Marinated Zucchini

serves 4

Every summer we plant lots of zucchini plants. One plant bears practically enough fruit to keep a small village happy for a summer, but we’re growing them mainly for their flowers. We pick only the male flowers, which don’t bear fruit and have long stems, to batter and fry. The female flowers are attached to baby zucchini, and we leave them on the plant until the zucchini are about four inches long. Then we harvest them, sometimes with the flower still attached. They’re full of green zucchini flavor—not mild and watery the way larger, mature zucchini can be. The grocery store often sells baby zucchini, which we buy when our gardens aren’t bearing any.

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ pound small zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise

Salt

½ clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Pepper

A small handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, arrange the zucchini cut side down in one layer in the hot skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Use a fork to turn the zucchini over, then cook them until tender, about 2 minutes, reducing the heat if the zucchini get too dark. Transfer the zucchini to a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining zucchini and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Whisk together the garlic, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the zucchini and add the basil. Gently toss everything together and adjust the seasonings. Let the zucchini marinate at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

 

Green Olive, Fennel & Parsley Salad

serves 4–6

Bright green Castelvetrano olives, from Sicily, are ideal for this salad—they’re buttery-tasting, meaty, and easy to pit. Pressing on the olives with the side of a large knife pops the pits right out.

1 lemon

¼ cup good extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and diced

1 cup green olives, pitted and torn in half

1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves, torn or coarsely chopped

Slice the ends off the lemon. Set the lemon on one of the cut ends and slice off the rind and white pith, exposing the flesh. Working over a salad bowl, cut along both sides of each segment to release it from its membrane, letting it drop into the bowl.

Add the olive oil to the bowl, season with salt and pepper, and stir together, mashing the lemon segments with the back of the spoon to break them up.

Add the fennel, olives, and parsley to the bowl and toss gently. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more lemon juice, if you like.

 

Marinated Roasted Peppers

serves 4

Pile these meaty peppers on crostini or serve with pork chops (see page 85), grilled meat, fish, or fowl. Jarred roasted red peppers can be substituted, but they won’t have the same smoky flavor.

2 red bell peppers

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ cup good extra-virgin olive oil

A small handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon capers, drained

Salt and pepper

Set the peppers on top of the burner plates on top of a gas stove. Turn on the flame to medium-high heat. Or, set the peppers on a grill over hot coals. Char the skins of the peppers, turning them as they blister and blacken all over. (You can also char the peppers in a preheated 500° oven. Put the peppers on a sheet pan and roast until charred all over.) When the peppers are done, put them into a bowl and cover them to steam, which softens the fragile charred skins so they are easier to peel. When the peppers are cool, peel and rub off the blackened skin. Pull off the stems, tear the peppers into quarters, remove the cores, and scrape the seeds away from the flesh (resist the urge to rinse the seeds away. You will rinse away the smoky flavor).

Put the garlic, vinegar, and lemon juice in a wide bowl. Stir in the olive oil, parsley, and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Add the peppers and turn them to coat. Adjust the seasonings. Let the flavors meld for 1 hour at room temperature before serving. The peppers keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

 

Eggplant Cooked in the Coals

Prepare a hardwood charcoal fire. When the coals are medium hot, put
4 small or 2 medium whole eggplant directly on the coals. Cook the eggplant, turning them as the skin blackens and turns papery, until they begin to collapse and the flesh is soft, 5–15 minutes depending on the size of eggplant and the heat of the coals. Transfer the eggplant to a wire rack on a sheet pan. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the blackened skin, leaving the flesh whole and the stem end intact. Return the eggplant to the wire rack and let them drain for about 30 minutes before serving. serves 4–6

 

Eggplant with Smoky Tomato & Harissa Sauce

serves 4–6

There are many sensuous flavors in this sauce. We sometimes spoon it over chicken or fish (or abandon ourselves and just eat it by the spoonful).

For the sauce

2 small ripe tomatoes

3 anchovy filets, minced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon harissa

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the eggplant

4 small or 2 medium eggplant, charred, peeled, and drained
(see above)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

1 small handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1 lemon, quartered

For the sauce, grill the tomatoes over a hot charcoal fire until the skin blackens and splits, and before the tomatoes collapse, 2–3 minutes. Put the tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl. Press the juice and flesh through; discard the skin. Put ¼ cup of the pulpy tomato juices in a medium bowl. Add the anchovies, garlic, harissa, and vinegar. Stir in the olive oil. Adjust the seasonings.

For the eggplant, spoon half the sauce onto a serving platter. Place the eggplant on top. Spoon the remaining sauce over the eggplant. Let the flavors meld for a bit. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt. Garnish with parsley and lemons and serve with hunks of warm country bread or grilled flatbread, if you like.

 

Tomatoes with Tonnato Sauce

serves 4–6

We love this sauce so much we spoon it on everything—boiled potatoes, grilled chicken, steamed summer vegetables hot or cold—but our favorite is this beautiful ode to tomato season.

For the tonnato sauce

2 large egg yolks

Salt

Juice of ½ lemon

½ cup canola oil

½ cup really good extra-virgin
olive oil

1 small can tuna packed in olive oil (about 2 ounces), preferably Italian

3 anchovy filets

1 tablespoon capers

1 clove garlic

Pepper

For the tomatoes

2 pounds tomatoes of various types and sizes, cored and sliced or halved

Arugula leaves

Salt and pepper

Really good extra-virgin olive oil

For the tonnato sauce, whisk together the egg yolks, a pinch of salt, and half of the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Combine the canola and olive oils in a measuring cup with a spout. Whisking constantly, add the oil to the yolks, about 1 teaspoon at a time. The sauce will thicken and emulsify. After you’ve added about ¼ cup of the oil, you can begin to slowly drizzle in the remaining oil as you continue to whisk, until you have a thick glossy mayonnaise. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl.

Purée the tuna, anchovies, capers, and garlic in a food processor until it is a smooth paste. Add a little olive oil to help the process. Use a rubber spatula and press the tuna paste through a sieve into the mayonnaise. Season to taste with the remaining lemon juice and salt and pepper. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce will keep for up to
1 week in the refrigerator.

For the tomatoes, spoon some of the sauce onto individual plates or a platter and arrange the tomatoes on top. Spoon more sauce over the tomatoes. Scatter the arugula on top. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

 



 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

From Canal House Cooks Every Day (Andrews McMeel, 2012)

MEATBALL MADNESS

makes 100 little meatballs

Everyone loves good ole meatballs, including us, and this big batch can feed a crowd. We are partial to a delicate diminutive size, so a 1-ounce ice cream scoop works perfectly and keeps everything uniform (a tablespoon works just fine also). We use one of the sauces that follow, depending on our moods.

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half
1½ cups fresh bread crumbs
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork

Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Sea­son to taste with salt, pepper, and lots of nutmeg. Remove from heat and let cool.

Put the eggs and half-and-half into a large bowl and beat together until well mixed. Add the bread crumbs and the cooled onions and mix together. Add the veal, beef, and pork and mix well. Roll the meatballs into 1-ounce balls (they will be very soft but they will hold their shape when cooked) and arrange on 4 large baking pans. Bake in the oven until just cooked, about 20 minutes.

 

QUICK TOMATO SAUCE

makes 2–3 cups

Add the hot meatballs to the finished sauce and serve over spaghetti for an old-fashioned Italian–American style dinner. Don’t forget the candle in the Chianti bottle!

1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons salted butter
Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary, minced
2 cups canned whole
Italian tomatoes, crushed
⅓ cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat, and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the parsley and adjust the seasonings. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

 

TETRAZZINI SAUCE

makes 2–3 cups

It seems like no one cooks with sherry anymore—it is a forgotten flavor. Once ladies sipped sherry in tiny stemmed glasses and added a splash of it to sauces to make them taste fancy. This sauce, with its white button mushrooms, is decidedly retro, but we love it spooned over the hot meatballs over creamy mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.

1 onion, minced
4 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
¼ cup dry sherry
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often,until just soft, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until it has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stirring until the flour coats them and absorbs any butter left in the pan, 5–10 minutes. (At this point you are cooking the flour to remove that raw floury taste.) Heat the chicken stock along with the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Add the stock mixture, ½ cup at a time, to the mushrooms, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the parmigiano.

 

DILL SAUCE

makes about 3 cups

We serve meatballs in this dill sauce on a bed of fluffy white rice. Sometimes we add a spoonful of sour cream on top and lots of chopped fresh dill.

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup minced fresh dill

Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring often with a wooden spoon, and cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan until warm. Add the stock, 1 cup at a time, to the onions, stir- ring with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the fresh dill.