Parmesan Roasted Fresh Summer Okra

I am crazy about okra when it roasted in this manner. Simple and easy. Freshly picked okra pods, olive oil, sea salt and hand-ground black pepper and a very generous scattering of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano.

As a young person I was not a particularly picky eater, but I was pretty horrified by bowls of slimy okra on the dinner table. I just could not eat it. No way.  My reaction was met with a cross look by my Mother while mumbling once again about the starving children somewhere. For many years I avoided okra. Only in various Cajun dishes did it make edible sense to me.

Roasted or grilled? By the platefuls…handfuls…delicious. Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside. Summer okra.

Parmesan Roasted Fresh Summer Okra

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of fresh okra pods, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a sheet pan (or two) with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl toss okra with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Spread out on parchment lined sheet tray(s).
  4. Roast for about 12-15 minutes just until slightly softened and crispy. Add more parmesan to serve.

Teresa Blackburn   www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Early Fall Roasted Vegetables, E.A.T. # 19

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Coming home with a sack of leftover vegetables is not unusual for me. At the end of many of my food styling projects there are often random vegetables left over…one red bell pepper, one onion, a few new potatoes, a lemon, a handful of beautiful okra and a box of arugula along with a half carton of heirloom baby tomatoes were the recent jewels….I just cannot bear to leave them unused and wasted.

The last thing I really want to do at the end of a long day is cook at home after cooking all day while working. But roasting vegetables isn’t really cooking…it is a technique that requires little effort and the reward is a healthy, colorful,  relaxing, easy-as-this dinner.

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Oven turned to 400 degrees. Longer cooking vegetables go in first after being tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper…..

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….quicker cooking vegetables added to the pan halfway through cook time along with a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence. Easy enough to make your own or purchase at most supermarkets or on-line.

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Eat healthy and be well.

Early Fall Roasted Vegetables

  • Difficulty: easy-as-this
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • any random selection of vegetables, rinsed & roughly chopped
  • suggestions: new potatoes, red bell peppers, heirloom cherry tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes, okra pods, asparagus, onions, beets, cauliflower, broccoli…whatever you have
  • olive oil
  • sea salt or kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Herbes de Provence or Italian Seasoning
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • arugula leaves or baby spinach

Directions:

  1. Turn oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss roughly chopped vegetables in olive oil, salt & black pepper.
  3. Spread vegs that take longer to cook out on a baking sheet & roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and add vegs that take less time to cook to pan. Sprinkle over all with Herbes de Provence.
  4. Return pan to oven and roast another 12 minutes. Remove pan from oven.
  5. Serve roasted vegetables with a dusting of grated Parmesan and fresh greens.

Teresa Blackburn    www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

Garden-Grown Green Peas, Crisp Bacon & Parmesan Pasta for a Late Spring Dinner

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I have been traveling (check out my Instagram for photos on where) for a couple of weeks and away from my kitchen…lots of eating, but no cooking. Many recipe ideas are crammed into my brain from the trip and after some experimentation I hope to share some of those with you in later posts…a similar but not-creamed spinach dish topped with goat cheese that was sublime….a light-as-air three-layered dessert using sponge cake, whipped cream and phyllo dough…gnocchi-like noodles with a simple beef stew…chard chopped and sautéed in olive oil & garlic….oh my!

But for today…..peas and pasta.

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A few weeks ago I picked my solo crop of green peas from my little garden and this is the easy dish I made, “Garden-Grown Green Peas, Crisp Bacon & Parmesan Tossed with Pasta”, a Carbonara riff.

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 A cool, sunny spring with just the right amount of rain gave my pea plants an extra boost and within a month or so I had vines laden with plump green peas! I was pretty thrilled as fresh peas have always been a favorite of mine.

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The hot pasta was tossed in a quick sauce of chicken stock with a splash of cream, sea salt & black pepper for a leaner version of a classic Carbonara-style dish.  I quickly added the steamed green peas, crispy lean bacon & a generous amount of shredded parmesan cheese. Bon Apetit!

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Garden-Grown Green Peas, Crisp Bacon & Parmesan Cheese Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fettucine or spaghetti noodles (regular or gluten-free) cooked, saving 1 cup of hot pasta water
  • 1 cup chicken stock, low-fat
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 cup fresh green peas (or frozen) quickly steamed in microwave
  • 8 slices crisp bacon
  • 1 cup shredded good quality Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a deep stock pot over low heat toss cooked pasta, pasta water, chicken stock, cream and salt & black pepper until noodles are hot and coated with sauce.
  2. Portion into 4 bowls and top each serving with peas, bacon and a generous portion of cheese. Top with additional black pepper. Serve immediately.

This dish is fresh, quick and very good for a spring dinner after a long day at work served with a crisp, cold, dry white wine.

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

Hearty Minestrone Soup with Feta-Parmesan Cornbread to Cure The February Funk

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The are many similarities between Southerners and Italians…we both like to talk excitedly and passionately about things we feel strongly about…we both love to cook and truly believe that food can heal among other things…a broken heart, the flu and any sort of general malaise. A general (February dark wet days) malaise seems to have fallen over many folks I have talked to this week. Nothing specific…just a general funk!

I suggest to cure your February Funk make this Minestrone Soup and Cornbread. Make a big pot to eat on for days. Make a big skillet of cornbread as well. I am sure you will brighten up and feel happier right away!

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My well-seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Skillet gives my recipe a very nice crust. A cast iron skillet like this one is a must for making true Southern cornbread.

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Minestrone Soup, Italian for a myriad of vegetable soups, can have pretty much whatever you want in it. One thing I always add is the leftover rind of Parmesan Cheese. Don’t throw them away as they add lots of flavor to any soup. I combine canned beans, fresh squash, canned or fresh tomatoes and chicken stock as the base for my version. You can add pasta or not. Experiment to come up with your own style.

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When I eat hearty winter soups like Minestrone a skillet of cornbread is part of the picture.  Experimenting with a basic cornbread recipe is my usual approach. This week I had lots of Feta and shredded-herbed Parmesan cheeses left over from a photo shoot.

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A good olive oil is what I put into the skillet while it is heating up. The cornbread will have a very crispy outside crust and stay moist inside if you get the skillet and oil very, very hot in a 400 degree oven before adding the batter. See what I mean below?

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Cook. Eat Well. Talk about stuff. Cook some more. You will feel better in the morning!

Hearty Minestrone Soup and Feta-Parmesan Cornbread

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients for Minestrone Soup:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini squash, cut into half moons
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into half moons
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 to 2 Parmesan cheese rinds
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded (optional)

Ingredients for Cornbread:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for skillet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Directions for Soup:

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy soup pan over medium high heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent.
  2. To soup pan add broth, zucchini and yellow squash, cannellini beans, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes and Parmesan rinds. Bring to a boil then turn heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes  and shredded chicken if using.Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Also you can add a bit more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Directions for Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet and place in oven to get very hot.
  2. Blend together, using a whisk, the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the feta and Parmesan cheeses and the Italian herb mixture.
  4. To dry ingredients add 1/4 cup olive oil, egg and milk. Stir until blended.
  5. Remove hot skillet from oven and add cornbread batter. Place back in oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Serve hot cut  with Minestrone Soup.

Teresa Blackburn   http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com    www.foodonfifth.com

Thanks-Giving Parmesan Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage & Butternut Squash

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Thanksgiving….giving thanks.

Thanksgiving is upon us and in my life there is so much to be thankful for that my mind reels. The list is long and I try to keep it in the front of my mind most days whether it is a holiday or not. It is not always easy but I try. Do you have a mental list of things you are thankful for?

For these savory “Parmesan-Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage and Butternut-Squash”, if you do not have a classic French madeleine pan, use a cast iron corn stick pan. I bought my pans at Amazon but recently picked up a few more at TJMaxx. You can find a previous madeleine post I did for “Chocolate  Black-Peppercorn Orange Madeleines” here as well. Madeleines are traditionally sweet and originated from the Lorraine region in France. My Southern, seasonal twist uses yellow polenta, sage and butternut squash as well as parmesan cheese and will be a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving meal. Also great with chili or soups.

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Fresh sage leaves in the bottom of the pan….batter spread on top…..

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…baked for 15 minutes until golden brown…..

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…flipped out onto a cooling rack and while hot I shredded more Parmesan over the top.

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I made this recipe earlier in the year for a project I was working on with a friend. In that recipe I did not use butternut-squash, but I had some left from a photo shoot and did not want to let it go to waste so shredded it and tossed into the batter for a more seasonal twist!

Be Thankful. Be Kind and Share.

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Parmesan-Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage and Butternut Squash

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Ingredients:

  • coconut oil spray
  • 1 bunch fresh sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup instant polenta
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded butternut squash
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • special equipment: 2 madeleine pans

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray madeleine pans with coconut spray.
  3. Place one or two fresh sage leaves in the bottom of each “madeleine” space. Press down into the molds using your fingers. Respray with coconut oil. The oil will secure the sage leaves to bottom of the pan.
  4. In a mixing bowl blend together instant polenta, flour, baking soda, Parmesan cheese, sea salt & black pepper.
  5. Stir in the melted butter, eggs, butternut squash & buttermilk. Blend well. Spoon batter into the pan over the sage leaves just to batter being level. Pat into mold with you fingers. If batter gets too dry then add a bit more buttermilk. This batter is thicker than your regular cornbread batter.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until madeleines are golden brown and puffy. Remove pans from oven and cool for a few minutes. Turn pans upside down to release madeleines from pan. While they are still hot sprinkle more Parmesan on top. It will slightly melt into the surface. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. Can be reheated as well. Store any leftovers in a plastic bag for a few days.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

Pesto & Poetry – “Emerald Pesto Tossed with Trotolle Pasta”

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Have you ever made deep-of-summer pesto? Do you ever sit and sip and read poetry on a warm night?

Many years ago I discovered my love of both and as I made pesto a few days ago using the emerald-green basil from our garden I remembered how much I love the prose-like poetry of Diane Wakoski. Especially a book of her poems entitled “Emerald Ice”. The selection above is from the first few lines of the first poem in this collection.

So here is a quick pesto using deep-green Basil leaves, a bit of sassy-green Arugula and the slightest-green pistachios. Tossed with a hearty & hollow Trotolle pasta…the pesto seeping onto and into the noodles…edible poetry!

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A few handfuls of Basil leaves & Arugula, fresh lime juice, shelled pistachios & a good olive oil is all you need.

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Emerald green pesto……

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…tossed with some al dente Trotolle, also called “spins” as they look like little spinning tops. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan. This is pretty much…along with love…all you need.

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Emerald Pesto tossed with Trottole Pasta

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1 handful fresh arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 8 to 12 ounces Trottole pasta noodles cooked al dente (or any other short pasta)
  • additional shredded Parmesan cheese to top
  • salt &  black pepper optional (the lime juice and Parmesan will add a natural saltiness)

Directions:

  1. Place the pistachios in a food processor and pulse a few times.
  2. Add basil and arugula leaves. Pulse again 2 or 3 times.
  3. Add Parmesan and lime juice and pulse.
  4. With the processor running quickly drizzle in olive oil to your liking.
  5. Scrape finished pesto out of the processor bowl into a jar. Toss some of the pesto with hot, cooked & drained Trottole pasta. Scatter additional Parmesan cheese over the top of each serving and enjoy. Salt & pepper if desired.

Store any leftover pesto in a jar in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. I usually make extra while I am at it and freeze small jars for winter dishes.

“A Simple Sauce, Dave’s Tomatoes & an Ode by Pablo Neruda”

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My son-in-law, David,  has the magic touch when it comes to growing almost anything. He plants casually like a seasoned farmer. He does not fuss or worry, but accepts that things will grow, or not, depending on the weather. Tomatoes grow well for him in bad years, but this year, a good year, his plants are laden. He and my daughter, Whitney, are very generous with their bounty. See the big beauties above? Yep, those are David’s Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

 Vine ripened, just picked tomatoes. I am moved by their shapeliness, their innate lack of sameness and their color wheel of “reds, oranges & pinks”.

This is my favorite hot-summer, no-cook tomato sauce. It can only be made “right now” with just picked Summer tomatoes. Fresh, no fuss, quick and just plain good.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce

You only need a few ingredients….Fresh homegrown tomatoes, a few basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, smashed garlic cloves, a good fruity olive oil, salt & pepper, a splash of red wine vinegar and just grated Parmesan cheese to scatter over the top.

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If you live in Nashville stop by Lazzaroli’s on 5th Avenue North in Historic Germantown. Tom has an amazing selection of olive oils. I picked up this bottle of Madonna Olive Oil especially for this dish. It’s amazing.

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Cook up some pasta al dente.

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Toss the sauce with the pasta, scatter Parmesan over the top…stay cool, eat well.

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 “Ode to Tomatoes” by Pablo Neruda

 …..at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

 

No-Cook Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce for Pasta

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print
Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce
Ingredients:
  • 2 Large or 4 smaller size vine-ripened Tomatoes, cored & chopped
  • a small handful of fresh Basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/3 cup good quality fruity olive oil
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

 

  1. Add the chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, pine nuts & garlic to a mixing bowl
  2. Pour in olive oil & vinegar and toss well.
  3. Season with salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  4. Chill until ready to serve covered.
  5. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan, a crusty loaf to sop the juices on your plate and your favorite summer wine.

Notes: Unlike a cooked sauce, this is just a mouthful of summer. I have been making this for years and only eat it in the middle of tomato season. Some dishes have to wait for the right season to enjoy, such is this one.

Any homegrown tomatoes will work great. I used some of my baby tomatoes in this dish to add texture.  Probably 2 lbs of tomatoes would be good for this recipe for two servings. Just increase to feed more.