What a trying summer it’s been. With the sunny minutes outnumbered about ten to one by RDF, the highlights reel from my weekends will largely feature the kitchen.
On the upside, it’s been a great opportunity to try some recipes I’ve set aside for a rainy day.
If you’re looking for something to do — apart from staring longingly at the barbecue — why not attack your kitchen bucket list? Here are three recipes to brighten up those damp summer days.
Delicious vegetarian fajitas
Admit it, you’d like to add some vegetarian dishes to your family’s repertoire, but you suspect grumbling, if not outright rebellion. These are so good no one will miss the meat, and they’re a great way to use up the bags of summer vegetables going limp in your fridge. This amount makes 12 fajitas, which serves 4 to 6.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (divided)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms — any you like
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. each dried oregano and cumin
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 cup each diced zucchini, red pepper and corn kernels
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (or 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
sour cream and salsa for serving
In 1 tbsp. of the oil, fry mushrooms over high heat until they start to turn golden brown. Add onion and continue to fry until mushrooms release their moisture and it completely evaporates. Add salt, oregano, cumin, garlic and jalapeño and fry another minute. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining oil to pan and when it is smoking hot, add zucchini, red pepper, corn, tomato and beans. Sear over high heat but don’t let everything stew together. Add chipotle and black pepper and return mushroom mixture to pan; heat through. Divide among 12 flour tortillas (warmed a few seconds in the microwave) and top with cheese, cilantro and a squirt of lime. Roll up, fajita style, and serve immediately with sour cream and salsa.
If homemade bread is on your bucket list, then why not start with something a little less intimidating? If you have a mixer with dough hooks, here’s the time to drag it out. If you can’t face the dough at all, then use store-bought, but knowing it’s rising on my counter somehow makes the day seem brighter. This recipe makes about 6 big calzones.
1 tsp. sugar
1-1/3 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella
24 thin slices pepperoni
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
Dissolve sugar in water and stir in yeast. Set in a warm place until foamy. Incorporate oil, 4 cups flour and salt. Knead in mixer or by hand until dough is elastic, about 5 minutes, adding a little more flour as needed. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic. Allow to rise in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled.
For the filling, fry onion in oil until soft. Add garlic and green pepper and fry 1 minute. Add tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and cook together about 5 minutes, until much of the liquid has evaporated. Discard thyme stalks and set aside to cool. Divide dough into 6 balls. Roll out on a floured surface to form circles about 10 inches across. Top half the surface of each with mozzarella, cooled vegetable mixture, pepperoni, goat cheese and fresh basil. Fold over dough to form half-moon shapes, rolling the edges up onto themselves and pressing firmly.
Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush tops with olive oil. Cover with greased parchment paper and allow to rise 30 minutes. Cut a slit in the top of each to release the steam then bake at 450 F about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes or risk third-degree burns to the mouth.
This recipe will knock two items off your list — soufflé and vanilla beans. If you’ve always been afraid of making a soufflé, think about it this way: if the recipe doesn’t look quite the way you want it, call it baked pudding.
You can buy vanilla beans locally in specialty and bulk stores but they are expensive — substitute 1 tsp. vanilla extract if you prefer. Cut the pod in half lengthwise and use the back of a knife to scrape out the seeds on the inside. Push the empty pod into your sugar canister — trust me on this.
2 tsp. soft butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar (divided)
6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
4 eggs, separated
1/8 tsp. each salt and cream of tartar
1 tbsp. icing sugar
Grease a medium casserole dish with butter. Add 2 tbsp. sugar and roll around to coat the inside completely — discard any that doesn’t stick. Melt chocolate over hot, not boiling, water. In a small pot, whisk remaining 1/4 cup sugar, flour, cream and vanilla over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot. Beat egg yolks lightly and whisk in a small amount of the hot cream mixture. Stir yolks back into the pot and heat together, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth — don’t boil vigorously. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and salt; cool to lukewarm. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in chocolate mixture. Spoon into casserole and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until puffed. Serve warm with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c-o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.