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Technical Difficulties

I’m sorry if any of you have tried leaving a comment on my blog in the last week. I’ve had some problems with my service provider and would-be commenters have been receiving an error message. Had it not been for some of my readers, I’d never have known, so thanks to those of you who emailed me and clued me in.  After a few failed attempts, my service provider figured out how to fix the problem, and all is now well (for now at least). So head on over to my last blog post and leave a comment for a chance to win a beautiful copper water pitcher. Since so few comments got through, you have a great chance of winning. But as the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. So click here and leave a comment.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. Technology can be frustrating! – Linda

 

Vegetable and Swiss Chard Stalk Soup and a Giveaway

Please don’t tell me you’re one of those people who buys Swiss chard and throws away the stalks. They’re equally as delicious as the leaves, but many people are in a quandry knowing what to do with them. They make great fritters, something my mom made when we were growing up, (recipe here), but another way to use them is in a vegetable soup — perfect for the fall weather that is descending on us here in the Northeastern U.S.

These are the stalks from some multi-colored Swiss chard my father grew in his garden. Just chop them up into small bits, along with the leaves and follow the recipe below.

After you’ve sautéed the onion and garlic, add all the rest of the ingredients to the pot and let it simmer for about a 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. I also added in some fresh corn, since it was summer when I took these photos and corn flavor was at its peak. Add more liquid (water or chicken stock) to the pot if necessary.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve with some hearty toasted bread that’s been drizzled with olive oil and salt. Enjoy a healthy and delicious bowl of soup.

And while we’re on the subject of healthy, I received this water pitcher from Shantiva and so can you. Aside from serving water in a beautiful, hand-hammered copper pitcher, drinking from a copper vessel has health advantages too, according to Shantiva’s webpage. Water from a copper pitcher can enhance digestion, decrease the risk of bacterial infection, improve cardiovascular and thyroid health and stimulate the brain, among other things. Who wouldn’t want that? Shantiva has graciously agreed to send one of my readers one of these lovely pitchers. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post (NOT in an email) and tell me what healthy food you like to consume after indulging in what you think is bad eating. And don’t forget to leave a way for me to contact you — whether through email or through a blog you may also write.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.

Vegetable and Swiss Chard Stalk Soup and a Giveaway
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard, stalks diced and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup of fresh tomatoes, diced (or one small can diced tomatoes)
  • 1 small can cannellini beans
  • 1 cup of green beans, cut into small pieces
  • kernels from two ears of corn (optional)
  • 6 cups either water or chicken broth, or a combination of both
  • a parmesan cheese rind
  • a nice handful of parsley, minced
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Pour the olive oil into a large pot and saute the onion and garlic until soft on low temperature. Do not let them brown. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the green beans and the parsley, and let everything cook together for about ½ hour. If you have fresh corn, add the kernels from that too. Add more water or chicken broth if the soup is too thick.
  2. Add the green beans and cook until they are tender, about ten minutes.
  3. Stir the parsley at the last minute before serving, to get a fresher taste.
  4. Remove the parmesan cheese rind, and serve with grated parmesan and Italian bread that's been toasted and smeared with olive oil and salt.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch and Lecture with Massimo Bottura

Please forgive me if I seem a little star struck, but it’s not often that I get to meet Massimo Bottura, who has been named number one chef in the world. You may have seen him in an episode of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table,” where he explains the evolution of some of his iconic dishes such as “Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart,” or “An Eel Swimming up the Po River.”  His three-star Michelin restaurant in Modena, Italy –  Osteria Francescana – has also taken top honors for best restaurant in the world, and is consistently on the top five list. I still haven’t been to his restaurant on any of my trips to Italy, since snagging a reservation is harder than getting a private audience with the pope. So when I read that he’d be in New York, I jumped at the chance to experience some of his food.

He was in town recently for several reasons — one of which was to lecture and host a lunch at Eataly’s birreria. It was a perfect fall day to sit outdoors on the rooftop terrace (with about 50 other lucky people) and enjoy a sampling of Massimo’s food, accompanied by perfect wine pairings.

Massimo’s passion for people and food were evident during the lecture, as he described the various dishes and reasons why he came up with some of his creations. He never stood still, pacing back and forth, gesticulating all the time he spoke, even imploring one of the day’s sponsors who was present, to shift away from its plastic bottles into more environmentally friendly packaging,

He brought many of his staff with him from Italy, and they were kept busy cooking, while Massimo regaled us with stories – some about his food, and some about his employees love life!

After some prosecco and foccaccia to whet our appetites, the first course arrived – a simple halved fig roasted in a wood oven, topped with some aged parmigiano cheese and a drizzle of cherry balsamic vinegar. Never have three simple ingredients tasted so perfect together.

Massimo is a lover of contemporary art, and his culinary philosophy toward cooking incorporates many ideas from artists who veer away from tradition while embracing its roots. “It’s looking at centuries of history, but filtered by contemporary minds,” he said, citing Ai Wei Wei, an iconoclastic Chinese artist who took ancient Han Dynasty earthenware vases and dipped them in industrial paint.

The first course was a perfect example of that philosophy, and an homage to the region of Emilia Romagna, where Massimo’s restaurant (and my mother’s home town) is located. The innovative chef gave a traditional dish his modern interpretation. The metamorphosis started with two classic Renaissance dishes – sbrisolona, (recipe here) a buttery, almond shortbread-like cake normally served as dessert, and cotechino, a large pork sausage typically eaten on New Year’s eve.  Massimo transformed the sbrisolona into a savory base for this first course, reducing the sugar and adding some salt. Above the sbrisolona was a disc of cotechino, not prepared in the typical way of boiling, but instead, first cooked sous vide (slowly under vacuum in a very low temperature water bath), then browned in a wood oven and finished in ashes. Enveloping it all was an eggy, foamy zabaglione sauce, drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar, also a product of his home region. Massimo likes to call this a “breakfast dish” that evokes bacon and eggs, but I’d be glad to eat this any time of the day.

For the main course, Massimo broke with tradition again to conjure the ancestral flavors of a typical pollo alla cacciatore made by families throughout Italy. He combined it with trout in an unexpected, but delicious way. “The best part is the sauce, not the chicken,” he said, noting that the cacciatore is slowly cooked in a copper pot, and the flavors are extracted by steam, then dehydrated to make a powder. The trout is seasoned with the powder, and a pesto with those flavors is used to sandwich the two pieces of trout together. A light flavorful broth is poured all around it. “Cooking is like art,” he said, “You have to pay respect to the flavors from grandmother, but use it in ways to break borders, to evolve.”

Dessert was also a tour de force. A edible bright red wafer-like disc resembling a piece of origami was made using flavors extracted from the unusual combination of oak trees, strawberry grapes, roses and bay leaves.

The fragile disc broke away in shards to reveal a small portion of rosemary and olive oil flavored gelato. I could have easily quaffed three more of these.

Osteria Francescana may be the mothership, but he has since branched out to other locales, including a partnership with fashion house Gucci in Florence and a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey. In the last year, he opened a high end guesthouse in Modena – Casa Maria Luigia – with its own dining venue.

While eating at his restaurant doesn’t come cheap, Massimo is not deaf to those less fortunate. After Milan’s world fair “Expo” in 2015, whose theme was “Feeding the Planet,” Massimo took that project to heart, starting a nonprofit with his American-born wife Lara Gilmore called “Food for Soul.” They opened what they call a “refettorio” (the Italian word for a dining space where monks eat) in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Milan and set out to provide nourishing meals for the underprivilged, using donated food that would otherwise have been thrown away. Since then, they have opened rifettorios around the world, in an effort to reduce food waste and provide multi-course meals to the needy. His visit to New York also included a talk to the United Nations on food and sustainability, and a collaboration with Sotheby’s auction house for its “Contemporary Curated” sale.

As if my afternoon with Massimo and his food weren’t enough, the cherry on the cake was meeting tv personality Phil Rosenthal and restauranteur Nancy Silverton, who are friends of Massimo’s and were in town coincidentally. Phil was a writer on TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” and is the host of the show “Somebody Feed Phil,” where he travels around the world exploring local cuisines, including an episode where he visits Massimo in Modena. If you haven’t yet caught this feel-good show, check it out on Netflix. Nancy founded Los Angeles’ La Brea bakery and Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles, and is co-owner of Pizzeria Mozza in two California locations, and has also been profiled on Netflix.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.

Fig Tartlets in Kataifi Cups

Have you ever eaten kataifi? It’s a shredded phyllo dough that’s available frozen in Greek or specialty food stores. Admittedly, it’s not easy to find, so if you can’t locate it near you, use regular phyllo dough instead.

I’ve been wanting to cook with kataifi for a long time and I finally took the plunge when a friend let me pick figs from her tree. The tartlet is stuffed with an almond flavored pastry cream and I served these as dessert at a dinner we attended last night. You could also switch things up and make this a savory appetizer, using a whipped, herbed ricotta or goat cheese instead of the pastry cream.

Kataifi is really simple to use, but slightly messy. Don’t worry about trying to be neat, because they have a certain charm with their little tendrils sticking every which way. Push the dough down into the tartlet tin, then drizzle with melted butter and bake.

They come out a nice golden color and look like pale bird nests.

Before the tartlets went into the oven, I cut the figs in half, drizzled with a little honey and roasted them on parchment paper for about 15-20 minutes, letting the flavors intensify.

The dessert is a cinch to put together before serving. Just place a dollop of the cream into each tartlet and top with a roasted fig. Drizzle a little more honey over each tartlet. You can make everything ahead of time and assemble before serving.

They pop in the mouth like candy, and deliver a great combination of flavors and textures – crunchy and soft. You’ll want to make a big platter of these because they disappear in a flash, if last night’s dinner party was any indication. There were two lonely tartlets left on the platter that nobody had the courage to grab. But the hostess assured me she was going to enjoy them after we had all left.

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Fig Tartlets in Kataifi Cups
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 box kataifi shredded phyllo
  • melted butter (quantity depends on how much phyllo you use)
  • 3.4 oz. box vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • fresh figs (quantity depends on how many tartlets you make)
  • honey to drizzle
Instructions
  1. Take kataifi from freezer and let thaw in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Bring to room temperature.
  3. Place the figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and drizzle with honey.
  4. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove figs from oven, and lower temperature to 375 degrees.
  6. While figs are roasting, start making the kataifi cups.
  7. Working with a small amount at a time, take kataifi in your fingers and press and swirl to fit into small tartlet tins.
  8. When you're not working with it, keep the rest of the kataifi under a kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.
  9. Drizzle a little melted butter on each tartlet.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden.
  11. Remove from oven and let rest on paper towels.
  12. Make the pudding according to package directions, but add 1 teaspoon of almond extract.
  13. Whip the heavy cream and fold into the pudding mixture.
  14. Place a dollop of the cream mixture and a roasted fig atop each tartlet.
  15. Drizzle with a little honey and decorate with a mint leaf, if desired.
 

 

Corn Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

Quick, before fresh corn is no longer available, you must try making this risotto with sweet corn and roasted cherry tomatoes. I know it sounds a little crazy to add carbs to carbs, but it really is a great combination of flavors and textures. The roasted cherry tomatoes on the side add another level of sweetness that you can’t stop eating. I debated whether to add the tomatoes directly into the risotto while cooking it, but decided I didn’t want a pink or red risotto. Besides, they look so pretty whole, clustered on the vine atop the dish.

I grilled the corn, not so much to cook it, but to get grill marks that look nice as garnish. It’s a step you can skip if you want, since the corn will be stripped off the cob and cooked with the rice. But if you’d like to dress up your finished dish, just smear the cob with a little butter and grill for a couple of minutes, on an outdoor grill, or a grill pan.

Strip the corn off the cob, setting aside some of the pieces that have the best grill marks on them. You’ll use them on the top of the finished dish.

Don’t throw out the cobs. Add them to the broth or cooking water. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, any little time simmering with the water helps to impart some flavor.

Meanwhile, drizzle the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the skins start to split open.

While the tomatoes are roasting, make the risotto. I’ve blogged about many different types of risottos before, so I won’t detail it here, except to say that you need the broth to be hot when adding it, ladleful by ladleful. Directions for this risotto are in the recipe below.

Serve with the roasted cherry tomatoes on top, and enjoy this taste of summer on a plate.

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Corn Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • about 4 cups liquid - chicken broth, vegetable broth or a combination.
  • I used two cups chicken broth and two cups of water into which I placed the corn cobs and let simmer for a short while.
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 ears of corn, smeared with a little butter
  • 1 small bunch of cherry tomatoes on the vine, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • fresh thyme and chives, minced
  • fresh black pepper
Instructions
  1. Smear the corn with the butter and place on a grill or a grill pan.
  2. Sear the corn a couple of minutes until you get some grill marks.
  3. You can skip this step since the corn will cook in the risotto, but I like the look of the grilled corn as a finishing touch.
  4. Scrape the corn kernels off the cob, saving some of the large pieces with grill marks to use on top.
  5. Set the corn kernels aside, but place the cobs in the pot with the broth or water.
  6. Place the cherry tomatoes on an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  7. Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes start to split open.
  8. Remove tomatoes from oven and set aside.
  9. While the tomatoes are in the oven, make the risotto.
  10. Melt the butter in a skillet with the olive oil.
  11. Add the minced onion and saute until softened.
  12. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes.
  13. Add the wine and stir, then add the broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly.
  14. When the risotto is about five minutes from being finished, add the corn kernels, setting aside the larger "planks" that you will use to garnish.
  15. Finish cooking the risotto with the corn addition, adding more liquid if necessary.
  16. Finally, add the black pepper to taste, the herbs, another tablespoon of butter and the parmesan cheese.
  17. Serve with the roasted tomatoes on top.
 

Spinach linguine with clams, corn and pancetta

This dish has got to be my favorite thing that I made all summer. I know it’s a long blog post, and it involves making your own pasta, but the end result is worth it. If you want to eat something divine and be crowned with a halo from your family and friends, you have to make it. But — and this is a big but — only if you live in a place where corn and clams are in season right now. Don’t try this with canned corn or canned clams or I will get the “freshness police” after you. The pancetta is crucial too, but I know some of you may not have access to it. A decent substitute is slab bacon, but it will have a smoky taste, whereas pancetta does not. I’ll give you a pass and say you can use boxed pasta but ONLY if you don’t have a pasta machine. Otherwise, you must, must, must make your own pasta. I’ve made it different ways, from rolling it out by hand, to using the automated KitchenAid attachment, to using my nearly 50 years-old crank machine that you’ll see in the photos below. I’ve made plain pasta many times (tutorial here) and beet-flavored pasta too, but this was my first time making homemade spinach pasta and it was a game changer. What a toothy and delicious texture and flavor, not to mention the vibrant color. I made this dish earlier in the month with store bought pappardelle and everyone loved it, but that’s because they hadn’t yet eaten it with the homemade spinach pasta. Excuse me for tooting my own horn, but it’s no exaggeration to say the homemade pasta version was sublime, compared to just delicious with the store bought pasta. So I may be making spinach pasta on a regular basis. Or at least until my pants zipper gets harder to close. I know my husband won’t complain.

I used a 10-ounce box of frozen spinach. Don’t cook it. Just let it thaw on the counter, and squeeze the bejesus out of it. Using your hands, make sure you squeeze every bit of water from the spinach you can. Then press it between paper towels to get any other moisture out. Place the spinach in the food processor with the eggs and give it a whir. Look at that pretty green color.

Then add the flour and a pinch of salt until it forms a ball. (Your food processor is not going to be happy and will probably start “dancing” on the counter.) Stop it at this point and put it on the counter.

It will still be a bit sticky, so knead in more flour. Use 00 flour from Italy if you can find it (it’s easily available online.)

After a few minutes, it will develop a smoother texture. Cover it with a bowl, or in plastic wrap and let it sit for about a half hour, to let the glutens rest.

Then cut off a piece, squish it with the palm of your hands, flour both sides a little, and pass it through the pasta machine, starting with the largest opening and going down a few notches (but not to the thinnest. I stopped at two numbers before the last on the dial).

Then take the long piece of pasta, flour it a bit on both sides again, and pass it through the linguine cutter (or the smaller spaghetti size if you prefer.)

You could make “nests” with pasta and place them flat on linen or paper towels, or hang the pasta from clothes hangers, as my kitchen helper did for me. (Smile, you’re on Ciao Chow Linda!)

OK, now that the pasta making is out of the way, start on the sauce. Scrape the corn from the cobs, mince the garlic, pancetta and herbs and set aside while you prepare the clams. I used littleneck clams, the smallest available where I live. If this were Italy, I’d be using the even smaller vongole. If only!

After rinsing and scrubbing the clams, place them in a pan, turn the heat to high and cover.

If you don’t have a cover large enough, use another pan that’s the same size to cover the bottom pan.

Steam the clams in their own juices and remove immediately when they start to open. It will take only a minute or two once the pan is hot. The clams won’t be fully cooked and that’s fine. You’ll finish cooking them later. The reason to cook them partially is to open them up and pluck some of the clams out of the shell to mix with the pasta, and you also want to strain the liquid from the clams to use in the sauce. There was still a lot of sandy sediment, even after scrubbing the clams before cooking. Use a coffee filter, or a paper napkin on top of a sieve to strain out the sediment. I cooked the clams in two batches to give them enough room to open. Don’t worry that they’ll get cold. You’re going to heat them and cook them further with the pasta later.

After removing the clams, and straining the liquid, I used the same saucepan to cook the pancetta (you can see the splatter from the clams on the sides).

When the pancetta is nearly crispy, add the garlic and the clams (both the ones you plucked out of the shell and the ones in the shell.)  Cook for a minute or two to soften the garlic. Add the olive oil, the white wine, the reserved clam juice (it should be about 1/2 cup) and season with salt and pepper. I also added a tablespoon of butter (because butter always makes everything taste better.)

Meanwhile cook the pasta. If it’s freshly homemade, it won’t take longer than two or three minutes. Save about a cup of that pasta water before you drain the pasta.

After draining the pasta and getting rid of the water (except for that cup you saved), put the pasta back in the pot and dump all the clams, pancetta and raw corn into the pot. Mix everything really well, adding some of the pasta water, and a bit more olive oil to make sure you have a bit of  “sauce.”

It shouldn’t be drowning in the sauce, but just enough to moisten the pasta and keep it from sticking to itself. Add in the minced parsley and basil just before turning into a platter or bowl.

Serve immediately and receive your kudos. This recipe makes enough for four to six people, depending on appetites. My husband and I each had two servings, and the family of three living next door to us were happy to consume the rest.

Buon Appetito!

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Spinach linguine with clams, corn and pancetta
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6 people
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 3-4 dozen clams
  • ¼ pound pancetta, cut into small bits
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup reserved clam juice
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, stripped off the cob
  • pasta water
  • black pepper
  • a generous handful of minced parsley
  • a generous handful of minced basil
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Drain the spinach thoroughly, squeezing out all the water you can with your hands.
  3. Then press it with paper towels to get out any remaining water.
  4. Place the spinach and the two eggs into the food processor to break down the spinach.
  5. Start adding the flour.
  6. You may need as little as a cup and a quarter of flour.
  7. It's easy to add more flour later, but much harder to work the dough if you place too much flour into the food processor.
  8. Add just enough flour and process until the dough comes together into a ball.
  9. It will be sticky.
  10. Place the dough onto a wooden work surface, add more flour until the stickiness disappears and the dough seems more "homogenized" and softer.
  11. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a bowl and let it sit for at least ½ hour.
  12. FOR THE SAUCE:
  13. Place the clams in one layer a pan over high heat and cover.
  14. Cook for a couple of minutes or until the clams have opened.
  15. Once open, set aside on a plate and repeat with remaining clams, draining the liquid from the clams.
  16. Strain the liquid from the clams to remove any sediment.
  17. Remove half the clams from the shells but leave the rest in the shell.
  18. Set the clams aside and the liquid aside.
  19. In the same pan, saute the pancetta until nearly crisp.
  20. Add the garlic and cook until softened.
  21. Place the clams (the ones in the shell and the ones out of the shell) in the pan and add the white wine, butter, olive oil, clam juice and black pepper.
  22. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain, but reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
  23. Put the pasta back into the large pot and dump the clams and pancetta over the pasta, adding the raw corn as well.
  24. Add the parsley and basil and mix all together.
  25. If it seems too dry, add some of the pasta water and swirl around a bit more.
  26. If the liquid seems too thin, add a bit more butter or olive oil.
  27. Serve immediately,.
 

Cherry Almond Skillet Cake

Quick, before cherries are still in season (not much longer here in the northeastern U.S.), run out and buy some to make this cake. It’s easy to put together, assuming you don’t mind spending 10 minutes pitting cherries.

Maybe you already own a cherry pitter, and in that case, go ahead and use it. But you don’t need one. I owned one many moons ago, given to me by my son after he spent a week helping a friend’s grandmother harvest and pit cherries from her orchard in upstate New York. But I didn’t use it often, so I gave it away. Now when I pit cherries, I just use the “smush-them-under-a-can” method. Just make sure you have a flat surface you don’t mind getting soiled, and place a cherry on the surface. Press down with a can (I used a can of baked beans) but don’t bang on it, or you’ll get juice splattered all over you too. Lift the can and remove the stem and the pit with your hands. The cherry will come apart in two pieces with a little tug. You’ll want it to come apart in two pieces for this recipe, because if left whole, they’re heavier and more likely to sink to the bottom of the cake.

This recipe comes to you via fellow blogger and friend, Stacey, who made it with pistachios instead of almonds. I love pistachios but had more almonds in the house, so decided to use them both times I made it this week (yes, I made it both Monday and Tuesday!). I ramped up the almond flavor a little with more almond extract, but you can use vanilla extract if you prefer. After you’ve spread the batter in the skillet, lightly press the cherry halves into the batter, and sprinkle with the almonds.

Let it cool slightly, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

It’s got a delicious almond flavor and a very tender crumb, punctuated with those delicious cherries.

As one of my grandsons said as I was serving the cake earlier this week – “I want a grandpop-size slice.” After trying this cake, I think you will too.

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Cherry Almond Skillet Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup of almond flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (I USED ½ TSP.)
  • 1 cup sugar (I USED ¾ CUP)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or milk mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice)
  • ½ tsp almond extract (I USED 1 TEASPOON)
  • 1 pound cherries, pitted (I USED ABOUT 2 DOZEN CHERRIES, PITTED AND CUT IN HALF)
  • slivered almonds to sprinkle on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 10" cast iron skillet (You could use a cake pan too.)
  2. Cream together the butter, extract, lemon zest, sugar and egg until nice and light.
  3. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and almond flour.
  4. Pour in buttermilk and mix together.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and dot with the cherries, pressing the fruit lightly into the batter.
  6. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream, or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.
 

 

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Here’s another one of those no-cook recipes when the summer heat has you fleeing your stove. It also is timely for those of you gardeners who have more an abundance of cucumbers. I’m not growing any in my small plot, but my niece Keri gave me a couple from her garden, and I think I put them to good use in this recipe, from Melissa Clark of The New York Times.

You’ll note there are anchovies in the recipe and they are listed as optional. But DON’T leave them out, even if you hate anchovies (are you listening, Marie?) You absolutely cannot taste them in this recipe, but I guarantee you, the soup won’t be as flavorful without them. Cucumbers are so mild that this soup needs the jalapeño, the herbs, the garlic, the vinegar and yes, the anchovies, to give it the umph it needs, lest it turn out as a bland bowl of puréed cucumbers. Trust me on this one, please. And don’t leave out the corn garnish. The extra texture and taste really lends it a nice finishing touch.

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Chilled Cucumber Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I USED 1½ cups plain yogurt plus ¼ cup water)
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 2 small whole scallions, trimmed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • ½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro - I USED DILL AND PARSLEY)
  • ½ teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar, more to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels sliced off
  • Fresh dill, for serving
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, buttermilk, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and salt.
  2. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Let the soup sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours to blend all the flavors.
  4. Distribute soup between 4 bowls and garnish with raw corn kernels and a drizzle of olive oil.
 

Shrimp and Corn Salad

Corn is at its peak right now where I live so it was a perfect time to make this delicious salad, using shrimp caught wild in the U.S.  I tried duplicating this dish at home that I ate last week at a new restaurant in town and I think I got pretty close. The weather’s been a scorcher too, so something cold for dinner just felt right. The corn is scraped off the cobs and eaten raw, and I didn’t even have to cook the shrimp since my fish market sold it already cooked. Just toss everything together in a bowl with mayonnaise, lemon juice, some herbs and seasonings.

The recipe makes enough for four people with normal appetites (or two ravenous adults) so I had enough for myself and to take to a friend who’s been diagnosed with a serious health problem, and her partner.

If you’re in the Princeton, N.J., please do stop by the restaurant for either breakfast or lunch – The Blue Bears. Not only did I love my meal, but the restaurant’s mission also captured my heart – “to sell diverse, freshly made meals everyday and to provide sustainable and meaningful jobs for adults with intellectual and development disabilities.”

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Shrimp and Corn Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ pound boiled shrimp, chilled
  • 2 ears of corn, raw and stripped of the kernels
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 stalks of celery, minced
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • salt, pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.
  2. Place all ingredients, including shrimp in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until everything is combined.
  3. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to help blend flavors.
  4. Serve over lettuce.
 

Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms

 

Who would have thought you could stuff and fry sage leaves? Not I, until a few months ago, when I ate them at a restaurant in London. Since then, I’ve been counting the days until the leaves on our sage plants were large enough to pick. With the plants now at their peak, the timing was perfect. They’re so easy to make, it’s not really much of a recipe, but I’ll take you through the steps.

First, smush some anchovies over  one leaf.  Please don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies – this is so darn delicious and addictive it will make you a convert.

Then cover with another leaf of the same size and press down hard.

Hold the sage leaf “sandwich” by the stem and swipe each side of the leaf in a batter. The batter is made with only flour and sparkling water (San Pellegrino is my water of choice). There’s no need for baking powder or eggs. Just mix the flour and water until you have a consistency like thick pancake batter.

Have some vegetable oil heating in a skillet while you prepare the leaves, then when it’s good and hot, place the leaves carefully into the hot oil. Fry on one side until golden, then flip and do the same with the other side of the leaf.

While I was at it, I also stuffed and fried some zucchini blossoms I got from my son and daughter-in-law’s garden. I posted the “recipe” online way back in the early months of this blog, more than a decade ago. But why not repeat it now since you may have access to some of these lovely, edible flowers. It’s best to pick them first thing in the morning, when the blossoms are wide open and you can pull out the stamen (and any critters that may be inside).

Cut a piece of mozzarella cheese and push it down into the center of the flower, along with a small piece of anchovy. Press the flower shut and twist it a little near the end of the flower. It won’t be completely sealed, but don’t worry because after you dip it into the batter (the same one you use for the sage leaves), the batter will form a seal and keep the stuffing from oozing out.

Fry in some hot, deep vegetable oil, turning once, until they’re golden all around.

Dig In. These are so crunchy and delicious, it’s a good thing we didn’t pick more sage leaves or blossoms, or we’d have eaten ourselves sick!

For other ideas on what to do with zucchini blossoms, click here.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Stuffed Fried Sage Leaves and Zucchini Blossoms
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • sage leaves
  • anchovies (salted, in oil)
  • zucchini blossoms
  • mozzarella cheese
  • flour
  • sparkling water
  • a pinch of salt
  • vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. BATTER:
  2. Just mix enough flour and enough sparkling water until you get a mixture that’s the consistency of pancake batter. It’s best to let it sit at least 15 minutes to help make it smoother.
  3. FOR THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS:
  4. Pull the stamen from the inside of the zucchini blossoms.
  5. Cut a piece of mozzarella into a small strip and place it inside the zucchini blossom, along with a salted anchovy.
  6. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil.
  7. FOR THE SAGE LEAVES:
  8. Smush some anchovies onto one side of a sage leaf.
  9. Cover with a sage leaf of a similar size and press down.
  10. Holding the leaves by the stem, swish it in the batter, covering both sides of the leaves.
  11. Fry in hot, deep oil.