Breaded Zucchini and Squash

Inspiration: B’s mom cooks zucchini like this sometimes, and it’s something that we always enjoy when she makes it. She makes it a little differently than I did this time – cutting the zucchini and squash into thinner slices and using cornmeal as a breading – but the idea is the same. B just loves these, and now that I really love zucchini, I do too. We’ve been really into eating a lot of vegetables lately, and this was another great summer side dish.

What we Loved: These are crispy on the outside and super soft and hot on the inside, and I really love that contrast in textures. We’ve always eaten these just on their own in the past, but I served them this time with some marinara sauce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for dipping, which I really loved. These make for a wonderful side dish (I served them this time with a phyllo dough caprese tart), but I can also see them working as a great appetizer. Another great thing about this dish is that it’s so simple and easy to prepare, only using a few ingredients and taking a few minutes to cook.

Helpful Hints: I sliced the zucchini and squash about 1/4 inch thick, which made the insides really soft and incredibly hot when you bite into them. I really love that, but if you’d like something crispier and almost more like a chip, you can slice these much thinner. When B’s mom makes these, she uses cornmeal instead of bread crumbs, which is another great option for a slightly different flavor.

Breaded Zucchini and Squash
Source: Adapted from B’s mom

1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 small yellow squash, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Extra virgin olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup breadcrumbs, more if necessary
1/2 cup marinara sauce
Shredded Parmesan, for garnish

1. Place the beaten egg into a shallow bowl, and place the bread crumbs into a second shallow bowl. Dip the zucchini and squash slices into the egg, then dip them into the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place the slices onto a plate as they are breaded.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, enough to just coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and squash slices. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until browned.

3. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

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Vegetable Tian

Vegetable Tian

Inspiration: B’s parents have a huge garden with all kinds of wonderful produce, and they stocked us up with some great vegetables while we were visiting over the weekend. With my crisper drawer full of fresh zucchini, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and lettuce, I’ve been on the hunt for some great new recipes to try. This one was perfect!

What we Loved: Roasted vegetables of any kind are always delicious, and B and I loved the combination here of onions, zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes. The flavors were all so fresh and healthy, and I particularly liked the added flavor that came with a sprinkle of thyme. B really loves the sweetness of roasted tomatoes, and we both enjoyed the extra touch of flavor that came from just a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Parmesan has such a strong, nutty flavor that you really only need a bit, which keeps this side dish nice and healthy. I served this with some prosciutto-wrapped mahi-mahi for a guilt-free meal.

Helpful Hints: If you want this dish to be more of a gratin, you can add a nice coating of gruyere cheese to the top, as the original recipe states. We wanted this to be really healthy, so I just added a sprinkle of Parmesan, and we really loved it that way.  

Vegetable Tian
Source: Adapted from For the Love of Cooking, originally from Ina Garten

Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 small yellow squash, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2 small tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Kosher salt and black pepper
Thyme
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions, and cook until they begin to brown, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

2. Coat the bottom of a small baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread the onions evenly across the bottom of the dish.

3. Arrange the zucchini, squash, and tomato slices in a single layer atop the onions. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.

4. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the Parmesan cheese, and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or longer for more browning.

Cucumber Carrot Salad

Cucumber Carrot Salad

Inspiration: As is often the case when I’m adding vegetables to my meals, my inspiration lies in wanting to make sure that any leftover fresh produce that I have doesn’t go to waste. Last night, I needed to use some cucumbers and carrots before they went bad. Cucumbers aren’t my favorite vegetable, but I really do love them coated in vinegar for a tart, crispy salad. Carrots aren’t my favorite vegetable either, but when making these carrot-flecked dinner rolls, I found that throwing them in the food processor until they are finely minced allows them to be added to recipes without really adding a lot of carrot flavor. So I made this salad with a couple of my not-so-favorite ingredients, and it ended up being one of my favorite salads that I’ve recently made.

What we Loved: This is a fairly simple recipe, but I’ll restate how much I love the flavor combination of cucumbers and vinegar. Coated in vinegar, the cucumbers are sour, fresh, and light, and they’re perfect for a side dish on a warm evening.  This salad is also a completely guilt-free dish, as I can’t think of many ingredients that are healthier and less caloric than cucumbers and carrots. One of my favorite things, too, was how pretty the salad looked with the green cucumbers, the orange carrots, and the red onions. This recipe would be a perfect and easy-to-make side dish for a summer barbeque.

Helpful Hints: There really aren’t a whole lot of routes to take when making a simple recipe like this that would lead you astray. My only suggestion is to use red onions instead of white or yellow, because they make for a pretty dish. I also used red wine vinegar, solely because I wanted the pink color. It collected in the bottom of the serving dish, and it looked nice to drizzle over the salad when serving.

Cucumber Carrot Salad
Source: Original Recipe

1 English cucumber, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
Red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper
Dried dill

1. Add the carrot pieces to a food processor, and process until finely minced.

2. In a large bowl, add the cucumbers, carrots, and onions. Season to preference with salt, pepper, and dill. Pour a good portion of red wine vinegar over all of the ingredients (I like to use enough so that it pools in the bottom of the bowl), and mix well to combine.

3. Chill until ready to serve.

Sauteed Zucchini with Toasted Garlic and Lime

Sauteed Zucchini with Toasted Garlic and Lime

Inspiration: Over the weekend, I made Rick Bayless’ recipe for Mexican pork stew with smoky tomato sauce, potatoes, and avocado, and I thought that it might be nice to have a vegetable dish to go alongside. Bayless recommended this zucchini saute, so that’s what I decided to make.

What we Loved: This vegetable dish had an interesting combination of flavors. The combination of lime juice, parsley, and oregano as a dressing seemed odd to me, almost like a combination of Mexican and Greek flavors, but it really worked. In the end, the zucchini was very fresh and tart, and I loved the additional taste that came from the toasted garlic. The recipe uses five whole cloves of garlic, so the garlic flavor is fairly strong, which I loved. This was a nice and refreshing side dish alongside a heavy stew.

Helpful Hints: When cooking the zucchini, I found that it was helpful to arrange the zucchini cubes in a single layer in the pan and then let them cook without moving them, which helped to create a brown crust. I was a little rushed while making this dish, so at first I stirred the pan a little more than I should have. Next time, I would completely resist the urge to stir in order to allow the zucchini to brown more. If you don’t prefer parsley, cilantro would also work great in this dish.

Sauteed Zucchini with Toasted Garlic and Lime
Source: Rick Bayless, Authentic Mexican

1 large zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to season
Extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced
Juice from 1/2 small lime
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Place the zucchini cubes in a colander, and sprinkle with approximately 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Mix, and allow the zucchini to sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the zucchini, and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Heat a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute until browned, stirring often. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

3. Place the zucchini cubes in the pan, and cook until browned but still crisp, approximately 10 minutes. Stir sparingly, allowing the zucchini to brown before flipping.

4. Turn off the heat, and return the garlic to the pan. Add the lime juice, oregano, salt and pepper, and parsley. Mix well and serve.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

*Photo and Content Updated May 2012*

Inspiration: This past Sunday was one of those lazy, stay in bed watching TV mornings for me. I turned on the Food Network and was happy to catch some of my favorite shows (Giada, Barefoot Contessa, Bobby Flay) that I never seem to be able to watch anymore because they’ve all been replaced by endless hours of cake competitions. Ina Garten was preparing a caprese salad using roasted tomatoes, and they just looked so fabulous that I knew that I had to give them a try soon. I happened to have a bunch of tomatoes in the fridge last night and no other vegetable to serve with my lemon pesto swordfish, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to try these out.

What we Loved: These tomatoes had a lovely rich and sweet flavor. Not only does the balsamic vinegar contribute to that great sweetness, but roasting the tomatoes in the oven really just brings out their natural sugars. Combined with the savory elements of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese, we couldn’t get over how intensely flavorful these tasted. Warm, sweet, garlicy, and rich, a little bite of these tomatoes went perfectly atop a piece of swordfish with pesto and pinenuts.

Helpful Hints: This recipe is fairly straightforward, but I will say that I think you can be liberal with the amounts of seasonings and oils that you use. I didn’t measure anything but basically drizzled/sprinkled on what I thought looked good, and the tomatoes turned out great. Next time, I think I’ll use even more balsamic vinegar, because I really loved the flavor that it gave the tomatoes. Also, the easiest way to remove the seeds from the tomatoes is the way that I saw Ina do it on her show. Simply slice the tomatoes into quarters, and use your fingers to scrape out all of the insides.

Roasted Tomatoes
Source: Adapted from Ina Garten

As I noted above, I think it basically works to use as much or as little of each of the ingredients as you’d like. If you’d like precise measurements, please see Ina’s original recipe.

Tomatoes, cut into quarters with cores and seeds removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Garlic, minced
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Arrange the tomatoes on a foil-lined sheet pan, cut sides up and in a single layer. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, pepper, and Parmesan.

3. Roast the tomatoes for 25-30 minutes, or until the flavors are concentrated and the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize.

Caprese

Inspiration: Making a seafood lasagna for dinner, I was searching for a vegetable side dish that I thought would compliment the flavors of the lasagna. B and I don’t care for traditional lettuce salads all too much, but we both like salads that consist of a lot of chopped veggies. If you’re like us and don’t prefer lettuce-based salads, there are plenty of other options out there! This caprese salad is just one option, and I love it because I feel like it has just enough elegance for a meal that’s a little fancier.

What we Loved: There’s not a whole lot that I don’t love about this salad. Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper are some of my favorite flavors, and they really make for a great tasting dish. I particularly like adding a liberal amount of kosher salt to the salad for a salty crunch, and what I love most about this dish is that it packs a ton of flavor for its simplicity. Traditional caprese salads consist of sliced tomatoes, slices of mozzerella, and whole basil leaves, but I liked the idea of using grape tomatoes, chopped basil, and just a little bit of mozzarella bocconcini cheese (the smaller mozzarella shown here) to make a salad that is incredibly easy to prepare and more in resemblance of a typical side dish salad.

Helpful Hints: I would recommend using kosher salt rather than table salt, as kosher salt is bigger and really provides a nice, crunchy texture to the salad. With table salt,  you would get an unseen salty flavor, but it’s really the texture of the salt that makes it wonderful. I used grape tomatoes, which I prefer because they are smaller than cherry tomatoes, but they’re also a little sweeter. If you don’t want that sweet flavor, you could use cherry tomatoes instead.

Caprese Salad
Source: Seasaltwithfood

1 container mozzarella bocconcini cheese, sliced
1 container grape tomatoes, sliced
2 handfuls basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Combine the cheese, tomatoes, and basil in a bowl.

2. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, mix, and serve.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

B and I eat a lot of broccoli. It’s my favorite vegetable to serve when I have a meat/fish meal and want a quick vegetable. I like to follow the rule of making sure that my plate is at least 1/2 vegetables, so when I’m feeling unispired, it’s very easy to open up a bag of frozen broccoli, saute it with some spices, and call it a day. This is the first time that I’ve tried something similar with brussels sprouts, and B and I both loved it. As soon as I saw the recipe recently at Imagelicious, I knew that I had to try it given our love for broccoli cooked in a similar way. And I’m really glad that I did. These brussels sprouts are crispy and flavorful from the garlic and olive oil, and they’re not at all what most people think of when they think of brussels sprouts. I will happily be eating these often. We added some finely shredded Parmesan on top, and I loved the sharp, nutty flavor that the cheese added.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
Source: Imagelicious

I used black pepper instead of chili flakes in this recipe, and I omitted the lemon juice and instead used some chicken broth in the cooking. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

12-15 brussels sprouts
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced (I actually minced them, which was a bad idea as they started to burn, so I would slice as the original recipe stated)
Black pepper and kosher salt
1/8 – 1/4 cup chicken broth
Parmesan cheese, finely shredded, if desired

1. Cut the end off of each brussels sprout.

2. Cut the brussels sprouts in half. Save any outer leaves that fall off to add to the saute pan.

3. Heat the olive oil together with the garlic over medium high heat.

4. Add the brussels sprouts cut-side down into the pan, along with any of the extra leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Let cook for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the chicken broth, cover, and let cook for approximately 5 minutes. Remove the lid, and let cook until the chicken broth evaporates and the brussels sprouts are nicely browned on the bottom.

6. Serve the brussels sprouts topped with finely grated Parmesan, if desired.