Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 8: Zucchini Fritters pt 2

Subtitle: Variations on a theme by Smitten Kitchen.

Posterity, you're welcome.  For your benefit I've eaten three batches of zucchini fritters.  I'm not done yet, but I like what I've come up with so far.

From what I can tell from Martha Stewart and Bon Appetite (and about ten other food blogs) the proportions are pretty consistent across the board.  I stuck with the Smitten Kitchen egg - flour-zucchini ration, and experimented with the flavors.

Even though I enjoyed the first batch, they weren't as flavorful as the cauliflower fritters I'd made from Smitten Kitchen.  Crushed red pepper and Parmesan cheese came to mind; but I liked Bon Appetite's idea of goat cheese.  I did what had to be done, and made two batches.

The results: there was nothing wrong with the goat cheese and scallions.  Especially with an egg or sour cherry jam on top.  But I think I'll be making them with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper next time.  Really, really good.

You can make them however you like. The salt from the cheese and the heat of the red pepper just worked for me.  If you try it another way, I'd love to hear about it!

Third place: Original Recipe

Second place: Zucchini fritters with scallions and goat cheese

Add 2 ounces of crumbled goat cheese to the original recipe.  For topping: mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/4 tsp lemon zest to 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt.  Serve with fried egg or jam.

First place:  Zucchini fritters with Parmesan and crushed red peppers

Omit scallion from original recipe.  Add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan and 1/8 tsp of crushed red pepper.  For topping mix 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1/4 lemon zest, and 1 clove garlic, minced to 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 7: Zucchini Fritters pt 1

The answer to all food-related questions should be: fritter.

What should I eat? Fritter.

What should I serve at my dinner party?  Fritter

What should I do with all this zucchini?  Fritter.

They are easy, they can be made with almost anything, and they are fried.  Hello.

My Aunt Mary Beth suggested I try zucchini fritters after she saw a recipe for them in Bon Appetite.  The BA recipe wasn't available online last night, so I made the zucchini fritters from Smitten Kitchen.  They were good.  But now that Aunt Mary Beth's original inspiration is online, I want to try those as well.  And I think I could develop my own that I like even better.

This zucchini project is digressing from a zucchini obsession to a zucchini fritter obsession.  I might need an intervention.

Matt had a work thing until late last night, so I took about 2 hours to make these fritters.  The recipe doesn't call for stopping to check Facebook, singing along with Les Miserables, texting Holly, or taking pictures of the pink sky, so it probably won't take you that long.  Thank goodness I didn't half the recipe, because I ended up devouring them all.

I ate them with the sour cream topping, I ate them without the sour cream topping, I ate them with a fried egg, I ate them with a fried egg and the sour cream topping.

I had finished all but the last fritter, when I saw Matt's headlights coming down the driveway.  Grabbing the last fritter for him, I went outside to help him unpack his car.  Just as I was shutting the door behind me, I realized that there was a man walking up to the house and it wasn't Matt.  His shoulders were squared, and the grim line of his mouth said that he was geared up for a confrontation.  Kicking myself for being so stupid, I hoped that Henry's "Danger! Danger!" barking sounded more dangerous than I thought it did.

In a rush, the man introduced himself and explained he lived on the property that bordered us on the west.

"Do you have a medium-sized, red dog?"  He tugged at the bill of his ball cap.

"Oh, no." I nodded my head in the direction of Henry's frantic howling. "We just have a small pug."

The neighbor went on to explain that there'd been a dog terrorizing his horses, and every time he chased it off, the dog ran straight to our house.

It was during this discourse that I realized I was wearing only one shoe.  Why?  Maybe it had fallen off when I tripped on the zucchini on my kitchen floor.  Maybe I absently slipped it off while I was posting on Facebook about tripping on a zucchini.  But for whatever reason, I was standing in front of my new neighbor, wearing only one shoe and holding a fritter.

Looking up, I saw he'd followed my gaze and seen my unequally shod feet.

"Hmmm."  I tried to casually tucked my hand down by my hip as though I always carry a fritter like some women carry clutches or small monkeys.  "I haven't seen any dog like that.  But it's not ours."

He visibly relaxed.  "Well, I tried to come by earlier this afternoon, but no one came to the door.  I'm on my way home from cowboy church, and thought I'd stop by and see if you's home."

I introduced myself and observed that it looked like he had a big operation going on behind us.

"Well," he dragged out the word.  "We have some horses and a miniature donkey."

Aha!  I sensed common ground (he'd lost me momentarily at the cowboy church reference).  "We need to talk to you, then," I said.  "We've been wanting to get a miniature donkey."

He pulled at his ball cap again.  "Well, I've had her a long time.  I don't reckon that I'm wanting to give her up."

So now I was not only the crazy neighbor wearing one shoe and waving a fritter around, I was trying to take away his precious miniature donkey.

"I didn't mean your donkey."  I hurried to reassure him.  "I just thought you could give us some tips."

After this, our conversation progressed smoothly.  His wife came out of the car and we talked about sheep, camping, chickens and horses.  (Our area is very horsey).  We exchanged phone numbers and parted with the words "Good to meet you!" and "Stop by any time" on our lips.

I went inside, found my other shoe, and celebrated by eating that last fritter.

Zucchini fritters
adapted from Smitten Kitchen (go read hers and look at her beautiful pictures.  Her detailed directions are great!)

1 lb of zucchini, grated
1 teaspoon of salt
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 egg, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking power
(I added 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper to the second half of the batch)
olive oil

1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
1 small garlic clove, minced

Heat oven to 200 degrees.  In a colander, toss grated zucchini with salt.  Let rest 10 minutes.  This will draw out the excess moisture.  In a cheesecloth or towel (or paper towel because your cheesecloths are dirty) squeeze small sections of the zucchini until most of the liquid is squeezed out.  It will be a lot.  In a bowl, mix zucchini with the egg, scallions and pepper.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together.  Add to zucchini mixture and stir to combine.  Over medium heat, fill the bottom of a cast iron skillet (or whatever skillet you use) with oil.  Heat over medium heat.  Add spoonfuls of the fritter batter, using a wooden spoon to flatten into little zucchini pancakes.  Cook until brown and flip over to cook the other side (about 2-3 minutes per side for me).  Drain briefly on a paper towel them move to the oven to keep warm.  Deb suggests keeping them in there for 10 minutes to keep them crispy, and I can vouch for the success.  No more soggy fritters for me!

Stay tuned for the continuing zucchini fritter adventures.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 6: Pasta Primavera

One thing about blogging every day, is that the most frequent visitor ('tis I) gets a little tired of the surroundings.  You might have noticed that the blog has gotten a much needed facelift.  Huge thank you to Code It Pretty, c.w. frosting, Hot Bliggity Blog, and PicMonkey for all the help in making my blog look fresh and new!  If you're a blogger, please go check out these sites.  Especially Code It Pretty who is responsible for keeping me up until 2:00 in the morning wandering deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of HTML. 

After a couple people mentioned that they were pinning recipes from the blog to Pinterest, I added a Pin it button to my pictures.  Finished that around 1:00 am.  When I looked today, I saw that I'd accidentally added two Pin it buttons which made me look a little desperate.  I also added some banners for Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.  So if you're into that kind of thing (and don't mind looking at a lot of pictures of ducks), come and be friendly with me there.

Dinner last night was pasta primavera from Becka's Blog.  Becka's husband Rob was my French teacher for two semesters in college.  Whenever he sees me, he still speaks to me in French (do not attempt this: only French teachers are fluent in that particular vocabulary). This has led to the impression among my coworkers that I speak conversational French.  I don't bother correcting anyone, but keep my fingers crossed hoping no French speaker ever comes to our office needing assistance.  

I don't know why I've never done pasta this way before.  There's a lot of things to love about it.  For one, it's incredibly simple; and if you chop all your vegetables beforehand, this would take only 30 minutes and be literally as easy as boiling water.  Second, it lends itself to being doctored up to taste.  I added some crushed red pepper and garlic to my second helping, and Matt thought it would be good with some grilled chicken instead of sausage.  Third, it pairs pasta - such a criminal in the health world - with healthy vegetables instead of a sugary tomato sauce.

All these zucchini dishes have taken their toll on our inventory, and I had to supplement the zucchini with yellow summer squash.  I picked up some colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes at Trader Joe's.  Aren't they pretty?

I used our favorite Trader Joe's spicy Italian chicken sausage.  In retrospect, even though the sausage is already cooked, I should have browned the sausage before adding it to the roasting pan.  I was talking to Daisy (not her real name) about it at work today, and she said I should have used kielbasa sausage.

(12:50) Collins, Elizabeth: I don't eat kielbasa

(12:51) Daisy: you've never had a hillshire farm smoked sausage
(12:51) Daisy: ?!
(12:51) Daisy: Like even in a low country boil
(12:51) Daisy: ?!

(12:51) Collins, Elizabeth: I've eaten it - I don't eat it now
(12:51) Collins, Elizabeth: I know I'm about to be lynched, but...I don't add sausage to my low country boils

(12:51) Daisy: NOOOOOOO LIZ

(12:52) Collins, Elizabeth: I know!
(12:52) Collins, Elizabeth: I have a sensitive tummy when it comes to smoked/cured meats

(12:53) Daisy: oh yeah you can't do pepperoni either right?

(12:53) Collins, Elizabeth: no
(12:53) Collins, Elizabeth: no prosciutto either

(12:53) Daisy: OMG what do you put with a cheese tray?

This is why Daisy (still not her real name) and I are such fast friends.  She's really good at getting at the heart of a matter - like what goes on a cheese tray.

But if you can eat keilbasa, then give it a whirl in this pasta primavera.

Pasta Primavera
adapted from Becka Loach

1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste (next time I will add crushed red pepper and a glove of minced garlic)
12 oz sausage slices (if using chicken sausage like I did, you might want to brown them in a frying pan first)
8 oz dry pasta - I used farfalle

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place vegetables in a shallow roasting pan.  Toss with olive oil and seasonings.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.  Stir and add sausage.  Bake 15 more minutes or until vegetables are tender and sausage is warmed through.  Meanwhile cook pasta according to the package directions.  Top the cooked pasta with sausage and vegetables.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 5: Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken tortilla soup

When I posted about my zucchini and asked for recipes, Valerie was first on the scene with a recipe for chicken tortilla soup.  Valerie and I have been friends since college where we met in society.  If you didn't go to a Christian university with societies, than there is really no way for me to describe what it is.  There is just no good context for explaining a mandatory, same-sex social group that meets once a week for activities like reciting poetry, putting on skits, playing mafia, and opening Hershey's kisses with your feet.  Like I said - impossible to explain - but it was the kind of social organization that formed lasting friendship (like Alaina, Kara, Sarah, Melissa, Valerie, Annaleisa, Katie, and the other Katie) so you always have someone on hand when you need a good zucchini recipe.

This, like every zucchini recipe we've tried so far, astonished me.  I know I'm prone to the superlatives and dramatics, but Matt is not. Last night he told me, "This might be my favorite thing you've ever made."  Not his favorite zucchini recipe from this week.  His favorite thing ever.  Out of everything I've cooked for him over the past seven years.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 4: Zucchini Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

For no good reason, I am sensitive to the smell of raw garlic.  Possibly I have vampire in my family tree?  I love garlic flavor, and I use it with impunity.  But the smell of raw garlic makes my stomach turn.

Last night, I loaded up all the dishes from dinner and reached into the bag of dishwasher tablets just to come up empty.  Since we no longer live in a bustling metropolis, I had to leave them and plan on grabbing detergent today over my lunch.  This morning I woke up, and all I could smell was garlicky garlic with garlic.  That braised zucchini and leeks clinging to the dirty dishes in my dishwasher had made my house smell like an evil spirit's nightmare (at least to my sensitive nose - no complaints from Matt).

Our 180 degree lifestyle change has taught me many lessons in innovation, and I was highly motivated.  Gritting my teeth, and keeping one eye on the clock, I Googled "DIY dishwasher detergent."  I didn't have time to sort through the plethora of DIY mom blogs, but several clicks showed that all the instructions were about the same.  I mixed together my salt, Borax and washing soda, poured vinegar into the rinse cycle and crossed my fingers.  Keeping in the spirit of Pinterest, I even poured the remaining detergent in a mason jar (there was one sitting out on my counter, and my philosophy tends to be, "why put it away when you can stick something in it?").

The jury is still out on the results.  Now that I've had more time to research, I'd like to make some changes (add citric acid and a little dish soap).  But the fact remains that this morning, right after feeding the chickens, ducks and turkeys, I made dishwasher detergent.  Made it.  From scratch.  We're going completely Country over here, people.

Today's zucchini recipe comes from Taste of Home - which in a lot of ways was the original food blog but in magazine form because it was before food blogs existed.  Most lunchtimes, my sister and I would each grab a copy of Taste of Home and flip through the glossy pages while we ate.  I loved that magazine.  They had beautiful photos of food and personal anecdotes both touching and humorous.  Each recipe had a promising picture and a story.  And isn't that what is at the crux of food blogs?

Day 3: Braised Zucchini and Leeks

The summer of my senior year of college, I read Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat. I had just had to have my choir dress let out a little, and felt like emergency action was required.

What I remember from the book is the philosophy of thoughtfully eating what you like.  Guiliano doesn't frown on dessert, but she encourages eating one piece of quality bittersweet chocolate over eating a frosted Krispy Kreme doughnut or half a bag of M&Ms.  She writes about facing a craving for an apple pastry head on by eating slow roasted apples cooked in cabbage leaves.

(Who are we kidding?  Cabbage leaves instead of layer upon layer of crisp buttery pastry??  As I type this, I'm struck that she would likely support a cake that substitutes zucchini for Coca-Cola.)

But the concepts are good.  If you love the apple flavor, don't substitute a cheap, unsatisfying fiber bar - eat real apples.  Just limit yourself on the fats and sugars the majority of the time.

Guiliano also shares the diet plan that her family's doctor advised for her after she put on weight in the United States.  For the first 48 hours, she ate only what she deemed "Magical Leek Soup."  In glowing terms she describes how this was the catalyst of her life-long love for sweet, buttery leeks.  She drank the delicious and nourishing leek broth several times a day, and whenever she got hungry she would eat a boiled leek with a little olive oil and cracked pepper.  Not only were these leeks delectable, they filled her up; and she still lost some significant pounds (or kilos).

I was sold.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 2: Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

If obsessing over zucchini and pouring over recipes make me anything of an expert (they don't), the two most common pairings with zucchini are cheese and chocolate.  Which bodes well for my taste buds and not so well for my waistline.

Our house is a little divide on chocolate.  I prefer it to any other flavor, and Matt is indifferent.  He does enjoy high quality chocolate, but doesn't mind mixing things up once a while.

When I made that first batch of muffins, Matt looked at them and said, "What are those dark things?"

Me: Raisins.

Matt: Oh, good.  I thought they were chocolate chips.

Me: No, they're raisins.


Me: We're out of chocolate chips.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 1: Potato, Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

I didn't start with chocolate cake after all.  When I got home last night, I decided we needed something to go along with our leftovers, and made another on of the 366 recipes Jesse sent me: Martha Stewart's potato, zucchini and tomato gratin.  It looked good on paper, and I'm up for anything gratin.

It was everything I was looking for in a zucchini recipe.  Simple and flavorful with a rustic elegance. With only five ingredients plus the seasonings, it profiles the vegetables.  Spread olive oil and minced garlic clove in a gratin pan.  Cut the vegetables as thin as possible and layer in the pan.  Top with some salt, pepper, thyme and a little more olive oil.  Sprinkle it with finely grated cheese, bake it for about a hour and you're done.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Prelude to Zucchini

First of all, thank you so much to all of you that sent me recipes and linked me up! I am overwhelmed with recipes.  My cousin Jesse alone sent me 366 recipes.  She's the sister of the cousin who gave the recipe for the delicious sounding pie.  Obviously my cousins know their way around produce.  Congratulations, Jesse.  You win.  Please come to Gray Court to collect your prize of one golden summer squash.

And in case any of you are still processing that number - yes, it's enough that I could make one a day and still not be done in a year.  

I have recipes for zucchini pasta, zucchini pies, zucchini cupcakes, zucchini muffins, strata, quiche, casseroles, and soups.  I was even sent a recipe for a zucchini slushie.  

This, friends, is going to be exciting.

It begins tonight.  We're eating leftovers (got to clear space in that fridge for zucchini cobbler and zucchini tian) and the Helpful Neighbors are coming over to help us check out the floor of our chicken coop, so I'm thinking that we'll be serving up zucchini chocolate cake.  Also, the recipe comes from Jesse, and it seems only fair to start with one of hers.

Going to be seeing a lot more of this.

Note: Since I intend to post every day (or nearly), I won't be linking to Facebook.  If you are interested in following this to collect zucchini recipes or just to see how long it takes me to go crazy, you can subscribe to receive posts by e-mail but entering your e-mail up on the right.  It's really easy to unsubscribe if it gets to be too much.  And I don't make money or anything if you subscribe.  I just makes me feel a little more self-important.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Great Zucchini Challenge

It has begun.  It is the middle of June, and already Matt's generous planting of zucchini and summer squash is yielding bountiful produce.

Those first several squash are always exciting.  Matt worries that I pick them too soon, but I ignore him and slice them up thin to fry in olive oil.  Less than a week later, they are coming in a pretty steady stream.  We're eating sauteed squash every other night, and I am polling people at work to find out if any of them will take zucchini.  Within days, we are eating it every night and I no longer care if people at work like squash.  They are taking it home anyway.

Yesterday, I discovered we'd missed one (nine), and I found myself dealing with enough zucchini to start a baseball team (although, as vegetables go, these are shaped more like quarterbacks).  After sauteing one (half) for dinner, I decided to try my hand at zucchini baked goods.

Zucchini baked goods confuse me.  Maybe I'm missing something here, but the zucchini bread, zucchini muffin and especially the zucchini chocolate cake all just seem like a way of dealing with excess zucchini: a coping mechanism for zealous home gardeners.  It's the human version of peanut butter on Henry's monthly heart-worm pill.  You can either make baked goods with a rich, dense crumb or you can make a sub par and equally unhealthy product with shredded zucchini in it. Yum.

As a kid, I didn't complain.  We didn't eat sweet breads or muffins very often, but zucchini bread was permitted.  Quick breads = bad.  Zucchini quick bread = have a third slice.  It was like the ice cream we were encouraged to eat the last morning of vacation.  Then I grew up and started taking my calories without the zucchini, thanks.

But last night, the behemoth zucchini scared me, and I made muffins.  The recipe came from Smitten Kitchen.  Deb gave me the brownies that have never let me down, and I confidently grated my zucchini and stirred it into the batter.  When I came in from putting up my birds, the house smelled comfortable and promising.  I spread two muffins with butter and gave one to Matt.

They were just like I remembered.  Meh.  Not bad, but not great.  The dumpy country cousin to a real muffin.

Now I'm on the hunt for real zucchini recipes.  Recipes that celebrate the zucchini.  Recipes that can't be improved by eliminating the zucchini.  I have my eye on a couple recipes like this sandwich from How Sweet It Is and this pasta from The Pioneer Woman.  My cousin Jamie sent me one for a quiche that I'm super excited about.  And I'm even wanting to try this tart from Smitten Kitchen.

If you have any recipes that you like or are curious about, send them my way.  I'll try any recipe you send me  with three exceptions:

1. Crazy expensive - if it calls for 24 karat gold dust, it's not happening.  Twenty-four carrots are ok.
2. Really weird ingredients - I'll try almost anything.  But I'm telling you now, zucchini jello is out of the question.
3. Allergies - if it has cinnamon in it, I have to substitute nutmeg or allspice.

So that's where we're at.  Some people challenge themselves to climb mountains or quit smoking.  Mark Zuckerberg (spellcheck just tried to change that to cheeseburger, haha!) challenged himself to eat only meat that he's killed himself.  I'm challenging myself to eat copious amount of zucchini.  Baby steps.

As long as I have recipes and zucchini, I will be blogging zucchini.  Stay tuned...

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