Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cooking tales with zucchini crumble and roasted tomato tarts

Why do you blog? Is it the community? The hope for something more in the competitive world of food writing? The adventure?

For my parents 50th, I recreated their Wedding Cake - it was an Italian Cookie Cake. I took photos. I always took photos of food. A few years ago, my husband took me along on a business trip to Toulouse. I came home with over a hundred photos.
"They're all of cheese," my friend exclaimed. And so they were. Cheeses and breads mostly and an occasional pretty sight. I had no blog. I am not a gifted photographer but I have CD's filled with food.

There were sixteen first cousins in all. Most of us in New York. Eight of us living in the Italian -manner - within a few blocks of each other. All at the same school. All living in each others backyard. We are hither and yonder these days - but we can still finish each others sentences. We still have the same sense of humor. And most of us got the cooking gene. I think that's why I now blog about food. I think it's genetic.

When I saw perfectly ripe figs (from Minnesota!) at Surdyk's Cheese Shop - I grew weak. And scarfed them up. I ran my fingers over them. I instantly left Minnesota and went into Cookingland. Who does that? And then I went home and adapted Clotilde Dusoulier's Daily Adventure's in a Parisian Kitchen's Zucchini Crumble. I had been waiting for the figs. I lowered the fat quotient - but you know - it's a crumble. (Read: not low-fat). And the notion of a vegetable crumble invites me to cook.
The sweet goodness of figs, the mellow zucchini absorbing all, the creamy softness of fresh mozzarella with the sharp earthiness of fresh Parmigiano. Does it get any better than that?

Zucchini Crumble - serves 4 as a meal, 6-8 as a side dish/buffet item
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium zucchini - sliced into fairly thin disks, donb't break out the mandoline
4 teaspoons fresh thyme - divided - can use fresh basil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
1/4 cup whole wheat Panko (can use regular, unflavored breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance Butter
4-5 ounces fresh mozzarella - sliced thin
2 figs sliced into 6 pieces each
*optional: salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie pan. In a medium-large skillet, heat your olive oil until almost sizzling. Add zucchini and 2 tablespoons of thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute till lightly browned (7-8 minutes). In a small bowl, combine Parmigiano and Panko. Slice butter and add in. With fingers, work all together until they resemble a coarse meal - all enticingly crumbly. Work remaining thyme into crumb mixture. Layer zucchini in pie plate. Then layer your mozzarella and then your figs. Top with crumb mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes until all is beautifully browned and ozzing cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can do ahead rewarm in at 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes prior to serving.
Roasted Tomato, Goat Cheese Tartelettes - serves 16
While 3 of my tomato plants have been affected by blight, the cherry tomato bush has been the gift that keeps on giving. I eat them like candy. And then I cook.

Roasted Tomato, Goat Cheese Tartelette Ingredients
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (you may always make your own - I don't), defrosted
16 cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh basil - or 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning instead of the fresh herbs
16 small pieces of goat cheese
8 nicoise or kalamata olives
*Optional: chives for garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl, toss tomatoes with oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Lay on sprayed baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. You want them wrinkled but not mushy. Preheat oven according to puff pastry package directions. Very lightly spray a baking sheet. With a 1 to 1-1/2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out 16 rounds of dough. Place on baking sheet.
With your thumb, make an indentation into the center of each pastry round. Place a roasted tomato in the center. Partially bake for 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and add a goat cheese sliver or crumble to each round. Bake for another 3-4 minutes. Remove and add half of a nicoise or kalamata olive to each round. Garnish with chives and serve.
Roasted, candy-tasting tomatoes with the smooth tang of goat cheese and the brine of the olives - all in one bite. Your palate will dance. And sing. And ask for more. Come to think of that, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes would also sing. Maybe with provolone...

And because I cannot resist a ripe tomato, I bring home more every day. Slice them with herbes de provence, salt and pepper, sliced red onion soaked in red wine vinegar and then cover them with basil and thyme. Cut some ricotta salata on top. Leave it out to entice with small plates and forks for an afternoon and watch it disappear.
In the days of yore, I spent many hours in my grandmother's and aunts and uncles kitchens. They didn't teach me to cook. They never had a recipe. I was always greeted with an anisette toast or an offer of what was simmering on the stove. And when my mother made liver for dinner, I somehow found my way to another Gresio kitchen knowing full well I'd be invited to stay. It's no wonder I cook - it's really the same reason that I write - it's ingrained, yes, genetic. I have no choice. What draws you into the kitchen and into blogosphere?
NOTE: Thanks for visiting Kirsten's new blog. She smiled at the support and dreamed of new sweets.


whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

I love blogging, because I get to read and share lovely stories like yours. Meeting wonderful people like yourself is a bonus! Glad you found some figs! Hope you have a wonderful day!

Anonymous said...

That zucchini crumble with figs looks and sounds amazing! I thinking cooking for me is in the genes as well :)

Angie's Recipes said...

I want that zucchini crumble!!!!! I didn't mean to write a blog at all when I started it...I used it mainly to collect all my recipes. Now I really love it!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely post. I love to learn more about my blogging friends. Your tart and cake look way too appealing for this dieter :-). I may cheat anyway. I originally began to blog for my daughters. Once I started I just could not give it up. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I began to blog to encourage myself to keep learning new things and keep my mind active. It's far better than doing a crossword puzzle! That is why I like to explore the city and write about it, and I love to try new recipes I learn about from wonderful blogs like yours!

That zucchini crumble looks so innovative! My brother usually supplies me with his excess garden zucchini so next time he does I will try this! The tomato tatlettes look so pretty and sound like such a good appetizer.

I hope your sprinkled some of the gourmet salt we bought in LA over your tomato salad! :)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

PS: The reproduction of your parents cookie cake is so pretty!

FOODESSA said...

Claudia...why was I not surprised to read about why you share your wonderful fun moments from your's actually quite transparent...well, at least to me it is.
I pretty much continue sharing my culinary journey because it somehow balances my crazy lifestyle. What has surprised me is how easily attached I get with some passionate nuts like myself ;o)

This fig inspired tart is wonderful...thanks so mush for sharing it. Goat cheese on pretty much anything...puts a smile on my tummy too ;o)

Ciao for now and have yourself a fabulous week!

momgateway said...

such tantalizingly delicious creations!

Monet said...

I love the blogging community. I love reading about so many different people, their creativity, their passion. Your blog certainly inspires me! I was especially drawn to your fig tart as I have a whole package of figs coming my way next week. Thank you for sharing your lovely recipes!

Mister Meatball said...

I want that wedding cake real bad!!!

And what's a "blog" anyway?

Must be a midwestern thing.

Claudia said...

Love the blogging reasons... keeping a tally. Oh and Mister Meatball - yeah, "blog" is right up there in the Midwest with hot dish and jello molds!

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Like the introduction, for me blogging is engaging with people in the cyberspace.
But really I prefer a real cake ;-)(not virtual) like that wedding cake, OMG!!

What a feast of definitively delicious food here adore the tomato tartelettes with goat cheese, fantastic!

All the best,


Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having said...

I wonder sometimes why I blog too. I think growing up in a home that loves food has a lot to do with it.
I'm very intrigued by your crumble. I'm going to have to give it a try!

Wanda..... said...

Are you the little girl on the far right, Claudia or did I guess wrong? I started blogging while I was recuperationg from a severely broken ankle, my daughter suggested it, never dreamed such great friendships would develope along the way.

Claudia said...

I am the littlest and youngest and certainly the most serious one! Other cousins were still coming...

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

this is so unique I love this combo zucchini crumble with figs wow fabulous combinations here! I started blogging to leave my kids our family traditions, and now love the people I have met with this hobby, the best people in the world are bloggers and you my friend are one great lady! thanks for your wonderful talent keep it coming!


Claudia, I just love the goat cheese tartletts--they're so cute! But what I really got excited about was the cascading display of cookies!!! I'd just love to dive into that thing!

Reeni said...

Your cookie cake is adorable! And enticing. Would of never thought of figs and zucchini together - how intriguing! And delicious. My cherry tomato plants are still gifting me to - love those little tartlets. I know cooking is in my genes...which makes me wonder if my grandma or great grandma could blog - would they of? I have been musing over the wonders of the internet and how it allows us to do this...I do know I can't imagine my life without it, my blog is my everything.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I get inspired everyday from bloggers like you Claudia! I have to say creating a blog has been the best thing I've ever done, it's a wonderful creative outlet for those of us who are so passionate about food, I only wish I wasn't so technically challenged!
I hope you do a post with a step by step on that cookie cake, LOVE IT!You've been cooking up some luscious food here Claudia!

Vibe said...


Must make Zucchini Crumble, and furthermore will, as soon as possible.

Kim said...

I'm definitely blogging for the community. I love discovering that others share the same passion for food and cooking. I also think it's for the adventure. Trying new things and seeing what new things others come up with. Your zucchini crumble with figs is a great example of that! It sounds and looks like a really unique and fun recipe with all kinds of different flavors.

How nice for you to have grown up with so many first cousins and aunts and uncles nearby. It gives real meaning to life when you are surrounded by so much love.

I can tell that you take a lot of inspiration from your garden and you definitely made the most of your bounty this year. The tarts are precious!

Also, I do go to cookingland quite often. It's probably one of my favorite places and maybe where I feel the most comfortable with myself.

Kristen said...

I wish I could have a slice of that zucchini fig crumble right now. It sounds incredible. I totally agree with you about garden tomatoes. Their flavor is so much better than store bought. It is always so sad when garden season ends and I am forced to go back to the produce section for tomatoes.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow, who'd have thought of putting figs with zucchini? Not I, but I've got to try this one. Love the cookie cake too. What a lovely idea. Blogging is a way for me to have old family recipes on a permanent record for my kids, but also a creative outlet to keep me going. It's been wonderful to connect with other bloggers like you too, and get even more ideas.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I so enjoy learning more about my blogging friends. Happy anniversary to your parents. Beautiful cake and I love the tart and the zucchini crumble too. Hope you have a great holiday weekend.

Juliana said...

Zucchini and fig? Such an interesting combination...the little tartelettes look so cute...they sure make a lovely appetizer.

Chef Dennis Littley said...

That Zucchini crumble looks amazing...who knew you put figs in it! Clotilde is something else! Your goat cheese tartlette is a perfect combination of flavors, roasted tomatoes are a thing of beauty!

Claudia said...

I don't think I ever would have simply sauteed zucchini and figs but with all the tastes in the crumble - it came together.

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

Now there's an unexpected combination, figs and zucchini, but it actually sounds very good as a crumble...

I fought shy of blogging for years - it was all so technical and esoteric to me then. Friends had been bugging me to do it and one of them actually set up my blog for me and painstakingly taught me the ropes, bless her sweet heart!

Now I CAN"T stop. It's the friends I've found, it's the audience if I'm being truthful and it's knowing that my kids will have a familiar and comforting resource if they ever find themselves in the position of having to cook for themselves, in the future.

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

Now there's an unexpected combination, figs and zucchini, but it actually sounds very good as a crumble...

I fought shy of blogging for years - it was all so technical and esoteric to me then. Friends had been bugging me to do it and one of them actually set up my blog for me and painstakingly taught me the ropes, bless her sweet heart!

Now I CAN"T stop. It's the friends I've found, it's the audience if I'm being truthful and it's knowing that my kids will have a familiar and comforting resource if they ever find themselves in the position of having to cook for themselves, in the future.

Debbie said...

I blog because I absolutely love delicious cakes and cookies and love baking. For years I was a so so baker and always gave up when a recipe didn't work. Two years ago I decided I would become a really good baker no matter what. Then I discovered food blogs and how much I loved reading them, so I decided to start one myself. Simply to share my recipes and blog about what I baked. I love it and hope to do it for a long, long time. I still have a ways to go as far as baking but I'm way better than I was and have a lot more confidence!

Jean at The Delightful Repast said...

Claudia, I just had to come on over to your blog after reading your charming comment on Gina's blog (with the well-dressed dogs). I love that you're passing along your Italian food heritage. Can't wait to read more. My blog is about my food heritage, too--English and Southern.

Barbara GF said...

You're right, Claudia, a passion for food is certainly genetic. I love the combination of zucchini and figs and must try making that. See, that is why blogging is so much fun - you not only get inspired by recipes, but the people who make them. It's also a diary of sorts and a way to preserve some of our cherished family recipes.
And I think I could eat a dozen of those cunning little tomato tartlets!

Unknown said...

I love to cook and I love to write, so I guess that's why I've combined the two. I can imagine you running your fingers over the figs because I'd do the same thing; then sniff them to involve another sense. I'd probably just chomp right in though. I can't resist a fresh fig.

We Are Not Martha said...

The crumble and tarts are to die for!!!! And that cake is totally amazing :)

I blog to share what I know and learn from others. And to be in a fabulous community!


Sutapa said...

Hi Claudia,
It was not preplanned just a casual start and I enter the vast and beautiful world of blogging. Love to cook and have a collection of recipes and so I just started to share but never knew some day it will be my passion and I will meet such wonderful and loving friends in my journey. I think God bless me and showered light in the dark lonely corner of my heart!

Zucchini crumble and Roasted Tomato and Cheese Tartelettes are absolute delish!
Claudia I agree the fact that we are all genetically inspired cook!

SweetsSuccessBaking said...

I know what you mean about it being genetic. Some of my Sisters have the same passion for cooking.

City Share said...

This is my first visit to your blog, and I loved this post. Looking forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing all of the great reicipes and family stories.

OysterCulture said...

Claudia - I started blogging more as an experiment as my blog is not really recipe focused and the connections and experiences I've had have just exceeded my expectations. I'd never have connected with you if I had not written about Ireland.

This food you have shared looks just amazing and I now have zucchini crumble on the brain.

Magic of Spice said...

This crumble sounds so delicious :)
My son and I started the blog as something we could do together. We have been blogging for just over 5 mo now. And I am amazed by the community, and I love sharing food ideas with everyone :)

Cajun Chef Ryan said...

I blog for many reasons, one of which is to find and meet new friends who share expereinces with food and family.

Figs are the same for me, I melt when I find fresh and ripe for the eating. When we had two fig trees in our back yard, one would produce four times as much as the other, guess it was the age, or orientation to the plants, I don't know. But I remember walking out the back door and picking a dozen or more at a time and just popping them in their warm summer succulence.

Très magnifique et bon appetit!

Lori Lynn said...

Love the cousins photo. And that crumble looks amazing!

My Little Space said...

The cake looks great! I wanna grab a few of those too. haha... Btw, the zuchinni & fresh fig dish is a pretty interesting combo. It must be so taste good! And the savory tartlets sounds really tempting. I want to try that out soon. Thanks, Claudia for sharing. Hope you're having a great day.
Blessings, Kristy

My Little Space said...

Btw, I never know what blogging is all about a couple years back! And now, I couldn't stop it either like everyone else. haha... Hope you're having a great time too.
Regards, Kristy

Velva said...

Claudia, as always your dishes rock.

Why we blog? I think it is simply because we have a passion for everything food. Blogging is a creative outlet to share that passion with other people. I do believe its genetic. I have been food crazy since I was very young. Pouring over a cookbook was enjoyable even before I was a teenager.

joe@italyville said...

Your right Claudia, cooking is in our blood... and I like the fact that there's no recipes, somehow it still comes out right.:)

Table Talk said...

Oh, this zucchini fig crumble is calling my name. I am hoping our farmers market will still have some figs when I walk through on Saturday morning!

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

blogging us addicting and its for the love of the hobby and desire to please you have proved that over and over..your a pro and thank you I have learned from you, this is an awesome display of fablous talent here~