Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer pasta

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Summer pasta
Delicious way to use cherry tomatoes and basil

It took more than a week to collect enough cherry tomatoes to make a new pasta dish.

My granddaughter kept a close watch on our two plants and picked the bright red tomatoes as soon as they got ripe and added them to the others in the kitchen.

As soon as I had a pint, I decided it was time to make Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta. I had watched her make the dish on “Barefoot Contessa” earlier this summer and really wanted to try it. I was intrigued with how the combined tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and olive oil just sit on the counter for 4 hours to make the sauce for this recipe.

My one pint is only a quarter of what a full recipe calls for, but with the quartered recipe I was able to make plenty for a side dish at lunch a few days this week. It could have also been a main dish for two!

This easy dish has very little hands-on work. The main time-consuming task is cutting the tomatoes in half and cutting the basil leaves. I grated the Parmesan cheese while the tomatoes rested on the counter.

When the four hours is up, just cook the angel hair pasta and mix everything together. It’s really that easy.

This pasta dish is very good. I ate it cold and hot and liked it both ways.

I especially enjoyed the taste of the fresh tomatoes and basil that I grew in my own backyard. If you are growing cherry tomatoes this summer, this is a great way to use them.

I hope to have enough cherry tomatoes to make this pasta again this summer, but I plan to make bruschetta first and probably roasted tomatoes. I sure hope those two plants keep producing!

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Summer Garden Pasta 

4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

Good olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)

18 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving

1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound dried angel hair pasta

11⁄2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Combine the cherry tomatoes, 1⁄2 cup olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for about 4 hours.

Just before you’re ready to serve, bring a large pot of water with a splash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil and add the pasta. Cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss well. Serve in big bowls with extra cheese on each serving.

*I omitted the red pepper flakes. I also didn’t add as much salt to the pasta as she suggests. I successfully quartered this recipe because I only had 1 pint of cherry tomatoes.

Ina Garten

“The Barefoot Contessa”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blueberry pie

Blueberries are the star
Fresh berries and cream cheese filling make pie special

We had such a treat at my cousin Martha Cayton’s last week.

My daughter, granddaughter and I were invited to the pool with my cousins. We always look forward to spending an evening or two by the pool with them each summer and were excited about it all day. Five-year-old Sora even agreed to miss the library’s summer reading program and a worm race to go swimming!

We talked about school, new babies in the family and the 900 ears of corn they had frozen that day while I was at work.

As the sun started to set and the mosquitoes came looking for fresh meat (us!), we got out of the pool, dried off and sat down to enjoy a delicious blueberry dessert Martha had made for us with fruit from her own bushes.

Her sister, Betty Russell, had given her the recipe, and she made it for all of us to try. The delicious blueberry pie is made in a graham cracker crust and has layers of a sweet cream cheese and a homemade blueberry filling. A dollop of whipped topping adds the finishing touch.

The pie is sweet and cool and refreshing and such a wonderful summer dessert. It combines some of my favorite flavors, especially fresh blueberries.

My daughter, Anna, and I knew right away that we must share this recipe in my column. So Martha went in the house, brought out a pretty cloth and plate and we set up a photo on the spot. We couldn’t let this opportunity pass!

This recipe is a keeper for those lucky folks out there who have bushes filled with blueberries right now. If you don’t, check out the local farmers markets and buy some. You won’t regret it!

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Blueberry Pie

1 large graham cracker pie crust

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar

31⁄2 tablespoons cornstarch

1⁄4 cup cold water

1 cup crushed blueberries

1⁄2 cup butter

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese (Martha used reduced fat)

1 to 11⁄2 cups whole blueberries

1 small carton (8 ounces) whipped topping

Combine 1 cup sugar, cornstarch mixed with water, crushed berries and butter in saucepan. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Cool.

While cooling, whip cream cheese and 1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar in food processor or mixer. Spread on graham cracker crust. Layer whole berries on top of cream cheese mixture, covering cream cheese layer. Cover with cooled berry mixture and place in refrigerator until cold. When ready to serve, cover top of pie with Cool Whip.

Pat Triplett of Lenoir

from Carolina Country Kitchen

zucchini muffins

Zucchini season
Add some green to your muffins

We were thrilled to find a box of zucchini, squash and broccoli under our carport last week. It was a welcomed gift from my brother-in-law and his wife.

Fresh produce is one of the wonderful things about summer, I think, and we didn’t want to waste anything they sent.

So last week we had fried zucchini, pan roasted vegetables and zucchini muffins.

I have made zucchini bread before but never muffins. I knew I wanted spices similar to what I put in pumpkin muffins and opted not to add golden raisins because I knew they wouldn’t be appreciated by half my family!

I read many recipes before choosing how I wanted to make my muffins, deciding to use a little bit of ground cloves, for instance, and opting to add in both brown sugar and granulated sugar.

It only takes a few minutes to mix up these muffins, especially if someone grates the zucchini for you. (Thanks Anna!) Before popping the muffins into the oven, I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top for extra flavor and a little crunch.

The muffins smelled very good as they baked, with the scent of allspice, cinnamon and cloves making my mouth water.

I couldn’t wait to try my muffins when they came out of the oven and ate one while it was hot enough to burn my mouth. I’m not a patient person. I was rewarded with a delicious treat with flavors I really enjoy.

I love how a tiny bit of green peeks through the muffins, but I was afraid it would keep my 5-year-old granddaughter from trying them. I was wrong. I’m not sure if she just didn’t see the green or was too distracted to ask, but she eagerly ate the entire muffin, which I called a spice muffin in front of her. Don’t judge me. It did have spices in it!

I liked the muffins best the first day. They weren’t as moist the second day but might have been if I had popped them in the microwave briefly.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Zucchini Muffins 

3 cups grated fresh zucchini

1 stick melted butter

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups self-rising flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄4 teaspoon allspice

Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the sugars, eggs and vanilla with a spoon and stir in grated zucchini and butter. Mix in flour, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice until combined; don’t over mix.

Spoon into muffin cups prepared with baking spray; sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Makes 12 to 18 muffins depending on size of muffin cups. (Mine made 18.)