Recipe and Cookbook Giveaway
Here it is already. Time to tuck away the white shorts and Keds, pull out the grill, and celebrate the symbolic final hoopla of summer – Labor Day. When I was a girl living on our bucolic Massachusetts farm, it was a weekend to look forward to. Jammed with horse riding, touch football, and lots of burgers and dogs cooked (usually over-cooked) but always cooked with love by my darling Dad. For me, too, it was infused with the anticipation of returning to school. I loved going back to that elementary school, the smell of the paper and books, the sound of a pencil writing cursive on a piece of lined paper on a hard desk, even the slightly sweet, soggy spaghetti and meat sauce in the cafeteria. I remember laying out my first day of school outfit on my bed, right down to the knee socks and polished Mary Jane’s. Those were heady days!
This Labor Day weekend has a slightly heightened sense of joy, like back in those school days. My latest cookbook, Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith) will be released Tuesday. Available in bookstores near you and online, practically by the time you read this. The recipe that follows is one of my favorites, because it is packed with one of my favorite summer foods – summer squash and zucchini. Still beautiful in South Carolina this time of year, they’re reaching the end of their season elsewhere and soon will here, too. Though this dish requires just a bit more work than placing the squash on a grill, it’s a lovely do-ahead that will impress and pair with anything from a steak to barbecue.
Cheddar Two-Summer-Squash Mash
Yields 6 servings
Summer squash, slightly sweet and squeaks-in-your-teeth fresh at peak summer season, is one of my favorite summer treats. Often, I’ll saute either yellow summer squash or zucchini in a little olive oil wiht some red onion, finish it with a sprinkle of fresh basil and grated Parmesan, and call it a summer’s night. However, the two squashes marry beautifully together in this beautiful mash casserole, which resonates with the lemony freshness of thyme and squash flavor. The texture is airy and light, almost mousse-like, topped with a buttery panko bread crumb crunch. While you can substitute unseasoned traditional bread crumbs, panko celivers a crunch edge and it’s really worth having in your pantry at all times. The casserole is delicious hot, warm, or even room temperature.
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) dice, about 3 cups (370 g)
3 medium yellow summer squash, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) dice, about 4 cups (495 g)
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk sour cream
2 cups (240 g) grated mild cheddar cheese
1 small shallot, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup panko bread crumbs or unseasoned traditional bread crumbs
Pinch of ground black pepper and kosher or sea salt
Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).
Place the zucchini and summer squash in a medium saucepan. Pour in enough water to barely cover and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain very well in a colander, gently pressing out any excess water, and return to the pan.
Mash with a manual masher until the squash is chunky smooth. With a wooden spoon, blend in the thyme, sour cream, cheese, shallot, pepper, remaining salt, egg, and nutmeg. Pour into a medium (2-quart / 2-l) casserole that has been greased with 1 tablespoon of the butter, spreading with spoon to even the top.
Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the panko and seasoning and toss to coat. Brown the crumbs to a golden brown, being careful to toss and avoid burning. Spread the bread crumbs evenly over the top.
Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered, or until bubbly and golden brown. Rest 10 minutes before serving and garnish with some fresh thyme sprigs. This makes a lovely meal with a green salad and fresh bread and butter. The casserole can be assembled ahead, refrigerated, and baked just before serving.
I told you what I love about Labor Day. Now’s your turn to tell me what you love about this holiday and transition from summer into fall. Favorite memories, foods, thoughts – they’re all welcome. Please leave your comment here and I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, book release day.
I look forward to hearing from you and please have a safe, happy and delicious holiday!
One of my favorite long weekends of the year, Labor Day is all about relaxing with family and friends, watching football and tennis, and preparing and eating delicious food. While barbecue, hot dogs and beer are popular Labor Day fare, I love the idea of dressing up the holiday table with these elegant eggplant tartlets, made with eggplant that is in peak season this time of year. The filling can be prepped a day ahead (that would be today!) and assembled and baked off in just minutes. So delightful, I think I’ll be whipping up a batch tomorrow, in my white slacks, of course! Happy Labor Day!
Excerpted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory and Sweet by Holly Herrick (Gibbs Smith, Oct. 1, 2011)…………………………………………
“Summer/Fall Mellow eggplant sits atop a bed of cream cheese blended with sweet basil and salty olives for these sophisticated tartlets. Pair with a chilled Rose for an indulgent late-summer aperitif for easy entertaining.”
Eggplant and Cream Cheese Tapenade Tartlets
(Makes 12 Tartlets)
Equipment Needed: One 3 1/2-inch round pastry cutter, parchment paper
2 sheets Pepperidge Farms puff pastry
1 small eggplant, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4″-thick slices
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the cream cheese filling:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large clove garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely pitted green olives
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg wash (yolk, pinch salt, splash water blended together)
Fresh basil sprigs for garnish.
Thaw puff pastry according to package directions, about 40 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Arrange eggplant on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Bake about 15 minutes, until softened and slightly shrunken. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, but leave the oven on. When the eggplant is cool, chop it with a chef’s knife into pieces about the size of peas.
Meanwhile, prepare the cream cheese filling by combining all the ingredients, except the basil garnish, in a small bowl, stirring well with a wooden spoon to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
To assemble the tartlets, arrange the thawed pastry sheets on a lightly floured work surface. Gently press out any rough seams with your fingertips to smooth. Cut the pastry with the round cutter to form rounds; avoid wasting pastry. You should get 12 rounds from the pastry. Arrange each on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart to allow space for them to “puff.” Gently coat the top (not the sides) of the pastry with egg was. Fill each tartlet with one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture, spreading with a spoon. Leave 1/4 inch border of naked pastry, which will become the sides of the tartlets as the pastry rises. Top cream cheese with 1 heaping tablespoon of eggplant. Bake for 25 minutes, or until puffy and golden. Remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm on a platter or on individual cocktail plates sprinkled with fresh basil.
Enjoy this last official taste of summer and be safe out there!