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Summer Veggie Pizza

Summer Veggie Pizza

There are so many reasons I love summer, including the delicious sweet corn that grows prolifically here in New Jersey. We’ve been eating it at least once a week, just boiled in water for three or four minutes.
With one of the leftover ears, I was inspired to make a summer pizza using more terrific Jersey produce – (we are the “Garden State” after all!) after seeing something similar on my friend Stacey’s blog. 
The first time I tried it, I also added some zucchini and a bit of anchovy – just enough to give it a zing.
I can just hear those of you who are anchovy averse turning off at this point. But wait – the second time I made it, I added small cherry tomatoes and pancetta in addition to the corn and zucchini. In both cases, I used fresh oregano and basil (and mozzarella cheese of course).
For all you vegetarians, you can skip the anchovies or the pancetta and it will still be delicious, provided you have sweet corn in season.

Although I used a perforated pizza pan to bake the pizzas at a high temperature, the bottom crust just wasn’t getting browned enough. So after about 12 minutes at 475 degrees, I slipped the pizza off the pan and slid it directly onto the lowest of the oven’s wire racks for a few more minutes. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

It worked beautifully and created a crispy, crunchy bottom crust, without burning the toppings.

So take your pick and choose either surf (anchovies):

or turf (pancetta). In either case, you’ll want to try this corn pizza while fresh corn is at its peak.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
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Summer Veggie Pizza
pizza dough (your own recipe or store-bought)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or several balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced)
1 ear of corn, kernels scraped (either raw or leftover boiled)
1 small zucchini (or half of a large zucchini), sliced thinly and salted
either – 2 anchovies in oil or 6 thin slices of pancetta, fried until crispy
8-10 red or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
fresh basil
fresh oregano
black pepper
olive oil
Whether using your own homemade dough, or store-purchased dough, put it in a bowl smeared with oil and let it come to room temperature and rest for about an hour. Punch it down and spread it out over a large perforated pizza pan.
Scatter the mozzarella over the dough, then place the zucchini and corn kernels and/or cherry tomatoes on top .
If using anchovies, lay them in a few places across the pizza. Do the same if using the pancetta.
Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake at 475 degrees for 10-12 minutes. If the dough is not browning on the bottom, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the lowest rack of the oven. Let it bake for another 3-5 minutes, checking to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Pasta With Basil Pesto And Zucchini

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Zucchini

 Is the basil in your garden reaching its peak, but the tomatoes nowhere near being ripe?
Just when you’d like the basil to cozy up to those tomatoes in a salad bowl, these crops never mature at the same time.
If
you prune your basil now however, it will re-sprout a second crop in
time to use with those tomatoes that will ripen in a few weeks.
Don’t cut off all the basil leaves however – just trim back to a
juncture above a pair of leaves.
If
you don’t prune your basil (or at least pinch the tips when they start
to flower), the basil will go to seed and you’ll lose the opportunity
for that second crop.
But what to do with the armful of basil you pick now when they’re aren’t fresh tomatoes for a salad?
That’s easy. Make pesto!
I’ve written posts on pesto before, including pesto with shrimp (click here), and a basic pesto primer (click here) that shows you how to make a real pesto alla Genovese, and how to keep your pesto a bright green color.
Since
I recently had some zucchini from the farmer’s market looking for a
home, I combined it with the pesto and served it over fusilli pasta.
If
you’re a traditionalist (or a glutton for punishment), try making pesto
with a mortar and pestle – the way I had it the first time I ate it in Italy at the home of one of
my cousins.

Not up for so much elbow grease? No problem. It’s a snap to make in a food processor.

You can whir everything together, then start the pasta cooking while you sauté the zucchini.
In the time it takes to boil the pasta, dinner can be on the table.
Buon Appetito!
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.
Pesto with Zucchini
(enough for one pound of pasta)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
These amounts aren’t exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil
into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course,
your taste buds.
4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cut pistachios (or pine nuts)
extra virgin olive oil (as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto)
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1
pound pasta – trofie, linguini or trenette are common in Italy with
this sauce, but farfalle (bowties) or fusilli (pictured above) are nice
too.
Sauté the zucchini rounds in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper to season. Cook until softened, but not mushy.
Start the water boiling for the pasta while you prepare the pesto sauce.
If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and
place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small
amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until
it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it
falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
 Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you’re planning to freeze
it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are
ready to serve.
If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried
basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to
help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a
little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and
add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience
and time.
After
the pesto is made and the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, holding
onto a half cup or so of the water. You can use this to thin out the
sauce when you’re mixing the pesto into the pasta.

Mix
the pesto with the pasta, then add the sautéed zucchini. Toss
everything together, adding more pasta water if you need to thin out the
sauce. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

Veggie Ribbon And Ham Tart

Veggie Ribbon and Ham Tart

 Here’s a tart that’s guaranteed to frustrate you. If you stay with it though, you’ll be rewarded with a tart that’s a visual stunner and tastes wonderful too. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when your pastry collapses, when you don’t have enough strips of veggies, or you run out of ham because you’re eating it  instead of tucking it into the tart shell. Can you hear the swear words across the screen? Yea, just sayin’….. 

The first glitch came with the puff pastry called for in the recipe. It said to line a springform pan and prebake it for 10 minutes. Well, good luck with that, as the buttery dough decides to slide down the sides of the pan.
Oh, I know what I’ll do.  I’ll use a tart pan instead, and drape the dough over the sides, then trim the edges flush with the border.
Oh really?
 Nah, the puff pastry did its thing and “puffed” up almost to the top of the pan. And yes, I pricked the hell out of it before it went into the oven — to no avail.
But I wasn’t going to let some bully of a puff pastry keep me from making this tart, darn it. So I moved to plan three and scratched the puff pastry idea, making a traditional tart pastry instead – and it worked. Take that, you ornery puff pastry!
OK, so the next cast of characters are these veggies – green and yellow zucchini, orange, yellow and red rainbow carrots.
You could try using a vegetable peeler to make the strips, but I used a mandoline instead.
I didn’t want any accidents, so I stopped cutting when the pieces got too close to the blade. Don’t waste them though. They’re perfectly fine for cooking as a side dish some other time.
You’ll need some ham for this too. I used a “French” ham that I find at my supermarket. It’s a very delicate flavor and the closest thing to prosciutto cotto I can find in the states. It’s also very delicious, which is why I couldn’t stop eating it out of hand, and ran out of it before I got to the end of the rolling.
OK, so what you do first is parboil the veggie strips for a couple of minutes, let them cool, then start rolling, beginning with a strip of one of the veggies. Alternate with the ham and continue rolling.
The parboiled strips of veggies will stick to each other, and so will the ham. This part is not hard, but time-consuming. And I didn’t cut enough of the veggie strips and had to go back to the mandoline and cut more – and parboil more.
The recipe called for a 6 inch diameter pan, but I thought that was too small to serve a group of people, so I used an 8-inch pan instead. It seemed as though I’d never get the spiral large enough, but I did – finally!
The next hurdle was transferring the spiral to the (pre-baked) tart shell. I used my hands and a large spatula, and while it was a little tricky, with some of the spiral getting dislodged, in the end I managed to put everything back in place and no one was the wiser.
This part is easy – pour the filling over the top and spread in between the cracks. If you roll your spiral a little looser than mine, you’ll have more space for the filling. (But warning – it will undoubtedly be harder to transfer the spiral to the tart shell.) Now, you’re practically home free – just bake in the oven.
And slice open to reveal a jewel of a tart that tastes wonderful, but that I will likely never make again. But maybe you’d like to give it a go. Maybe even using puff pastry (maybe you’re a masochist?)
If you do, please write me and let me know how it worked out. If you’re still speaking to me.

 

Veggie Ribbon and Ham Tart
adapted from
Dorian Cuisine
(the site begins in French but near the bottom the recipe is also in English. My changes are marked in red, below)
printable recipe here

 1 package of ham (use Italian ham) (I used about 1/2 cup)
1
zucchini (I used two) 

 1 yellow zucchini 
1 carrot (I used at least six, of varying colors)
1 egg 
60g full cream = ¼
c full(heavy) cream 

30g grated cheese = ½ c grated cheese 
1
roll puff pastry (I used a traditional tart pastry shell – my recipe for that is below)

salt and pepper

Start by cutting all the vegetables
into strips with a vegetable peeler.
Heat a large pot of salted water and
prepare a large bowl of cold water.
Put the vegetables in boiling water,
let ten seconds and then retract it with a slotted spoon and put them
in cold water to stop cooking, drain well and dry with paper towels.
Cut the ham slices in half lengthwise.
Start assembling spread four slices of
zucchini in length. The slices should overlap slightly in length.
You’ll get a long strip of zucchini.
Cover it with the yellow zucchini in
the same way and with the carrot.
Repeat, green zucchini, yellow
zucchini, carrot and ham this time.
Repeat two layers in the same manner.
In the end we arrive at six layers (I had many, many more “layers.”)
Cut a little too much if it exceeds the
width.
Roll the vegetables and ham, with four
hands is easier to obtain a large roll. Drop the roller to lay flat,
then you should get the same as the first picture.
Cut the puff pastry to the size of your
pan and let the precooked for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°F (HA! good luck with that).
Mix the egg, cream and cheese and pour
over the pastry. Place the vegetables and ham roll and press a
little. It should look like the second picture.
Bake for thirty minutes at 180°C/350°F.
 
Ciao Chow Linda’s Pastry Shell (to use if you’re skipping the puff pastry)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup ice cold water, or more as needed
For the pastry, put everything except the cold water into a food processor. Pulse until it is the consistency of damp sand. Add the cold water and pulse a few more times, until the dough sticks together. Roll into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Let it rest in refrigerator a little (if you have time and patience, even a half-hour rest helps), then roll it out on a floured board and fit into a tart pan. Prick the bottom and sides of the pan with a fork. Refrigerate the tart pan for an hour, then bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Grilled Veggies

Grilled Veggies

 For those of you with gardens, your zucchini is coming in fast and furious right now, I’m sure. If you haven’t got a garden, they’re plentiful in farmer’s markets too. How to use all those zucchini? I’ve posted lots of recipes on the blog, from stuffed zucchini to raw zucchini salad to  chocolate zucchini cake.  But grilled veggies are great for summertime, especially if you’re having guests. You can make this ahead of time and serve it at room temperature. And sometimes you want something different from the ubiquitous potato salad and oil-and-vinegar-based side dishes. That’s where grilled veggies come in. My favorite is zucchini, because they don’t soak up as much oil as eggplants. Here I’ve combined the zucchini with roasted peppers (instructions here), and a sprinkling of feta cheese. Start with slicing the zucchini rather thick – about 1/4 inch. If the slices are too thin, they’ll scorch on the grill. Thick slices gives the zucchini time to cook on the inside and develop nice grill marks too.
I don’t have a picture for you, but I normally put the slices in a large bowl, season with minced garlic, salt, pepper and fresh herbs – here it’s chives and thyme. Pour some olive oil into the bowl, then mix everything together, using your hands. Place the slices on the grill (don’t stray far, they’ll cook fast) and turn them once, until they’re browned on each side.
Serve them alone, or with roasted peppers, more fresh herbs and a scattering of feta cheese.
Onions are great on the grill too, but to avoid having the rings fall through the grates, I use an aluminum foil pan. Run a little olive oil on each side, then season the same way – salt, pepper and fresh herbs. These take a little longer to brown, but it’s worth the wait for that  caramelized goodness. I use the same technique for grilled tomatoes.
If you have leftovers, so much the better. Grilled veggies are delicious in a sandwich, as a topping for pizza, or added to pasta or rice.
Grilled Veggies
vegetables, like zucchini, eggplants, onions
olive oil
minced garlic
fresh herbs (thyme, chives)
salt, pepper
Slice the vegetables on the thick side (about 1/4 inch). Place in a bowl (not the onions or tomatoes – put them on an aluminum pan and season with the oil, garlic and herbs) Pour some olive oil over the vegetables to coat them, season with the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Place on a hot grill and turn once, after the first side has developed nice grill marks. Flip and do the same on the other side.
Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Anyone who’s ever eaten or made ratatouille has an opinion on what the dish should taste like and how it should be prepared. Let me just say there is no definitive version. There’s only the version you like. The version I like? It spoke to me at a Provencal restaurant along the Mediterranean Sea nearly 25 years ago. “Use more olive oil,” it said. “Use more red peppers,” it said. So I listened. And I made it. But it wasn’t the same. So I made it again. And again. And again. After years of trial and error, I finally figured out why I so loved that particular ratatouille in a little French village near the Italian border on that particular night. Yes, I liked the heavy hand the chef had taken with the olive oil, and yes I liked the abundance of red peppers. But it was technique as much as ingredients that made the dish special. The key to this particular recipe is layering. Don’t just throw all the vegetables into the pot and expect it to transport you to St. Tropez. Read the instructions and you’ll see what I mean.
This makes a great side dish, particularly with sausages or pork as a main course. But it’s wonderful as a main course too, in individual casseroles topped with grated parmesan cheese and placed under the broiler for a few minutes. It’s the next best thing to being in Les Baux.

Ratatouille

Serves six as a side dish or four as a main course.

I prefer more red peppers (a lot more) and zucchini and fewer eggplants than most ratatouille recipes, but you can substitute anything you like.

1 medium size yellow onion, chopped into small pieces
3 medium size zucchini, cut into chunks
1 medium size eggplant, partly peeled (I make “stripes” down the eggplant with a vegetable peeler) and cut into chunks
6 large red peppers, cut into chunks
8 cloves of garlic, minced
6 fresh plum tomatoes, or 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. freshly ground sea or kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. herbs de provence

Saute the onions in part of the olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until translucent and golden. Remove the sauteed onions to a plate or bowl.
Add more of the olive oil and the zucchini. Saute for five minutes or just until the pieces begin to soften. Remove and place on a separate plate.
Add the peppers and saute for five minutes. Then add the onions and zucchini back into the pot with the peppers. Add the garlic and let it saute a few minutes.
Add the remaining olive oil and eggplant pieces. Saute all the vegetables together another five minutes at medium heat. (The eggplant should be added last since it will disintegrate into unrecognizable pieces if given the same cooking time as the other vegetables.)
If using fresh tomatoes, peel the skin ahead of time by placing in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then cut in half, clean out the seeds and dice the flesh. Add the tomatoes to the pot. If using canned tomatoes, do not use the liquid in the can at first. You can add it later if the mixture looks too dry.
Add the salt, pepper and herbs de provence and simmer at medium heat for 20 minutes with the lid off, to help evaporate some of the liquid.

Zucchini “Carpaccio”

Zucchini “Carpaccio”

With this recipe, I didn’t start out on the right foot, or shall I say, finger. I bought a mandoline two months ago and the box was still unopened. I’ll bet you already know where this is going.
The zucchini plants in the garden were still producing glossy green spheres, so I thought I’d inaugurate the contraption with them. It was time to open the box and get started. Unfortunately, my thumb and a slice of flesh got in the way.
Six Band-Aids, two pints of blood (ok, so I exaggerate a little) and a half hour later, I tried again — this time using the protective thingamajig that comes with the mandoline.
Although it’s the beginning of September and the weather should be starting to cool off, we had a nearly 90 degree day here in New Jersey — hot enough so that a cold salad seemed like just the ticket to accompany the grilled steak I was planning for dinner.
I pulled out the mandoline –not essential for this salad, but it does slice the zucchini paper-thin. In the photo, you can see how nearly-transparent the slices are. It’s hard, but not impossible, to get them as thin if you are slicing by hand. Just make sure you’re slicing by hand, not slicing a hand, like I did.
I used one large round zucchini, but you can make this recipe with the long ones as well. One large zucchini generously serves two people.
This isn’t a true carpaccio like beef carpaccio, the thinly sliced raw delicacy, which by the way, was named after Vittore Carpaccio, a Renaissance artist who used lots of brilliant red in his paintings. But when your mandoline demands a pound of flesh from you, I think you can take liberties with the name. Besides, I used my share of brilliant red too. That is, if you’re counting hemoglobin.

Zucchini Carpaccio

1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. white balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 T. toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
salt, pepper
minced chives

Slice zucchini and assemble on plate. Grind salt and pepper on zucchini slices. Sprinkle with chives, crumbled goat cheese and pine nuts. Whisk olive oil and vinegar together and drizzle on top.

Fried Zucchini Flowers

Fried Zucchini Flowers

I know I just posted a zucchini recipe, but the season is almost gone for these fragile, delicate-tasting blossoms, so you’ve got to move fast if you want to try them this year. When we lived in Italy, we saw them at markets everywhere, but they’re not so easy to find in U.S. stores. Farmers’ markets are your best bets, unless you’ve got your own garden. And if you don’t have a vegetable plot, once you’ve tasted these, you’ll want to start digging – or make friends with someone who does have a garden.
My favorite way to eat these beauties is to stuff them with mozzarella cheese and a sliver of an anchovy, then dip into a batter and deep fry.
They are wickedly good prepared this way, but I limit myself to this indulgence only once a year, since they’re also wickedly caloric too. If you find yourself with an abundance of blossoms and don’t want to go the deep-frying route, you can slice them into thin strips and add them to omelets, frittatas, even a risotto.
Fried Zucchini Flowers, two ways

For each of these recipes, soak the zucchini blossoms in water to get rid of any garden pests that might be lurking in the crevices. On the other hand, if you miss one here or there, a little more protein won’t be so bad.

Lift the blossoms from the water carefully, then dry on a paper towel. Carefully spread open the petals and with a flick of a finger, remove the pistol inside.

First Recipe:
12 zucchini flowers
1 large ball mozzarella cheese
1 small tin anchovies

Slice the mozzarella into sticks and gently insert one piece of cheese and one small sliver of anchovy into the flower (you can omit the anchovy but it does add a nice zing). Dip into batter and deep fry in hot oil.

Second Recipe:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Mix the cheeses, then very gently, using a demitasse or small teaspoon, insert a portion of the filling into the flower. If you are adept at using a piping bag, use that instead of a spoon, since the flowers tear easily. But even if they do rip a little, don’t worry since the batter will coat them sufficiently to hide any rips. Dip into batter and fry in hot oil.

Batter:
I have tried several different batter recipes, including a beer batter, but this one works best:
1 cup flour
sparkling water
1/2 tsp. salt

Just mix enough flour (one cup is plenty for a dozen blossoms) 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. Dip the flowers into the batter, and deep fry in hot oil. I use a cast-iron skillet and fill it about 1/2 full with canola oil. I also use the burner on my outdoor gas grill, which helps to keep the kitchen spatter-free. Drain on paper towels and eat immediately.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

Zowee Zucchini

Anyone with a vegetable garden knows what can
happen to zucchini when you turn your back on them for even one day.

One day the vegetables are little baby orbs at the end of a stem. But in the dark of the night when you’re not watching, they mainstream steroids, and morph into something nearing the size of a baseball bat.
So for all of you with an abundance of zucchini, here’s another way to use those babies. Just check your garden regularly though, and pick your zucchini before they’re large enough to hit second base.
In this recipe, I use the round variety, but you can use the long ones equally as well.

Stuffed Baked Zucchini

4 small round, or long zucchini
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs
salt, pepper
fresh basil or parsley, chopped

Trim the stem off the zucchini, and place in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
Cool, then cut in half and scoop out interior of zucchini.
Salt and pepper the hollowed out zucchini.
Chop the part you scoop out and saute at high heat, along with the onion, in olive oil, until most of the water has evaporated from the zucchini.
In a bowl, place ricotta, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and herbs.
Add the sauteed, chopped zucchini and onion to the ricotta mix and stir.
Place some of the filling inside each of the hollowed-out zucchini, sprinkle more parmesan cheese on top, and bake at 425 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.