Strawberries, Basil, Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Nuts, Oh My!

I am totally loving the WC Platinum Chef Challenge and I hope you are too! It really did take me a while to figure out what to make. I just couldn’t seem to narrow down my ideas! I really did choose the ingredients randomly, but once I started thinking about them, there are actually many ways to put these together. I decided on Almond-Crusted Fried Goat Cheese with Strawberry-Basil “Salsa” and Grilled Salmon on a Zucchini Pancake with Roasted Corn and Tomato-Basil Relish. I prepared these dishes for a few friends that came over for dinner, including one friend who eats a gluten-free diet. Therefore, I used an all-purpose gluten-free baking mix anywhere that called for flour. I’ve never used any gluten-free products before, but it worked out perfectly!

I have to admit, I was a little pressed for time and didn’t have time to bother with recipes. So I will try my best to describe what I used and how I put everything together. The following menu serves five.

Almond-Crusted Fried Goat Cheese with Strawberry-Basil “Salsa”
2 cups strawberries, diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction (or regular vinegar, I just happened to have some reduction left in the fridge)
small handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced

6 oz goat cheese (log)
1 egg, beaten
almonds, ground in food processor
canola oil – just enough to cover bottom of frying pan

baby spinach

Toss strawberries with vinegar and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Slice goat cheese into 5 rounds. Works best at room temperature, and if you clean knife in between cuts. Carefully dredge each round in flour, then dip in egg, and coat thoroughly with almonds.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat until just smoking. Add coated goat cheese rounds and fry for a few minutes on each side, turning carefully with tongs or a spatula. Remove to a paper towel to let them drain for a minute, but not too long, because they should be served warm.

Add basil to strawberries and toss.

Arrange spinach leaves on each plate and top with a goat cheese round and some of the strawberry mixture.

Grilled Salmon on a Zucchini Pancake with Roasted Corn and Tomato-Basil Relish
*Cook’s note: I apologize for taking pictures of the serving on the orange plate – it definitely would have come out better on any of my other colors! There is just too much blending of the food colors with the plate. Oh well, I hope you get the idea!

1 3/4 lb fresh salmon filets

I drizzled with balsamic vinegar, squeezed some fresh lemon juice, and sprinkled with garlic powder. I let it marinate for about 30 mintues. I wish I could have done more, but I was pressed for time and hadn’t come up with a plan, so I just threw this together. It still tasted really great though and worked with the other components. We cooked the salmon on the grill in our grilling basket.

Roasted Corn and Tomato-Basil Relish
1 cob of corn
half of a bell pepper, any color, or a few small ones (I used the orange and yellow ones from the pack of mini sweet peppers I bought at TJ’s – see appetizer post below!)
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
evoo, salt, pepper
half of a lemon
a few leaves of fresh basil, sliced

Grill corn and peppers. For the corn, we remove the husks, spray with some butter spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and wrap in foil. Cook for about 10 minutes and then remove foil and cook just long enough to being browning. Remove from grill and set aside to cool. For peppers, let them char on each side. Remove from grill and place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and set aside to cool.

Peel skin from peppers and slice. Slice corn off the cob and combine in a bowl with tomatoes and peppers. Drizzle with evoo and lemon juice and toss with basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Zucchini Pancakes
3 medium zucchini, grated
small onion, chopped
a few cloves of garlic, minced

Set this in a cheesecloth (a thin dishtowel would work too) over a bowl for about 30 minutes. When ready to prepare pancakes, squeeze out as much liquid as you possibly can. Then add:

3 eggs, beaten
salt & pepper
grated lemon zest from a small lemon

Mix together, and add flour until it reaches a good pancake consistency (sorry, I should have measured!)

I wanted large pancakes, so I made each one just about a 1/2 cup. Cook on nonstick griddle coated with cooking spray over medium heat until firm on one side, then flip and finish cooking other side.

To serve: Arrange a piece of salmon over a pancake and top with some of the relish.

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One Response to “Strawberries, Basil, Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Nuts, Oh My!”

  1. 1

    Valli — June 30, 2007 @ 3:36 pm Reply

    Oh my gosh!!! This sounds absolutely delicious!! Good work Cara!!!

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