Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Guest Post: Zucchini Feta Scones

Charis of Hazelnuts and I have been friends since English 102.  In between raising Hurricane Hazel, working part-time, cooking, being involved in church and refinishing furniture, she keeps me sane and reminds me to take time to enjoy life.

When Liz started The Great Zucchini Challenge, I was enthralled. I studied every recipe, laughed through all her amusing anecdotes, and may have shed a couple of pregnant tears at her nostalgic memories. I wanted to be just like her, in my pretty kitchen after a productive day of work, gently cooking my cares away while becoming a more meaningful person through my varied intake of zucchini. She made it sound so fulfilling.

I asked her to pass along any extra zucchini, since she had enough to roll around on the floor of her kitchen, apparently. She obliged with the most enormous green vegetable I’ve ever seen.

My husband noticed it on the counter and took a step back in a rather horrified way. I explained that Liz had inspired me to do our own version of The Great Zucchini Challenge. He looked at me and then at “that thing” rather dubiously.

I first tackled the chocolate cake Liz had shared. I even made a chocolate ganache to accompany that warm goodness. It was DEE-VINE.

Brian ate one piece and said it was nice. I pointed out that you couldn’t even tell there was zucchini in it. He said that’s what made him uncomfortable about it. Zucchini shouldn’t hide and try to be something it was not. It made him squeamish. 

Whatever. I ate his share obligingly.

He was much more comfortable with the chicken tortilla soup. The slices of zucchini stood out and did not hide ashamedly. 

Then I tackled a recipe I found for scones. I have a thing for scones. And I could envision myself in my bright, clean kitchen, mixing up a merry batch of scones and throwing out witty sentiments left and right for a Zucchini Challenge Guest Post. I was feeling fulfilled just envisioning the baking process.

Then Hurricane Hazel wandered in. Well, mother-daughter bonding time over baking can be fulfilling, too. At least, that’s what I’ve read in the Mommy Blogs. As if anything I’ve ever read in a Mommy Blog resembles what my life actually looks like. I set her on the counter and we got started. 

Don’t let the cute pictures deceive you. There were eggshells in the wet ingredients, Hazel tried eating the flour, I burned my protruding bellybutton on a hot pan, and most of the dry ingredients ended up on the counter when I let my “helper” stir them. We had to have a second attempt. And there was nothing calming, fulfilling, or serene about any part of it. I eyed the scones sourly as I shoved them in the oven and wondered if Liz had days in the kitchen like that.

But I repented when we pulled them out. Tender, not too crumbly, and so savory. In fact, they reminded me a bit of Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits (is it kind of trashy to mention a chain restaurant in a blog post? Sorry…). And that’s how I described them to Brian. They are savory, I explained. Like those ones you love from Red Lobster.

Ever dubious, he tried one. Nice try, he said. The zucchini is trying to hide again, and it’s not like Red Lobster.

I pointed out that we were being frugal and were living off of free food from farming friends. He pointed out that prison food is free, too. I ate another piece of chocolate zucchini cake and ate his scone, too. 

For the record, Brian is not a scone fan. Don’t be dubious about them based on his hesitance. They are the best savory scones I’ve ever made. They freeze and thaw well, and are the perfect addition to a meal of greek chicken pitas. Next time, I’m going to add a little extra lemon zest, as the called-for amount wasn’t very noticeable. Also, next time, I’m just going to bake them at Liz’s house and leave Brian and Hurricane Hazel at home to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

The original recipe encourages you to crumble your own feta from a fresh block. I am an Aldi shopper and impatient. I used the pre-crumbled jazz fresh from the plastic container and it was lovely.

Also, the recipe didn’t tell me if I was supposed to drain or pack my zucchini. I ended up squeezing out my shredded zucchini and packing it in, so I may have used a more generous amount than was intended. 

Zucchini and Feta Scones (as adapted from Rook No.17) http://www.rookno17.com/2011/07/baking-with-olive-oil-savory-zucchini.html

2  cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups (approx. 2 medium) shredded zucchini
1 cup crumbled feta cheese 
Zest of one small lemon

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in oregano.  Set aside. In an electric mixer, beat eggs and oil until smooth and lightened in color.  Stir in the zucchini, feta and lemon zest.  Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Using a 1/4 cup kitchen scoop, portion dough on to prepared baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until tops of scones are lightly browned and spring back to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.  Best when served warm.

I am flattered that my writing conveys images of peaceful zucchini relaxation, but I assure you there is a reason all my food shots are close-ups - no better way to hide all the dirty dishes and chaos.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 9: Let's Not Haggle for Darling Courgette

We finally got to try Tupelo Honey Cafe.  Everything I'd heard about it is true.  Matt said, "I had high expectations, and this exceeded them."  I concur.  Would also like to add, that although it isn't pictured, it was the best asparagus I've ever eaten.  I'm still thinking about those Appalachian egg rolls.  How did I get so lucky as to be born in the era of food fusions?

Took me two days and five false starts, but I finally finished watching Les Miserables.  I cried.  I would have cried more if Matt hadn't been present with a commentary.  There are plenty of haters, but I thought that the method of recording the actors singing was incredibly moving.  I come away from every performance of Les Miserables with something new, and this was no exception.  

If you're familiar with the musical, then you know that M. Thenardier can never remember Cosette's name.  At one point he refers to her as "Courgette."  This is French for zucchini. What better movie could there be for taking a break from a zucchini challenge?

We liked Tupelo Honey so much that we went back for brunch on Sunday with the sisters.  

Our neighbors had us over to eat with them Saturday night.  At dusk, I climbed over the fence to put up the birds.  I will never get tired of looking at that sky over our property.  When I went back to the neighbors', Matt was holding an hour-old keet (baby guinea fowl) to keep it warm.  It was the color of a pussy willow catkins and almost as small.

Sunday afternoon Rebekah and I sat out on the back porch, listened to the rain, and played with acrylic paint.  Matt questioned my ability to paint, but later he told me he'd frame my painting and hang it on the wall.  That's love.

Just ask any of our overnight guests.  We've needed a new coffee carafe for long time.  When we went to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy one, they didn't carry it in store and had to order it for us.  Since we had a 20% off coupon burning a hole in our pocket, Matt bought the Cuisinart ice cream maker he's been eyeing.  We made roasted strawberry ice cream from Zoe Bakes.  Zoe is behind the artisan bread that changed my life, but this ice cream was not life changing.

Ice cream is one of those things that really is better homemade.  Even the best quality grocery ice creams like Haagen Dazs and High Road can't taste as fresh  (I tried Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream once.  I know she's the darling of the food blogging world, but I couldn't even finish the pint we bought.  And I'd paid...no, I don't want to admit how much I paid).  So, of course, this ice cream was good, but it wasn't spectacular.  And it wasn't worth the mountain of dishes.  I'm currently collecting ice cream recipes.  Zucchini is so last week.*

* Just kidding!  Zucchini is far from over.  Already gearing up to try this, this and this.

Not pictured:  the laundry village growing up in my laundry room, the turkey poop, the turkey's hitting me in the face with their wings when I tried to catch them, and us running 20 minutes late for breakfast while my hungry sisters waited.  Some things just don't photograph well.

What did you do this weekend?

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