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Monthly Archives: July 2012

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

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I first read about zucchini pancakes in Elena Zelayeta’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking, a wonderful cookbook dating back to 1968 and which is still a very useful guide to the basics of Mexican cookery. I’ve tweaked it a little here but not so much that the original author wouldn’t recognize it.  The pancakes are simple to make and everyone I’ve served them to really likes them – plus they use up some of that zucchini that’s getting out of control in home gardens.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

  • 1 pound zucchini or other summer squash (to equal about 2 cups grated squash)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • salt and pepper
  • butter or oil or a combination (for frying)

Grate the squash (here I used zucchini and yellow crookneck squash) and sprinkle with salt; let drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and squeeze dry.

Combine squash with egg, flour, baking powder, onion, salt and pepper.

Mix until you have a thick batter.

Melt butter in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat. Spoon batter into pan and cook small pancakes until browned on one side, then flip. You want to cook these thoroughly or they’ll taste of raw flour.

Cook on second side until browned.

Serve these as a vegetable or as an appetizer. Some salsa on the side would be good. You could also melt some cheese over the top before taking them out of the pan.   Or you could add some chopped hot pepper or a can of Ortega chiles and some cilantro.

To make this gluten-free – omit the flour and baking powder and proceed with recipe, frying up little zucchini omelets. EDIT: or do as Melissa commented below, and use whatever non-gluten flour you have on hand.

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MANGO-AVOCADO SALSA

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The other night my husband BBQ’d some chicken that was righteous.

I cut up a whole chicken and he grilled it over low heat, turning each piece about every five minutes, for a total of about 50 minutes. Toward the end, he brushed on some bottled mango-chipotle sauce. He also grilled some red bell pepper strips and corn on the cob (don’t bother removing the silks – just put the whole thing right on the grill with husks & silks intact – turn every five minutes for about 20 minutes). I steamed some broccoli.

I felt like we needed one more thing to go with the chicken. We had a mango that wasn’t getting any younger, plus avocados and limes. Here is the recipe.

MANGO-AVOCADO SALSA

Make the dressing first:

  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • juice of one lime
  • good squeeze of honey
  • salt and pepper

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and taste it. It should be slightly sweet with a peppery kick.

Peel and dice one mango. Pour the dressing over and let sit until ready to serve.

When ready to serve – peel and dice two avocados and gently mix into the mango pieces.

This was great with the chicken. It would also go well with pork or grilled fish.

Possible additions: cilantro, minced hot pepper, a chopped & seeded tomato…  you could chop everything small and serve as a dip with tortilla chips.

Substitute papaya, cantaloupe, or peaches for the mango.

Pour the whole thing over a bowl of cleaned, chopped fresh spinach for a great salad.

TOMATO LUST #2

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Tomato Lust #1 really should have been the title of the Gazpacho entry. I wasn’t thinking. Now that real tomatoes are in season,  Tomato Lust is upon us – an appetite built over the long miserable months when puny Xeroxes of tomatoes were all that was available. There are a lot of good ways to satisfy Tomato Lust, and I hope to cover some of the better ones.

Years ago I read an article written by someone who wrote that when he was going through a divorce, this was a dish he made a lot because he could come home after work and assemble it without much thought, and it sustained him. I don’t think he had a name for it.

I didn’t know this dish already had a name when I started making it, and I’d already started thinking of this as That Pasta Dish I Make In The Summer. In “Heartburn,” Nora Ephron called it linguine alla cecca. I’ve seen similar versions as pasta al sugo crudo.  Whatever you call it, don’t call it pasta salad. As Mark Bittman said in 101 Picnic Dishes to Make  (this is #91), “Do not call this pasta salad, because pasta salad is no good, and this is.”

I don’t really like the name Summer Pasta – it sounds too food magazine-ish, a name Giada DeLaurentis would come up with.  I don’t dislike Giada, but she’s getting less and less interesting all the time as she focuses on recipes that everyone will like, thereby dumbing-down food.  But I submitted this recipe to one of those fund-raising cookbooks and had to come up with a name, and so I’m afraid Summer Pasta is what it is.

Caveat: do not attempt this unless you have the very best homegrown tomatoes.

This is less a formal recipe than a photographic description of what I made yesterday.

I chopped up four large organic tomatoes, then added some good things to the bowl. Clockwise from top: a lot of coarsely ground black pepper, large crystal sea salt (about 1 teaspoon – some of the other ingredients are salty), about 1/4 cup chopped oil-cured olives, 6 sliced large cloves garlic, a very small finely minced hot red pepper (those red bits on top of the garlic), and a generous tablespoon of capers.

Then I poured in a generous amount of very good extra-virgin olive oil. This one was made from olives grown down the road from me. You want a nice fruity green oil here.

I stirred it all together, covered the bowl with a cloth, and left it on the counter for a couple of hours.

After a couple of hours the tomatoes gave up a lot of their juice. It smelled like an tomato truck had crashed into a Gilroy garlic field.

I boiled one pound of pasta – here, corn linguine – drained it, tossed with the uncooked sauce, and added some torn bits of fresh basil.

I like this at room temperature, though it’s great hot or cold too. We had this for dinner with a mixed green salad. You’ll eat more of this than you think you will, so this might only serve 2 or 3.

Variations:

The olives, capers, and hot pepper are optional.

Add some pesto in addition to or instead of the fresh basil.

Add some fresh oregano leaves.

A sprinkling of hot pepper flakes (the pizza parlor variety) is good, as is a pinch of cayenne.

Stir in some sliced, sauteed Italian sausage.

Anchovies would be a great addition, depending on how you feel about anchovies. So would Italian oil-packed tuna.

Adding sliced fresh mozzarella would make this Pasta Caprese.

Spread this out on a platter and top with baked or sauteed chicken, or sauteed salmon steaks.

NORA AND MARION

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Much has been written about Nora Ephron in the past week, and I can’t add much to it. I read most of her books, and all her columns in the Huffington Post. I didn’t always agree with her; I thought she could be a bit privileged (carrying on about some purse that cost more than I make in two months, plus the eyebrow weaving – whatever that is)  and I didn’t always get her point. But I loved “Heartburn” and the recipes, almost all of which I’ve made.

I’ve made this one more than any of the others. This is what Nora threw at her then-husband, Carl Bernstein, at a dinner party when she realized, “with shimmering clarity… nothing mattered except that he didn’t love me. If I throw this pie at him, he will never love me. But he doesn’t love me anyway. So I can throw the pie if I want to. I picked up the pie, thanked God for the linoleum floor, and threw it.”

KEY LIME PIE

“The key lime pie is very simple to make. First you line a 9-inch pie plate with a graham cracker crust. Then beat 6 egg yolks. Add one cup lime juice (even bottled lime juice will do), two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk, and 1 tablespoon grated lime rind. Pour into the pie shell and freeze. Remove from freezer and spread with whipped cream. Let sit five minutes before serving.” – Nora Ephron, “Heartburn”

I just read that Marion Cunningham died today. She was 90. You might never have heard of her, but you surely have heard of “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook,” which she revised in 1990. For many years she wrote a food column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and I have some of those old columns clipped out and glued in a scrapbook, including one with the memorable phrase, “I don’t know why, but I can hardly be civil to anyone who eats his hamburger with avocado and salsa on it. Without expensive therapy, we will probably never solve the mystery.”

This is one of Marion’s recipes. It’s ultra-simple and very delicious, as well as very healthy. I like to put chopped green onions and a spoonful of plain yogurt on top, or sometimes a fried egg.

LENTILS AND SALSA

Combine 3/4 dried lentils, 2 cups tomato-based salsa, one chopped onion, 5 cups water, and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.

GAZPACHO

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I’ve never been to Spain (though I kind of like the Beatles) so I can’t say for sure if this is true, but Barbara Norman, author of The Spanish Cookbook, claims that gazpacho in Spain is not always made with tomatoes. Says she, Gazpacho Blanco from Cordoba contains olive oil, vinegar, water, garlic, and almonds;  Gazpacho Extremeno from Estremadura is made with bread, garlic, vinegar, green pepper, a raw egg, olive oil, salt, and water.   Malaga’s Gazpachuelo starts with mayonnaise and, depending on the cook, might include only water, lemon, and boiled potatoes or rice; a more luxurious version adds fish.

I suppose those versions developed in the centuries before tomatoes arrived in the Old Country and can be attributed to the Arab/Moorish influence; the use of vinegar as a food dates at least as far back as the Roman Empire. Like all dishes identified with a national cuisine, gazpacho rose from what was available.  Nowadays you can find recipes for all kinds of gazpacho variations in much the same way that pesto (usually made with basil)  now is sometimes made with cilantro, arugula, mint, or another ingredient (the word pesto means to pound or to crush using a mortar and pestle).

Telling people ahead of time that a dish is healthy will automatically turn them off.   So I won’t mention that gazpacho is wildly healthy: wonderfully hydrating on these incredibly hot summer days (110 F/43C expected tomorrow); low-fat (even with the olive oil, which is one of the “good” oils); anti-oxidant rich;  anti-osteoporosis rich;  anti-prostate-cancer rich;  full of healthy cholesterol-lowering compounds;  packed with Vitamins C, A, K, and potassium; and is a great dish for weight-loss programs, as it fills you up without adding a lot of calories. Nope, I didn’t say any of that.

This is my version of gazpacho. A food processor, blender, or similar appliance is vital here. Caveat: do not attempt this if you cannot lay your hands on the best-quality, most flavorful tomatoes possible. Those pink rocks in the supermarket will not do.

GAZPACHO

  • 3 pounds best quality homegrown tomatoes (Heirlooms are ideal but any real tomato will work)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 mild, sweet onion (such as a Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • juice of one lime or lemon
  • red wine vinegar
  • bottled hot sauce of your choice or a minced fresh hot pepper
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find
  • optional but probably necessary: V-8 juice, tomato juice, Trader Joe’s Garden Patch, or similar

Peel the cucumber. Wash tomatoes and bell pepper. Cut all vegetables into chunks. Start putting the first eight ingredients into the bowl of the food processor.

You’ll need some juicy vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes) in the processor along with the less-juicy vegetables (onions, bell pepper).  This is where the V-8 may come in handy.

Process the soup in batches.

This first batch is lighter in color than the finished soup will be because it has more onion, cucumbers, and garlic than tomatoes.

As each batch is processed, pour in into a container large enough to hold all the soup (this recipe makes about a gallon).

Season the last batch with hot sauce, sea salt, pepper, lime juice, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a pour of olive oil (about 1/4 cup).  Pour it in with the previous batches, stir,  taste,  and adjust seasoning as you like. If it’s thicker than you like, add some V-8.

If you want a very smooth soup, force through a sieve or a food mill.  (If you do that, you could probably add some vodka and have a very fine Bloody Mary.)  Myself, I like it with some texture, so I leave the processed soup alone, but I like to add some cubes of red bell pepper and cucumber to the finished soup.

Chill this soup until very cold. When serving, pour a very thin drizzle of olive oil on top.

CORN & BASIL SALAD

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Never, ever would it have occurred to me to use corn and sweet basil as the central flavors in one salad, but the smart people who wrote  “Placer County Real Food From Farmer’s Markets” thought of it.   I made it for July 4 to go with grilled New York steaks and a shrimp pasta salad, and it was a nice crunchy, fresh accent to the heavier meat and creamy pasta.

The salad is colorful and healthy,  unusual and delicious,  and requires very little cooking. It makes a lot, but it keeps well in the refrigerator. This goes great with anything barbecued, or works well as part of a salad buffet because it won’t wilt if left unrefrigerated for a few hours.

That’s a cookbook you ought to try to find, by the way; Amazon has a few copies now and then, and it would appear the price will only be going up in the future, so get it while you can. Beautifully photographed and arranged, this is a cookbook to use all year. Check out their website at http://placercountyrealfood.com/

CORN & BASIL SALAD

  • 6 ears of corn (I use white, but use whatever is sweetest and freshest)
  • 1 bunch sweet basil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 summer squash (I used zucchini and yellow crookneck, but again, choose what is best in the market)
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Using a sharp knife, slice the raw corn from the cobs and place corn in a large bowl.

Chop basil leaves, combine with olive oil, and set aside.

Mince the garlic. Chop squash into small pieces. Melt butter in wide frying pan. Saute garlic and squash over medium heat until squash is just starting to turn golden and is still crisp.

Pour squash into bowl with corn.  Thinly slice the green onions (including all of the greens) and add to the bowl. Pour the basil & olive oil over the vegetables and toss all together. Pour the red wine vinegar over and toss again to combine.

Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.

BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM

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I bought an ice cream maker a couple of years ago and only used it once. Since yesterday was the the Fourth of July, I thought it was high time to fix that. Looking around Epicurious, I found this recipe. It tasted like sour cream ice cream and was just fabulous. It isn’t terribly sweet so it’s great with a sweeter accompaniment like cake or sweetened fruit.
It requires creme fraiche, which you can buy – or make at home with just about zero effort. (See previous entry.)
This recipe involves pouring hot liquid into egg yolks, which sounds scarier than it is. Go slow and whisk constantly. If this makes you uneasy, have a large bowl of ice water standing by so you can plunge the bottom of the pan into that (whisking like crazy) to stop the eggs from scrambling.
BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup crème fraîche*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend.  Working very slowly, gradually whisk hot cream into yolk mixture; whisk constantly until all the cream is incorporated.
Pour the cream-egg-sugar mixture into saucepan and stir constantly over medium-low heat until custard is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Pour custard through fine strainer into clean bowl. Cool to room temperature. Whisk in buttermilk, creme fraiche, lemon juice, and salt. Chill custard until cold.

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to containers; cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

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