July 26, 2015 Cauliflower “Alfredo” Sauce

DSC_3786aCauliflower is the vegetable master of disguise. We love it cut into florets or “steaks”  roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper and chow down on it like popcorn. It makes a satisfying substitute for mashed potatoes, and chopped finely it can replace couscous or other grains in some recipes. So my ears perked up the other day when I heard yet another way to use cauliflower.

If I am at home in the early afternoon I will turn on “The Chew”, a television program that has been described as “The View” for foodies. A recipe that caught my attention recently was a side by side comparison of traditional  Alfredo sauce, prepared by Iron Chef and restauranteur Michael Symon, with a “lightened up” version of the sauce, made by natural foods chef and author, Daphne Oz.

Michael and Daphne’s sauces start out with same five ingredients, shallots, parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, parsley and butter. As Michael pointed out, he learned from fellow chef Mario Batali, traditional Alfredo sauce in Italy is butter, a little bit of the pasta water and Parmesan cheese.  It does not include heavy cream, an American addition to the dish. Michael and Daphne both added shallots to their sauce, also not traditional but adding an additional smoky sweet note to the sauce.

Here is where the recipes diverge. Michael’s traditional version of the sauce used one whole stick of butter and a cup of Parmesan cheese. Although Daphne’s recipe did include a quarter of the amount of the butter and cheese in Michael’s recipe, most of the velvety texture came from, you guessed it, cauliflower. She boiled cauliflower in milk and pureed it to make the base for the sauce. Cauliflower acted as a binder and gave the sauce it’s smoothness.

This was a recipe I had to try for myself. The recipe starts with four cups of cauliflower florets and a cup of milk added to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until fork tender, about 10-12 minutes. Strain out the cauliflower pieces and add to a blender, then add milk and butter. To make this a non-dairy preparation use almond milk and a butter substitute like Earth Balance.  Puree the ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

Shallots are sauteed in olive oil until softened and the pan is deglazed with a little white wine. Add the cauliflower puree to the pan and loosen the sauce with a little water or milk. Freshly grated Parmesan, nutmeg and a little chopped parsley are the finishing touches to the sauce. Both Daphne and Michael used fettucine noodles for their finished dish. Since we have eating our share of zucchini “noodles” this summer, I thought this would be another way to use them. I took zucchini noodles, added them to a saute pan to reduce as much liquid as possible and warm them up a bit.  I only cook them for a few minutes  since I still want them to retain a litttle crunch.

The sauce holds well and if you are going to make it, double up, use the whole head of cauliflower and freeze some for later use. I’m also thinking of using this as a substitute for bechamel sauce in my moussaka once the eggplants start rolling in.  As Daphne said, this is a sauce that will let you indulge without the guilt.



Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Serves six


  • 4c cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 1 c milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2T butter
  • 1-2T olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced (about ¼c)
  • ½c white wine
  • ¼c finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼t freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Put the cauliflower and the milk in a large saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Note:milk will not cover the cauliflower.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer , cover and cook until fork tender, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted utensil, transfer the cauliflower to a blender. Add the milk and butter and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly tender.
  5. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce liquid by half, 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the cauliflower puree to the pan, if sauce is too thick, add a little water or milk.
  7. Add freshly ground nutmeg and stir in the Parmesan.


July 23, 2015 Zucchini Pesto Frittata

DSC_3760aIf you’re like me and not always in the mood to cook something when you get up in the morning for breakfast, but still want a little something to eat, a frittata is a great choice. Made the day before, they warm up quickly and also taste good at room temperature.  But frittatas aren’t just for breakfast, they make a nice lunch, light supper, sliced thin as an hors d’oeurve or anytime you just want a little nibble. This time of year they are a great way to showcase farm fresh eggs and produce.

For this recipe I chose the smallest zucchini I could find in the garden. Since their seed pods are still underdeveloped, they have a sweet nutty quality to them. I wanted very thin slices rather than shreds which is the usual method of preparation. Slice by hand, or for real uniformity, I used the 2mm slicing disk on the food processor. Larger zucchini should be shredded and salted then squeezed dry before adding to the frittata. If you skip that step, when you cook the zucchini you essentially will be steaming, not sauteing it. A couple of tablespoons of a chopped fresh herb is a welcome addition to a frittata, but since I had just made some, I opted for pesto, a delcious addition to this dish.

A 10″ non stick skillet with an oven safe handle is essential for this recipe. Begin by cooking the zucchini until it releases some liquid and the slices start to brown and become tender, this should take about 5-6 minutes. Set the pan aside.

Preheat your oven’s broiler and place a rack in the upper middle position. Beat the eggs and Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl.  Stir in pesto and the cooked zucchini. Add the rest of the oil to the empty skillet and heat to medium. Add zucchini-egg mixture and cook for 4-5 minutes, frittata will look set around the edges. Move the skillet to the broiler and leave a potholder on the oven door, that handle will get hot. I set a timer now for 90 second intervals. It took about 2 intervals for the frittata to get brown, which translates to about 4 minutes.

Using the potholder, remove frittata from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.Run spatula around the edge of the skillet to loosen the frittata. You can serve the frittata warm right from the skillet, or slide unto a platter for a prettier presentation.


Zucchini Pesto Frittata

Serves 4


  • 2T olive oil
  • 1 1/3 lbs. of very small zucchini, washed and ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2T pesto or freezer pesto, thawed with cheese added
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3T grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2t olive oil



  1. Heat broiler.
  2. Slice trimmed zucchini by hand or with the thinnest slicing blade of the food processor.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Beat six large eggs with 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Stir in pesto and cooked zucchini into beaten eggs.
  5. Heat additional 2 teaspoons oil in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, pesto and egg mixture; cook until frittata is almost set, 4-5 minutes.
  6. Slide skillet until the broiler and cook until frittata is set and the top is browned.
  7. Serve directly from the skillet or flip unto serving plate. Serve hot or at room temperature.
The seed pods are not developed yet in baby zucchini.
The seed pods are not developed yet in baby zucchini.





July 17, 2015 Pesto for Seasons Without Basil

DSC_3686aWhether you’ve grown it from seed or purchased your plants at the local home improvement store, those basil plants in your garden are loving the warm temperatures and rain we have been receiving recently. It’s about now that your basil plants have probably sent out spikes of tiny white flowers. Since basil is a true annual, when allowed to flower the plant will go to seed, the leaves will become bitter and your plant will eventually die off.  Now is the time to begin harvesting basil leaves.

As soon as you see that your basil is flowering, pinch them off so the energy in the plant stays diverted to foliage growth. Cutting back your basil plants regularly  encourages full, bushy plants. To harvest, cut leaves from the top of the plant, pinch out the top of the stem. This should include small new leaves or a flower stalk and a pair of full sized leaves growing below the tip.

My favorite thing to do with the basil harvest is to make pesto. We have pesto with pasta, as a sauce for vegetables or chicken, as a dip, on pizza, the possibilities are limitless. But, at least in our climate, as soon as the first frost comes, basil  is the first victim, the leaves of the plant will turn black and wither. It’s now that you should start preserving that classic taste of summer with freezer pesto.

I have been making this recipe for years now from a classic cookbook of the eighties, Fancy Pantry. Written by former food editor and a three time winner of the Tastemaker award, Helen Witty, Fancy Pantry is a collection of recipes subtitled, “Well preserved, prettily pickled, candied, brandied, potted, bottled, sun dried and otherwise put-by elegant edibles”. My well worn copy attests to it’s usefulness and I recommend it highly.

Mrs Witty attributes this recipe to the late Marcella Hazan. Long before there was Lidia and Mario, there was Marcella.  Marcella Hazan was a cookbook author and authority on Italian cooking. My introduction to Italian cooking came through her classic volume, The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating and it’s subsequent follow up, More Classic Italian Cooking. My cookbooks written by Mrs. Hazan fall open naturally now to recipes I used countless times. I appreciated her clear and concise recipes written in a voice that was both warm and encouraging.

Her pesto recipe is quite straightforward; mix all the ingredients, basil, pinenuts, garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a blender. Seal tightly and freeze pesto in one cup jars. The cheese or butter as she suggests, should be added right before using it. Most modern recipes call for just Parmesan cheese in pesto. Marcella points out that in Genoa, where pesto originated, they use equal quantities of Parmesan and a special, mildly tangy sheep’s milk Pecorino cheese from Sardinia .  That cheese was not available to American cooks when the book was written, back in the seventies. I found several online sources that sell it now.  Her solution to the problem then was to use 3 parts Parmesan to 1 part Romano and suggests to adjust this to taste. She states, “a well rounded pesto is never made with all Parmesan or all pecorino”. Point taken.

I make my pesto in 2 cup batches and freeze in one cup glass canning jars with the amount of cheese needed to finish the recipe written on the lid. Plastic freezer containers are fine as well. When I purchase any nuts, I buy from bulk containers and store them in the freezer until I am ready to use them. They thaw quickly and freezing nuts prevents them from going rancid quickly. I often substitute walnuts for the pine nuts, since the more delicately flavored Mediterrannean variety are sold at one local market for 12.99 for four ounces! When Marcella was writing her book, the food processor was still years away from being a commonplace kitchen item.  The question for her was whether to make pesto in a blender or with the classic mortar and pestle. She recommends and I concur that everyone should try to make pesto at least once with the mortar and pestle “because of the greater character of the texture and its indubitably richer flavor.”

But Marcella was a practical cook and felt blender pesto was so good that it could be enjoyed “with a clear conscience” whenever there wasn’t time or patience to make pesto in a mortar and pestle. Of course, fresh pesto is always the best but as Marcella said, “since fresh basil has a brief season and pesto keeps quite well in the freezer”, I am going to make enough pesto now to satisfy all those out of season cravings.



Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Makes about 2 cups


  • Freshly picked basil, rinsed, leaves stripped off and blotted dry, gently packed down to measure 3 cups
  • ¾ to 1 cup of a good quality olive oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, or more to taste, peeled and chopped
  • 3T pine nuts or coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • ½ to 1 t salt, or to taste
  • At the time of use: Parmesan and Romano cheese


  1. Combine everything except the cheese in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Turn the motor on and off rapidly, scraping down the sides of the container once or twice, to process the pesto to the texture you like, some prefer smooth, others, a fine chopped mixture.
  2. Pack the pesto into small freezer containers such as straight sided half pint canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headroom to permit expansion. Seal the containers and store in the freezer.
  3. To use the pesto: Thaw the amount you’ll need in the refrigerator, if time permits. A cupful is enough for 4-5 servings of pasta. Blend your cheese into the thawed pesto, adding 3-4 tablespoons freshly grated cheese to each cup of sauce. Check the seasoning of the mixture, you may want more salt, depending on the saltiness of the cheese. Use in the recipe of your choice.






July 11, 2015 Turkey Zucchini Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

DSC_3563aThis year, after the holidays I was on the hunt for interesting healthy, flavorful recipes. I found just what I was looking for in turkey zucchini meatballs. The original recipe was for turkey and zucchini burgers from chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi’s beautiful book, Jerusalem. Just like all the other recipes I have tried of his, the results were delicious.. It was easy enough to adjust the size of the original slider sized burgers to make into meatballs instead. Grated zucchini gives the typical ground turkey meatball the additional moisture that it needs.  Since zucchini is 95% water, it is very important to squeeze all of the excess moisture out of the shredded zucchini so the mixture holds together well.  The turkey and zucchini are combined with fresh cilantro and mint, along with garlic, cumin and spicy cayenne pepper to give them a little kick.  I served them as suggested with a sauce of Greek yogurt, lemon and sumac. At that time in the middle of a cold snowy January I was bemoaning the fact that I had to buy the zucchini and the herbs and if it were July, well, those ingredients would be from our garden.

It’s July now and I remembered to make the turkey zucchini meatballs again, this time with our fresh picked zucchini and herbs from the garden. Back in January  I also thought it would be a good summertime variation on the recipe to serve the meatballs with tomato sauce and zucchini “noodles”. Our zucchini vines are producing like mad, I am picking four to six zucchini and yellow squash a day. That doesn’t count the ones that hide under the large leaves and turn into baseball bats!

To make the “pasta” choose straight sided zucchini or yellow squash, preferably of a medium size in diameter, the longer the better. My tool of choice for making the strands is the Kuhn Rikon stainless steel julienne peeler. Steady the zucchini with one hand, start at the top, press the teeth of the peeler into the flesh and pull down. Keep shredding on all sides until you reach the seedy interior. Place the strands in a bowl and separate the strands that stick together with your fingers. I lightly salt my pile of “pasta” to extrude any excess liquid.  I cook the strands in a saute pan, just long enough to warm them up a little and evaporate any additional excess liquid. I still want my zucchini to have a little crunch. If you prefer you can serve the meatballs with the pasta of your choice.

Our tomatoes are just starting to come in now, not quite enough to start making sauce. Until then I will use a good quality store brand. I like to warm the sauce and add the meatballs that I have kept warm after cooking them. Next time I will adjust the herbs in the meatballs for this dish, I think basil and a little oregano would complement the sauce and zucchini noodles nicely.



I love the different varieties of zucchini and squash we grow.
This time I had our own zucchini and herbs for the meatballs. I substituted baby shallots for the green onions.
This time I had our own zucchini and herbs for the meatballs. I substituted baby shallots for the green onions.


Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs

Serves 4-6

Makes 18-20 meatballs

Ingredients for Meatballs

  • 1lb ground turkey, I used a 93/7 lean to fat ratio
  • 2c grated zucchini-wrung out in a clean tea towel to remove excess moisture
  • 3 scallions, white and green, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2T chopped mint
  • 2T chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1t ground cumin
  • 1t table salt
  • 1/2t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2t cayenne pepper
  • about 1/8c of a neutral cooking oil, canola, safflower
  • 3-4 cups of your favorite tomato sauce, warmed


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the meatballs, except the cooking oil. Mix well with your hands. Shape into 2″ balls. Place meatballs on a well greased baking sheet to ready for cooking. Pour enough oil into a large heavy frying pan to form a layer about 1/16 inch thick on the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat until oil is shimmering, sear the meatballs in batches on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes adding oil as needed, until browned.
  2. Transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve warm with tomato sauce

Ingredients for Zucchini “Noodles”

  • 3-4 large straight sided zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • Kosher salt
I like making shreds with the julienne peeler, you could make them in a food processor with the shredding disk or a spiralizer tool I have seen in supermarkets.
I like making shreds with the julienne peeler, you could make them in a food processor with the shredding disk or a spiralizer tool I have seen in supermarkets.


  1. Wash and trim zucchini and/or squash. Cut stem and root end off. On a cutting board, steady your squash with one hand and shred with a julienne peeler. Start at the top, press the teeth of the peeler into the squash and pull all the way down.
  2. Shred on all sides of the squash until you reach the seeds. Repeat with the rest of the squash. Place the strands in a very large bowl, separate the strands that stick together and salt evenly. Let sit for 10 minutes to extrude any excess water.
  3. Over medium heat cook the strands in a large sauté pan to warm up the squash and remove any excess water.



July 7, 2015 Buttermilk Broccoli Basil Soup


When I first started cooking in the eighties, supermarkets sold broccoli with both the crown and stem, usually two pieces joined together with a thick rubber band. Back then I would whack off the stems and use the florets for stir fries and rich broccoli cheddar soup. The stems were sentenced to the compost heap or the garbage pail. Like most home cooks, I didn’t realize the stems were edible and had no idea how to cook them.

Because of my interest in Chinese cooking I discovered a recipe that changed the way I looked at using broccoli.  It was a recipe for jasmine fried rice that called for peeled and diced broccoli stems.  I admit I was dubious at first, but the delicate texture and sweet flavor the stems brought to the dish won me over. Now the problem became finding broccoli with the stem. Over the course of time the crown and stem combination was replaced with just broccoli crowns, sold at a higher price.  Like me, consumers wanted just the crowns, so the supermarkets responded in kind.  Broccoli crowns became the norm, coming at a premium price per pound.

Fast forward to the last several years, with the advent of farmers markets, food co-ops and the rising popularity of home gardens, the broccoli stem has reappeared. In the spirit of nose to tail cooking, using virtually the entirety of an animal,  chefs are now embracing root to stem cooking, using as much of the vegetable as possible. Why not use broccoli stems? The main stem is entirely edible.  They have the same nutritional value as the crowns or florets with even more fiber.  I have found recipes using the stem for everything from salads to stir fries to roasted chips.

The original recipe for this soup called for broccoli florets only.  I used the florets in another dish and in the spirit of root to stem cooking, thought the stems would work well in a soup. I sliced the stem into bite sized pieces to yield 5 cups. The sliced broccoli stems and shallots are sauteed in butter or oil. A little sherry boosts the flavors and the vegetables are simmered in either chicken or vegetable broth. Since they are more fibrous, broccoli stems should be cooked a little longer than the florets.  You can either peel the stems first or put the mixture through a food mill after pureeing to obtain the smoothest texture.  Thin the soup with buttermilk and garnish with mini basil leaves. Our warm temperatures called for a cold soup but this would be good warm as well.

I used five cups of bite sized broccoli stem pieces.
I used five cups of bite sized broccoli stem pieces.


Broccoli Basil Soup

Serves four


  • 2T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or 3 medium shallots
  • 2T dry sherry
  • 5c broccoli stems or flowerets or a combination of both, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2½c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1c low fat buttermilk
  • 2T fresh finely minced basil leaves


  1. Heat butter or oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion or shallot and sauté until golden, about five minutes.
  2. Add sherry and broccoli, stir cook until sherry evaporates, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste to saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until broccoli is tender, flowerets will take about 10 minutes, stems only, 20 minutes.
  4. Ladle broccoli mixture into blender. Blend until very smooth, using a little of the buttermilk if needed. If using stems, place mixture through a food mill for the finest texture. Stir in the rest of the buttermilk.
  5. If serving hot, return soup to saucepan; cook over low heat until warmed through. If soup is too thick, stir in additional buttermilk to thin consistency. Adjust seasonings. If serving cold, refrigerate soup for several hours, taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Soup can be refrigerated for three days and either served cold or reheated just before serving. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with minced basil or whole mini basil leaves and serve immediately.


July 3, 2015 Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

DSC_3357aMy original idea for this post was to make a salad, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. Freshly harvested broccoli and carrots are tossed with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and my favorite ingredient to add to the roasting mix, aleppo pepper. Aleppo pepper, as I have mentioned before in a previous post is one of my favorite new ingredients of the past several years. It is dark red in color, flaky and somewhat oily in texture. It’s flavor profile is rich, sweet and fruity with hints of cumin.  Aleppo’s heat profile is moderate, only just a little hotter than paprika.

Begin by cutting your vegetables in relatively uniform pieces; in this case; the broccoli in individual florets and carrots in one inch lengths so they will roast in the same time as the broccoli.  Remember that vegetables shrink when roasting so always cook more than what you might if you were steaming or sautéing.

Although some recipes have you do it right in the pan, vegetables are more evenly oiled and seasoned in a bowl . Use just enough oil to give an even coating, about two tablespoons for this quantity should be enough. Season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper and whatever herb you might choose. In addition to Aleppo pepper, I have used paprika, chipotle pepper, cumin, thyme, it all depends on what compliments your vegetables best.

Roasting should always be done on a large shallow sided sheet pan. The ones I use are called “half size” and have a 18″x13″ dimension. They are relatively inexpensive and available in most big box stores. I consider them indispensible and have about a dozen from my catering days. Using a pan or baking dish with high sides will cause them to steam rather that roast because of the high water content of vegetables.

Give the vegetables room for roasting, everything should be in a single layer on the pan with a little room between each piece. I like to roast on a relatively high heat, 425°F to 450°F to insure they will caramelize on the outside and be nice and tender on the inside.  I like to stir or shake the pan every five minutes or so to roast every surface.  Time may vary for desired doneness, that’s why I check them frequently. The larger your pieces are, the longer it will take them to cook.

For a finishing touch to my roasted vegetables I added some cashews and a little fresh cilantro. In this case, simple was the best.



Cut vegetables into uniform pieces and spread out evenly on a sheet pan.

Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

Serves 2-3


  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets chopped off the stalk, about 6-7 cups
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in half and into 1″ lengths
  • 2-3T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3t kosher salt
  • 2t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1t Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4c unsalted cashews
  • 1/4c cilantro leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.In a large bowl, toss the vegetables together with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Transfer vegetables to a large sheet pan, spreading them out evenly.
  3. Roast vegetables, shaking the pan every five minutes or so to be certain all surfaces are roasted. My vegetables were very fresh and took about 15 minutes total to cook. Your time may vary.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl. Garnish with cashews and cilantro.