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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!
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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.

****************************

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?

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

Another Fast Feast: Tomato Soup Provence

6 Jan
Topped with a bit of leftover summer herbs left dwindling...

Topped with a bit of leftover summer herbs left dwindling in a pot...

Hm, what can I tell you about this? Do you hate when you don’t know how to start a post and this prevents you from posting for, oh, a few weeks? Me too. All the time. Nevertheless, the job must be done, and I’m the one to do it, right? Right.

First, I love tomato soup, in so many forms. In fact, this is probably but one of at least a half-dozen tomato soups that I’ve made in my day (which is not a very long day, but still). The difference between this and other tomato soups is the flavor, oh, the flavor.

Have you ever used Herbes de Provence? It  is a blend of herbs originally from the southern part of France; which, I’ve read, does really have the aroma of some of the flavors in this blend. The blend commonly includes lavender, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, thyme, and in my blend, fennel. All this comes together in a very perfume-y mix, very flowery. Frankly, I could put it in my dresser drawers and be happy. But we’re putting it in soup today, where it lends a flavor that is just beautiful. Sorry to be a cliche food writer, but it’s true. And the aromas from the bubbling pot–you’ll want friends over just for that!

Besides the flavor, the second wonderful thing about this soup is its simplicity. As a maker of many, many soups, some of which have many, many ingredients, this is a great deviation from my usual habits. I often craft soups to be all-in-one meals, which necessitates a little thinking along the lines of including something from each food group and incorporating the major macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). This soup departs from my habit, since it doesn’t have a sturdy protein backing; but America, most of us get enough protein in our diet that we could all be bodybuilders; too much, in fact. So consider this a healthy break! If you’re a vegetarian, of course, be sure to include a lean source of protein on the side or elsewhere in your day.

But back to simplicity. Once you’ve cut up your onions and garlic, you can have this soup on the table in twenty minutes, and since soups are easy to double, you might find yourself with several meals’ worth of food–where else do you get such a return on your investment? (And this is why I have an extra freezer.) Pick up some nice, crusty, whole-grain bread to serve on the side, and you’re set. I know you’ll be tempted to skip the goat cheese–it’s not in every fridge–but don’t. It is a perfect complement. (Hint: it’s most economical at Costco. Just find a friend to share it with, or plan on eating a lot of chevre.) Also fantastic–most of these items are things you’ve already got in your pantry or fridge! Aren’t I good to you?

As usual, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you! A very happy new year to you and yours. May this be the start of a healthy, delicious 365 days.

-Erin

Provence Tomato Soup

This recipe calls for two to three tablespoons Herbes de Provence; no, this is not a typo! The tomatoes can absorb a lot of flavor. Taste first with two tablespoons; adjust as needed.

Note: I topped mine with some stray herbs (oregano) still struggling in a pot on the kitchen table, but that was silly of me. Consider the green bits in the picture simply a clever color complement for photography.

From “raw” to eating: 20 min., appx.

Makes: a big pot full, enough for 8-10 servings+

Olive oil, for sauteeing
1 large onion (I used yellow because they’re cheapest and I’m like that), medium dice
2 large cloves garlic, finely diced
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 T Herbes de Provence
1/2 C white grape juice (my subsitute for white wine)
4 14-oz cans (I think that’s the size they are; the “regular” size, in other words) diced tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth, preferably homemade, low-sodium (but cheat if you must…don’t say I didn’t warn you, though!)

cracked pepper & salt, to taste
chevre (soft goat cheese), for plopping onto the top of each bowl

In a stock pot or your favorite large soup pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat; it should be enough to film the bottom of the pot. When the oil is hot (this will depend on your stove; it’s about two minutes for me), toss in the onion and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium-high. Sprinkle salt in; this will help the onions to “sweat” out their liquid. Saute garlic-onion mixture until nearly translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato paste and Herbes de Provence, and grape juice; stir to incorporate. Add the tomatoes (including the liquid) and the broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

Taste and adjust for seasoning; to serve, ladle into bowls, top with a small scoop of chevre (it melts–so good!), and serve a piece of toasted whole-grain bread on the side.

Leftovers can be stored, refrigerated, for up to two weeks, or frozen, for two or three months. If they last that long!

Recipe: Garlic Croutons

23 Oct

Croutons are often the bread of choice around here—if you’ve only been using Mrs. Cubbison’s and have been putting them on your salad, you’re seriously missing out. Croutons are like sparkly earrings with your jeans—they make everything so much more dressed-up and accessorized with very little effort. And yes, this is one accessory that’s completely worth it.You might want to have a seat for this one, for I am about to reveal to you one of the best-kept secrets of my kitchen. No, the culinary world. No, the universe! Once you make these, like the boys and girls in Toyland, you “can never go back again.” Seriously, kids. If I were to make a formula out of this recipe, it’d go something like this:

Cut-up old bread + garlic + olive oil + salt + baking = croutons.

Less oil is needed than you'd think.

Less oil is needed than you think.

I feel silly already just posting a recipe to me that is less of a recipe and more along the line of instructions for turning on a light, but I’ve been taken aback so many times at how much people love this simple topping that I thought I’d feature it. If I asked, I don’t think anyone would be surprised that they could make their own croutons—like other things we’ve been used to buying, it just doesn’t occur to them. Or seems difficult and time-consuming. It’s neither, especially when the bread is pre-made. (Did I just endorse using something with the prefix “pre” in it? Yes. Yes, I did. I’m feeling okay.)

One of the prime ways we like to eat croutons.

One of the prime ways we like to eat croutons.

My only cautionary note is that while you’d never eat an entire loaf of say, bakery bread by yourself, you’d be surprised how dangerously easy it is to drive on the edge of that cliff when that loaf of bread becomes croutons. They may seem small, but it only takes a handful for you to realize that you’re really not hungry any more. When you can’t figure out why, I’ll help you out: you just ate an entire loaf of bread. Possibly by yourself. Good friend that I am, however, I’ve let you know ahead of time, so all will be well. (Side note: the whole-loaf-eaten thing doesn’t phase the Midwestern Meateater, so if you’ve got such characters around, don’t be surprised how not horrified they are at this thought.)

Happy eatings!

-Erin

Garlic Croutons

If you’re feeling particularly passionate, your own homemade bread would work fine for this recipe, of course, and all the more power to you for it; homemade bread that I’ve tasted, however, is much heavier than a store-bought version, so keep in mind that this characteristic will transfer to your croutons, too.

Tip: I like to buy day-old, discounted bread for this recipe. If it’s to be found in abundance, I buy in up in droves and freeze it, using it for later. It’s extremely affordable (a euphemism for “cheap”) and makes me feel good about using something that would be thrown out. (I worked in too many bakeries. I know.) If you can’t find old bread, however, non-old bread will work just fine—the action of toasting them in the oven takes care of that.

From “raw” to eating: 10 minutes

Makes: a loaf’s worth of croutons…share. Share!

Inside:
1 loaf store-bought bakery bread, un-sliced and a few days over the hill
2 cloves garlic, bashed and minced
2-3 T olive oil
salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Slice bread into long ½” batons and then into ½” cubes. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle minced garlic around as evenly as possible. Drizzle oil oil; not much is needed. Lightly toss with hands to coat. Sprinkle with salt, to taste.

Toast in oven for ~10 minutes, checking once halfway through and rotating if necessary.

Not mine: Tangy fresh tomato soup

5 Sep
Mmm, mmm good. Consendensed what?! Campbell's ain't got nothin' on this.

Mmm, mmm good. Condensed what?! Campbell's couldn't do it if they tried. Well, maybe. But this is better anyway.

I realize that not only are not all good recipes created by me, but that sometimes I actually use a recipe–someone else’s, to boot! That’s where this one came from. I have been multiply blessed by heaps and pounds and ginormous quantities of other people’s home-grown produce; mostly in my own generous family. Heaps of yellow cherry tomatoes, which the people who grew and sold the plants to my dad said tasted “like candy.” Personally, I don’t think tomatoes taste like candy, because I had a Lindt chocolate-orange square earlier and there was definitely a difference. But yes, they are sweet.

In addition to the controversial yellow cherry tomatoes, I’ve gotten six-pound zucchini (I’m estimating on the low side here), big, thick, heavy, sandwich-slice tomatoes, yellow and red heirloom in all sizes and with a variety of kinda fun bubbles marking them as heirloom, and small red cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately, that bounty comes with a price.

I have been a saver of things since who knows when. Money (how else were we able to get a house after less than a year of marriage?), new clothes (always waiting for a “special” occasion, thus going un-worn), even leftovers (the Midwestern Meateater is careful about what he eats, in case I’m using it for later). Hence, I “save” the produce for a “special” occasion. However. Special occasions involving leeks, mint, rosemary, thyme, dill, cilantro, sweet corn, mounds of tomatoes, new potatoes, peaches, and cantaloupe in one meal, well, they don’t come often. And if they do, I don’t have either the time or stomach for them.

So, tomatoes got given to me, tomatoes got saved by me, and then tomatoes got…away from me. Squishy. But now…oh, now I have a tasty soup, courtesy of Martha. Well, no. Courtesy of Martha’s huge company. (I need that caveat, because on a personal level, I am not a fan of Martha’s…but her decision-makers have produced a mighty many things that I like.)

This soup is written to be eaten chilled, which I’m sure would be great on a hot summer evening or afternoon. However, our “summer” days happened to get a cue from Labor Day that summer was apparently over, because the day I made this, it was cold and rainy. Thus, a hot soup.

Tangy and sweet, this soup is incredibly pungent. The flavors are like summer–bold, intense, and bright. It would warm you in the winter, too.

Nutritional low-down

Everything in here is good for you. Everything. It’s like V8 that tastes good and doesn’t smell bad. Drink it. Eat it. Freeze it. I suspect it would be a great base for another soup, and a creamy version is very tempting.

The recipe

Find the recipe here, since I’m sure there’s a reason I’m not supposed to post it…like that Omnimedia didn’t exactly give me permission.

What’s in it? I can tell you that:

  • tomatoes
  • fresh, grated ginger
  • fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • sugar
  • love.

I added a bit more sugar than called for to cut the acidity, but I also used quite a bit of yellow cherry tomatoes, which are more acidic than their red counterparts. If you prefer sweet versus tangy, I suggest using only red tomatoes, particularly varieties like Roma, which are low-acid. The recipe calls for serving with a yogurt-lime dollop, but that will also increase ye olde tang.

My favorite part: if you plan to serve it cold, all it involves is a little chopping and a blender. That’s it. Yes, really.

I served it with hot garlicky lentils and toasted, crusty bread–the Midwestern Meateater would think he needed something else if I didn’t include a slab of protein. Very good all around.

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