zucchini

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley

Hello!

I’m writing to you today from one of my favorite Paris coffee shops. I’m a little loopy from jet lag and an unsuccessful attempt to drug myself to sleep with cold medicine last night. And coffee. Lots of coffee! (In retrospect, I can see this maybe wasn't my best plan ever.)

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Anyhoo. I’m just popping in with a quick recipe for you today. I don’t know what it’s like where you live but it’s hot as satan’s attic here in Paris. I was a little sad to be leaving summer behind when I boarded my flight in Seattle last Sunday. But my fears were unfounded--summer has accompanied me across the Atlantic and is still in full swing. 

So. I have another easy-peasy summertime recipe for you this week: Grilled Zucchini with Ricotta, Honey and Toasted Barley. 

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

You might recognize this from my post on the pop-up dinner I hosted with my friend Kyle a few weeks ago. This was my favorite dish of the night. It’s fitting that I’m sending it to you from Paris since it’s my adaptation of an amazing dish I had here at Au Passage last May. The beauty of this dish--like everything served at Au Passage--lies in its simplicity and first-rate, seasonal ingredients. And it hits all the right summer notes with its smoky grilled squash, creamy ricotta, chile-spiked honey and nutty toasted barley. (Whatever you do, promise me you won’t skip the barley! It makes the dish.)

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Alright. I’m off to wander the streets of Paris in an over-medicated, over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived daze. It should be an interesting day!

I’ll be back soon with some of my favorite things to do and see here in Paris. XO!

Olaiya

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Grilled Zucchini with Ricotta, Honey and Toasted Barley

  • ½ cup hulled barley (not pearl barley)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 6-8 small pattypan squash, halved (yellow summer squash works, too)
  • 3 cups best-quality ricotta
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons aleppo pepper
  • Juice from ½ a small lemon
  • ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves

*Note: The toasted barley and aleppo honey can be made several hours in advance. 

grilled zucchini with ricotta, honey and toasted barley on millys-kitchen.com

Place the barley in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water to remove the excess starch. Place in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Drain the barley and place it on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss it with olive oil to coat lightly and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast, stirring often, until the barley is golden and crunchy, 25-30 minutes. To determine if the barley is done, take a grain out and taste it; you want it to be crunchy like a partially-popped grain of popcorn. It will seem like the barley is never going to cook through, then in the last few minutes of roasting, it turns crunchy and delicious. So watch it carefully. Set aside to cool. 

While the barley is roasting, make the aleppo honey: Place the honey and aleppo in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the honey has loosened, 1-2 minutes.

Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Place the halved squash in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil to coat and salt generously. Cook the squash, turning as needed until it has nice char marks, and has softened a bit. The exact time will vary depending on the size of your squash, but 5 minutes is a good starting point. The pattypan squash will take a little longer than the zucchini. You want the squash to remain firm, so be sure not to overcook it. Set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble, cut the zucchini on the bias into 2-3 inch pieces. spread the ricotta onto a serving platter and salt lightly. Arrange the squash over the ricotta. Salt lightly and squeeze a little lemon juice over the squash. Drizzle with some of the honey and sprinkle with the barley. Tear the mint leaves if large and scatter them over the top before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings. 

chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Today, I have for you a chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto. I love this soup because it’s easy and delicious and a great reminder of how being wrong can sometimes save the day.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not necessarily fond of being wrong. Especially in front of other people. But, in it’s own serendipitous way, this soup proved me wonderfully wrong on two occasions. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

It’s based on a chilled green soup I had at Frenchie in Paris a few weeks back. If you’re not familiar with Frenchie, you might not know that obtaining a reservation here is a major logistical feat. Or that on any given evening, the sidewalk outside is awash with Beautiful People, smoking and laughing and being generally very sexy and French. I’d scoped it out several times before deciding it couldn’t possibly live up to all the hype and striking it off my list. 

To be perfectly honest, I was intimidated by the effort required to secure a table. And all that sexy Frenchness. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

But when the lovely Sarah Pank, chief miracle-worker at Apartments Actually, managed to snag us a reservation, I wasn’t about to say no. Accepting her gracious offer was one of the smartest things I’ve done recently because, friends, that meal was phenomenal. All seven gorgeous courses of it. Working my way through crisp, seed-crusted cauliflower and silky foie-gras with apple confit and fresh berries with herbed ice cream, I savored every second of having my assumptions overturned.

A highlight of the meal was one of the the amuses-bouches: a tiny earthenware cup of chilled green soup, garnished with edible flowers, crunchy cured ham and creamy feta. It tasted like spring. When Beth suggested we try to recreate the soup as part of a lunch for our retreat guests, I was skeptical. It’s too cold out for a chilled soup. There’s no way we can come up with something as magical as the Frenchie version! Do people even like cold soup anyway?!? 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Beth gently insisted and I decided it wasn’t worth arguing over. The green soup I ended up making was fresh and bright. A riff on the classic marriage of peas and ham, in a springier incarnation. We garnished it with a few drops of pistachio oil and crumbles of salty jambon de Bayonne from the market. It was my favorite part of the lunch. 

So in addition to being fresh and light and just the sort of thing I want to eat on a warm spring day, this soup serves as a reminder that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know. And that that’s a wonderful thing.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

P.S. The Paris culinary retreat sold out in record time. (Thank you all for your wonderful support!) A lot of you wrote me asking about upcoming trips, so I wanted to let you know I've got details on the Portugal retreat headed your way next week. If you're not already on my mailing list, sign up here to get priority notice for all upcoming tours and events. XO!


Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ a medium fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 large bunch spinach (about 1 lb), rinsed and tough stems removed
  • ½ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cups English peas (from about 2 lbs. unshelled peas)
  • 1 small head green garlic (or 2 cloves regular garlic), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 very thin slices prosciutto (serrano ham, jambon de Bayonne and pancetta are great also)
  • Pistachio oil, to garnish (or good quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Edible flowers, to garnish (I used borage, chervil and thyme flowers from my garden)

*Notes: Feel free to substitute herbs for the edible flowers. You’ll want to use more delicately flavored herbs so they don’t overwhelm the soup. Fennel fronds, tarragon, thyme leaves, small mint or basil leaves, or a few snipped chives would work well.

- If you don’t plan to eat all the soup at once, add the lemon juice and vinegar only to what you plan to eat at one sitting. They will cause the soup to lose its color if added too far in advance. (It tastes fine, but looks a little drab.)

- For a vegetarian or vegan version, substitute a creamy feta or some finely-chopped pistachios for the prosciutto.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over low heat. Add the fennel and half the salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes. You don’t want the fennel to brown. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, peas, garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. Raise the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the spinach has just wilted and the peas are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Take care not to overcook the vegetable or the soup will lose its bright color.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Take care not to fill your blender more than ⅔ full so the steam from the soup doesn’t blow the top off and burn you. If you don’t have a blender powerful enough to puree the soup very fine, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the pureed soup to a large bowl, thin with cold water to your desired consistency and place in the fridge to cool completely.

Remove the soup from the fridge 30 minutes to one hour before serving so it can warm up a bit. (When it’s ice cold, it looses some of it's depth.) Add the lemon juice and vinegar just before serving. Taste and add more salt and/or acid as necessary.

While the soup is warming up, crisp the prosciutto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the ham and cook, turning once or twice until crisp, about 5 mins. Transfer to a  paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of the pistachio (or olive) oil. Top with edible flowers and serve with the crispy prosciutto.

Makes 6 first-course servings.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

simple suppers: zucchini and chicken meatballs with fresh herbs

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

For most of my life spaghetti and meatballs didn’t rank among the meals I consider comfort food. I did not grow up eating this ubiquitous dish. Unless, of course, you include the many cans of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs I ate as a kid. (Since soggy canned pasta seems like it shouldn’t count as food, I’m inclined not to.)

I didn’t like real spaghetti and meatballs until I tasted the superlative version served at La Medusa several years ago. Shortly after that, my friend Molly introduced me to the marvel that is a Cafe Lago meatball

For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of sampling the meatballs served at this Seattle institution, I can tell you they are the real deal. The perfect blend of beef, pork, herbs, spices and salty parmesan, these meatballs are so juicy and tender they barely benefit from the addition of pasta or sauce.

I was hooked.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

I may be late to the game, but I like to think I’m making up for lost time in my culinary exploration of the world’s great meatballs. In addition to all manner of Italian meatballs, I’ve made Moroccan kefta, studded with chiles and preserved lemon. Turkish dumplings with garlicky lamb meatballs inside. Thai-spiced pork meatballs with Sriracha aioli. Persian koofteh bound with basmati rice and fragrant with mint.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

The common thread that ties all these savory spheres of ground meat together is their no-frills origins. Try as one might, there’s no disguising the meatball’s utilitarian roots: a little leftover meat, minced and tossed with an egg, yesterday’s bread crumbs and a few spices for good measure. 

It’s precisely this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink flexibility that makes the meatball so appealing. There’s no end to the number of flavors meatballs can accommodate, making them the perfect vehicle for using up whatever odds and ends are floating around the kitchen.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

When I opened my fridge yesterday, I found a few scallions, a couple lemons, some random herbs and a pile of zucchini balancing precariously on the edge of usability. I remembered a delicious turkey burger recipe from my favorite cookbook and--voilà!--these meatballs were born.

I’m calling these a Simple Supper because if you own a food processor, they come together in a flash. You can mix up the tangy, garlicky yogurt sauce while the meatballs are in the oven. Add a green salad or a few crudités for dipping in the yogurt and you’ve got a meal. 

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

It may have taken me a while to discover how comforting the humble meatball can be. But I’m proud to report I’d now take a plate of homemade meatballs over a can of microwaved SpaghettiOs any day.


Zucchini and Chicken Meatballs with Fresh Herbs

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves
  • ¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed parsley leaves
  • 2 lbs ground chicken (dark meat)
  • 3 green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • ½ teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 large egg
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed mixed herbs such as mint, cilantro, parlsey, dill or basil (I used cilantro and dill)
  • Finely grated lemon zest, to garnish
  • Garlic-Sumac Yogurt, to serve (recipe below)
zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

*Notes: I always double grind the meat when I’m making meatballs; it yields a more tender, juicy meatball that is less likely to fall apart when you cook it. I either ask the butcher to do it for me or just throw regular ground meat in my food processor for about 20 seconds to get a finer texture and more even distribution of fat. Of course, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t double-grind the meat, but I find it makes a much better meatball. 

- If you don’t have a food processor, you can ask your butcher to double grind the chicken. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater before salting and draining. Then mince the garlic by hand and roughly chop the herbs before adding them to the ground chicken. 

- These meatballs freeze beautifully. Once you have them formed, put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the meatballs to a resealable bag. They will keep for up to two months in the freezer. They can be browned from frozen, but will require more time in the oven.

- If you don't need these meatballs to be gluten-free, you can replace the almond meal with dried breadcrumbs.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

Grate the zucchini using the shredding disk of your food processor. Place the grated zucchini in a colander or a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside to drain for at least 15 minutes. 

Place the drained zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and wring to dry. You want to remove as much water as possible so your meatballs don’t fall apart when you cook them. Place the zucchini in a large mixing bowl.

Remove the shredding disk from your food processor and insert the s-shaped blade. Add the garlic and process to roughly chop it. Add the mint, cilantro and parsley and process until roughly chopped. Add the chicken and process for 20 seconds more, until the fat is more evenly distributed in the meat. Transfer the chicken mixture to the bowl with the zucchini. Add the green onion, 1 more teaspoon of salt, the parmesan, almond meal, ground cumin, chile flakes and egg. Mix well to combine. Use a two-tablespoon scoop to shape the mixture into balls. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for at least 20 minutes.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

Preheat the oven to 400F. 

Heat a large, heatproof skillet (preferably cast iron or carbon steel) over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom. When the oil is shimmery, add the meatballs. Cook, turning as necessary until the meatballs are nicely browned, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.

Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the middle, about 10 minutes longer. (You can cut into one to check doneness.)

To serve, sprinkle the meatballs with fresh herbs and lemon zest and accompany with Garlic-Sumac Yogurt.

Makes about 30 meatballs, 6-8 servings.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.


Garlic-Sumac Yogurt

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 2 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Generous pinch sea salt

*Note: If you can't find sumac, you can leave it out. The yogurt will still be delicious.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

Makes about 2 cups.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com