Friday, September 23, 2011

Zucchini Pancakes - 2 Ways

The end of summer is approaching, and in gardens and farmer's markets everywhere, the attack of the giant zucchini is commencing!

 To be frank, these giant zucchini have lost the tenderness and sweet appeal of the manageable zucchini the require only one hand to pick up. When they start to out weigh small pets and babies it is tempting to pass them by, or send them straight to compost (where they will faithfully grow your first zucchini plants of the year).

Five Acre Farm from Whidbey Island
is starting to see the monsters!
What if there were a recipe that actually took advantage of the drier, starchier, large zucchini, and possibly some other late summer veggies?

 Well, it turns out there is! Zucchini pancakes - and the versatility is impressive.

 One mixture gives you two pancake options - a flat, griddle/sauté pan pancake, or something more along the lines of a pan fried latke/potato pancake option.
 And there are do ahead/make ahead and customization options as well.

 1. You can make this recipe start to finish and consume everything in one go.
 2. You can grate the vegetable matter in the summer, freeze it... Only to bring it out in the fall or winter, thaw it, drain it, and mix up the pancakes from there.
 3. You can make lots of pancakes, freeze the extras and reheat them as you need them.
 4. You can flavor these pancakes to better suit their use, with your own add-ins, dill, basil, oregano, parsley and jalepeno peppers have all particularly successful.
 5. These are a great side dish, and make the best base for huevos rancheros - ever.

Zucchini Pancakes with bacon and (greek) yogurt for breakfast.
A great start to a day spent replacing faucets.

The Recipe: Zucchini Pancakes - 2 Ways 

This is a proportional recipe - all around 2 Cups of grated zucchini.
I'm going to guess you will have a different amount. Double or triple or halve as you need.
The best news is the recipe is very forgiving, and a little more or a little less is not going to mess things up. And I have yet to figure out how to add half an egg.

Large knife
Cutting board
Mixing bowl - medium or large depending on how much zucchini you are taking on
Grating Device - I highy recommend a food processor for this one
Salad spinner or collander
Non-fuzzy cotton kitchen towels
Measuring cup
Mixing spoon/spatula
Flipping spatula

 Griddle/sauté pan
 -OR- Dutch oven/deep sided skillet/fryer

2 C grated zucchini
1 C grated potato
1/2 an onion - also grated
1/2 C flour - gluten free flours/flour mixes work well here, you need the starch, not the stretch
1 egg Pinch of salt and pepper
Handful of your favorite herbs, roughly chopped (start with dill if undecided, that's the classic.)

Oil for cooking - amount varies by method (Canola & vegetable oils are fine.  Definitely no place for fancy oils)


With the large knife, chop the large zucchini into manageable size pieces.
If the seeds look particularly spongy and dry, scoop them out.
Grate the zucchini, and place the result in your salad spinner/collander for the first round of draining. Go ahead grate it all, you can freeze the extra.

When it is all grated, spread out a thin layer over you kitchen towel,

roll it up and squeeze mercilessly to get out extra water.

You may need to do this in several batches depending on how much zucchini you have.

Measure out your 2 cups, and put the rest in a zip top bag, squeeze out the air and stash in the freezer. Grate the potato and onion.  Use clean hands to stir these together*, add in the herbs, flour, egg, salt and pepper as well.

Combine until just mixed.  (My hands were too goopy to take the photo... and I was getting hungry.)


1. Flat Pancake way - heat a griddle/sauté pan over med-high heat. Give it a light coating of oil.
When a bit of the pancake batter sizzles raucously on the surface, it is hot enough. (about 3-4 minutes) Spoon heaping tablespoons of batter onto the griddle. 
Press down with your spatula to flatten then out.
After a minute or two, peek and see if the bottom is browning nicely. If yes, flip! If no, wait until it has, then flip.
Set aside on a cooling rack or paper towels. Eat the first one as hot as you can with some pepper. 

2. Fried Pancake way - heat 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oil in a Dutch oven or other high-sided, heavy pot to 350˚F, or until a dot of batter sizzles merrily, and cooks by the time you count to ten.
(You should be well below the smoke point of you oil, turn it off if you start to see smoke.**)
Fry zucchini pancake patties that are about 2 heaping tablespoons in size. Only cook 2 or 3 at a time so you don't cool the oil down too much.
Each pancake will take about 3 - 4 minutes on each side to get golden brown on the outside, and soft and wonderful on the inside.
Eating of several test pancakes may be required.
 Drain on a cooling rack over paper towels.

For Both Ways -

When you get the timing down,  cook all the rest.
You can keep these warm in an oven that has been preheated to 250˚F and turned off.
Don't cover them, or they will get soggy.
Extras can be refrigerated/frozen, and reheated in a toaster.

*you can also stop and freeze the ingredients here.
** Always have a large lid on hand and a kitchen fire extinguisher when frying.  And NEVER use water to put out a grease fire.

Some quick suggestions: Pan fried zucchini pancakes with lots of dill and a little mint are a classic middle eastern food.  Enjoy with hummus, or yogurt with cucumbers and mint (tzaziki).

Add a north African flair by adding smoked paprika and turmeric to the flour. And serve with the North African version of crockpot food, a Tagine

Add a little sugar, cumin and cardamom for a sweet/ breakfast version, and use a sweet onion instead of a regular one.

Make tiny pancakes, and serve with smoked salmon and a little dilled sour cream for zucchini based party food.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Best Summer Burger!

Ah summer... there you go.  I start to wake up to a sunrise, rather than full light.  But the afternoons and evenings are still fine, and there's still time for a few more cookouts.

The Ultimate Summer Burger
Super ripe tomato on top, baba ganoush on the bottom
This takes all the beautiful end of summer flavors, and makes a smokey, sweet, rich salute to the end of the growing season.

O.K. Not so beautiful, but it was tasty!

Monday, September 12, 2011

When it All Goes Wrong

There are somedays, instead of making something, I just make a mess.

Several weeks ago, I had a whole bunch of plums, and made a delicious baked plum and ginger... something.  The bottom of a crumble, or a cobbler, or the inside of a fruit pie, or I don't know what; the British* call it stewed fruit, but that doesn't sound yummy to modern ears.  We just hear "stew."

Anyway, it was extremely tasty over vanilla ice cream, and over Greek Yogurt†.

However, when I chose to make it again, I left it in a too hot oven for too long, and it came out like:

That's burned - and Not Tasty at All

Which meant, soak (have your husband NOT wash**, because it looks, "jammy or something you were working on"), wash, and try again.

When you do it right -

Tasty Plums for Over Ice Cream (or a variation)

Baking pan
Cutting board

Ripe plums (pluots & apriums also work well)
1 Tbs sugar for every 2 large or 4 small plums
Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into slivers

Slice the plums into bite-ish sized pieces.  toss with the sugar and ginger slivers in the baking pan.

Heat the oven to 350˚F.
Bake the plums until they are juicy and tender, and the ginger has lost its sharpness. (20 minutes or so. Check at about 15 minutes first time you do this, and learn from my mistake.)
Eat with your favorite accompaniment.  Shortbread cookies are also good.

When you do it right it looks more like this:

*If you are British and object, blame Jamie Oliver.  And me, for not doing more research.

† According to me, and a taste test I found, Fage is the tastiest, Hands Down.  The taste testers say Oikos & Chobani are pretty OK, TJ's needs work.  I agree.  And say Greek Gods is too runny to be real Greek Yogurt.

Bonus: Greek Yogurt is a stellar stand in for Sour Cream.

** The right move in the face of past experience.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apple vs. Apple flavor... Peach vs. Peach flavor

Over a year ago, I make this post on Yucky & Yummy, and was reminded of it by a friend, talking of teaching our kids to cook.  Even the most rudimentary stuff - as a place to start.

But to move ahead - I also had meant to write a post on Apple vs. Apple Flavor, and then, as so often happens, I got distracted.

But now is the time.
As I'm swimming around in a fabulous kiddy-pool of summer fruit, freezing what we can't eat, making dates to can & freeze more, and reveling in the complicated variety of flavors.  Take raspberries.  I was considering some alternate yogurt (because what I wanted wasn't there), and for all its organic-ness and all-natual-ness, it had "raspberry flavor" instead of raspberry juice.  And that got me caught back up in this old thought train.

Flavor (or flavour... you know who you are) is part of something bigger - or it used to be.  We all know when it's missing - anyone subjected to under ripe fruit knows the problem, the peach is there, but there is no Peach.

The new problem is flavor, but no food to go with it!

Way, way, way back in the day, ya' know before we had phones (and artificial flavors), the only way to get apple flavor, was to eat an apple, drink apple juice, or generally consume something made with apples - and thus all those other things apples have for us - fiber, energy, vitamins, flavanoids, companion vitam-ettes†.  Now, we can get all the appliciousness we can handle without any of the above, and thus sugar-free-apple-flavored-diet.... whatever.

Thus, the eating of something becomes all about the flavor, and the other stuff that accompanies it - the smell, the texture, the stuff your body runs on - is lost.  And since (as paleoanthropologists assure us) we evolved as (and still are) reward motivated consumers - the flavor was the reward for all the hard work to hunt down the tasty, nutritious, energy packed morsels.  Now we are getting all reward for no work.  All style, no substance, and not even the bother of having to go to the store to get it.

And as many a behavioralist will tell you, unearned goodies lead to a jaded attitude, and a desire for more, More, MORE!  (Alas, also with no work.)

And as a result, you go from Apples, to the Grapple:

The important part of the text:
 …created the modified fruit by soaking the apples
 in a bath of water and methyl anthranilate (a flavoring agent in grape gum)
 and other ingredients

Wait - what's wrong with apple flavored apples and grape flavored grapes?  All the goodies grapes bring are lost to us, kids don't get to taste the good of the apple, and, oh yeah, apples go from a nice simple food to a packaged, processed and more expensive one.

So if you are still with me, the last problem is the loss of nuance - if we come to believe all apples need to taste like Apples, and grapes need to take on the aspect of Grapes, and peaches are only good if they taste like Peach, they variety is lost, diversity looses its appeal.  And as the corn industry (like many another monolith) is discovering, mono-culturalism is the calling card for mass infestation of pests (if you can make it against the Bt corn, you can make it Anywhere!)

That's right, from jaded consumers, a national obesity crisis, to the next food collapse all on the shoulders of artificial flavoring.  OK, not really, but it is a problem, and one that bears pondering next time you are looking at consuming something flavored with substances that never worried about rotting.

† OK, now I'm making up words, but you get the picture.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Some things (parents of) kids should know....

Welcome to the recovery version....

I know I'm all about the fresh food, and the cool food project, and the Farmer's-Market-this and CSA*- that, but there are plenty of days I am Glad Glad Glad we live in a world where easy, shelf stable food exits.

It is in my emergency kit, and it is in my pantry.  And there are times that sort of feel like an emergency, and that is when they come out.
So when I went down with Strep Throat this weekend, I was really glad the supplies were there, and my son could cook his own dinner.
Was it pretty?  No.
Was it even gourmet?  NOPE.
But it was kindof nutritious, it was kindof balanced, and he was able to do it *all by himself.*
It was microwave mac 'n cheez & a cucumber.

The 2 great things about this -
1. He had done this enough, so he could do it himself, and
2. I had a fresh thing on hand he wanted enough to hunt out and eat.  (He said it was fun just biting into a cucumber - something to think about in our bite sized world.)

The key is, we should eat real food more often than we do, and my goal is to help make it easy, tasty and fun, and something anyone can do.
But I'm no hater.  Shelf stable food has an important place in our just-in-time society.  Emergency rations, travel food, winter food... there are reasons for it - we just shouldn't eat it all the time.... And so much of it.

Which brings me to the second thing - teach your kids how to make a toasted cheese sandwich and/or quesadilla, and then have them make them.
(And then make them clean up.)

The sooner they feel like they can feed themselves, the sooner they will, and if they get used to feeding themselves in your kitchen, you can help them decide what kind of food will be in their kitchen, and what kind of food they will cook.  If we never put them in a position where they need to cook they certainly won't know what to do when they have to.

My learning to cook story isn't particularly special, except I was allowed to try things.  Oh yeah, and if something didn't taste good I was told so.  Because there was "Yuck!" I knew I could trust "Yum!"
Kids know when they are being lied too - they just play along, but it makes it hard for them to know when you are telling the truth.  And if you tell them something they made doesn't taste good when they are young, they'll bounce back - but if it doesn't happen until they are a teenager - Watch Out.  There will be splatters.

(I heard Michael Pollan of _Omnivore's Dilemma_ on NPR talking about shopping for Fruity Pebbles for his son.)

*Community Supported Agriculture