Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spicy Summer Squash Soup

I apologize for being so slack on posting recently!  I've been so inundated with food, it's been hard to keep up with everything.  I've often been cooking three or four dishes at a time and when I get to the end, I realize that I totally forgot to take pictures along the way.  The photography is still lacking...but hopefully I'll get better one day!

This recipe is adapted from one that I found in this month's edition of Whole Living magazine.  The original recipe does not call for jalapenos, but I have a bunch of peppers in my garden right now, and this was a perfect opportunity use one!  I actually used a type of pepper called Biker Billy, which is supposedly hotter than a jalapeno.  I also left the seeds in, so that made it hotter.  So if you like hot stuff, add one or two jalapenos (or other type of pepper).  If you're looking for something more bland, skip the pepper entirely and it should be fine.
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro stems + cilantro for garnish
  • 3 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 jalapeno (optional if you don't like spicy food, or feel free to add more if you like spicy!)
  • 5 summer squash
  • 3 cups water
  • Juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat oil and cook chopped onion for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, cilantro stems and coriander and cook about two minutes longer. 

2.  Add chopped squash and chopped jalapeno and cook for a minute or two.  Add water and a few pinches of salt.  Depending on the size of your squash, you may need to add more or less water (make sure it is just over the top of the squash).  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

3.  Remove from heat.  Add juice from one and a half limes, and salt and pepper to taste. 

4.  Blend (Note: If you don't have a hand blender, make sure that's next on your list to purchase.  They are awesome and will make this recipe a lot easier!  If you have a regular blender, make sure the soup has cooled a bit and don't fill it all the way when you blend.  But really, get a hand blender!  The Cuisinart ones double as a mini food processor and are so handy!).

5.  Garnish with cilantro.  Soup can be served hot or cold.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Squash Tacos

Summer squash seems to be hitting it's peak right now, and I've had more than I know what to do with most weeks.  I stumbled across this recipe and thought it was worth trying out.  It wasn't my favorite squash recipe ever, but I suppose if I had taken the time to make corn tortillas from scratch as the recipe suggests, it would have been better.  But, I didn't have that kind of time, so organic tortillas from Whole Foods had to suffice (I'm breaking my rule of not eating food that comes from packages more often than I would like recently, ugh).  There are no lovely pictures of the squash in the tortillas because they totally fell apart.  Flour tortillas may have been a better choice, but I have to stick with corn to avoid gluten.  Just make sure you don't get too much of the liquid in the tortillas and you should be fine. 

Fresh organic squash from the CSA
  • 4-6 yellow crookneck squash
  • 1 cup of fresh dill, minced
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt/pepper
  • chopped kale or other green
1.  Cut squash into small diced bits. 

2.  Combine with minced red onion, shallot and kale over medium heat with the olive oil and vinegar. Coat and stir until you get a bit of steam going, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in dill, mustard, and salt and pepper.

3.  Mix feta into the squash mixture and toss with a bit more salt and pepper.

Health Benefits

I found these tidbits about dill here:

1. Dill can be use as a digestive aid. The dietary fiber is believed to calm an upset stomach, reduce acid reflux, and prevent diarrhea. If you need a little help in this area, toss some fresh dill on your salad.

2. When dill leaves are the brightest green they have the strongest ability to fight free radicals. These are environmental toxins found in such things as second-hand smoke and air pollution. Reducing the amount of free radicals you are exposed to is linked to preventing hair and skin damage, heart disease, and a range of cancers.

3. Surprisingly dill has been used for centuries in preventing bacterial overgrowth. Like its pungent friend, garlic, dill is a natural antibiotic. Maybe the stronger an herb smells, the higher the antibacterial properties? That's something to look into later. What is for sure is that chewing on some dill seeds helps prevent bad breath by fighting bacteria. Conversely, chewing on garlic will most definitely not help halitosis.

4. As great plant-based source of calcium, dill promotes bone and tooth health. Be sure to pair this with a generous helping of Vitamin D from (safe) exposure to sunshine to beef up the bone benefits.

5. The seeds and essentials oils have long been used as a calming aid and a cure for insomnia. A tea steeped of warm water and dill seeds is said to calm a colicky baby. And for adults dill is traditionally used in conjunction with chamomile to promote a restful night sleep.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zucchini Noodles with Tofu and Tangy Peanut Sauce

I got this great recipe suggestion from my pal Christine.  It turned out really well!  We've been getting a ton of squash and zucchini from the CSA, so I'm always looking for creative ways to use it.  I used tofu instead of chicken, but if you eat meat, I'm sure this would be good with chicken too.

Recently, my friend Wendi reminded me that olive oil becomes toxic when you heat it.  It's really intended for dressings and things of that nature, so I  have made the switch to grape seed oil.  I actually like it a lot better and I like the idea of avoiding toxins whenever I can.  So feel free to use olive oil or another kind of oil in place of the grape seed oil if toxins don't bother you.

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon of grape seed oil
  • 4-6 medium-sized zucchini and summer squash
  • 2 large carrots
  • About 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
  • About 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
Peanut Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter 
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic (or more)
  • 1/2-1 tsp granulated sugar (depending on taste) 
  • At least 1/4 cup water (add 1-2 more tablespoons depending on texture)

1.  Cut your tofu into small pieces and begin to cook (Note: I've always struggled with cooking tofu.  I added a small amount of grape seed oil to a pan over very low heat.  I kept the tofu cooking the entire time I was making the rest of the dish, flipping it every few minutes to prevent the tofu from sticking.  It turned out very crispy and good!)
2. Next, make the peanut sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Start by adding 1/4 cup water as the recipe suggests, and if the sauce is too thick for your taste, add additional tablespoons water to reach desired consistency.
3. Lastly, prepare the zucchini, squash, and carrot ribbons by using a mandoline or by using a peeler designed to julienne vegetables. If using the peeler, hold the stem end of the squash in one hand and drag the peeler from the top to the bottom to create the ribbons. Julienne all the vegetables, keeping the carrots separate from the squash and zucchini. 
Carrots from the CSA
Squash and zucchini from the CSA too!
 4. Briefly blanch the vegetables in a pot of boiling water by adding the carrots first for about 2-3 minutes, and then adding the zucchini and squash for another 1-2 minutes (it gets tender very quickly). Drain the hot water, immediately add cold water to stop the cooking, and once the vegetables have cooled, drain the water again.  (It is really important to make sure all the water is drained out or your dish will be a soggy mess)
5. Assemble the dish by putting some of the vegetable ribbons on a plate and topping them with the tofu, then the peanut sauce, and chopped cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature, but can also be served cool (if you would like to refrigerate ingredients before serving).
Topped with cilantro from the CSA as well

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Garden Update

I've been bad about posting recently, but wanting to share a quick garden update!  Things are starting to grow like crazy.  I harvested my first squash this past weekend, which was pretty exciting.

Garden #1.  Squash, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Tomatillas!  This is one I started inside from seed.  I can't believe how big it has gotten!
Also super excited to see how much my tomatoes have grown.  I also started these inside from seed so that makes it even more fun to watch grow.
Cucumbers starting to grow like crazy.  Put a fence up for them to climb on this weekend.  You can't even see the cilantro that is growing between them.  So far, the cilantro has been great at keeping pests away.  I hope I'm not jinxing myself, but there isn't the slightest evidence of bugs or anything.

Tomatoes will be ready to harvest soon
And now we come to the sad part of my garden update.  My squash seems to have been invaded by squash borers :(  These are nasty little suckers that kill your squash.  A number of my squash plants have died, and some look to be on their way out soon.  The thing that is really tricky is that they get into the stem of the plant, but you can't tell until they have already damaged it and the plant is starting to die.
Rough looking squash that I planted too close together.
A pretty squash blossom!
Patty pan squash, my favorite!

Baby zucchini
Yellow crookneck squash.
Onions, peppers and brussel sprouts

A random smattering of plants I planted too close together.  I had some leftover tomato seedlings that I didn't want to throw away, so I planted five of them and they have grown like crazy in a week.  Also some heirloom plants that I bought at the Clemson farmers market.  And then I learned about cross pollination, woops.
More peppers!

Poblano peppers
Thai chile peppers ready to be harvested.

That's all for now.  We're supposed to get a bunch of rain this week, so hopefully it will help my garden grow even more!  If anyone has any organic suggestions about dealing with the squash bugs, let me know!