Archive for July, 2013


To paraphrase Alice Waters, the difference between good lasagna and great lasagna is in using fresh, thinly-rolled pasta. And I agree. Try to avoid those boxes of thick noodles with the curly edges on the grocer’s shelf if at all possible, but if you must use dried pasta, search for the Barilla brand noodles which are thin and flat.

The sauce that I created for this dish is made of fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, summer squash, garlic, and carrots–chopped, diced, or shredded and simmered together until thick. Half of the mixture is blended into a puree and the rest is left in its chunky state which adds heft to dish. Layers of sauce, pasta, and cheeses (in this case ricotta and pepperjack) are sandwiched together to make for a tasty vegetarian entre.

Garden Vegetable Lasagna Chez Edouard
Garden lettuce, haricots vert, and cherry tomato salad with shallot-red wine vinaigrette
Yeast roll

Vanilla ice cream with fresh peaches and pecan cookies

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Throughout the year I create variations on tonight’s menu, something I call a “tuna noodle toss.” It always includes tuna and pasta but those are the only “rules.” Sometimes I use fresh grilled tuna, sometimes good-quality canned; often the pasta is dried, and on other occasions (such as tonight), it’s freshly-made. This is another one of those meals where I simply pull out the ingredients I have on hand and start to think about combinations of flavors that might work well together: tiny French green beans…tomatoes…peppers. After the pasta is made, which can be done in advance, this is easy and quick to pull together. It’s almost like a warm or room temperature pasta salad and to my mind is a one-dish meal.

Yesterday I made a blueberry-lemon pound cake which turned out quite well, so that will be dessert.

Grilled onions and peppers, tossed with tuna, blanched haricots verts, chopped fresh tomatoes, housemade dill tagliatelle, and lemon vinaigrette
Yeast roll

Blueberry-lemon pound cake with vanilla ice cream

In those menus where “vegetable plate” is included in the title, it’s pretty much just that–a plate of vegetables. But it is anything but haphazard in design. I strive to achieve an interesting balance of tastes and textures on the plate that appeals from a gustatory as well as visual perspective. And I like to try new and interesting combinations.

The highlight of tonight’s menu is a bean and tomato dish that I created simply because I thought the flavors would be nice together. And they were! A few thin slices of onion and a peeled and chopped yellow tomato went into a skillet with a bit of olive oil and stewed together over low heat until the tomatoes were saucy but still chunky. Meanwhile, sliced Romano beans were blanched briefly in boiling water until just crisp tender. At that point the beans are drained and added to the skillet with the tomato mixture and everything is heated together for just a minute or two before serving. A bit of sea salt and a grinding of fresh pepper was all that was needed to finish the dish. Superb if I do say so myself!

July 24th Vegetable Plate

Oven-roasted new potatoes split and topped with a dollop of sour cream
Romano beans and tomatoes Chez Edouard
Fried okra breaded with Southwestern-spiced cornmeal
Yeast rolls

Peach and blueberry cobbler with whipped cream

Summer Menu Twists

What would summer be without one (or two or three) burger menus? And there’s nothing new here in terms of the individual components. What IS different is in how each is prepared. Tonight’s burger is made of turkey seasoned with minced garlic, topped with pepperjack cheese, garden tomatoes, grilled onions, and served on a housemade yeast roll. The potato salad features the addition of chopped bread and butter pickles benefitting from the pickled flavor not only of the cucumbers but the onions and peppers also. Corn on the cob is steamed in a rack over simmering water just until hot and served with chili butter. So with just a few twists in how each item is prepared, you end up with something a bit different than the traditional.

A note about the corn. A quick steaming is one of my favorite ways to prepare corn on the cob. It prevents the natural sugars in the corn from being leached into a boiling liquid, and the kernels remain full of flavor and juice.

If you plan a bit ahead, the dessert is simple. Place the frozen peaches in a blender with some milk, cream, sugar, and a few drops of vanilla, process until smooth, and voila! No need to make ice cream.

Grilled turkey burger with toppings on housemade rolls
Potato salad Chez Edouard
Steamed corn on the cob

Peach milkshake with sugar cookies

Fresh okra was available at the farmers’ market this weekend and I bought a sizable amount to enjoy. In the south this vegetable is often enjoyed breaded or battered and deep-fried. And I do like it served that way which provides textural interest to a summer mixed vegetable plate. But another well-loved dish that comes to mind is the Louisiana favorite–gumbo. Most gumbo recipes include some sort of meat protein and certainly do not need to include okra. What does seem consistent however, is that those that include okra usually omit the traditional flour paste roux. Okra has a thickening property that produces a similar result to that of the roux. My vegetarian version celebrates the bounty of midsummer.

For dessert, a peach pie that’s a bit different. The bottom crust is made of traditional pie dough, but the top is covered with crisp topping including ground pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter.

Vegetable gumbo of onions, spicy peppers, celery, tomatoes, corn, summer squash, okra, and black-eyed peas with Cajun seasonings served over rice
Hushpuppies
Garden lettuce salad

Peach pie with crisp topping served with whipped cream

Bread and Butter Pickles Chez Edouard

Bread and Butter Pickles Chez Edouard

So what does this photo have to do with tonight’s menu? Nothing really. But yesterday I made these jars of bread and butter pickles and this morning I felt inclined to take a photo. Next fall and winter, I’ll be enjoying these as well as the dill pickles that I have been preserving along the course of the summer thus far. I’m anxious to make relish next weekend.

But on to tonight’s menu. On a hot summer day, a soup is probably the last thing most folks would think of cooking for dinner, but the abundance of fresh produce makes this a particularly wonderful time to combine the vegetables on hand with some fresh water, simmer until the flavors marry, and serve with a cornmeal muffin and a side salad. Simple, direct, and of the moment.

Summer vegetable soup of tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic, corn, new potatoes, and green beans garnished with finely diced banana peppers
Cornbread muffins
Garden salad with creamy dill dressing

A perfect peach

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The highlight of tonight’s menu is a recipe I devised based on a couple of others. Beautiful corn, green beans, and cherry tomatoes were available at the farmers’ market, and I was inspired to create a chilled salad as an accompaniment to the grilled fish. It’s simple and relatively quick, and must be made in advance. The dressing for the salad has no oil–it’s simply rice vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt with some minced red onion. A chiffonade of basil is tossed in just before serving. Light, refreshing, delicious, attractive. The vegetarians among us may be tempted to feast on the salad alone!

Pan-grilled Atlantic cod basted with barbeque sauce
Chilled corn-green bean-cherry tomato salad
Boiled new potatoes
Yeast roll Chez Edouard

Sugar cookies

Tonight’s menu features a “stuffed pizza” otherwise referred to as calzone. Three cheeses–fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta–are layered with sautéed onions and peppers, artichoke hearts, cherry tomato wedges, and olives and seasoned with garlic and herbs. It’s one of those one-dish meals that needs little to accompany it. For those with big appetites, I imagine a simple salad would suffice.

As with any pizza, whether the traditional type or stuffed as is the case here, it is important to make sure that the oven is thoroughly preheated to the hottest temperature setting. This helps to insure a crisp bottom crust. In the case of tonight’s treatment, it is also important to place the mozzarella and vegetables on the bottom and leave the herb-seasoned ricotta for the top layer, thus preventing a soggy crust.

Three cheese and vegetable calzone
Garden salad

Blueberry ice cream

Sometimes old favorites such as standard meat-and-potatoes fare simply need a brightening…a fresh approach…a swift kick in the pants. And it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here, the meatloaf gets a new treatment which the addition of orzo pasta, fresh tomatoes, and black olives as components of the loaf. Green beans are accented with fresh dill. Creamed corn gets a flavor boost from the addition of chili powder, cumin, and diced onions and red peppers. And leftover mashed potatoes are transformed into crispy oven-fried cakes. Just a few simple changes helps elevate the ordinary and/or expected into something altogether different.

The potatoes are probably not the potato “pancakes” with which you might be familiar. Most recipes call for mashed potatoes mixed with flour and eggs that are pan-fried in oil. In this case, cold mashed potatoes are simply formed into patties, dipped in egg white, and dredged in seasoned bread crumbs. Place these in the fridge for a few minutes to set the breading, then place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and “fry” in a hot oven, turning halfway through the cooking. The result is a wonderfully crispy exterior with a creamy interior not unlike tater tots. Do not try to accomplish this in a skillet on top of the stove folks. It won’t work!

I have some golden rules about corn that I will share in an upcoming post but for now, suffice it to say the first of those is to use the freshest ears you can possibly lay your hands on.

Meatloaf of ground beef mixed with cooked orzo, fresh tomatoes, black olives, onions, red peppers and fresh basil
Romano beans glazed with butter and fresh dill
Spicy creamed corn
Oven-fried potato cakes
Yeast roll

Housemade blueberry ice cream and sugar cookies

I have probably posted a menu like this before, but each version I make of this go-to dish is different based on what is fresh and seasonal at the moment. Tonight’s variation includes peppers and onions from my father’s garden, and carrots, squash, corn, and tomatoes from the farmers’ market. Some Cajun spices bring up the heat without being terribly alarming, and the spiciness is counterbalanced by the salad served alongside. The combination of beans (or in this case black-eyed peas) and rice provides a perfect protein.

Garden jambalaya of mirepoix, squash, corn, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas
Garden lettuces with housemade creamy dill dressing
Yeast roll Chez Edouard

Vanilla panna cotta with fresh peaches

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