When in doubt, make zucchini fritters

26 Jul

 

A huge zucchini sneaked up on us in our garden over the weekend (a scary event, as you can imagine). I wanted to use as much of it as I could while it was so uber-fresh, so I sought out a recipe for zucchini fritters. I adapted this one from Martha Stewart and her minions. I think it’s really adaptable; all kinds of fresh herbs (thyme! basil! oregano!) would be great in it. I think it was great because of three things: 1) very fresh zucchini 2) very fresh (farmers market) onions, and 3) salt. I also put some sour cream on the side and slathered some on the top of the fritters. Even baby girl ate some! (She also spit out the second bite, but let’s forget that.)

Anyway, if you have zucchini or summer squash taking over your life, this is a great way to use some. After all, you get fiber from the zucchini, protein from the eggs, and even calcium from the sour cream. Good deal.

From the Martha recipe, I adapted it by not measuring the amount of zucchini (of course, since I’m well-known for that habit), skipped the onion, lemon, and parsley, and added a little more salt.

Zucchini Fritters

Adapted from marthastewart.com
Makes 8-10 fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • one medium onion, diced small
  • freshly ground pepper (to taste, or 1/4 t)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate zucchini into a medium bowl. Add the salt, onion, pepper, and eggs. Mix well to combine. Slowly add flour, stirring so no lumps form. Do not overstir.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles when you drop a small amount of zucchini mixture into the pan. Carefully drop about 2 tablespoons zucchini mixture into pan; repeat, spacing fritters a few inches apart.
  3. Cook fritters until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium. Turn fritters, and continue cooking until golden, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer fritters to a plate; set aside in a warm place. Cook remaining zucchini mixture, adding more oil to pan if necessary. Sprinkle more salt on top, and serve with sour cream on the side. Eat immediately!

Watermelon-mint cooler

7 Jul

This just in: here in the upper Midwest, summer has finally decided to come, and summer equals sticky. This I tell you, brother: you can’t have one without the other. Something else you can’t not have in the summer, no matter where your summer is? Watermelon. Seedless watermelon has dropped in price recently, and with a little watermelon eater around here, I snapped those babies up…and then paid the consequences, when we went on a trip to Wisconsin over the Fourth of July (happy birthday, America!) and the watermelon wedges got a little soggy-sogged. Not the crisp texture I’m looking for, but when a girl has soggy, sweet watermelon, she makes watermelon-ade. Or something like that, but that doesn’t sound as good.

I’m discovering more ways to use watermelon lately–a watermelon-mint-feta salad has been on my list since we had it on a cruise two years ago, and it finds itself in smoothies and all sorts of drinks. This is a delicious way to cool down when you decided not to turn on your air conditioning, since it was a cool evening and morning, and then the day turned nice and roasty later on. I don’t know who would do such a thing, but if you meet that kind of person, recommend this to them. It’s like swimming in a cool pool of icy-sweet deliciousness, but you don’t have to put on sunscreen or towel off to do it. Bonus.

If you have little ones outside in the heat all day long and you’re trying to keep them hydrated, this is a good way to do it; watermelon is what, about 99.99% water, and yes, that counts toward your daily intake.

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Watermelon-Mint Cooler

Note: Agave nectar is a syrup made from the blue agave plant, found in Mexico and other dry, desert areas. It is sweeter than either honey or sugar. It’s become more popular and widely used in recent years because of its low glycemic load, which means that it won’t raise your blood sugar as quickly as other sweeteners do. For that reason, it’s a good choice for diabetics and others who need to watch spikes in blood glucose. Teaspoon for teaspoon, however, it has the same amount of calories as other sweeteners. In my area, I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s and Costco (in a two-pack for the latter). I used the TJ’s variety in this recipe.

 Makes 2 large glasses full. 

Ingredients:

4-5 cups watermelon, in hunks
Juice of 1/2 a lime
6 ice cubes
6 large, fresh mint leaves, torn in half
1 squeeze of agave nectar*
pinch of salt

Put everything but the agave and mint in a blender. Blend on high (I use a K-Tec blender, of the “Will it blend?” YouTube fame, and I blended at 3 for 15 seconds, then 5 for 10). Taste. Add agave to taste (I used a small squeeze–agave is sweeter than sugar). Add salt to taste.

Pour into two cheap-o plastic cups, because you’re frugal like that and weren’t planning on taking any pictures of this, don’t garnish with mint (for the same reason), sit on your classy, classy deck, and drink. Aaaahhhh. You’re ten to fifteen degrees cooler suddenly.

*Of course you can substitute sugar, honey, or another sweetener (or none, even better!) of your choice.

In other, unrelated news, it is lily time around here! This makes me very happy. Aren’t they beautiful?

Martha’s Chocolate Pavlova

3 Apr

And when I say “Martha’s,” we all know I mean “Something one of Martha’s minions in the test kitchen came up with,” since I’m pretty sure Martha’s not up to her elbows in egg whites day in and day out. I, on the other hand, have no minions, and thus must make my own pavlova. Don’t feel bad for me. It’s a good life. I eat ganache right off the spoon.

Last Saturday’s spousal date included a trip to Q Fanatic, a barbecue joint up the street that’s enjoyed a helping of fame (and customers) via an appearance on a Food Network show. We had some vague warning about wait time, which the husband and I swept past and ignored. This is the part where you try to make sense of barbecue and pavlova, not an easy combination. Be patient, young frog. It’s coming. Alas, the wait was an hour, so we left jilted. Instead we swung north a block or two to Truffles and Tortes in Anoka. (Have you been there? You should go! And take me!) I entered empty-handed, left roughly ten dollars poorer but one large raspberry macaroon, one slice of Strawberry Chantilly cake, and one slice of bread pudding richer (I was sharing, remember–judge not). When we got home, we played Sequence, said “Macarooner!” over and over, and it wasn’t at all annoying. Then the next day, the husband could not stop thinking about the macaroon. It was an unconventional macaroon. Ganache in the middle, fresh raspberries marching around the outside, both between two crisp-chewy, bright-pink disks. We needed a macaroon. We needed texture, chewiness, ganache. Thus: the pavlova.

Making a pavlova has been on my to-do list for several years, ever since my friend Julianne described making one with her family at home, meringue topped with whipped cream and berries. Try not to want that. Finally I got around to it, via Martha, with a few adjustments. We even made it together, proving that pavlova can create miracles, since it is actually easier to mow my lawn under the Minnesota snow than to get my beloved psyched about baking with me.

I altered Martha’s recipe a little bit; I made this for book group, so I wanted individual desserts rather than one big one (kind of hard to cut). The original yielded one beautiful, giant, creamy cloud. I adjusted the amounts and got ten dessert-plate-sized pavlovas. Also, the original called for a “chocolate cream,” but I just made ganache. And I use good ol’ Hershey’s cocoa powder, ’cause it comes in a giant container at Costco and it’s a great price and I’m thrifty like that. It’s not Dutch-process. It’s Pennsylvania-processed. Hershey, Pennsylvania.

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Chocolate Pavlova

adapted from the one at Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

FOR THE MERINGUE
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 C dark-brown sugar
1 C superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder

TO ASSEMBLE
Dark-Chocolate Cream *I simply made ganache–recipe found here
1 2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, sweetened to taste
dark-chocolate shavings, for garnish

Make the meringue: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Draw ten small circles on parchment, then flip the parchment paper over. (I used the bowl of a martini glass–it’s about the right size for individual servings.) Pavlovas will spread as they’re baking–so give them a few inches between circles.

Mix whites, sugars, and salt in a mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugars dissolve and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
Sift cocoa powder over meringue, and fold until barely any streaks remain. Using an offset spatula or a large spoon, spread meringue into rounds, using your drawn circles as guides. (Be careful not to spread out too much; meringue will spread more during baking). Form a well in center, being careful not to spread meringue too thin–or you’ll have a crunchy, more-fragile pavlova instead of chewy one.

Bake meringues until dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool on sheet. Carefully peel off the disks. Meringue will keep, covered, for up to 1 day. Martha, Martha. I happen to know that it’ll keep pretty well for more like 4 or 5.  They’ll look like this:

To assemble pavlova: Spread ganache evenly in center of meringue, leaving a 1/2-inch border from edge.

Spread whipped cream over chocolate cream.

Garnish with chocolate shavings. (I used a 75% Lindt bar here.) I like to use a Microplane for this–I’ve only recently acquired this, but I’ve found plenty of uses for it. It’s perfect for lightly grating something hard.

An untimely, or very ahead-of-its-time post: Hot chocolate spoons for foodie friends

19 Jul

Oh my gosh, I found this in my drafts folder. Written last December. Sigh…can you tell how neglected my blog has been? I’m posting it anyway, just to show myself that my blog has an update, no matter if it refers to a time when the snow was frozen, while we experience hot, sponge-like weather here. I’m not even going to spell-check it, lest I continue not to post anything because I’m fretting over letter misplacement. (It’s a dark sin, so don’t tell my fellow editors.) Is it still the thought that counts?

Via Quick post today; Stumble Upon has brought me this gem from these European chocolate makers, Chocolate Company, which would be a great gift idea–I mean, when Christmas, or anything else, comes along. A gift for a foodie, or from a foodie. But doesn't this look like something you could make at home, given a few molds? Find some high-quality chocolate, some fun mix-ins (doesn't the strawberry and pink peppercorn sound interesting?), and a few sturdy wooden spoons. You could go all Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and cover it with toppings–nuts, pieces of solid chocolate, colored candies, etc. I can think of all sorts of applications for this: white chocolate (okay, I know, it's not really chocolate, but "white candy that's not chocolate but melts and people call it white chocolate" is kind of long) with pink or blue candies for a baby shower, dark chocolate with red-hot cinnamon candies to give to your love for Valentine's Day, milk chocolate with blanched almonds and almond extract for Easter, a few for host gifts…and so it goes. (Easter here does not equal spring; it equals snow, appropriate for hot chocolate.)Voila! Christmas gift for the neighbors. And is there anything better than a homemade gift? I submit that there is not! You might, of course, need to test these out before you give them away. Ahem.


The Pink Peppercorn one looks interesting to me today, but that could also be the strawberry buttercream frosting that I just ate doing the talking. Via Green Wedding Shoes.

A little something

9 Jul

Dear friends,

Let’s be honest, shall be? Both because we can and because we should. And because I like you, and at least one of you likes me. Okay, just one. And I’ll take that.

The truth is, it hasn’t been you. It’s been me. No, really. It may be July, but outside my kitchen window, my new hostas are being splattered with rain. Likewise, the last few months have been pretty rain-splattered for me, if I may speak in symbols (and I may, since I am an editor-writer and did major in English; altogether, I have license). You see, I had a loss in April. A very, very big, painful loss, which I won’t ever be able to describe and don’t want to. To make the story short, I have been a grieving mother. I wish I could tell you more, because I’m sure some of you have suffered equally. But I hope that you’ll understand that it’s very hard, even now, to talk about, to think about, to still be experiencing. And going into depth, well, might make me sort of sink (did you like that analogy, too? Get it? Depth–sinking–like in a pool).

Anyway, I thought and thought and thought about whether to tell you, not to tell you, suddenly appear in the dark of night with some new, passionate post about how I’ve gone to pick strawberries at a you-pick farm three times in the last three weeks and have made jam for the first time, and isn’t summer glorious and all that, and take a look at my first garden, my broccoli is enormous. But I felt like this absence…I felt like I should at least say something. I’m also trying to see at least one positive angle look on this mother’s cross of a challenge, which is that sometime, someone will read this very post and be in similar pain and ask for help. And I’m hoping that at that time, I will be able to help.

But enough about that. What I can also say is that I’ve returned, I’m hoping, for good. There’s a lot of food to be talked about, so we will. After all, this is a site about food! And loving it. Doesn’t salt balance chocolate and honey and lime love each other? So I suppose we must have some bitter and some sweet, even on a food blog. But let’s stick mostly to sweet, okay? Deal.

And now. Something simple, not even a recipe, but a discovery. Some background: fruit and chocolate are good friends. We know it from the depths of our chocolate-covered-strawberry hearts, from the shores of fondue pools to the banks of rasperry hot chocolate (my way of putting in some patriotic words in place of posting for the Fourth). And yet…Nutella…and cherries? Yes, of course! And one day, in a fit of hunger and a greedy abundance of cherries (see thrice-picking of strawberries, above), I thought, “Need whole grains. Toast. Check. Need protein…Nutella…not really, but close enough. Need…cherries? Yes, cherries!” And there you have it, my entire revelation, which, if you were here, you’d know about in five seconds instead of reading it in thirty. But it needed a story; I couldn’t very well say, “Hey, you should put Nutella on your whole-wheat toast and then put sliced cherries on top. And eat it.” On the other hand, I just did.

The case, evidence as dark as ever.

The case, evidence as dark as ever.

The judgment. It was a righteous judgment. I continued to judge.

The judgment. It was a righteous judgment. I continued to judge.

-Erin

Spring indeed

24 Mar
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.
Everything is better in a heart-shaped bowl.

Wouldn’t it happen that as soon as I let my guard down and decide to be excited about spring, we’d have a gray day with four days of snow in the forecast? Well. Let me tell you one thing. It might not look like spring outside, but it can be spring in my heart…aww. In lieu of that, it can be spring in my bowl and in my mouth. Even better.

 

Not knowing whether D would be available to come to our church St. Patrick’s Day party the Saturday before last (and, well, because we have an absolutely impressive reputation for making and breaking our own plans), I signed up to bring the least committal thing I could: dessert. Normally, I love cooking and baking for people, especially in my own house. But in potluck-type settings, there’s a part of me who knows that the offerings will be full of casseroles, Miracle Whip, Jell-O, and rolls picked up from the bakery, and that’s what people want and expect. I’m inclined to think that it’s not worth the while to rack my brain for some never-before-seen creation from the oven when either someone will slurp without tasting or a very cute, well-meaning child sticks their finger in the middle of. I know. I need a little attention when it comes to the food I make.

 

Despite these crucial, shattering circumstances, I thought anyway. I pondered, I prayed, I aspired to make Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding or bring a plate of homemade donuts or Chocolate Clafoutis. And thought some more, and then forgot promptly once church was over.

 

The Saturday of the St. Patrick’s Day party rolls around, and fifteen minutes before it, procrastination and forgetfulness catches up, sits on me until I cry for mercy, and pushes me in the direction of the fridge and cupboard. It also threatened me with a life of only canned green beans unless I bought several pints of strawberries (they were on sale). Obviously, I obliged. Forgetfulness is a hard master.

 

So with five minutes until takeoff for the party (hooray for living really close to the church!), I scrambled and searched for something to pair with the strawberries, and you’re looking (look! look!) at the results: a regular bowl ‘o cream with a few twists. Cardamom, strawberries, and orange are good friends, but a word of caution: cardamom can be a pretty strong friend. You know that one friend who’s always the center of attention at every party? Right. Cardamom. The funny friend, but still. Once in a while, a strawberry would like a chance.

 

I’ve tried this both with plain, slivered almonds and sugared ones, with the vote that plain is best—the sugared almonds provide a crunch that is great in some places, but is kind of the guy at the gym wearing jeans and flip-flops on the treadmill; a little awkward.

 

I can see this with a variety of fruits, though I definitely wanted to stay away from the typical fruit salad offering. Blueberries would be a great addition, as would be a swirl of maple syrup. Let me know what variations you come up with.

 

Welcome, spring! (Please stay! Please! I am not native to Minnesota and can only do snow so long.)

 

-Erin

 

Spring Strawberries and Cream Bowl

 

This recipe is best made a few hours ahead of time, though it was born in about five minutes. Making it ahead of time allows the cream to absorb the cardamom and orange flavors.

 

Kitchen tip: Cream whips best when you use a chilled bowl, preferably metal. (I don’t have a metal bowl, but I just refrigerate a glass or ceramic bowl at least half an hour.) If mixing by hand, choose a large, sturdy whisk to incorporate the maximum amount of air.

 

Lastly, though the cardamom might seem exotic, this recipe has been certified both kid- and adult-approved. Miracle.

 

Prep time: About 7 minutes

Difficulty level: Not even close

 

1 pt. strawberries, tops removed, sliced thinly

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

scant 1/4 C granulated sugar

1 1/2 C plain yogurt (fat-free varieties tend to be grainy; Old Home is slightly better)

2 dried cardamom pods, ground (or 1/8 t cardamom, to taste)

1/2 t dried orange peel (or zest of one medium orange)

handful slivered almonds, divided

 

Set aside strawberries.

 

*In a large serving bowl, whip cream to soft peaks (~3 minutes with an electric mixer). Fold in sugar gradually. Fold in yogurt, cardamom, and orange peel or zest. Fold in strawberries, reserving a handful. Fold in almonds, reserving a handful. Top bowl with reserved almonds and strawberries.

What I’m Thinking Of

14 Jan

Well, friends. I started an on-site contract proofreading educational materials, and work…and snow, and life…have kept me busy these past few weeks. I am afraid I am neglecting my blog friends and the few of you who read this (thanks, Mom!), but I’ve started a half-dozen posts without finishing them, so I am thinking of you…really.

Work and life have even kept me busy enough that the time I spend creating dishes and experimenting with recipes has really been cut down. We’ll call it post-holiday humdrum–do any of you feel that way, especially in the grayest parts of winter? In the meantime, a few things have shown up on my proverbial radar that make me a little excited to be in the kitchen again.

Speaking of winter, it has been very cold here in Minneapolis–what I call “frozen nosehair” cold, since just a few seconds outside in these temperatures does just that.  I am never without my long underwear, but no, I do not shovel snow for a living. Although we haven’t hit the gray stretch of winter yet–the days when you’d trade your lunch break for a piece of sunshine–I still find myself thinking months and months ahead, culinarily speaking. I even bought cucumbers the other day. Cucumbers! I know better than to do that–they’re about eight months out of season!

Nonetheless, I’ve been having my culinary trip south, mentally. While others take cruises in February, head to Florida, and the birds, as Minnesota’s own Garrison Keillor said, fly south in the night “so as not to destroy troop morale,” I think of salads, I dream of fat, bright red, glistening strawberries like I grew up with in the Northwest. I imagine rows of slender carrots and bunches of green spinach growing this summer in my first garden (there are far too many pests that would prevent growing spinach, but it’s a dream, so I continue). I wonder if we really could grow raspberries along the back fence.

I’ve also been looking at completely seasonally inappropriate delights–like the Strawberry Quartet featured at NY Magazine here and the Dark Chocolate Tartlets with Strawberry at one of my favorite food blogs. As long as we’re at it, I thought of my muffaletta and have decided to try making peach ice cream next summer–D., my Midwestern Meateater, has a dreamy peach ice cream in his past that I’d like to re-create.

Do you have culinary trips south this time of year, even if they’re as pretend as mine are? Maybe you’re lucky enough to live in a climate where you leave to find snow. If this is the case, please come visit me. I have a shovel with your name on it, and a little snow on the driveway for you to enjoy!

-Erin

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