Summer Panzanella

_MG_4771In my old apartment, I had a basil plant on the kitchen window -- here in New York, we have to try pretty hard to bring the outdoors in, with few windows and outdoor space at a premium making it difficult. There wasn't a ton of sunlight, but somehow that plant survived the winter and when I brought it to my new apartment (which somehow gets even less light, being on the first floor), I was hopeful. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have inherited my parents' green thumbs and it lasted less than a month. Basil is one of my favorite herbs, a smell that means all sorts of wonderful things -- like Italy, and pesto, and summer. I'm very excited to see it back at the farmer's market, along with the season's first greenhouse tomatoes. This salad makes an excellent main course when you don't feel like doing too much cooking, or is a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken or rack of lamb (as we had it)._MG_4770 _MG_4766

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To make this salad even easier, you could skip roasting the red peppers and just chop them up raw, but I love the smoky layer of flavor they add.

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Also, my second post is up on Wine & Bowties! See my family's recipe for classic tomato-basil bruschetta here.

Summer Panzanella (adapted from Eat This Book)

1 baguette or loaf of French bread, torn into bite-size pieces

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons capers

2 red peppers, roasted over an open flame, then diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup basil leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread pieces with 1/4 cup olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Toast until bread is golden-brown, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk garlic, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and red wine vinegar in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss, and season as needed. Lastly, add toasted croutons and stir.  Serve immediately.

Zucchini Muffins + One Year Anniversary

Guys, I'm totally late on my own anniversary. It happened two days ago, on October 11. One year (and two days) ago I started this little blog as a way to give myself a creative outlet and to try to improve my photography skills. Since then, I've met lots of you through your comments, discovered new blogs, and (hopefully) learned many  things about this crazy business of blogging and food photography. I still have much to learn, but I think that I have improved a little bit (DON'T look at my banana bread photos. Terrible.) This recipe comes from my mother, and I'm not sure where she got it. It's still my favorite recipe for zucchini bread (although I made these into muffins), and it only gets better after a few days. I added a little more zucchini and used olive oil instead of vegetable oil to try and make it slightly on the healthier side. However, these make excellent breakfast as well as dessert, and if you wanted to make it even a little healthier you could cut the sugar by 1/3 of a cup or so.

Thank you all for visiting this little corner of the internet, and for your wonderful comments and support over the last year -- and here's to many more years at 124 Park.

Zucchini Muffins (makes 24 muffins or 2 loaves)

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 2 12-cup muffin tins by buttering and flouring them or by placing paper muffin cups inside them OR butter and flour two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until foamy, 1-2 minutes. Mix in zucchini, olive oil, and vanilla and beat well, 1-2 minutes. Add dry ingredients and mix until well blended, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Pour into prepared tins or loaf pans. If making muffins, place about 1/3 cup batter into each tin. Bake muffins for about 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed gently. If making loaves, bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester placed in the center comes out clean.

Healthier Banana Bread

I love banana bread. I could eat it pretty much every day, all year round. But since many recipes are more like banana cake than banana bread, with lots of sugar and refined flour, it's not the healthiest option for breakfast. I had been searching for a more virtuous option for a few weeks, so imagine my delight when one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, featured one on her site only a few days ago! It was fate. I didn't have any millet seeds on hand, but from Deb's description it sounds like they make a great addition. I also decided to make this gluten-free, but whole wheat flour would work just as well. So far, the best gluten-free flour mix that I have found is Cup4Cup, which Thomas Keller helped develop (this post was not sponsored by them in any way, that's just been my experience).

As you can see by the photos, I couldn't keep my roommates away long enough to get a full shot of the banana bread, but hopefully that speaks to the taste. Also, I still don't have loaf pans so I used my 9-inch cake pans, which work fine. (And actually, I almost like it better because you get more of the top part -- which is my favorite).

Healthier Banana Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 over-ripe bananas

1 egg

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch cloves

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix (or whole wheat flour)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan (or a 9-inch cake pan). In a large bowl, mash bananas until soft and smooth. Whisk in egg, then oil, then sugar and syrup. Add vanilla, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves and flour and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool pan on rack.

Harvest Focaccia

I've had a craving for bread lately. There is something so soothing about the process of kneading and rising, of the warm smell of yeast working with flour. I have yet to perfect baguettes and more complicated forms of bread, but focaccia I can do. This recipe has infinite variations, but I love the sweetness of the grapes with the scent of rosemary and the toasty walnuts. It would make a great accompaniment to a simple pasta, but A. and I had it for dinner the other night with a big salad and a plate of olive oil for dipping and called it a night. As a note: this bread requires a starter which needs to be made the day before you plan to serve it -- it only takes a couple of minutes to  throw together but does require some advance planning. Harvest Focaccia (adapted, only slightly from Bon Appétit)

Dough

2 1/4 cups water, room temperature 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast 4 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Topping 1 cup seedless red grapes, rinsed, patted dry 1 tablespoon plus additional olive oil 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme Yellow cornmeal 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary Coarsely cracked black pepper

For dough: Combine 3/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in medium bowl. Add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour and whisk until smooth. Cover and let stand at room temperature 3 hours. Refrigerate starter at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

Combine starter, 1 1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon yeast in large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with dough hook, or in the bowl of a food processor with a dough blade. Beat 1 minute. Add salt and remaining 3 3/4 cups flour. Beat 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and dough hook. Continue to beat until very soft, slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes longer. Let stand 5 minutes. Scrape dough into large oiled bowl; cover with plastic. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare topping: Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine grapes, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon thyme in medium bowl; toss to coat. Turn mixture out onto small rimmed baking sheet. Roast until grapes begin to burst, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on sheet.

Sprinkle large baking sheet lightly with cornmeal. Turn dough out onto prepared sheet. Using floured fingertips, pull and spread dough to approximate 18x10-inch rectangle. Press dough all over with fingertips to dimple. Brush dough with additional oil. Sprinkle with grapes, then remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, walnuts, rosemary, and lemon peel. Sprinkle with raw sugar and lightly with coarsely cracked black pepper. Cover loosely with towel; let rise until light and puffy, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake focaccia until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to board; brush edges with oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

$10 Mondays: Mushroom Crostini

For today's $10 post, I will be continuing the party-themed appetizers (more this week + cake!) You may have already noticed these mushroom crostini in pictures from my earlier party posts and wondered what they were. Well, to answer your questions, these make a great winter appetizer and with a simple green salad also make a cheap dinner. Even though NYC's temperatures may reach 70(!) degrees this week, the produce selection is still decidedly wintery, so these are a good option until more exciting tomatoes and zucchini are available. Mushroom Crostini (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 lb mushrooms (I used baby bellas)

2 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, minced

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

1/2 baguette, cut into very thin slices

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Clean mushrooms well and chop into very small pieces.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and reduce for 5 minutes more. Stir in cream and cook until most of the liquid has reduced 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Bake until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Top each with a tablespoon of mushrooms.