Saturday, September 29, 2012

Savory Summer Squash & Tomato Tart

My family is sentimental. We like to hang on to things. I think my dad's parents—my oma and opa—instilled that in him. They came from Europe with nothing. All their keepsakes and things from childhood, pictures, even the country they were from (Yugoslavia): gone. So, I'm sure he grew up with that hang-on-to-everything you have mentality. My mom's parents, on the other hand, were children of the great depression. I remember a story about my grandma Carol's house burning down when she was a girl in Oklahoma, taking all her toys, clothes, and belongings with it. I'm sure that has something to do with my Mel's predilection for keeping things. Then Mel and John left the rural Southern California town they were from to come to Washington, and because of kids and finances and life, they don't make it back there as often as they'd like. I think this makes them sentimental for the places, people, and memories from their past. 

They passed this on to me. Every time I go home, I pour over old pictures, old things from my childhood. I take Evan around the property that he's seen a million times, pointing out spots where I used to play, the tree that I used to think I'd get married under, the place where I killed the spider that Amanda never forgave me for. 

My parents still have a lot of my childhood toys. Barbies in one bin, treasure trolls in another. And books. My RL Stine collection lives on—Fear Street from my middle school days, Goosebumps from elementary school. I had a lot of RL Stine books. And the picture books from when Amanda and I were little. I love looking through the books. 

Whenever I'm thinking of what to make with summer squash, I get a fleeting glimpse of a book from childhood—Squash Pie. So, when I went home last weekend, I dug out the book Squash Pie… to go along with the bounty of zucchini Mel was sending back to Seattle with me. The book (which is from the 70s and was passed down from my cousin Barb…and has Barbie, Room 8, written inside) is about an old farmer who plants summer squash because he's so stoked for squash pie. But every time the squash is just about ready to pick, someone steals it. The book doesn't actually pin it on her, but the farmer's wife is obviously the culprit. The night-thief's shadow is wearing a dress just like hers, and she's always trying to convince him to eat other kinds of pies—apple, cherry, etc—but he only wants squash pie. My favorite part is when she throws a bunch of ripe peaches on the ground, bakes them into a pie, and yells "there's your squash pie!". A real fiery lady, that farmer's wife. Anyway, I think she eventually gets fed up with his squash pie obsession, and they finally have a squash pie…which she admits is way better than all the other pies. Even the last squash pie, which just tasted like a peach pie. 

I always wondered what the squash pie they had tasted like. What it looked like. I was a weird kid that way. So I brought the book back to Seattle with me, and looked up squash pie. Apparently there's a sweet pie made with summer squash—that must be what the farmer was after. I, however, was after something a little different, something savory. Mel's been trying to get me to make this rustic summer squash tart for like five years now (it's one of my dad's faves), but I was never really interested. She photocopies and sends me the recipe every summer, and every summer, it gets deleted. I guess I'm kind of like that farmer's wife, because I finally made the damn squash tart, and whadaya know, it was delicious. I changed it up quite a bit—added caramelized onions and pine nuts, used oregano instead of thyme (simply because I'm out of thyme), omitted the roasted pepper, sprinkled parm on top. 

Even Evan, who claims to hate zucchini and was appalled by the idea of squash pie, loved it. 

PS: I know you're all in fall-mode now: butternut squash and pumpkins and what not, but you surely have a basket of late-summer squash and tomatoes still hanging out, begging to be used before you switch over completely. And this tart, while using up the last of summer's produce, taste a bit like fall with the blue cheese and pie crust. Just make it, already.

Summer Squash & Tomato Tart
Adapted from this recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cups-ish sliced (in rounds) mixed summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon(s) chopped garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
slat & pepper
Your favorite pie crust, chilled and rolled into 2 8-inch rounds
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 medium tomatos, sliced
1 large egg, beaten
Handful of parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. 

Add olive oil and butter to heavy-bottomed skillet, and heat over medium. Add onions and cooked until caramelized (here's a good how-to for caramelized onions). Add squash and shallots and cook, for a few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay out the 2 dough rounds (you may need to bake in two batches, or just make 1 big tart). Sprinkle the blue cheese evenly over the two rounds, within 2 inches of the edge. Top with onion and squash mixture, and then with sliced tomato. Fold edge of the crust over and brush crust with beaten egg.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes until crust is golden. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Let cool slightly before eating (so the juices have time to settle). 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

End of Summer Zucchini Bread

Summer is nearing its end. That means a few things—we're starting to dig out our slow cookers, bake, and shop for Halloween costumes, kids have gone back to school, the days have gotten shorter and, for some, cooler. For those of you with gardens, the end of summer also means a boat-load of produce that finally got enough sun to start growing…and then went wild and crazy. 

I can't tell you how many people have said to me "I have carrots coming out my ears," or "I have so many tomatoes they're going bad before I can eat them," or "do you like cucumbers, because I need to either pickle them all or give them away I have so many," or "I have a zucchini as big as your leg." Ok, so maybe I can tell you how many people have said these things: two. My coworker Hilary (who has now offered me carrots and cucumbers, yes!), and my mom. 

Mel was in town recently, and brought Amanda and I each a giant box of the best tomatoes ever. Sorry, I was too busy shoving them in my mouth at a rate of six+ per day to get pictures. But trust me, these were the most insanely red, meaty, flavorful tomatoes ever. I made panzanella salad three times in one week. And then I ate it too fast to take pictures. Stay tuned… I'll try to get some panzanella magic on the blog soon. 

In addition to the crazy-good toms, a ton of peppers, 10 kinds of garlic, green beans, and a random half of a smoked turkey, Mel gave me a zucchini the size of my leg. Seriously. There's only one thing you can do with a zucchini the size of your leg (other than play baseball with it).... and that's bake it up into zucchini bread. I don't know what you were thinking that one thing was going to be (get your minds outta the gutter!) but it's delicious, delicious zucchini bread. Preferably with coconut, apples, and chocolate chips. Home run.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Zucchini Bread 
Makes 2 loaves

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup coconut oil 
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla 
2 cups grated zucchini (not drained)
1 green apple, diced
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 325, and grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. 

In a separate larger bowl, beat eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, and sugar until smooth and creamy-like. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and mix until well combined. Stir in zucchini, apple, chocolate chips, and coconut. Pour into pans.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes before removing from pan.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Almond Butter Fruit Dip

We all have our bad habits. Some are vices, some are just little things that drive other people crazy. I definitely have some bad habits that drive Evan crazy. I leave dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, I hit snooze a million times every morning, I'm the worst back seat driver. But lately, the one thing he just can't stomach…is that I eat peanut butter (and Nutella, and almond butter, and spekuloos spread) straight out of the jar, on a spoon. He thinks its disgusting. I think….why consume extra calories via an edible spoon (cracker, bread, waffle, cookie, etc), when all I really want is the peanut butter? I think my logic makes perfect sense. 

My favorite afternoon snack the last couple of weeks is a spoonful of almond butter with a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of coconut, and a couple of blueberries. Delicious one bite snack, right!? 

But, since it bothers him so much, I tried putting it all in a little bowl: almond butter, honey, coconut, blueberries. Stir it together, insert spoon, eat. Delicious two bite snack! He didn't like that too much either. The guy isn't too particular about most things, but this one just really seems to bother him. So, to make my afternoon snack a bit more appealing to him (not that his opinion has stopped me from standing at the counter eating Nutella straight out of the jar, with a spoon), I decided to add yogurt and whip everything up into a dip for fruit. That's totally normal and acceptable, right? Way less crazy than drowning every single thing you consume in hot sauce. *Cough* Evan *Cough*. 

Almond Butter Fruit Dip
1 cup nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
2 tablespoons salted almond butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup shredded coconut
pinch of cinnamon
sliced fruit or fruit skewers for serving
Whisk together yogurt, almond butter, and honey. Stir in cinnamon and coconut. Add more of anything, as desired. Serve with fruit. 
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