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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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After writing about my meal at Etc Etc, I wanted meatballs.  Tiny, bite size meatballs, packed with flavour.  I went to Sprouts. 

I love and hate Sprouts. It’s best to get there early, as the parking lot gets full and the lines inside are long.  But, there is a reason that it is so busy.  It’s a great place to shop.  They have good prices on seasonal fruit and vegetables, plus a nice selection of lots of other, healthy things to eat.  

 

Cherries and Watermelon

After school snack

It would seem that the theme in Sprouts today was Red.  Cherries were on special. As were Watermelons. I then saw some lovely, large plum tomatoes, which I love.  All went into my trolley. I went to the meat counter, but, alas, no minced lamb.  The chap offered to make for me whilst I waited, but I declined.  Another day.  I settled for some loose, mild, chicken sausage meat with fennel seasoning, which I have had before.  It is very nice, no nasties, and not salty.  I love fennel seeds. 

 

Soon to be roasted

Soon to be roasted

I decided to roast the tomatoes in the oven before making them into a rich sauce. Roasting really concentrates their flavour. I quatered them, tossed them lightly with olive oil, a touch of vinegar, and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Into a hot oven then went, along with some smaller, plum tomatoes that I already had in the refrigerator. 

 

Roasting

Roasting

They took about forty five minutes in a hot oven, with a stir mid way. Meanwhile, I made the meatballs.  I mixed the seasoned minced chicken meat with one finely minced, medium onion, one egg, and enough panko breadcrumbs to make a firm meatball.  I then floured my hands, and set to work.  It took me a little while, as I like my meatballs small.  They cook faster and it is easier to control portions (thus having a few left over for lunch tomorrow). I cooked the meatballs over a low heat, in a shallow frying pan, that had been brushed with oil.  I cooked them in three batches.  

After the tomatoes finished roasting, I started the sauce.  I took one can of diced tomatoes, a large pinch of dried oregano, three cloves of garlic, put through a press, and put them all into a small saucepan over a medium heat.  I then looked at the roasted tomatoes.  I removed anything burned, any large pieces of skin, then quickly chopped up the mixture with a kitchen shears.  I love to chop things with kitchen shears. I added this mixture to the saucepan.  This sauce cooks very quickly; it was ready within fifteen minutes.  

You can add the meatballs to the sauce, of course.  Sometimes I do.  But, tonight, I wanted them separate, which is nice as well.  

As I had half a loaf of Italian bread left over from the day before, it was decided that meatballs with roasted tomato sauce, and bread would be enough for dinner.  Especially after all the fruit the girls had already eaten.  

It went down a treat. 

 

Meatballs with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Bread

Meatballs with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Bread

This was not what I had had in mind for dinner tonight, but, it was very good.  No one complained.

And there are only a few meatballs left.  Mysteriously. 

Off to make more ice lollies, this time from fresh peaches and apple juice, with a few frozen blueberries thrown in.  

Have a lovely evening, 

Myrtle.

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As you may have guessed, we have been to New York City this year.   

My elder daughter sang in a choir at Carnegie Hall.  

It was a proud moment for me, and a wonderful experience for her. But, more about that later. 

Little One and I stayed with a beloved Aunt who lives on the upper West Side.  We all had a fabulous time; shopping, theatre, and, of course, lots of eating.  There is a restaurant, a favourite of my Aunt’s, that we went to twice, called Etcetera Etcetera. Our family met up there after the concert at Carnegie.  It was a great evening.  The atmosphere is stylish, busy, but comfortable.

The first time I ate at Etc Etc, I ordered Risotto Con Aragosta E Rosmarino – Lobster Risotto with Fresh Rosemary.  It arrived in a large dish, but looked like a fairly small portion.  I have to confess, it looked rather plain. There was very little colour and no garnish.  But, being a devoted lover of all things risotto, I peppered, and dug in.  

I am pleased to say, Dear Reader, that the taste was divine.  The flavour of the lobster was mild, but beautiful, as was the rosemary.  It was creamy and delicious; everything a risotto should be.  And, it was more than enough.  

I was just coming to the end of my little feast, when one of my dining companions reached over, quick as a flash, and scooped up my last mouthful, from right under my nose, with a sardonic gleam in her eye. I am convinced that all of us knows at least one person who behaves like this at the dinner table. I didn’t really mind, but, she could have asked. I would have shared. 

I was full, and there is no point in crying over stolen risotto, etc etc, but cannot pretend that I wasn’t a tiny bit amused when my companion then went on to complain, very loudly, that I hadn’t told her that it was a seafood risotto. Apparently, she absolutely detests seafood. Dear Reader, she didn’t ask. I would have shared that information as well.  

Anyway, I made a reservation for ten people. We were seated at the very back of the restaurant, which worked well, as we are a noisy bunch. Our waiter was young, cute, and extremely good natured.  One would have to be to put up with certain members of the family. But, he was more than charming, affable, and accommodating. Buckets of extra ice were brought forthwith, bills were divided, extra bread, tapenade, and refills were all delivered with a smile and good humour. Bless him. He earned his wages that evening.

Little One had the same thing she had the first night, Scialatiella Con Pomodoro Fresco E Strecciatella – a fancy way of saying, Homemade Basil Spaghetti with Hand Peeled Tomatoes, Garlic, and Stracciatella Cheese. She loved it. The Stracciatella cheese is a luscious, creamy mozzarella.  She raved about it so much, that three other members of the family ordered it on the Big Night.  It’s an incredibly simple dish, and it was a hit.  

I had something different the second time around, Tagliattelle Con Polpettine D’Agnello, Rucola E Pomodoro Al Forno – Taglliatelle with Lamb Meatballs, Baby Arugula, and Oven Roasted Tomatoes. A mouthful, in more ways than one. It is deceptively simple dish, and absolutely delicious.  The lamb meatballs were tiny, packed with flavour, and a treat for me, as this is not something that I normally make at home.  

I liked this restaurant for its food, atmosphere, and accommodating service.  It is only two blocks from Broadway and the Theatre District, as well as a short walk to Port Authority, which was convenient for family who were catching the coach back to Pennsylvania.  

All and all, it was great evening. 

Happy dining, 

Myrtle.

 

 

Etc Etc

352 W 44th Street

New York, NY 10036-5419

212 399-4141

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Tonight we dined with friends.  

We met up with old neighbors, met new ones, as well visiting with my friend’s mum, whose family came from Cornwall.  She goes back regularly, so we always have a lot to chat about.  She shared a special recipe from her collection, which I can’t wait to try.  

Our menu was grilled lamb, stir fried green beans with seasoned pine nuts, a blend of cultivated and wild rices, and I brought a courgette salad (small zucchini in the US).  I have eaten this dish in Turkey, but have recently seen a lighter version of it in a article by Jamie Oliver.  I have to confess, some of my motivation for making this dish was that I wanted to play with my new mandoline again.  I want to slice everything at the moment. But, more importantly, it is a delicious salad. 

Thinly sliced Courgettes and Summer Squash

Thinly sliced Courgettes and Summer Squash

We all had a lovely, relaxed evening of good company, catching up on news, children playing, dogs chasing, and very good eating.  

Here’s the salad.

Tonight, I used a grill pan to grill the squash. I also grilled fresh, green onion, leaving out the more traditional garlic. I used a combination of green courgettes and yellow summer squash, leaving the skins on.  As I brushed the grill pan with olive oil, I didn’t add any extra once the squash cooled.  I used dried chilli flakes, which worked well, and just spooned on the lemon juice after arranging the squash ribbons on a platter. 

 

Courgette Salad with Green Onions, Mint, Chilli, Lemon, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef

Slice 6 courgettes and/or yellow summer squash lengthways, as thin as you can (I used my beloved, new mandoline). Grill on a red-hot griddle pan, or on the barbecue, until lightly charred on each side. Scatter the slices over a large plate, making sure you don’t sit them on top of each other otherwise they’ll steam and go limp. No one likes a limp courgette.  I put them on a layer of paper towel, to absorb any excess oil or moisture. Grill the onions at the same time. While they’re still warm, sprinkle with a pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  

Arrange the squash ribbons on a platter. 

Sprinkle with flaked red pepper, or deseeded, chopped fresh red pepper.  Both work well. 

Finely chopped, fresh garlic is also good with grilled summer squashes (although I left this out tonight).  

Coarsely chop and sprinkle a handful of fresh mint (dried mint would also work, although not my first choice),  drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil (if desired), and a squeeze of lemon. 

I knew it was good when there was none left.

 

Grilled Courgette Salad with Mint, Chilli, and Lemon

Grilled Courgette Salad with Mint, Chilli, and Lemon

 

Until tomorrow, 

Myrtle.

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Did you have to clean your plate when you were a child?  

I grew up in a house with rules of this nature.  We were served portions and had to eat everything, whether we liked it, or not.  There were consequences if we didn’t; serious consequences.  Children who were allowed to be picky, not eating all their food, were spoiled, ruined, which was a bad thing, apparently.  My brother is a lovely man, who still hates and refuses to eat his peas to this day. 

It is not my desire to bring up debatable practices of previous generations, only to briefly mention the types of food we ate in our house when I was a child.  Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, hot dogs, Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereals, bologna and Wonder Bread.  We rarely had anything fresh, other than seasonal fruit.  It was mostly highly processed food, full of chemicals, sodium, msg, and, dubious forms fat.  Who remembers Vienna Sausages in their diminutive, pull top tins? Or deviled meat? It was the same fare that everyone we knew ate, this was the norm. 

Are we smarter now?  That, too, is a debate into which I don’t care to enter.  I only want to point out that if children are presented with freshly prepared foods on a regular basis,  it is amazing what they will eat.  I saw a different view of family eating whilst living in Turkey, where families generally eat together and there is little, if any, processed food. You can’t miss what you never had. I have tried to incorporate some of those principles into my own lifestyle. I don’t buy much convenience food. Both my children eat salads and fruit, happily.  One hates fresh tomatoes, the other dislikes raw carrots, but I overlook this, as, overall, they eat well, with little complaint.  

Before you think that I am completely sanctimonious, let it be known that my favourite food is, and has always been, pepperoni pizza.  We eat it and love it.  But, the kids and I know that it is a treat food, not a staple.  

Anyway, on with a recipe for one of my family’s favourite staples – Garlic Yogurt with Parsley. Those of you who know us, know that we eat this with everything, including a fork straight out of a bowl. 

Before you recoil in horror, trust me, it is delicious.  Little One has been known to eat it for breakfast.  I first had it in Turkey, where is is served nightly with fresh bread which is very similar to crusty French or Italian bread (made with water and few preservatives, and goes stale quickly).  It is very easy to make.

I favour Fage Greek yogurt, which is very thick and has good flavour and similar to the yogurt in Turkey.  I sometimes combine the low fat with full fat, or use the 2% on it’s own.  It all tastes good.  

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Garlic Yogurt with Parsley (Sarmisakli Maydonozli Haydari)

1 tub of Greek yogurt  (500g)

2-4 cloves of Garlic (depends on size and strength)

1 bunch of flat leaf Parsley, washed, dried, destemmed, and finely chopped (or, put the parsley leaves in a mug and cut with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors). 

Salt 

Crush the garlic into the yogurt and mix well. Remember that it will develop, so be cautious the first time you make this.  We like it strong, and therefore use a lot of garlic. Stir in the chopped parsley and salt to taste.  Leave it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

It is delicious with fresh, French bread,  pita breads, toasted breads, potato wedges, felafels, as a dip, the list goes on and on. 

It is traditionally served in a low dish, with a tiny swirl of good olive oil on top.  

Of course, you can vary it to your taste.  It’s nice with a touch of crushed chilli pepper, chilli oil, or other flavoured oils.  Finely chopped green onions and/or dill also work well. 

Another lovely thing about this dish is that it keeps for days in the refrigerator.  

I hope you like it. 

Afiyet olsun, 

Myrtle.

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