Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Zucchini in olive oil

If your summers play out anything like mine do then odds are good you have some of this stuff in the fridge already.

After all, how many of these have you come across in the past couple months? I'm down to only two zucchini plants in the garden this year, but each has already thrown off a couple dozen specimens. And they're still producing. One of my favorite things to do with zucchini is roast or grill them and then preserve them in olive oil.

Just slice them up.

Lay on a baking sheet that's been coated in olive oil and season with salt and pepper (you can also do this outside on the grill), then place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F. Using a spatula, turn occasionally so that the slices brown on both sides.

The time it takes to cook the zucchini varies, but this is about how things should look when it's done.

All that's left to do now is layer the zucchini, along with garlic slices and crushed hot pepper, in a container of some sort.

Then cover the whole thing in extra virgin olive oil and put it in the fridge. It's best to wait at least a couple days before tasting; that way the flavors can meld together. As long as the zucchini are covered in the oil they should last in the fridge for a couple weeks or so.

I use slices of the zucchini on sandwiches (mint leaves are a nice way to top them when serving), but my favorite way to eat it has always been as an antipasti.

With bread to sop up the oil, of course.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fish poached in olive oil

My friend Fred will be all over this one. The man spends more time chasing fish than anyone I know, and is always searching for new ways to prepare the swimmers that take his lure.

Like me, Fred tries to keep things simple. I liked that about him when we first met each other, more than a couple decades back. He was editing a technology magazine and I was a newly hired gun brought in to do the things that hired guns do. My first assignment was to edit a cover story whose author and assigning editor (both trusted staffers) had determined required 11,000 words or so to tell. "Do what you think it needs," were my only instructions.

The next day, after I'd turned in a much-simplified 3,500-word piece for all parties to review, Fred was the only one not demanding that I be made acquainted with the exit, or perhaps a higher-floor open window. A two-month assignment grew into a yearlong gig, and a friendship that has lasted much longer.

Long enough to know that, when fishing season on Long Island commences this fall, Fred will be giving this olive oil-poached fish fillet preparation a serious going over. It's luxurious, for sure. But it couldn't possibly be simpler.

You can oil poach a lot of different types of fish, but this whole bluefish fillet had my name written all over it.

All you need to do is season the fillet with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (By the way, make sure to allow the fish to come up to room temperature before working with it. It should not be cold when you begin cooking it.)

Put the fillet in a baking dish, cover it with olive oil, and add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and whatever fresh herbs you like. Then place the dish in an oven preheated to 200 to 250 degrees F and leave it alone. After around 25 minutes start checking the fish for doneness. As usual, the exact amount of cooking time will depend on a lot of things, the thickness of the fillet among them. This fillet took around 35 minutes at roughly 250 degrees or so.

Plate the fillet, along with some of the olive oil, and allow to rest before serving. I like it at room temperature, but some people prefer eating the fish when it's still warm.

I'm not so sure where Fred stands on this issue. Guess we're not quite as close as I thought.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pasta with onions & prosciutto

Next to a nice big bowl of pasta & peas, there's nothing quite as comforting to me as this stuff. My mother used to make it for me when I was a boy, usually when we were alone together, which wasn't all that often. With two brothers and around a dozen cousins all living under the same roof, alone time with anybody, let alone mom, was a rare event indeed.

Even today pasta with onions & prosciutto is a private dish for me. I never prepare it for anybody else. The only times I even think about making it is when I've got the house to myself. Hell, it's taken four years to share the recipe, if you can call it that, with you here.

Just saute an onion (a red one here but it doesn't matter what kind) and a little garlic in olive oil.

Once the onion is completely softened (but not browned) add some cut-up slices of prosciutto.

Immediately start to add your cooked pasta to the pan, along with some of the (well-salted) pasta water, turn up the heat and incorporate.

Then turn off the heat, stir in some grated Romano cheese, and serve.

To your well-comforted self, or whomever else you might choose.