Saturday, August 4, 2018

Dry 'em and Fry 'em: Zucchini


Got zillions of zucchini?  Or a neighbor with zillions of zucchini that keeps foisting theirs on you?  Or maybe you just like zucchini?  Wherever you fall on the zucchini spectrum, they are a versatile vegetable to have on hand all year round. 

I don’t grow them myself, but I take advantage of the fresh, organic zukes available at the farmers’ market in the summer, then dehydrate them so I can cook and bake with them during the winter months.

While I dry some in thin slices to be thrown into a pot of soup, my favorite prep method for dehydrating zucchini is to shred it.  In this form it can be used in so many ways:  to thicken soups, add flavor to sauces and sautés, make zucchini bread (or maybe some chocolate zucchini cake), or to make zucchini fritters.

Fritters make a great appetizer/first course, especially topped with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, aioli, or pesto.  They’re equally lovely served just with some lemon wedges.  Fritters work well as a side dish too (I quite like them with roasted chicken or grilled sausages).

If you don’t have a dehydrator and aren’t tempted to get one, you can still make these fritters by substituting about 1 pound of fresh zucchini for the dried.  Shred the zucchini with a food processor or stand mixer attachment, or use the course side of a box grater.  Squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the shredded zukes, then proceed as directed starting with Step 2.

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
1 cup dried shredded zucchini
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tbsp minced fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 - 4 tbsp olive oil

1.    Reconstitute zucchini in 1 cup of boiling water.  Allow to sit for about 30 minutes, then drain thoroughly.

2.    Mix together the drained zucchini, salt & pepper, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, and eggs.  Slowly add the flour, stirring well so that no lumps form.

3.    Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot (the oil should sizzle when you drop a tiny amount of the zucchini mixture into it), carefully drop in the zucchini mixture 2 tbsp at a time (a 2-tbsp cookie scoop works great for this), spacing the fritters a few inches apart. 

4.    Cook until the bottoms of the fritters are golden, about 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium, turn the fritters, and cook for another 2-3 minutes more, until the fritters are completely golden.  Remove the fritters to a plate lined with paper or flour sack towels to absorb any excess olive oil.  Cook any remaining zucchini mixture, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.  Garnish as desired and serve.  Makes about 6 fritters.
 
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lefty Loosey


It’s spring!  Which means gardening time, which means I finally have an excuse to play with the hose  buy more plants  dig in the dirt  get outside and enjoy the weather.  As I’ve been putting a perennial herb garden together, I’m reminded of a little teaching aphorism, one I wish I learned a long time ago – before I may have had that incident last year where I turned the main water faucet on the side of the house the wrong way and the pressure blew the knob right off the pipe and maybe there was a water geyser that rivaled Yellowstone’s and after getting soaking wet head to toe I had to go running for my husband because the force was so great I couldn’t get the knob back on.  But I admit to nothing, except now maybe muttering “lefty loosey” to myself whenever I get near an outside water faucet to turn on the garden hose. 
  
 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Make Your Own Irish Cream Liqueur


St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, which means I’ll for sure be making a batch of homemade Irish Cream.  Making it yourself means you can use fresh ingredients that give a rich, full flavor without any of the chemical taste you may find in commercial bottles.


Recipes abound on the Internet for DIY Irish Cream Liqueur.  They’re all more or less the same, although some call for much more sugar than others.  I’ve adapted a version that uses sweetened condensed milk, which to my palate provides a rich taste and creamy texture that is not overly sweet.  I find heavy cream a bit too heavy, so I use mostly half & half blended with some cream.  Or I just use what I have in the fridge – it’s all good.  Just be sure if you’re using heavy cream to not get distracted and let your blender go too long or you’ll end up with something approaching whipped cream.  ASK ME HOW I KNOW. 

Sláinte!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pumpkin or Apple? That is the question. (The answer is both.)


Some folks are very particular about their pie.  There are those that think pumpkin pie rules, and there are those that believe that nothing can compare to a good old-fashioned apple pie.  If you’ve been given the pie assignment for a holiday gathering and have only the time or inclination to bake just one, how do you choose?  Here’s an answer:  Make a Pumpkin Apple Pie. 
 
The combination of flavors is perfect, and it has a light texture that’s not overly custardy or heavy.  The first taste brings a surprising burst of tart apple, without the cloying sweetness of a classic apple pie.  This somewhat unusual pie can be served all season long as a simple dessert, yet it’s nice enough for the holidays.  It’s sure to please many a pie lover.
 
It’s a snap to make, especially if you cheat like me and used store-bought pie crust and canned pumpkin purée.  And it’s a great way to use your homemade applesauce, especially if you have jars languishing on the shelves from a prior season (I made this pie yesterday and won’t say what vintage the applesauce was from).
 
Should you wish to make your own pumpkin pie spice -- you've likely got the ingredients already in the cupboard -- the recipe is here as well. 
 
Enjoy!

 
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2017 All-Pumpkin Dinner

The tradition continues.  This year’s dinner excludes an appetizer, because … gnocchi and brownies. 

Without further ado, here’s the menu for our (mostly) annual all-pumpkin dinner.



 
 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Thinking Outside the Jar: Roasted Red Pepper Spread to Red Pepper Pesto


What do you do when you pick a peck of red bell peppers?  You can freeze them, dehydrate them, or make pickles.  I sometimes do all of things, but mostly I like to make something a bit different:  Roasted Red Pepper Spread.  It’s a delicious condiment that pairs beautifully with goat cheese crostini and can be used for many other appetizers.  And of course it’s a great sandwich spread.  But while I can eat more than my fair share of crostini, there’s only so many appetizers a small household can handle -- so I like to put my condiment to good meal use. 
Roasted Red Pepper Spread is made with roasted sweet red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic.   There’s some vinegar in there – all these vegetables are low in acid and thus require acidification in order to be safely water bath canned at home.  All these ingredients cook up into a rich and savory concoction that makes the house smell divine.  While I admit that peeling peppers is not my favorite activity, it’s easy enough and worth the small extra effort. 
spoonful of the spread will perk up couscous (and let’s face it, couscous can always use some perking up), and I like it topped on polenta with poached or coddled eggs and maybe some steamed greens.  One of my favorite uses is to transform it into pesto for a quick and delicious dinner.  A quick whirl in the blender, along with some parmesan, olive oil, and a bit more garlic and salt is all you need.  Well, and some cooked pasta, of course. 
Another benefit:  Roasted Red Pepper Spread can make a nice host/hostess or holiday gift.  It’s beautiful orangey-red color looks great in the jar.  Simply add a ribbon and card with suggested uses, or include it in a gift basket with some fancy dried pasta and a great wooden spoon.


Thursday, October 5, 2017