My friend Susie lives here in Murphys but also lives in Santa Barbara half the time. She put her garden in a couple of weeks ago and then headed south for awhile. She asked me to check on how things were growing and take anything that I wanted...what a nice offer. I headed over to check out the bounty, only to find that the bugs were having a party and the only thing I could grab was a big, beautiful, fat summer squash. Okay, fine, I can use this! When I got home, I went to check out Annie's (in my back yard) garden and found a couple of golden zucchini, perfect. I had seen a recipe for a squash gratin in Food and Wine magazine that I wanted to try, it looked so interesting the way the squash were arranged. I changed a few things about it but the result is still the stunning, summer casserole that will delight your friends and family. Oh, and it tastes pretty good too. Take THAT bugs!
Summer Squash Bake
1/4 c extra virgen olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters, sliced thinly
1 t sugar
1/4 white wine
6 pieces of summer squash, zucchini, yellow crookneck, striped globe, any combo will work, cut lengthwise into 1/8" slices, use a *mandoline for best results
1 c grated sharp white cheddar (you could sub gruyere or other tangy, sharp cheese)
6 - 8 baby tomatoes cut in half
sea salt and pepper
2 T parmesan to sprinkle on top
a few leaves of basil torn for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat 2T of the olive oil in a skillet and add the onions, a bit of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook until soft and slightly browned. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook for a minute more. Pour the wine over and cook for a couple of minutes more until the wine has evaporated. Place the onions in a gratin dish or shallow pie plate distributing evenly.
Slice the squash lengthwise on a mandoline and place on a sheet pan. Brush with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the grated cheese over and let sit for about 5 minutes to soften. Take a piece of squash and roll it up, setting it on the caramelized onions. Repeat with the remaining slices of squash working outward from the center until you reach the edge of the dish. Tuck the tomatoes in between the squash at various places. Whatever cheese is left on the baking sheets, just add that to the top of the bake. Bake for 30 minutes and then run under the broiler for a few minutes if it isn't browned enough. Sprinkle with parmesan and torn basil. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.
* a mandoline is invaluable in my kitchen and should be in yours too. They are available on line for about $25. I have had mine forever and it stays super sharp so be careful!
Lately, a few friends have been asking me for my tuna salad recipe, the one we used to make at Alchemy Market and Wine Bar and Wren Café. I don't blame them, it is different and delicious. It is also really simple. I think it's absolutely a summer picnic staple. I am happy to share this recipe because I know you will love it so much! Serve as a salad on lightly dressed greens with arugula and avocado or as a sandwich. It's great on country style bread or, (Alchemy style) on a croissant with alfalfa sprouts and avocado. You can also eat it like I do, on buttered crostini right out of the mixing bowl. YUM.
Dilled Tuna Salad
1 5 oz can albacore tuna, drained
2 T red onion, cut in 1/4" dice
2 T celery, cut in 1/4" dice
1 T dill, chopped finely
pinch of salt & a few grinds of pepper
1 T capers
1/4 c Best Foods mayonnaise
Mix the tuna with the onion, celery, dill, capers, salt and pepper and mayo. Chill for an hour or so. Serves 2.
My children are coming home this weekend for a visit. I have not seen my son, Alex, for six months, I miss him terribly. My daughter, Lily, has not been home to Murphys since her birthday in March, it's time to come to Mama! They are coming home to attend the wedding of a good friend and also for Father's Day. We are planning a get together with their Dad on Sunday. I imagine the kids will cook something (they are quite good in the kitchen) but a favorite dish of their Dad's is eggplant parmesan. I am going to surprise him with this rendition. It is quite easy...no salting the eggplant or getting out the frying pan to make a mess. Just a simple peel, slice and dip of these purple beauties and into the oven to brown before the final assembly. I am even using 'really good' but bottled tomato sauce, I told you this was easy. By the time your eggplant from the garden start to come in, you will have this recipe down.
Easy Eggplant Parmesan Bake
Olive oil, for baking sheets
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 large eggplants (2 1/2 pounds total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
6 cups (48 ounces) store-bought chunky tomato sauce or homemade
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper. Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 25 minutes, then turn slices and continue baking until browned on other side, 20 minutes more. Remove from oven; turn up the oven to 400 degrees. Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Now that the weather is warming up, it's time to break out the 'these go down way too easy' summer cocktails. A couple of weeks back, after I posted the watermelon caprese salad recipe, I found myself with more watermelon than I could eat so...I cut it up and put it in the blender with some fresh mint from the garden. Mixed with frozen lemonade and vodka, it made a surprisingly easy, delicious and refreshing drink, pretty too! It would even taste great sans alcohol, or with tequila!
6 cups of watermelon chunks
1 can Minute Maid (or other brand but I like MM) frozen Lemonade
2 cans water
6 fresh mint leaves
Put all in a blender and purée. Pour over ice and add a healthy shot of vodka (or tequila). Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a lemon slice. Makes enough for about 8.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"