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.