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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!

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.

Heirloom tomatoes with basil and pink salt…because summer is not over yet

25 Aug
With the tomatoes stacked alternately, I nearly have my own Olympic games here.

With the tomatoes stacked alternately, I nearly have my own Olympic games here.

I know summer is rumoured to be on its way out, but you know what? We all say this every year, but I especially mean it this time—it has gone ridiculously, criminally fast. True, I have gotten one really good, painful sunburn, but I am nearly transparent and could get that in November, too. I feel like I have hardly experienced summer and I, for one, am not about to let it go without a fight. The good news is that the garden appears to agree with me. This is the first in what might end up being a slew of ideas using the red, pink, yellow, and green tomatoes, zucchini, basil, oregano, sage, chives, parsley, cilantro, bell peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers…

I love this particular recipe because it does not get any simpler than this—the food naturally shines through just as it was meant to be, completely unfettered by anything I could’ve done to it. The licorice-lemon-pepper notes of basil complement (instead of mask or block) the flavor of vine-ripened, sun-grown tomatoes. These ones were fresh from the garden—you know, the ones that are so ripe that the seeds pop out with any pressure? Nearly there. The pink Hawaiian sea salt is surprising and crunchy, and definitely with a taste unlike grocery shelf salt. This was my first experiment with gourmet salt. If you’re shy about using large-grain salt or don’t happen to have any around (I wouldn’t either if I didn’t have family in Texas, where I found the salt), sprinkle with kosher or table salt.

These ingredients need no help with beautification, so the presentation is filled with just about as much color as the Olympic opening ceremonies. This would be great for company, as a last-minute side to grilled dishes, or as a simple substitute for green salad. We made a Sunday breakfast out of it, accompanying it with whole wheat popovers, sunny-side-up eggs, and thick banana-orange-soy drinks.

Heirloom tomatoes with basil
and pink salt

From “raw” to eating: less than five minutes (plus time to chill)

Makes: a platter, 4 servings

Inside:
1 large red heirloom tomato
1 large yellow heirloom tomato
handful fresh basil, including flowers (optional) washed and dried
pinch of pink salt or other gourmet, large-grain salt (I used pink Hawaiian sea salt, purchased in person here and also available here or here)

Slice tomatoes into thick rounds. Arrange tomatoes in alternating colors (red, yellow). Make a chiffonade of the basil (chiffonade is French for “ribbon”), or simply chop roughly, leaving flowers whole. Mine weren’t exactly…ribbony. They taste the same. Toss basil on top. Sprinkle with pink sea salt. Allow to rest for five minutes. Serve!

-E

Mango-mint lassi

17 Jul
Mango-mint lassi

Oh, so good, mango-mint lassi. If you're feeling hot and sticky, this is where it is.

First, let me start with an apology. I’m a little sorry not to have posted in quite a long time, but I promise I have been doing good things in the meantime, such as camping, searching for ticks, and getting ready with Midwestern Meateater to be first-time homeowners. That’s a project. While I was out, you missed something I’m actually known for bringing to share in the out-of-doors—cranberry & carrot couscous with salmon and herbs. Five minutes, and it was great. Take that on your next adventure and your friends will think you’re amazing. Maybe it’ll appear here someday.

I don’t promise to never slack again, just in case. (Someone once told me not to use the words “never” or “always,” since they have exceptions.) But I will come back, each time. Lassie and me, faithful as ever. Except that I bring food and Lassie brings a message about someone in trouble.

Hot times = cold drinks

These days around Minnesota, are hot. These are sticky, steamy, zapping, three-popsicles-a-day times. In other words, summer has finally arrived, and while I love how everything grows so well and turns an emerald shade, it becomes necessary to do a little cooling off. As someone at a fabric store recently told me, “if you have to sit in your car at a stop light for more than a few seconds, you have to turn the air conditioning on.”

On these sweaty, sweaty days, I don’t have the appetite or desire to stand over a stove or even come near an oven. When I come in from outside, I immediately want something cool, and it is nice not to eat another popsicle, especially when beautiful colors and flavors for a nice, cool drink are so easy to get.

Meet the lassi

The lassi is a traditional Indian drink, served up daily over ice at your local Indian restaurant. It can be flavored with cardamom, pistachios, rose water, or even cumin. Without googling, I cannot even begin to tell you where to find rose water. It’s frothy, smoothie-like, and best of all, chilled.

I first had a lassi at a restaurant here in the Twin Cities called Passage to India. On the menu was a “lassi,” and although I didn’t try it there, I have wanted to since. Names of dishes at ethnic restaurants like this one tend to be about as descriptive as hardware items, but I could imagine the lassi anyway. Yogurt, fruit, blended up? What’s not to like?

Nutritional low-down

The lassi is all good things: dairy, dairy, whole fruit, and sugar (well…I might have fibbed a little).

While I’m at it, a shameless plug for us all to be drinking our milk: Americans have gotten better in this area, but we’re quite bad overall. The worst group is kids and teens; this is where Pepsi and the likes are student body president and you’re not cool if you don’t like it. Or at least, it’s all too accessible, and when it’s not, a host of syrup-laden drinks flavored like “kiwi-strawberry” made by someone who’s never tasted either of those things takes the place of better beverages.

There’s an idea especially among teen girls through even through college-aged ladies that dairy will pool around your middle or other ungainly places bad things will happen; i.e. boys will not ask you out. In a nutshell, this is completely not true and can be quite devastating, in fact. There is a plethora of information out there available about osteoporosis, but let me give you this bit of information: your bones need vitamin D, calcium, and a few other things to be able to grow. And if you don’t give your bones those things early, you may have done the damage by the time you wise up. For females, the last stop on the bone train is age 30. Bones start to lose density after that. The denser the bone, the less likely to break and cause major havoc down the road; even an early death.

I talked with a professor once who was studying bone mass density among women, and used the students on campus as subjects. The results were scary—women whose long-term health was at jeopardy because of neglect.

Essentially, drink your milk! It’s so good for you.

Mango-mint lassi

From “raw” to eating: 5 minutes

Makes: 4-6 servings

I started with the classic mango lassi in mind, but when I remembered mint in the fridge just waiting to go bad, it had to join in.

Inside:
Flesh of one mango, cut into chunks
1 C milk
1 C water
½ C sugar (or less)
handful fresh mint leaves

Whizz this all in a blender on high for about 30 seconds (it’s okay if you see some green flecks from the mint). Serve over crushed ice.

Ah. So good, and good for you. Another day well-done.

-E

Serve over ice...which conveniently floats like a buoy on the surface.

Serve over ice...which will pop up, float like a buoy, and make you want to boat.

Fruit and coconut pan-toasted granola

19 Jun

Pan-toasted granola atop plain yogurt and sliced green grapes

This might also be called not-patient-enough-to-wait-for-the-oven granola, because that’s how I made it. I was at the crossroads of a small problem—I wanted a crunchy granola to top my plain yogurt with, but I was hungry past of the point of actually heating up the oven. (Lame, I know, but it birthed a fast recipe for you!)

Nutritional low-down

A Mayo Clinic R.D. (that’s registered dietician in layman talk) touted granola a la this: “Dietitian’s tip: Granola is a cereal-like combination of dried fruits, grains and nuts. Though it’s a good source of protein and fiber, granola can also be high in fat and calories, especially the store-bought varieties. Watch your portion sizes or create your own granola to limit the amount of fat, calories and sugar in each serving.”

The Mayo Clinic also has a few (well-known) things about snacking and weight-loss here. And what do you know? They highlight three food groups/areas included in this very recipe—whole grains, fruits, and nuts and seeds. To qualify for the last “healthy snack” category (dairy), simply toss some of your granola your favorite low-fat yogurt.

Here’s my granola philosophy:

In other words, store-bought = not so good for you or anyone else + can be expensive (but yes, still tastes good).

Make-at-home granola = high nutrient density + cheap & possibly already around + textury, highly tasty, and versatile = why aren’t you making some now?

If you’re looking for something fast, tasty, and nutritious–with a bit of crunch–then this is something for your weekday fare, too.

Variations on a theme

Feel free to add in a few things you like, too—here are some suggestions to get you started with your own take on this creation:

  • Unsalted nuts like walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, and macadamia nuts
  • Other dried fruits—banana chips, prunes (not just for the elderly!)
  • Candied orange, lemon, or lime peel
  • Fruit juices like orange or grapefruit juice—use to sweeten and flavor naturally

Enjoy!

-E

Fruit and coconut pan-toasted granola

From raw to eating: 15-20 minutes

Makes: 4+ cups’ worth—enough for many breakfasts

Inside:
3 ½ C rolled oats
1 T powdered milk
4 T brown sugar (not packed)
2 ½ T honey
2 ½ T vegetable oil (I used canola)
½ C sweetened shredded coconut
4 T unsalted, plain sunflower seeds
½ C chopped dried fruit (I used dried cranberries and apricots)

Combine all ingredients but dried fruit in a large bowl. Use either your (clean) hands or a fork and gently mix together until you’ve got one (relatively) homogenous mix.

Place a large, shallow pan on medium heat. Give it a couple of minutes to get nice and hot, and, working in batches, make yourself some granola! Stir with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes; each batch will need about seven minutes’ time to fully toast. When the oats have turned a deep golden, brown sugar color, you’re done.

The granola will chunk up as it cools, but this particular recipe yields looser granola. Store granola in an airtight container for 4-6 weeks. (And when I say 4-6 weeks, I’ll be honest—I’m totally guessing. You could bet right that it’d be eaten at my house much sooner than that, but if not, I’d keep it around just as long as I felt like it! I can’t see any foodborne illness or even staleness happening with our hearty granola friends in that time.

Hurrah!