Mock Maque Choux (Gesundheit)

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Today’s post is literally short and sweet, and just in time for the Labor Day holiday here.

It’s another little recipe for using fresh corn off the cob, one based on a traditional Cajun recipe, but mine took a small departure with the ingredients I had on hand, and hence its name: “Mock” Maque Choux. For one thing, I wanted some of that smoky flavor you get with using sausage or pork in this dish, but I had no sausage. What I did have was chipotles in adobo, and since the adobo sauce has some smoky heat that goes so well with sweet…how about that as a substitute?

In the end, this is a vegetarian version that acts as more of a side dish, but you could easily add some andouille sausage or tasso, or top it with some grilled shrimp to this if you like. Meat or no, it’s a wonderful, sweet, spicy and rich corn preparation, perfect for a holiday grill out or any time.

“Mock” Maque Choux
Makes 6 servings

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
5 ears of fresh corn, husks and silks removed
1/2 of a peeled and finely diced red onion
1 cup of finely diced celery
1 small orange bell pepper (or you can use red or green), seeded and finely diced
1 1/2 Tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chilis
2 Tablespoons of finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt A few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups small diced grape tomatoes
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Additional chiffonade of basil leaves for garnish

Cut the kernels of corn off the cob with a sharp knife into a bowl, cutting about 3/4 through each kernel. Take the reserved cobs and scrape the back of your knife down the cob to extract any milk, letting it run into a separate small bowl. Reserve the corn milk.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add the corn, onion, celery, bell pepper, adobo sauce, thyme, a couple of grinds of black pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic, tomatoes, corn milk, 1 tablespoon of fresh basil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if desired, and a bit more freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a garnish of more fresh basil and enjoy!

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This is our other kitty girl, Cinderella. She is very flighty and hard to snap. She's pretty disgusted with staying in the basement while the workmen are here.

This is our other kitty girl, Cinderella. She is very flighty and hard to snap. She’s pretty disgusted with staying in the basement while the workmen are here.

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Crustless Summer Squash, Zucchini and Tomato “Pie”

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A savory slice is oh so nice!

What a couple of weeks it has been…

This is our tree, you can see how the lightning circled it before it jumped to the chimney cap.

This is our tree, you can see how the lightning circled it before it jumped to the chimney cap.

When lightning strikes it does such weird things. Our experience has run the gamut from the usual burnout of electronics which one would expect, to the current running through the metal spines of a silk lampshade and tearing the silk out of it…which one would not expect! We’ll be repairing, cleaning soot and painting here for the next few months, and we were so lucky it wasn’t any worse.

Our chimney...8 feet of it is on the ground!

Our chimney…8 feet of it is on the ground! We sleep with our heads right next to where the chimney meets the top roof line.

Life goes on and mercifully we are here to experience and talk about it. And eventually you get back into the kitchen again and things begin to feel more normal.

Layers, layers and more layers are the key to this crustless pie.

Layers, layers and more layers are the key to this crustless pie.

Today I’m sharing a tasty and easy dish using some of summer’s bounty. This squash, zucchini and tomato pie is crustless, which makes it lighter than a traditional tart or pie, and perfect to serve as an entree with a salad or as a side dish for a meal. The “crust” in this dish is made by the slight caramelization of the bottom and sides of the squash in the oiled skillet, and the melted cheese. It holds together very well and has a wonderful, fresh flavor. I do love squash and am always looking for ways to feature it when it’s in season, and this little dish made me very happy…plus I got to use my cast iron skillet, which is always a bonus!

Pan pie, c'est tout!

Pan pie, c’est tout!

I hope you all have been doing well while I was away, and that you had wonderful and relaxing weekends and holidays. I am slowly getting around to visit all of you and catch up, so bear with me. Have a great week, and happy eating.

Crustless Summer Squash, Zucchini and Tomato Pie
Serves 4

This pie was inspired by my Squash and Tomato Galette from last year, but is much quicker and lighter because there’s no crust!

1 lb. yellow summer (I used crookneck) squash, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
3-4 roma tomatoes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
zest of one lemon
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprigs of fresh basil for edible garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron or ovenproof skillet and grease the bottom and sides well.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, the lemon zest, lemon juice, thyme, basil and egg until well blended.

Place 1/2 of the yellow squash slices into the bottom of the pan in a single layer, slightly overlapping each other. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, then dollop 1/3 of the cheese and herb mixture over the layer of squash, spreading it slightly to cover. Next, layer 1/2 of the roma tomato slices over the squash layer and sprinkle with 1/2 of the minced garlic, a pinch of salt and some pepper, and drizzle over 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil. Make a single layer of the zucchini over the tomato layer, overlapping the slices. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and pepper, dollop 1/3 of the cheese and herb mixture on top, spreading as before.

Make one more layer of the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil, then top with a final layer of yellow squash mixed with any remaining zucchini, salt, pepper and the remaining cheese and herb mixture. Sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 35 – 40 minutes, watching closely, until the top is browned, the whole is bubbling and the vegetables are tender when a knife is inserted through to the bottom. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cut into four wedges and serve with a sprig of fresh basil on top.

Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart

Another dish I could eat every day and be quite happy, thank you!

Another dish I could eat every day and be quite happy, thank you! It’s a night shot so please excuse the flash.

Here’s a little tart that’s free-formed, which in my case resulted in a rectangle. You could actually make it rounded, I suppose, if your phyllo happens to come in a different shape than that which we get here. But this rectangle format was a no-brainer using locally purchased phyllo from the freezer, and also seemed to give the tart a proper amount of phyllo-to-filling ratio in each slice. It makes for a pretty presentation and is not too difficult to make, once you get over what I like to call “Fear of Phyllo.”

Perhaps I should digress enough to say that I’ve suffered from “fear of phyllo” in the past, afraid that it would dry out before I could have my way with it, so to speak. But I find it well worth the minimal effort it takes to work with phyllo. Just keep the portion you plan working with unrolled on plastic cling film, wax or butcher paper and under a damp cloth, covering the remaining sheets each time with the damp cloth as you are working on the others, and you should be just fine. I’m sure there will be instructions to that effect on the package.

This recipe makes a fantastically full-flavored tart that is good for lunch all by itself, or for dinner served with a side or a salad such as the Mediterranean one in the last post. I would definitely make this for company and will also be modifying it soon, using smaller pieces of the phyllo pressed into mini muffin tins to make appetizer tarts.

And on another note, and I hope an interesting one for you, this week has been about some new beginnings for me…or rather a return to some creative endeavors from my past. Stay tuned for a little departure post, hopefully by the time of my next one, to share what’s going on. Meanwhile, enjoy this recipe, have a great weekend and here’s a little teaser photo to whet your interest!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Spinach, Cheese and Almond Phyllo Tart
Serves 6

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Two 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained of as much liquid as possible
2 eggs, whisked to combine
1/2 cup slivered, blanched and toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 Tablespoon Panko breadcrumbs
Eight 9″ x 14″ unbaked phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen (mine was frozen)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Brush some of the melted butter on a large baking sheet or flat pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic, stirring until the onion is softened and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the onion and garlic, and cook a minute or two longer, stirring, until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, feta, cottage cheese, almonds, Panko bread crumbs and the spinach mixture stir until well mixed.

Working on the flat surface of your buttered baking sheet, lay down 1 sheet of the phyllo dough and, using a pastry brush, brush it lightly with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of the parmesan cheese over the butter, then top with another sheet of phyllo, repeating the butter, parmesan and phyllo sheets until all eight sheets are stacked on top of each other. Spoon the spinach filling down the center of your phyllo sheet, spreading it evenly and leaving about two inches of the phyllo uncovered all the way around it. Fold up the two long sides of the phyllo to just come up and over the top edge of the filling and brush the edges of the phyllo with some melted butter. Fold the two short ends of the phyllo just up and over the short edges of the filling and the ends of the long sides to make an evenly folded “package” and brush those ends with butter to seal it. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over the top of the spinach filling, and bake the tart in the oven until the tart is lightly browned on the top and the phyllo is golden brown (see photo below.) Remove from the oven and allow the tart to sit for about 5 minutes. Slice crosswise into six even slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

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If there are leftovers, they keep well completely cooled, placed in the fridge and reheated gently in the microwave the next day. The phyllo stays amazingly crisp!

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