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I found a new recipe in my inbox this morning.  It was for a Summer Squash Gratin from Heidi Swanson, on of my favourite food writers. Her blog, 101 Cookbooks is a fabulous source of down to earth, tasty, and exciting vegetarian dishes.  I love her ideas, although, I’ve yet to follow one to the letter. I tend to use her recipes as inspiration, then, adjust the recipe according to my family’s tastes and/ or according to what I have in the house. I highly recommend having a look at her website, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I liked the look of this recipe as I love vegetable gratins, but don’t always want to eat the volume of dairy products that they normally call for. 

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As I had some yellow summer squash that I wanted to eat up, this recipe arrived on the right day. I used the squash and potatoes, as Heidi suggested, but I also included several stalks of de stringed, roughly chopped celery. I think that there are many vegetables that would work well with this method. I changed the sauce – I made it from two cups of basil with some dried marjoram, as I did not have the requisite fresh parsley and oregano in the house today (I’m cleaning out the fridge for the summer).  I also substituted a block of sheep’s feta for the gouda. It all worked very well.

It is important to slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, as they will take longer to cook than the squash. I used my trusty mandolin. 

The temperatures have been cooler this week in Arizona, so something hot, out of the oven, was a welcome change.

 

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Summer Gratin 

3 yellow summer squash, sliced about 1/6″ thick. 

6 small red potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible. I used my mandolin for the slicing today. 

4 stalks of celery, de stringed and roughly chopped. 

1 block of sheep feta cheese, about 7 ounces. 

2 cups of fresh basil.

2 cloves of garlic.

1 small salad onion (optional).

Zest from 1 small lemon.

A small pinch of dried marjoram (optional).

Red chilli pepper flakes (optional).

1 cup (or more if necessary) Extra virgin olive oil.

Panko breadcrumbs.

Salt and Pepper.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Salt the sliced summer squash and put aside to drain, for about 10-15 minutes.  Slice potatoes, chop celery, and put into a large, mixing bowl. 

Make the sauce. Put the basil leaves, garlic, lemon zest, and small onion into a the bowl of a small hand mixer/blender.  Blend. Then add the olive oil, some chilli pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.  Blend again until smooth.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning. 

Rinse the squash and dry with paper towels. 

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Break up and mix the feta cheese, and two thirds of the sauce (saving a bit for the topping), into the bowl with the potatoes and celery.  

Mix in the summer squash. Make sure everything is well coated. Taste for seasoning.  

Turn the mixture into a ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle on a few handfuls of panko breadcrumbs. I prefer to go lightly here, but, you can add as much as you like. Use the remaining sauce to moisten the breadcrumbs. 

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Bake until the potatoes are cooked and the topping has turned golden brown.
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I was very happy with the result, but, next time I would use more squash and make the slices thicker. Heidi suggests using a variety of squash, which I think would be very nice. Still, my supper delicious and really hit the spot. 

Thank you to Heidi Swanson for the inspiration.  Here is the link for the original, which looks fantastic, as well as lots of other, very good things. 

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/summer-squash-gratin-recipe.html

Have a good weekend. 

Myrtle.

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It may not be summer just yet, but already it’s very hot here Arizona. Over 100 degrees everyday hot.  We are much better at coping with the heat now than we were when we first arrived. Air conditioning, dips in the pool, ice lollies in the freezer, and cool salads in the fridge, all help.  

I have been eating mayo free potato salad all my life, (being a self confessed mayo phobe), but, I really fell in love with it in Turkey. Made with lashings of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, fresh parsley, and celery root (although I prefer celery stalks), this potato salad has become something that I have made so often, I could make it in my sleep. It keeps well in the fridge, not that it hangs around for long. 

There is a lot of information available about the types of potatoes which are best for salad.  Try not to get too hung up on this, as it will taste good with any potato. It’s just that some potatoes will lose their shape faster than others. I like this salad made with smaller potatoes; red, golden, or new potatoes.  See what you can find at your market. Scrub and remove all eyes.  I often remove some skin, but not always. Skins slip off easier after the potatoes have been cooked, but it really is up to you. 

In Turkey, I had a friend who would make this salad with celery flavoured celeriac.  Celeriac is a lovely tasting vegetable, with rather a scary appearance. If you want to try it, peel it then cut the pieces slightly smaller than your pieces of potato. Personally, I prefer the crunch of celery stalks for this salad.  As I have said before, always remove those pesky strings with a vegetable peeler, then chop finely.

Destringed Celery

Destringed Celery

Potato Salad with Lemons and Parsley

10 Medium Potatoes, I am using red skins today. 

2 – 3 Large serving spoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

2 -3 Fresh Lemons, juiced. A mild vinegar could also be used, but we prefer lemon juice. 

4 Stalks of celery, destringed and finely chopped.  Use the leaves as well, if available and in good condition. 

Half a small onion, or 1 bunch of Green Onions, finely chopped.

1 bunch of Flat Leaf Parsley, washed, dried, and finely chopped. You can use less if you prefer.  We like a lot of parsley. 

Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes to taste.

After washing and de eyeing your spuds, cut them into uniform pieces. I prefer to keep them slightly on the larger side, as smaller pieces are easier to overcook. Cover with cold water and add some salt.  Boil gently, until just done.  Try not to overcook them, but don’t despair if it happens.  I have overcooked potatoes many times. Mushy potato salad doesn’t win any beauty awards, but it still tastes good.

Red potatoes

Red potatoes

Once the potatoes slip off a fork easily, drain them, and put them in a bowl.  Remove any bits of loose skin, if desired.  I don’t care for loose potato skins floating around in my salad. It is important to dress the potatoes whilst they are still hot, as they will soak up the liquid like little sponges, along with lots of good flavour. 

Poor over 2-3 large serving spoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the juice of at least 2 lemons, then mix well, but carefully.  Try not to break up the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and chilli pepper (if you are using it). 

Allow the potatoes to cool down to room temperature. All the liquid should be gone.  I always taste it at this point, and make any adjustments.

Potatoes, onions, celery, and parsley

Potatoes, onions, celery, and parsley

The next step is to add and carefully fold in the rest of your ingredients; onions, celery, and parsley.  

It is now ready to eat. We like it at room temperature, but, it is very good cooled down in the fridge. 

I like this salad with salted capers, but the kids don’t.  So, if I am in the mood, I will put them on my own plate as a garnish.

Ready to go down the hatch

Ready to go down the hatch

Hope that you like this as much as we do.

Must dash, I have children waiting to be delivered to parties, windows to clean, as well as the ever present, ever growing mountain of laundry.  

Plus, I want a dip in the pool.

Stay cool,   

Myrtle x

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This easy salad is a favourite in our house.  We all love tuna, and we all hate mayonnaise. I have always hated mayonnaise, since being a child.  

Growing up in NY, we had an elderly, Italian lady looking after us when we came home from school.  We often saw very little of our parents during the week.  Her name was Mary Rebecca. 

Mary Rebecca was very old fashioned.  She had grey hair, and wore a shawl. She never went anywhere without her latest crochet project.  She even taught me to crochet.  She was a very patient and very kind lady. 

Knowing that I didn’t like mayonnaise,  she made this for me one day.  I’ve been eating it all my life.  

Thank you Mary Rebecca. 

I always look for dolphin friendly tuna.  After that, the choice is personal.  I always look for sodium free as well, as I don’t care for the saltiness of some tinned tunas, but, it isn’t always easy to find.  Beware of cheap tuna swimming in chicken broth.  It pays to read the label.

The salad that I made today had three tins of tuna, one sodium free in water, one in salted water, and one in olive oil, again with salt.  Tuna in olive oil is more tender.  My children really like it, but I wonder about the quality of the oil.  I buy it, occasionally, depending on its price.

Today I used red kidney beans, simply as the colour and flavour are good,  and the children like them. But, garbanzo or navy beans are also good.  I especially love black eyed peas with tuna. 

Just as I love celery with chicken, I also love celery with tuna. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of removing the strings with a peeler, and chopping it finely.  Celery gets a bad rap because it is, generally, poorly prepared.  It’s a lovely vegetable once it has been de stringed and chopped into little pieces. 

Onion is also essential, for a bit of bite.  We like either green onions or red onions.  Again, chop finely.  

Good quality virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice or mild vinegar.  Either red or white wine vinegar work well with tuna.  Salt, if necessary, and lots of freshly ground, black pepper.

Lastly, I add a cup of finely chopped, flat leaf parsley.  It makes the salad.

Here we go.

 

Tuna Salad

2 – 3 tins of good quality, dolphin friendly, tuna. 

1 -2 tins of beans, anything you fancy.

6 stalks of celery (more or less), de stringed  with a vegetable peeler, and finely chopped.

1/2 medium red onion, or 6 green onions, finely chopped.

Good quality virgin olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons, or to taste.

Juice of 1-2 lemons or a mild vinegar – add slowly to taste. 

Salt and Pepper

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed, dried, de stemmed, and chopped finely, or cut up with a kitchen scissors in a mug. 

Method:

Drain tuna and put into a suitable bowl.  I prefer bowls that have a broad bottom and shallow sides.  Then I can see that everything has been mixed properly.

Drain and rinse beans.  Add to tuna. Add celery and onions.  Add oil and lemon juice/vinegar.  Season and taste. 

Add parsley.  Enjoy. 

 

I hope that you like this as much as we do.

TTFN, 

Myrtle.

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