Stuffed Eight Ball Zucchini Squash

August 21st, 2011

We have been gone for a week visiting our family in Cary, NC.  As much as I love our Farmer’s Markets in the mountains, nothing can compare to the Farmer’s Markets in Raleigh.  My DIL Kristen and I spent a morning strolling the aisles there.  There was everything from fresh bread from La Farm Bakery to these adorable eight ball zucchinis.  There is no doubt about what to do with these cute little spheres.  They are perfect for stuffing.

Kristen is very creative about coming up with ideas for recipes.  Later in the day we visited her local butcher shop and came away with some chicken chipotle sausages.

We also had some Round of Hungary sweet red peppers that we picked up at the market.  These peppers are sweet and also suited for stuffing, but in this case we used them as part of the stuffing for our zucchini.

I had already decided on making an orzo pasta dish (which I will blog about later), so our stuffing did not include rice or pasta.  But it did include Manchego cheese, the sausage, peppers, zucchini, and a topping of fresh corn, panko crumbs and more cheese.  It was as good as it gets.


1 pound sausage of your choice
1 yellow sweet pepper,chopped
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
chopped flesh from hollowed out zucchini (about 1 cup)

1 cup shredded Manchego cheese

8 eight ball zucchini squash

1 ear of sweet corn, cooked and kernels removed from cob
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup Manchego cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Hollow out eight ball zucchini squash with a melon baller reserving the flesh.  There will be extra which can be saved for another purpose.

Saute sausage and peppers in a skillet until sausage is cooked.  Drain off grease. Add 1 cup of reserved chopped zucchini and shredded Manchego cheese.

Stuff zucchini shells with the mixture.  Place on baking sheet and cook in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Mix topping ingredients together.  Top each zucchini with some of the mixture and return it to the oven.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until topping is browned.  Broil for a few minutes if topping is not browned.

Printable recipe

Ratatouille From our French Friends

July 27th, 2011

While on our motorcycle trip to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest we met Carole and Laurent on the ferry trip down the Inner Passage toward Vancouver Island.  We thought we were brave souls for making the trip to Alaska, but Carole and Laurent have us beat by miles.  They have taken a year off from their jobs, shipped their bike to Montreal, ridden across Canada, toured Alaska and now have ridden from West to East across the United States.  We invited them to stay with us on their trip South.  They are on their way to Florida to stay for a few weeks and then will head west again through Texas, into Mexico and Central America.  They will then load their bike on a boat to South America and spend the remainder of their trip exploring that continent.  Not only do they have all of their clothing for all kinds of weather, camping gear and supplies with them, but they travel with panache.  Carole always wears her pearls and her hair is cut in a short style that defies the evil effects of helmet head.  They have a blog which chronicles the trip and Carole has a separate section “just for girls” that tells you how to travel with very little and still look good.

Carole’s silver fox helmet attachement is tres chic.  As is her recipe for ratatouille.

Ratatouille has it’s origins in Provence and uses a melange of summer vegetables.  Eggplant (Aubergine), zuchinni (corgettes), peppers, onions and tomatoes.  Carole and Laurent live in Tours which is in the heart of the Loire River Valley.  They have invited us to stay with them when we visit France next summer.  Carole’s version of ratatouille differs from the recipes I have seen before only in the seasonings.  Most ratatouilles are seasoned with thyme and bay leaves.  Carole uses cumin and cilantro.  That is “so individually Carole” and so good.  Here is her recipe.


1 eggplant cut into small cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 zuchinnis cut into small cubes
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
Olive oil for sauteing

In a large skillet coated with olive oil saute the eggplant and onions until they are soft.  Remove from pan to a bowl.  Add more oil to pan and in it saute the zuchinni and and red pepper until they are soft.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the cumin and the cilantro.  Stir.  Return the eggplant mixture to the pan along with the can of diced tomatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer and cover.  Cook over low heat for about 45 minutes.  Serve as is or over rice.

Dinner was delicieux, tres magnifiques.

We said our au revoirs this morning.  We hated to see them leave.

Rendez-vous l’annee prochaine.  See you next year.  Bon Voyage Carole and Laurent!  You can follow their blog and adventures here.

Printable recipe

Up On Crippen Creek

July 8th, 2011

Situated in a remote area of southwestern Washington, down a winding country road, lies The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm.  The first sight that greets you as you enter the pebbled drive is the goat pen with fresh-faced goats curious about your passing.  Then you see the pig enclosure and are further greeted by scampering chickens as the beautiful yellow farmhouse comes into view.  After a long bike ride from Port Angeles, Washington,  it was like arriving home.  And that is just what Don and Kitty Speranza have created here; a home away from home for weary travelers.

The Inn at Crippen Creek is outside the small town of Skamokawa, Washington and close to Astoria, Oregon, the Columbia River and Puget Island.  The area is popular with kayakers, fishermen and nature lovers alike.  Because it is so isolated, with prior arrangements, Kitty and Don will provide their guests with dinner as well as the expected breakfast.  I knew this before we arrived.  But what I didn’t know was that both Don and Kitty are passionate about cooking.  They are part of the Slow Food Movement and former caterers in Portland, Oregon.  They grow much of their own food and offer cooking classes in their gourmet kitchen.

We were not the only guests at dinner that evening.  A writer and a photographer from Sunset magazine and their guests were also at the table.  It made for lively conversations.  Also, I had fun taking pictures of the food with my point and shoot camera while next to the photographer, Joshua, with his professional equipment.

Over wine and hors d’oeuvres on the porch, Don mentioned that the dinner to come was inspired by Thomas Keller’s wonderful cookbook, ad hoc at home.  Thomas Kelller’s other two cookbooks, The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon are complex and sometimes intimidating to the home cook.  But ad hoc was written specifically for the home cook.  It is full of recipes that are part of the family (meaning staff) meals prepared at the restaurants.  Thomas Keller has opened his Ad Hoc Restaurant down the street from his famous French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville, CA to showcase such dishes as fried chicken, pork ribs and other comfort foods.  Our meal may have been comfort food, but it was anything but simple.  It was, in a word, sublime.

The menu included Salmon Cakes made with fresh caught sockeye salmon, Potato Pave’ (resembling paving stones), and  Sauteed Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins and Serrano Ham.  Don had prepared most of the meal ahead of time and only had to saute the salmon cakes, give the potatoes their final browning and warm the chard dish before we sat down for dinner.

The most complicated dish on the menu was the potato pave’.  This glorified scalloped potato dish requires time and involves several steps but the crunchy, buttery results are worth every minute and hour spent on it.    Reading the recipe, the procedure of stacking wafer thin potato slices was not immediately clear to me, but the video of Thomas Keller preparing the dish on the Martha Stewart Show makes it abundantly clear.  Click on this link to find the video.

Even dessert was a labor of love.  Kitty made a cherry pie from fresh cherries and Don made homemade buttermilk ice cream.  They are a collaborating force to be thankful for.  Our bedrooms with lush linens were just as welcoming after a long day and full stomachs.

Our breakfast the next morning included farm fresh scrambled eggs, bacon from the pigs raised on the farm, home fries, cheddar buttermilk biscuits, and fresh blackberries with panna cotta sauce.  It was difficult to leave such wonderful hosts ( I should say friends) with whom we had so much in common.  If you are ever in the area, this is an experience not to be missed.  Here are a few more pictures of the farm.

The free range chickens.

The wily pigs.

The garden.

Here are the recipes from our Thomas Keller inspired dinner.  Also visit The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm website for more of Don and Kitty’s recipes and information about the Bed and Breakfast.  


1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
2 tablespoons finely dicd red bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1 1/4 pounds cooked wild sockeye salmon, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup mayonnaise
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups panko crumbs
1 large egg
Canola oil

Position two oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion and pepper.  Grate the garlic with a Microplane grater directly into the pan (or mince it and add it).  Cook, stirring often, until the onion and pepper are tender, about 5 minutesw.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the Worcestershire, mustard, parsley, Old Bay, salt, and lemon juice to combine well.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the panko crumbs and the onion mixture.  Gently fold in the cooked salmon.

Put the remaining 2 cups panko crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Divide the salmon mixture into 12 equal portions.  One portion at a time, gently shape the mixture into a ball (the mixture is very delicate because there is only a small amount of panko in it), roll gently in the panko to coat, and shape into a slightly flattened ball about 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.  Add a bit more panko as needed to coat, and set on a plate.

Heat some canola oil in each of two large ovenproof frying pans over medium heat until it shimmers.  (If you don’t have two pans, cook the cakes in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.)  Add the cakes, pat down gently, still maintaining the rounded shape, and cook until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes.  With a spatula, gently turn each salmon cake over and cook on the second side for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, to ensure that the salmon cakes are hot throughout.

Line a small baking sheet with paper towels.  Transfer the salmon cakes to the towels to briefly drain.  Arrange the salmon cakes on a serving platter and serve with remoulade or your favorite sauce.


1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshley ground black pepper
3 pounds russet potatoes (three 1-pound potatoes if possible)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon softened and 4 tablespoons cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Canola oil
2 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed, skin left on
Minced chives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour the cream into a large bowl and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Peel the potatoes.  Cut a thin lengthwise slice off one side of a potato so it will rest flat on the mandoline.  Lay a Japanese mandoline or other vegetable slicer over the bowl of cream and slice the potato lengthwise into very thin (about 1/16 inch) slices, letting them drop into the cream.  (If you can’t lay your mandoline across the bowl, slice the potatoes, adding the slices to the cream as you go.)  Stop from time to time to toss the slices in the cream to keep them coated and prevent them from oxidizing.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Brush a 10-by-6 1/2-by-3-inch high pan with half the softened butter.  (Don’t use a shallower pan – you need the depth this size pan gives the pave’.)  Line with parchment paper, leaving a 5- inch overhang on the two long sides.  These extensions will be used to cover the potatoes as they cook and later serve as handles when unmolding.  Brush the parchment with the remaining softened butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Trim the potato slices to form a solid even layer in the bottom of the pan and lay them in the direction that works best to fill the pan.  Repeat to form a second layer.  Dot with a few cubes of butter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Continue layering the potatoes, adding butter and seasonings after each two layers.  Fold over the sides of the parchment to cover the potatoes.  Cover tightly with a piece of aluminum foil (to allow the potatoes to steam as they bake).

Bake the potatoes for 1 hour and 50 minutes, or until completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or a wire cake tester.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Put a weight on top of the potatoes (see Note), cool to room temperature, wrap well, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 2 days.

To serve, run a palette knife around the two longer sides of the pave’ to release it from the pan, and use the parchment handles to lift the potatoes from the pan, or invert onto a cutting surface.  Trim all sides of the pave’.  Cut the pave’ into 12 equal pieces and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes cut-side-down, add the thyme and garlic, and cook, basting with the liquid in the pan, until browned on the first side, then turn carefully and brown the opposite side.

Arrange the potatoes on a serving platter, browned side up.  Put a small piece of butter on each piece to melt, and sprinkle with chives.

Note:  The easiest way to weight the pave’ is to cut a piece of cardboard just smaller than the top of the pan, so that it will cover the top of the pave’ without resting on the sides of the pan.  Wrap the cardboard in aluminum foil, set it on top of the pave’, and place a few cans or other weights on the cardboard for even weight distribution.


2 tablespoons pine nuts
Kosher salt
4 to 5 pounds rainbow chard
About 1/4 cup cup canola oil
2 tablsespoons finely chopped garlic
1 ounce thinly sliced serrano ham, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons Wine-Steeped Golden Raisins (See Note)
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spread the nuts on one of the oined pans and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until evenly browned.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

Cut out the thick stems from the leaves of chard and set aside.  Stack the greens in batches and cut crosswise into thirds; set aside.  Trim the stems and cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch slices.  You need 2 cups stems for this recipe (reserve any remaining chard for another use).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the chard stems and blanch until tender but still slightly resistant to the tooth, 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and spread on the second parchment-lined baking sheet.

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil into each of two large saute pans and heat over medium heat (if you have only one large pan, cook the greens in 2 batches).  Add 1 tablespoon of the garlic to each pan, reduce the heat, and cook over medium-low heat until softened but not colored, about 1 minute.  Add one-quarter of the chard greens to each pan, season with salt (salt lightly if your ham is very salty), and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium to medium-low heat, until the chard wilts to about half its original volume.  Add the remaining chard and cook until wilted and tender, 15 to 20 minutes total.  Spread the greens, with their liquid, on the third lined sheet.

To serve, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the ham and saute for about 45 seconds to crisp.  Add the pine nuts and raisins and toss.  Add the chard stems and greens, toss to combine, and heat through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

Note:  Wine Steeped Golden Raisins
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 star anise
1 whole clove
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

Combine the raisins, star anise, and clove in a jar.

Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour over the raisins and let cool to room temperature.  Let stand for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Remove the star anise and clove before serving.

Printable Recipe Salmon Cakes

Printable Recipe Potato Pave’

Printable Recipe Rainbow Chard

Provencal Green Beans

May 31st, 2011

The French call them haricot verts (ah ree koh vayhr).  The French green bean is slightly different from our variety.  They are longer and thinner and very tender.  To achieve the same results, it is best to pick your green beans while they are still small and just maturing in the garden.  This is the best time of year to find young beans at Farmer’s Markets also.

I am relying on the Farmer’s Market more this year than I was last year.  Last year we had a plot in the local community garden, but because of the lack of water and the commute back and forth, we decided to give it up.  Our cottage is surrounded by towering oaks so there is limited sunshine to sustain a large garden plot.  But this year we were able to terrace a sunny hill next to the house for a small garden.  My green beans are growing, but not ready to pick yet.

I have donated a Provencal dinner to a recipient at a silent auction for charity and the green beans are part of the menu.  See the complete menu here.   Because of scheduling conflicts, I will not be able to deliver the dinner until some time in July.  I am hoping to still be able to pick some small green beans from my garden then.

The recipe for Haricort Verts  Provencale came from Richard Olney’s Provence the Beautiful Cookbook.    It is a stunning coffee table book with lovely pictures of the region and recipes that are authentic to Provence.  The green beans and garlic are sauteed in olive oil with bread crumbs.  It makes a lovely presentation and tastes simple and fresh.


Small, tender green beans, 3 – 4 inches long, are best for sauteing.  Larger beans should be snapped in two and parboiled before being sauteed. 

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and curshed
1 lb small, tender green beans, top end trimmed
salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of dried bread crumbs ( I used Panko crumbs)

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and, when they begin to sizzle and color, add the beans.  Cook, tossing repeatedly, for 4-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and grind over some pepper.  Add the crumbs and toss or stir with a wooden spoon only until the crumbs are crisp and begin to color.

David left on his motorcycle trip to Alaska on Sunday.  What a better send off could you get than a farewell kiss from your Granddaughter?  Safe travels David.  I will be joining him in Anchorage on June 9th.  Here is a link to his blog, Riding with Dave, if you want to follow along with his adventures.  He has not posted anything new yet because the road has been long and the weather horrible.

Printable recipe

A Meal for a Cold Night

December 14th, 2010

After spending the day Christmas shopping, I returned home, brought in all of the potted plants and herbs, and turned on the oven to cook a meal to usher in the coldest night of the year in Florida.  The wind chill factor was supposed to be in the teens; not what I had anticipated when we decided to spend the Winters in the Sunshine State.  But it was a good excuse to cook a pork roast.

One of my favorite cuts of pork is a rib end, bone in roast.  Say what we will about boneless pork loins, there is nothing better than a cut with the bones included.  The roast I got from my local Publix was a 6 bone roast and when cooked, sliced easily into 6 large chops.  They were moist, tender and with the pan juices and cooked onions scattered over the top, worthy of company.  This is an easy preparation so I am not detailing a recipe.  I brown the roast on all sides in an iron skillet with a sliced onion in the pan, add herbs and wine, cover it with foil and bake it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

With the roast I served a Paula Deen recipe that was worth passing on to you.  It is Spinach and Black-Eyed Peas. I love the combination and it goes together quickly using frozen black-eyed peas and fresh baby spinach.  I am considering this as a side dish for the traditional New Years Day dinner.  The whole meal, including mashed potatoes was on the table in no time at all.  It made me wish we had invited company to share it with us.


1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups chicken broth
1 ham hock
2 (16 oz) packages frozen black-eyed peas, thawed
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (10 ox.) package fresh baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook for 4 minutes, or until onion is tender.  Add chicken broth and ham hock; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 6 minutes.  I cooked it for 15 minutes.  Stir in black-eyed peas, hot sauce, and sugar; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until peas are tender.  Add spinach and salt; cook for 4 minutes.  Remove ham hock and shred any meat that is on the bone and return it to the pot.  Serve hot. (I strained off some of the liquid.

Printable recipe

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.