripe strawberries

½ cup sugar

2-3 tbsp. Karo light syrup

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ tsp. real vanilla

2 tbs. powdered sugar (if you like your cream sweet)

Directions
Heat oven t0 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter until it is small pebbles.  Add the egg and most of the buttermilk.  Mix with a spoon; add rest of buttermilk if you need it.  It should be a bit sticky, don’t over mix; just until dry is blended in.  Spray the inside of an eight inch cake pan and a 6 inch cake pan with cooking spray.  If you don’t have a small pan just use two 8 inch ones.  Pat ¾ of the dough into the 8 inch; make it about ¾ to 1 inch thick and try to smooth the top and side edges a bit.  Put the rest of the dough in the smaller pan and do the same smoothing.  Make that one ½ to ¾ inch thick.  Optional: take 2-3 tsp. of granulated sugar and sprinkle it over top of them. I think it gives a great finish to the shortcake. Bake them about 20 to 25 min; the smaller one should be done in 20 minutes; a golden light brown. Set on a cooling rack for a few minutes.

While it bakes, get the berries ready.  Hull 2 quarts of fresh ripe berries.  Place them in a glass mixing bowl; chop through them a few strokes with a sharp knife.  Add ½ cup sugar and about 2-3 tbsp. Karo light corn syrup to the berries.  Stir well and refrigerate until the shortcake is baked.  You could do this berry preparation up to two hours in advance.  No more or they will start to disintegrate.

Place the fairly hot bigger layer on a large platter, one big enough to hold the shortbread and still have room for a generous overflow of strawberries. Butter lightly if you wish.  Top with several big spoonfuls of berries.  Don’t worry if there is juice in the berry bowl; there should be; melted down sugar and karo syrup with berry juice will give you a delish berry liquid.  Top with the second smaller biscuit and then more berries.   Cut into chunks.  Top with freshly whipped cream; beat a cup of heavy whipping cream until it is softly whipped.  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and ¼ cup sugar if you wish it sweet.  Be sure to pour the berry juice over your shortcake; it soaks in and adds to the strawberry experience.  My dad liked to pour unbeaten cream over his shortcake. My mom usually set out the whipped cream, a jug of cream and some whole milk so you could chose how to finish off your personal shortcake.  I might add that I grew up on a farm so this was raw milk from grass pastured cows; fantastic cream equaling a freaking perfect shortcake topper.  We also grew our own berries; no chemical sprayed on them ever.’

shortcake, one serving

If there is any left over it makes a great breakfast the next morning!

Originally published in June 2014.

Waffle Heaven in a State Park

Camping is fun for me; I love to cook over an open fire or on the camp stove. Summer is a great time for fresh produce. If you can combine cooking and being in nature that is the best deal for me!

Now this is car camping, you know… where you drive there with a trunk full of sleeping bags, tent, tarps, comfy clothes, cook stove, lanterns, and coolers of food… So I had lots food and I also brought my cast iron waffle maker; an antique from the 1920s that was my sister Margie’s and before that my parents.  It was kinda messed up when she gave it to me but Joe and I worked hard to bake off the crud and now it works fantastically… and corn on the cob, shrimp and swordfish (frozen), half frozen chicken thighs, lamb loin chops and a zillion other food items.   Nothing like traveling light!

So we enjoyed some good food. For breakfast I made waffles, then  pancakes, and then more waffles the third morning.  The pancakes are lovely; for a year or two I just couldn’t find any pancakes that measured up to what I felt they should taste like.  These are from Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s cookbook. Sometimes I add extra milk if they are too thick. I pour the batter right out of a mixing bowl with a pour spout onto the griddle.

And, again, I forgot to take pix of the waffle iron in action; have one shot of a waffle quarter from last summer; before I snarfed it down so here is that recipe (my version; based on a pancake recipe in Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. This recipe is great for camping because buttermilk travels better than regular milk and it also uses oil not butter in the waffle; easier to deal with than melting butter on the camp stove…. The other week I was out of buttermilk and used kefir, a fermented milk; worked fantastically.

waffle

Cinnamon Waffles (for 2; double for 4 people)

1 cup brown rice flour mix

1 tbsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¾ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 large egg, well beaten

2 tbsp. canola oil or melted butter plus extra for greasing griddle.

2/3 cup buttermilk

½ tsp. vanilla extract

cooking spray (kind with no flour in it)

Directions:  To make it portable; measure the dry ingredients into a zip-lock baggie. I like to write the other ingredients on with a black Sharpie marker and label it waffles…so you don’t use the pancake mix by mistake!  Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl, add the oil, buttermilk and vanilla (optional when camping but I did bring it this summer and they were so yummy). Pour the dry mix into the bowl and whisk briefly until fairly well mixed.

While you are doing that mixing step the waffle iron should be heating.  I use a round cast iron waffle iron; please do spray it with cooking spray before heating and then I melt about 1-2 tsp. of butter into the 4 quarters; I blop the chunk around with a fork so some melts into each part of the iron.  Flip the iron over just before putting in the batter. I use a big spoon to glop it into the waffle iron.  One big glop in each half.  Close the iron and let it bake about 2 minutes. Flip it and bake 1-2 more minutes, or however long your waffle iron takes.  I serve it with real maple syrup; something this good deserves the best.  Before I serve the first waffle I break off a section and eat it hot and plain; you can really taste the cinnamon that way.  Make sure your waffles are crisp not soft. The crisp is Everything!

We had scrambled eggs and breakfast maple flavored sausage links; both go fantastically well with waffles.

Brown Rice Flour Mix (it is the same as King Arthur’s gf flour mix)
2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

Originally posted in July 2015 and again in 2016 with minor text revisions. Recipe the same.

Tabouli Salad…GF of Course!

 

I love fresh summer salads on hot days, for parties, for supper alone or with a loved one. They pair well with grilled proteins and dress up a meal that was so so before you got out the chilled bowl of pretty salad.  There are a few salads I had to give up due to ingredients like bulgur wheat, farro, orzo pasta.  Or so I thought. I now use quinoa and make a wonderful tabouli salad; the quinoa replaces the bulgur wheat very nicely.  I particularly like the three color blend of quinoa for this purpose.  You cook it on the stove top, cool it few minutes and it is ready to use.  This quick to make and refreshing salad is very healthy. If you didn’t know it, quinoa comes from Peru and has a fair amount of protein in it; great for vegetarians. I like it’s refreshing flavors.

tabouli salad

Angie’s GF Tabouli Salad

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

½ tsp. salt

——-

1/3 cup finely diced sweet onion

2/3 cup finely diced burpless cucumber

½ cup finely diced raw zucchini

1/3-1/2 finely diced orange bell pepper

1 large ripe tomato, diced

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint

3-4 tbsp. EVOL of excellent quality

2-3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ a lemon; juiced and zested

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:  Mix the quinoa, water and salt in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, cover tightly and cook 15 minutes. Uncover and cool.

Dump cooled quinoa in a large mixing bowl.  Add the veggies and drizzle with the olive oil and then sprinkle with the vinegar and lemon juice.  Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Chill at least 30 minutes before serving so flavors can blend and it chills. An hour is better.  My amounts for the veggies are approximate and if you don’t like something; don’t use it.  The mint is really what makes it taste perfect so try it before you decide to not use it. If you hate it; use fresh chopped parsley instead of mint.  I also don’t measure the oil and vinegar; taste and add more if you want more. Don’t make a sopping wet salad; shouldn’t be any extra dressing in the bottom of the bowl.  Put it in a nice serving dish before you bring it to the table. Chill the dish if it is a hot day.

Notes: I grate the lemon peel into the salad before I juice it, easiest. It keeps 2-3 days in the fridge; you could make it the day before if you need to.  For that add the tomato and mint the day you are serving it. Try to get a beautiful tomato that is fully ripe and a tender zucchini makes the best quality salad here. Yes, raw zucchini; it doesn’t taste like that much but it adds something to the mix and your company will never know it isn’t cuke if you don’t tell them!  Enjoy this naturally gluten free summer salad.