Summer Vegetable Ragout

I've been in a cooking slump. Work has been crazy, school is insane, the garden is demanding, the kids' activities have us running all over. Between work, yardwork and homework, Panda's class and rehearsals, my class and rehearsals, Redman's games and practices, I'm in no mood to make dinner. Let's just order Chinese Food. 

But suddenly, Panda's two recitals were finished, and last week was her last ballet class in Ridgefield. And suddenly I have Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights free. Welcome back, Kotter! I can actually plan a dinner. I can plan a week of dinners and there will be people here to eat them! We can eat on the deck! I can put flowers on the table on the deck while we eat the dinner I planned!

Life is great.

So all my cookbooks are stacked up next to my bed again and I'm getting reacquainted with some old friends. Diving back into one of my very favorites, Fast, Fresh & Green, here's a simply awesome recipe for Summer Vegetable Ragout with Zucchini, Green Beans and Corn. This is a lemon-bright, elegant succotash of sorts. I doubled the recipe below, substituted asparagus for green beans because it's what I had around, and I used frozen corn instead of fresh. A little bit of prep time goes into this, but then it's 1-2-3 in the skillet and just totally delicious. Redman really liked it, which surprised me. Then again, he's always surprising me.

Summer Vegetable Ragout

  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
  • 1 tbsp Canola or Olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup sliced baby zucchini (slice baby zucchini straight across; if you don't have baby, use regular, sliced lengthwise in quarters and then straight across)
  • 3/4 cup sliced slender green or yellow wax beans (I used 1/2 bunch of asparagus, cut on the diagnol into 1" pieces)
  • 1 cup medium-diced yellow onion (I used a red onion because I had half a one hanging out in the fridge)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives, thyme and just a little bit of mint)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine broth and heavy cream. Set these aside.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, zucchini, green beans, onion and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pan is browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until well combined. Turn the heat to low, add the broth-cream mixture, stir well to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cover. Simmer until the liquids have reduced to 1 or 2 tbsp, about 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the stove, and stir in the lemon juice mixture and most of the fresh herbs. Season with pepper and stir again. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining herbs.

This and a cranberry-radish slaw, along with two rotisseries chicken, were dinner on the deck.

Brown Butter Summer Squash "Linguine"

Unless you have exceptional knife skills, you do need a julienne peeler for this recipe from Fast, Fresh & Green. I got mine in a set of 3 peelers from Panda last Christmas, but a single one is not expensive and quite a worthy investment. Consider asking Santa for one.

As usual I was a little short of a few key ingredients: I didn't have any chopped almonds or hazelnuts that were called for, so I went in a more Italian direction by using chopped garlic and adding some halved cherry tomatoes as well. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the finished dish. The recipe cooking time is 2 minutes but both Jeeps and I found it sort of undercooked. I also may have used too much lemon. But I loved the very concept of it, and it will definitely be something I fool around with.

Brown Butter Summer Squash Linguine

  • 1 1/2 lbs summer squash, mix of yellow and green
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or tarragon
  • 1/2 lemon

Wash and dry the squash and trim off the ends. Using a julienne peeler, peel the squash lengthwise all the way around, dropping the strips into a bowl. Continue peeling until you reach the seed core. Discard the core and peel the other squash in the same fashion. Give all the strips a little toss in the bowl and separate any that are clumped together.

In a straight-sided saute pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and swirl the butter around in the pan. Cook the butter until it reaches a nutty brown color, about 2 minutes. Immediately add the squash and salt. Toss the squash gently with tongs until it is well coated with the butter. Continue cooking just until the squash becomes slightly limp, about 1 minute.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in half the chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon. Toss, taste, and add more lemon if desired. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with more of the herbs, and serve.

Again, it was good, but not quite right. This strikes me as a very summery dish. It cozied up fine to a baked potato here, but I began to imagine blanching the julienned squash, just to get the right consistency, then tossing it with a vinaigrette and serving at room temperature with grilled shrimp.

Hmm... Hold that thought.

Green Beans with Lemon Pepper Oil

The full name of this recipe (another from Fast, Fresh & Green) is "Provencal Green Beans with Lemon-Pepper Oil and Herbed Sea Salt." It sounds fancier than it is and I did not stay completely true to the recipe for a few reasons. 

1) The lemon-pepper infused olive oil sounded awesome, but my kids would not eat anything that spicy. Green beans are one of the surefire veggies that they will wolf down, so I try not to get too adventurous with them.

2) The herbed sea salt is made by combining the salt with lavender buds. I have no more lavender in my garden, but even if I did, I'm not sure it would go over well. The alternative was to use crushed rosemary, but Jeeps has a funny thing with rosemary.

So I will give you the full recipe here, but just know my version was green beans tossed with lemon olive oil and sea salt. They were perfect alongside some grilled apple sausages and pan-roasted red and blue potatoes. They'd also be great just as an appetizer.

The sausages, by the way, were served with cider-beer mustard made by my amazing friend Becky (who brought me the pyrex dishes full of barbecued chicken, potato salad, and love). We attended her family's incomparable Oktoberfest a few weekends ago, and I left her house with a ziplock bag of bratwurst and 3 darling little jars of cider mustard, cranberry mustard, and dill relish.

Provencal Green Beans with Lemon-Pepper Oil & Herbed Sea Salt

The lemon-pepper oil is made by combining 2 tbsp of olive oil with a tablespoon of lemon zest, and 8 grinds of the pepper mill. Make this first and let it sit for 15-2o minutes to let the flavors infuse the oil. The oil keeps well in the fridge so double or triple the recipe if you like and use it on grilled fish or any steamed vegetable.

The herbed sea salt is made by combining 1/4 tsp chopped fresh lavender buds or rosemary leaves, with 1/2 tsp sea salt. Use a coarse salt like fleur de sel.

Then you simply steam or blanch a pound of green beans until they are tender to the bite but still have their nice green color. Drain, let cool a few minutes, then transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle most of the lemon-pepper oil over them.  Sprinkle with some of the herb salt. Taste a bean and add still more salt if you like ("Be generous!" says Susie Middleton).

They went so fast I could barely snap a picture.

On the subject of lemons, its essential oil is a great thing to keep around the house. Jeeps likes to mix vinaigrette into hummus and add a few drops of lemon EO to make a really tasty salad dressing. Mixed with baking soda and vinegar, it makes a great all-purpose cleaner. And I love to use it when I make soap, especially blended with geranium and rose oils.

The team at has a great article about the benefits of using lemon essential oil. You can read it here.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

I grow six zucchini plants. Three are for the purpose of having zucchini. The other three are expressly for flowers, and if the plant manages to produce a fruit or two anyway, fabulous. But if you are a male flower on those three plants, you should accept that your days are numbered. Oh, and you blossoms on the rogue pumpkin vines scattered about the premises? You're not safe either.

Between yesterday and today, I got 10 good flowers—8 zucchini and 2 pumpkin. The blossoms will keep in the fridge, rolled in a damp paper towel.

There are about a thousand ways to make zucchini flowers—unstuffed, stuffed, pan-fried, deep-fried, baked, rolled in a batter of flour and seltzer, or egg and flour, or egg white and bread crumbs. It's simply a matter of finding the recipe and method that works for you. Or, in my case, cobbling a method together from one or two sources—the filling from one of my cookbooks, and the batter from Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking. 

Whatever your method, it's pretty hard to screw these up. And it's impossible to make enough.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

You use male flowers for this dish. The stem of a male flower looks like a stem, and the stem of a female flower looks like a tiny little squash. Inside the blossom, the males look like boys, and the females look like girls. OK? That's all I'm saying. For further botanical sex education, and visual aids, go here.

Trim the stems off the blossom—I leave about a two-inch stem just to have something to hold onto (shut up). With small scissors, cut out the stamen of each flower (courage, men, courage). (And shut up).

Filling (for about a dozen blossoms, plus leftovers for the next crop)

  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley)

Mix all in a small bowl. You have a choice of filling the blossoms with a small spoon, or putting the filling into a pastry bag (if you own one) or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off and piping the filling into the blossoms. I use a small spoon. Fill each flower with about 2 teaspoons, then twist petals to close. It helps to wet your fingers first, then twist. (Shut up.)


  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

Beat egg with lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisk in flour. Batter will be thick. Whisk in water until consistency of thin pancake batter or tempura. I know that's extremely vague, and very lame coming from someone who does not cook before 12PM, but that's what it will look like.

Heat 1/2" canola or vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Dip each blossom in batter, twist by the stem to coat completely, then lay in skillet. Fry 3-4 minutes a side until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Immediately claim yours. Serve the rest. Wipe the tears when they realize there are no more.

So dinner tonight, like the zucchini flowers, was cobbled together from this and that. I don't know why this seems so much acceptable in summertime, but in general I find mealtimes easier this time of year. I'm not racing the clock, I'm usually letting the garden dictate the direction of dinner, people are hungry and seem more amenable to new things, everyone is just in a better mood. 

So I already had the blossoms on deck, but when I went to our local Italian deli (Valben's, for those of you in the area, I love them) for the ricotta cheese and eggs, she had rice balls in the front display case—breaded and fried and wow, they looked good. And her fresh marinara sauce in the cooler, yes, I'll take a half-quart of that, please. The woman there is so wonderful, "What are you making for dinner tonight, honey?" I told her about the crop of blossoms waiting at home and she was as excited as if she'd been invited for dinner.

So there were the blossoms, the rice balls with marinara sauce, steamed green beans, and roasted potatoes. Potatoes and rice for dinner? Sure, why not, what the hell!

And one more "Before and After" shot of the zucchini flowers. Don't blink or you'll miss it...

Brussels Sprouts: a last stand.

I got this recipe out of Prevention magazine years ago, in one of those shaming articles called something like "10 Super Foods You Need to Eat More Of Right Now or Die." In addition to the fear-mongering title, this particular recipe was hard to ignore because it called for butter and maple syrup.

Butter and maple syrup?

"Yes," admitted the article, "we admit butter and maple syrup are hardly comme il faut for Prevention magazine." (OK, I may be paraphrasing here but it was over a decade ago.) "However," they went on, "we will do whatever it takes to get you to eat Brussels Sprouts." 

(Trust me, the tone of the article was very funny).

I made them. They were knock-you-on-your butt amazing. I now make them by rote and can't remember the exact proportions of the Prevention recipe. So I searched around and found Mrs. Stewart's very-similar version.

I really must insist that you try them this way. If you don't like them, I will never bother you again about Brussels Sprouts. I will just, in the silence of my heart, feel very sorry for you.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange-Maple-Butter Sauce

  • 2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and salt. Arrange in an even layer on prepared baking sheet, cut side down.

Transfer to oven and roast until brown and tender, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, mix together vinegar, maple syrup, orange juice, and orange zest over medium heat until heated through but not simmering. Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter, a few pieces at a time, until smooth and creamy. Pour vinegar mixture over Brussels sprouts and gently stir until liquid is absorbed and mixture is well combined. Serve immediately.


Jerusalem Artichokes

As I wandered through the produce section of DeCicco's, I saw them suddenly on the shelf, like a vision from Heaven: Jerusalem artichokes. This guy in my office, Pete, is a foodie extraordinaire. A real gourmand. And we're always talking shop about menus, particularly around the holidays. A couple of years ago at Christmas, I was planning to make a beef tenderloin, and I asked Pete what I should serve alongside. He came back with roasted brussels sprouts with Jerusalem artichokes. Brilliant, I thought, for I'd long wanted to try these things.

Foist of all, the Jerusalem Artichoke is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke.


These are actually the roots, or tubers, of the wild sunflower Helianthus tuberosus. I'd heard them described as a cross between a potato and a water chestnut, and always described as very, very good. After Pete's suggestion, I wanted so much to make them for Christmas dinner, except there was one problem: I couldn't find them. I searched grocery stores and Asian food markets, high and low. Here was one of the most prolific, nearly-invasive plants in the country and I couldn't find one tuber.

And now here they were at DeCicco's, packaged as "Sunchokes" and smiling at me benevolently, seeming to say, "Take me home, darling..."

So I did.

There were nine chokes in the package, and one thing I've learned over the years is never to make a lot of something you're making for the very first time. So I scrubbed up four of the chokes and sliced them 1/4" thick. Then I peeled and sliced three carrots, peeled and smashed three cloves of garlic, and cleaned the outer leaves off a handful of the teensiest, tiniest brussels sprouts I'd ever seen in my life (did I mention I love DeCicco's?)

I tossed all with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and roasted on a baking sheet for an hour at 375, tossing occasionally so that the sliced sunchokes got good and browned on both sides.

Delicious with the tarragon chicken!! I snuck a slice of sunchoke on each kid's plate and they ate them, no questions asked, thinking they were potatoes.