Light and Tasty Summer Fare

As Chef’s, in the summer, we are always thinking about quick food that requires less use of the oven and/or stovetop.  Yet so much of the summer bounty benefits from amazing roasting, sauteeing and stewing cooking methods!  Even the “coolest” of salads needs some veggies blanched, eggs, potatoes and pasta boiled.  Grilled proteins on top of a composed salad still require some heat!  And good ratatouille certainly doesn’t come in a jar!!  FYI my favorite version is Roasted Ratatouille!

So often my darling sous chef wife will ask what I’m going to make for dinner and when I proclaim something roasted @450º in our NYC galley unairconditioned kitchen on a 90º day, the response is that scornful scrunched up Irish face (which she has perfected) that says: “I hope you don’t need any help!”

I’m usually OK with answering:  “It’s what I do….I cook…’s hot…..we eat…”  And mind you, she’s never not shown up at the table to enjoy any of this sweat-producing summer fare!

This year I started collecting some summery recipes requiring minimal or no cooking with the plan to utilize them on the hottest dog days of summer.  And quite honestly, they haven’t happened yet.  (Although today is turning out to be good and hot as well as humid!)

On Sunday I ventured into my stash of newly procured Summer To Be Tried recipes and decided on Spiralized Zucchini & Yellow Squash nests filled with a Ricotta, Parmesan & Basil blending.

The original recipe is from Eating Well Magazine’s July/August 2017 issue. It is titled Spiralized Zucchini & Summer Squash Casserole I almost passed it up due to the word Casserole!  The assumption on my part was that a casserole = tons of prep and fair amount of time in the oven!  Boy was I wrong!

Prep is painless and cooking time is 6-8 minutes under the broiler………….period!  Heating the accompanying hunk of frozen Ciabatta Bread and making grilled bread slices was slightly more tedious!

Here’s what I did differently than the recipe calls for:  I mixed my spiralized zucchini and yellow squash, so that each nest would be yellow and green; placed the zoodles on a paper towel lined sheet pan, covered with more paper towels and gently patted out excess liquid then I created my nests freeform.

This is a great side dish, but I converted it to be our entree by adding a raw Diced Fresh Tomato Sauce to put between two nests on our plates and served the aforementioned grilled Ciabatta Slices.

Here’s what I’ll do differently next time:  I will use the larger holed attachment when spiralizing the squashes, as they shrunk a good bit when cooked.  I would increase the amount of ricotta in each nest and instead of adding basil to it I’d put a healthy dollop of fresh pesto in the center of each mound of ricotta and sprinkle the top with salt, pepper and chili flakes!


As you can see in the picture we garnished with a few extra halve cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan.

The raw tomato sauce was a mashup of several recipes but basically these are the steps for two pounds of tomatoes

  • Grate two fresh tomatoes on the largest holes of your box grater into a large bowl
  • Take the remainder of your tomatoes and core them, removing any trace of seeds and chop the flesh into smallish dice add to the bowl
  • To the bowl add salt and pepper to taste 1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar, 1-2 Tablespoons EVOO, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 clove of garlic minced
  • Stir and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour or more.
  • When ready to serve add 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

This was great as a condiment with the squash nests, spread some on the grilled bread also!  It is pretty liquidy so I served it using a slotted ladle.  If I were putting it on hot pasta I would not strain it.

Eat Well….Be Well!


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The Old Fashioned Date Nut Bread Verdict

Yum, Yum, Yum it is perfect! I resisted the temptation to nibble on more than the crumbs that stayed behind on the loaf pan. While those were flavorful a full slice for dessert was heavenly!

We served with a schmear of Greek Cream Cheese and sliced Strawberries with a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze!

Wow!  Just WOW!

Date Nut Bread ain’t just for breakfast no more!

Eat Well….Be Well!


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Today’s Ponderances: Let the Baking Begin, A stupid chef trick….and more!


Date Nut Bread in a well-used oven!

  •  Baking has begun for the Holiday Weekend

First up is Old Fashioned Date Nut Bread.  High hopes it will remind me of some awesome tasting Date Nut Breads I enjoyed many years ago.  Always better than those bricks of Fruit Cake with it’s petrified and mysteriously colored fruits.  Stay tuned for the verdict. And more Easter Baking.

  • The first Stupid Chef trick of Easter Weekend

I was really trying to be a good citizen by salvaging some Strawberries that were on their way to garbage bin.  So last evening, while preparing dinner, I sorted the strawberries into two batches while pulling the stems and leaves.  Batch one was for breakfast cereal additions or other general snacking, batch 2 was on the verge of rotting and certainly not beauty contest winners.  The second batch got rinsed and spread onto a paper towel lined sheet pan to dry thoroughly.  The plan was to then trim as needed and/or slice in half to be flash frozen and stored in the freezer bag of smoothie fruits.  The strawberries were transferred to a table in the living room (where on a normal evening no man or woman will enter or spend time).  This morning when making cereal it was realized that the berries were still on their tray in the living room “drying”.  After breakfast I dutifully trimmed the 2/3 of these berries that survived and placed them on a 1/4 sheet pan lined with parchment and placed them on the top shelf of our bottom drawer freezer.  After putting the Date-Nut Bread into the oven I needed to refill my perpetual glass of ice water.  Pulled open the drawer of the freezer and the shelf that houses the automatic ice bin and heard something fall to the bottom of the freezer.  I deduct that, once again, I have opened the freezer and pulled the top shelf out just as the ice maker was dropping a load and since the drawer was pulled out the ice fell to the bottom of the freezer. But when I attempted to close the freezer said ice was blocking my ability to secure my filled to the brim with frozen-morsels freezer drawer!  On my knees to reach behind the basket drawer to retrieve the errant ice cubes, that have never caused this much trouble in the past. (For your psyche-imaging imagine a Cirque du Soleil contortionist doing this move, sans costume and double jointed limbs….argh!)  Peering inside I see one strawberry and no ice cubes from my contorted viewing capacity.  Oh s—, (sugar, or any uncensored expletive you choose to believe I said)!  Still thinking it’s a few strawberries I move to the other side of the open drawer and realize all strawberries, sheet pan and parchment paper are down there preventing the freezer drawer from becoming one with the closed fridge!  Retrieval requires emptying full to the brim freezer basket-drawer and more contortion!  It seems like you’d want to just remove the freezer drawer in it’s entirety, but by the time I procure the manual and tools needed the frozen morsels will become sad puddles of their original forms.  The only…..I repeat….ONLY positive of this experience is now a mental inventory of what I own in the dead storage nether-regions of the freezer!  Like chocolate chip cookie dough, now being defrosted and will be baked for the youngest family member: Master Charlie James’ Easter dessert!  As my Passover-celebrating friends would say: OY VEY!!

  • The saying: EVERYTHING tastes better with Bacon has been proven yet again.

Last night’s dinner included Spanakopita Loaded Potatoes, recipe here.  I had been rooting through the fridge and discovered a 1/2 pound of bacon that I had forgotten to finish off and since I know I will buying another pound for Sunday, decided to bake this and use for lunches, etc.  Later while prepping the Spanakopita I crumbled a few slices of bacon into the mix!  Sacrilege?  Possibly, oh heck, probably.  Tasty? AbsoFreekinlutely!  To be transparently honest here, I probably wouldn’t have thought to add the bacon, but as we all know it’s nearly impossible to cook bacon, inhale the marvelous aroma, and not test a piece or two.  But that only left me craving more, ergo the successful addition to the Spanakopita twice baked potatoes! A word of caution if you choose to duplicated this recipe…while being amazingly delicious and creating a stunning presentation, it is labor intensive, not hard just time consuming!  Did I mention we loved it?  Also I didn’t have fresh oregano but I added mint and I’m here to say next time I would add both and a touch more garlic!

  • Evil Smoke detector at work!

We have lived in this apartment for 39 years this month!  Many years ago the building installed smoke detectors in all the apartments.  Ours is located in a squarish hallway off the dining room with access to the two bedrooms, the bathroom and two closets.  It’s about 12 feet away from the entrance of the kitchen.  Everytime I made toast the alarm would go off, even after cleaning out all the toaster crumbs!  So when I was seriously cooking it was always going off.  Back in the beginning I could reach the reset button, but one time while I was practicing cooking a 5×4 (a popular Personal Chef offering) I got tired to running to the hall and tapping the reset button so I removed the battery.  Hadn’t put it back in a lot of years.  Due to recent stove top grease fire in our downstairs neighbors apartment we experienced a good deal of smoke in our own kitchen.  At first we were concerned that our stove was on fire or possibly some electrical components behind the stove and dishwasher.  After proving it wasn’t our issue the Super received a call that people on the floor below could see and smell smoke on their floor.  He determined it was coming from the apartment directly below us and tried to gain access, however the elderly parents of the tenant would not answer the door until he reached the working daughter by phone.  Fire extinguished with no damage or personal injury etc.  This too close to home incident spurned me to reinstall the battery and see what happens.  Successfully made toast 5 or 6 times, cooked as many dinners with no issue of the detector going off.  However, after every shower we’ve taken, a few minutes after we’ve vacated the bathroom the friggin alarm goes off!!  I do take, long hot showers but really this never occurred before! So has this previously idle smoke detector morphed into a steam detector?



The finished Date Nut Bread

More Easter baking to come, and the final brunch menu is still in flux….maybe the Easter Bunny should bestow some inspiration on me!  To devil the eggs or not?



Eat Well…Be Well!

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