Zucchini Fritters


Okay folks, it’s that time of year, when zucchini begin their annual attempt to take over the world, or at least our gardens. Co-workers will bring bags of it to work and beg you to take some. Zucchini bread will show up on the break room table multiple times.  You can buy a shopping bag full dirt cheap at the farmers’ market. It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!

What to do with this abundance? Here’s a recipe that will use up a pound of the stuff and have you wanting more so badly you’ll put it in your regular rotation until zucchini season is over, and then you’ll be sad.

After finding this recipe last year, I bought zucchini each week at the farmers’ market, something I’ve never done before. Great as an appetizer for a summer dinner party, but just as good as a weeknight supper. Accompanied by a salad, you’ve got your quota of veggies and then some. Leftovers with a poached egg for breakfast are incredibly good!

The key to making these little cakes of deliciousness as crispy as a fritter should be is getting as much water out of your shreds as possible. The salt you mix the shredded zucchini with draws out the water and you’ll be able to wring out more than you ever thought possible. Last night I made a double batch and must have squeezed out over two cups.

Before draining

Before draining

After water squeezed out

After squeezing out water



The topping recipe included, along with the crisp fitters, creates a combination that will make you want to keep a full batch of these babies to yourself and eat them all (which is what I set out to do last night when I made that double batch for just Pete and me—although I did have a few left over).

I should point out this recipe is the reason we are now growing zucchini in our garden. More fritters for us! Enjoy!

Zucchini Fritters

  • Servings: makes about ten 2 1/2 inch fritters
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Recipe from the Smitten Kitchen

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini or a combo of zucchini and yellow squash

1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste (decrease to ½ teaspoon if you only have fine salt)

2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying (I like grapeseed or avocado oil)

To serve (optional, but really not, in my opinion—go for it!)
1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt (Greek yogurt is perfect!)

1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Pinches of salt

1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Place a baking sheet on the middle rack.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the coarser shredding blade of a food processor (that is, if you have more than one shredding blade; mine has two).

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away (the dish towel is my preferred method). You’ll be shocked by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most is lost in the water), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a small dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet—cast iron is ideal—heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet (I used a #30 cookie dough scoop) a few at a time so they don’t become crowded (I did four at a time in a 10” skillet) and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula.

Cook the fritters until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet in the warm oven until needed. Repeat process with remaining batter, keeping the pan well-oiled. It’s best for the fritters to have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.

For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream or yogurt, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top.

Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree F. oven until they’re hot and crisp again.

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Chinese Scallion Pancakes


Our favorite Chinese restaurant is The Tea House in St. Paul. I first heard about it years ago in a St. Paul Pioneer Press review. They gave it 4 out of 4 stars, something I hadn’t seen in any review before, so we had to check it out. We’ve been fans ever since.

I usually order their Szechuan Eggplant in Garlic Sauce—it’s amazing! My mouth is watering just thinking about it—spicy, sweet, and sour perfection. For a starter, we always get an order of their Shanghai Scallion Pancakes and they are delicious. Something made me think about them last week and I decided to see if there were recipes online for something similar. There were lots of recipes!

After perusing a bunch, I found they were all pretty similar. You make a dough of flour and boiling water, knead it, let it rest, and roll out your dough. Then you brush it with oil (or chicken fat—no thanks!), sprinkle with salt and scallions, roll jelly-roll style and then cinnamon roll style. After a final roll out into a round, you pan-fry them and serve them with a simple dipping sauce.

My first batch was made following an America’s Test Kitchen recipe found on The Splendid Table’s website. They were good, but I thought they would be better using less oil in the pan and more scallions in the pancakes.

For my second batch, in additional to using less oil, rather than rolling the dough initially into rounds, I followed directions from a recipe on the Omnivore’s Cookbook site to roll into a long, narrow rectangle, resulting in a longer coil that ultimately made for more flakiness in the pancakes.


In one of the many recipes I read, it mentioned that traditional Chinese flour results in flakier pancakes than regular all-purpose flour. They suggested using pastry flour or cake flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour, so in the second batch, I used one-third cake flour, one-third whole wheat pastry flour, and one-third all-purpose. I’m not sure how much it helped, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

The second batch was the definite winner. Crispy, flakey, scalliony, with no trace of greasiness. The dipping sauce added a salty, slightly sweet component to finish the dish and made it every bit as good as the Shanghai Scallion Pancakes from The Tea House. Enjoy!

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Adapted from this Omnivore’s Cookbook Recipe and this America’s Test Kitchen recipe on The Splendid Table

Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (use agave or maple syrup for a vegan version)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Scallion Pancakes:
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (or a mixture of all-purpose, cake, and whole wheat pastry flours—half cup each)

3/4 cup boiling water

5 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like grapeseed or canola, divided

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

6 scallions, thinly sliced

For the Dipping Sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.

For the Pancakes: Using a wooden spoon, mix 1 1/2 cups flour and the boiling water in a bowl to form rough dough. When cool enough to handle, transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead until tacky (but not sticky) ball forms, about 4 minutes Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

While dough is resting, stir together 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, the sesame oil, and remaining 1 tablespoon flour into a paste. Set aside.

Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat to preheat. Divide dough into three equal portions. Cover two pieces of dough with plastic wrap and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the first piece of dough into a rectangle, approximately 12 x 8 inches. Drizzle with one-third of the paste and use a pastry brush to spread evenly over entire surface. Sprinkle with 1/3 teaspoon of the kosher salt and a third of the scallions.

On the long end, roll the dough into cylinder (jelly roll style). Coil the cylinder into a spiral (cinnamon roll style), tuck the end underneath, and flatten the spiral with your palm. Cover with plastic and repeat with remaining two pieces of dough, oil-flour mixture, salt, and scallions.

Roll each spiral into 7 or 8-inch round. Cover with plastic.

Place 1 tablespoon peanut oil in the skillet and increase heat to medium-low. Place one pancake in the skillet (oil should sizzle). Cover and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until pancake is slightly puffy and is golden brown on the underside, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If underside is not browned after 1 minute, turn heat up slightly. If it is browning too quickly, turn heat down slightly.) Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil over the pancake and use a pastry brush to distribute over entire surface. Carefully flip pancake. Cover and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until second side is golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Uncover skillet and continue to cook until bottom is deep golden brown and crispy, 30 to 60 seconds longer. Flip and cook until deep golden brown and crispy, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to wire rack. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Cut each pancake into 6 wedges and serve, passing dipping sauce separately. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

To Make Ahead: Stack uncooked pancakes between layers of parchment paper, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw pancakes in single layer for 15 minutes before cooking.

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Zucchini noodles (zoodles) were one of the first things I planned to make when I got my spiralizer a couple years ago. And then I proceeded to spiralize potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets many times for a number of recipes, but not zucchini. As much as I wanted to replace my pasta with zucchini noodles, I just couldn’t—it was a cooked zucchini texture thing.

Even with the suggestion of doing half pasta and half zoodles, I still resisted. It wasn’t until I came across a few recipes where you—wait for it—leave the zucchini raw, that I saw the zoodle light. They wouldn’t be mushy, they wouldn’t be soggy. It would be an al dente experience and I was on board!

Making just a few tweaks to this Pinch of Yum recipe, we’ve got a new summer favorite that’s quick enough to pull together on a weeknight and there are always leftovers for brown-bagging the next day. When packing your leftovers, keep the sauce separate and mix it in just before eating, otherwise the zoodles will absorb the sauce and you’ll lose the creamy sauciness that makes for a truly special dish. Enjoy!

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

One 15 oz. block of extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s organic)

1 tablespoon peanut oil

3-4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed (a combination of green and yellow zucchini looks especially nice)

Sliced scallions, for garnish

Sesame seeds, for garnish (I like the look of black sesame seeds, but white are just fine)

Spicy peanut sauce:
½ cup smooth peanut butter, preferably natural (or make your own, recipe here)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (then add water to measure 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup tamari (wheat free) or soy sauce, reduced sodium if you have it

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Asian chili paste such as sambal oelek

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 heaping teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root

To remove excess moisture from the tofu, place the tofu block between a couple layers of paper towels and set on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes or a couple cookbooks. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile spiralize your zucchini and set it aside.

To make the spicy peanut sauce, place all sauce ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Cut pressed tofu into bite-sized pieces. Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add tofu to pan and cook one side of tofu pieces until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Turn pieces and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Add ½ cup of the spicy peanut sauce to the tofu and let simmer for a few minutes. Using a spatula, turn tofu pieces, scraping sauce and any brown saucy bits from the bottom of the pan. Repeat the simmer, turning, and scraping a couple more times until tofu is crispy brown.

To serve, place zucchini noodles in individual bowls and top each with a ¼ cup of spicy peanut sauce, stirring to coat the zoodles. Top with some tofu pieces, sliced scallions, and sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings.

Creamy Sriracha Potato Salad

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Scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches have been the extent of my culinary adventures lately as I recuperate from total hip replacement surgery. Until my appetite and agility return and I dive back into cooking escapades worth sharing, here’s a potato salad recipe I came up with last month. A little creamy, a little tangy, and subtly spicy. I hope you like it. Enjoy!
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Creamy Sriracha Potato Salad

½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes

1 cup sliced radishes

¾ cup sliced scallions

¼ cup sour cream or plain Green yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (depending on how much heat you’d like)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup chopped parsley or dill

Cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Place in a pan and cover with water and throw in some salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, and dump into a large serving bowl. Add radishes and scallions and toss.

While potatoes are cooking, combine sour cream, mayo, lemon juice & zest, pickle juice, sriracha, olive oil, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy.

Pour dressing over potato mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle in parsley or dill and toss again. Cover and chill for a couple hours before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

 

Vegan Pastrami Cups with Scallion Mozzarella, Dates and Lemon Zest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThose of us living in the Twin Cities are so fortunate to have the country’s only vegan butcher shop in our vicinity. The Herbivorous Butcher opened in NE Minneapolis a couple months ago and they’ve been cranking out their handmade, small batch, non-GMO, vegan meats and cheeses to crowds ever since, and those crowds aren’t just made up of vegetarians. According to brother and sister owners Kale and Aubry Walch, omnivores are a huge part of their business.

Before the bricks and mortar location opened, the Walch siblings sold their products at farmers’ markets. It was at one of those markets I up picked their holiday ham (complete with yummy glaze) to serve for Thanksgiving and it was delicious! Everything I’ve had so far has been good, but their pastrami, which reviewers absolutely rave about, hasn’t been in the butcher case when I’ve stopped in. That is until last Saturday.

I picked up a pound of the thinly sliced, seasoned “meat,” and, not really sure what one makes with pastrami besides sandwiches, I figured I’d better stock up on good bread. But after a visit with my friends Google and Pinterest, I had lots of other ideas. And from those ideas came these piquant morsels of goodness—spicy, salty, sweet, and citrusy, a happy flavor explosion in your mouth. Plus, they’ll look super pretty on an appetizer platter at your next dinner party.
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For those of you who don’t have the Herbivorous Butcher to provide your vegan meats, not a problem, just use vegan packaged deli slices or pepperoni found at your co-op or supermarket. If vegan mozzarella isn’t available, vegan cream cheese would work or use a regular cheese like fresh mozzarella that’s soft enough to mash and mix with the sweet wine or honey and scallions. Double or triple the recipe for a potluck or large gathering. Enjoy!

Vegan Pastrami Cups with Scallion Mozzarella, Dates and Lemon Zest

Inspired by this Food Network recipe from The Kitchen

12 small slices vegan pastrami (or other vegan “meat”), each about 3” squareish/roundish

3 oz. vegan mozzarella

1 tablespoon sweet white wine, or honey for a non-vegan version

2-3 scallions, thinly sliced, using mainly the green parts, reserving a little for garnish

Pinch of salt, if your cheese isn’t salty

Two medjool dates, pitted and thinly sliced

Zest of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line each cup of a 12-cup mini muffin tin with a pastrami slice, overlapping to fit, if necessary; then top with a second mini muffin tin, pressing the pastrami slices into the cups and compressing them. Turn the muffin tins over and place on a baking sheet upside down. Top with a cast-iron pan for more compression. Bake for about 12 minutes, then remove the cast-iron pan carefully (double up on the hotpads!). Bake for an additional 12 minutes. Remove from oven and lift the top upside down muffin pan off to expose inverted pastrami cups. Let the cups cool completely, then gently remove them to a platter.

Meanwhile crumble cheese into a medium size bowl and mash a bit with a fork. Stir in honey/wine and scallions until smooth. Taste, and add a pinch or two of salt if needed. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (or make a piping bag by cutting the corner off a zip-lock bag). Pipe cheese mixture into pastrami cups. Top each cup with several slices of date and sprinkle with lemon zest. Garnish with remaining scallion slices.

Split Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Spinach over Brown Rice

Dal Soup
After a rainy, dreary day, I was thinking soup after work. A hearty soup, maybe earthy with lentils and spinach. Perusing a few cookbooks, I stumbled upon a red lentil soup that sounded wonderful—fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, and spiced up with red pepper flakes—the aroma practically floated off the page. After a quick pantry check, I found red split lentils (actually are more golden than red when cooked), which would cook even faster than whole lentils and dinner would be on the table that much quicker.

The recipe is adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Collective is comprised of nineteen people who own and operate the iconic Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. The restaurant, open since the early 1970s, is known for their vegetarian food and has amassed many accolades over the years, including James Beard Awards, and was named one of the most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appetite Magazine. In other words, they know what they’re doing.

Ladled over brown basmati rice and topped with chopped green onions, this dal soup will make your belly happy and your kitchen smell fabulous. Enjoy!

Split Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Spinach over Brown Rice


1 ½ cups split red lentils
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh gingerroot
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup full-fat coconut milk

Cooked brown basmati rice
Sliced scallions, for garnish

Rinse the lentils, picking out any shriveled lentils or debris. Drain. Place lentils in a stockpot and add the teaspoon of salt and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat grapeseed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, gingerroot and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Stir in the spinach and ½ teaspoon salt and cook just until spinach is wilted. Add the coconut milk and simmer for another minute. Remove from heat.

When lentils are cooked, add spinach-coconut milk mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Scoop hot brown rice into bowls and top with a couple ladles full soup. Sprinkle with chopped scallions. Makes 4-6 servings.

Beet Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette

Beet salad

Last night was a fun girls’ night patio party at my house. My two besties, Lori and Dawn, came for dinner and wine on the patio. Pete was gone to the cabin for the weekend, so what better time for an evening with my two dearest friends?

Our main course was the paella that I blogged about a while back, and while it was on the stove, we munched on little eggplant rounds baked with a panko-parmesan coating that we topped with pumpkin seed pesto and marinara. Our dessert was a simple blueberry puff pastry galette drizzled with white chocolate ganache.

Paella

Galette

It was a truly delicious meal, but the prettiest dish was the beet salad with horseradish vinaigrette. I’d had a hankering for horseradish vinaigrette where you could actually taste the horseradish. While out for dinner recently, I had a green salad, supposedly with horseradish vinaigrette, but I couldn’t taste the horseradish at all. It was good, but lacked that zesty horseradish bite. While googling, I came across a Mario Batali beet recipe with horseradish vinaigrette and adapted it to my liking. The use of both golden and red beets makes this salad really beautiful! And delicious! Even Lori, a non-beet lover (or so she thought!), deemed it wonderful.

The arugula, with its rich, peppery taste, was the perfect green to support the mellow roasted beets and the assertive dressing. Enjoy!

Beet Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette
adapted from a Mario Batali recipe  

½ pound golden beets, washed and stems trimmed off

½ pound red beets, washed and stems trimmed off

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Dressing:
1 ½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 green onions, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
4 loosely packed cups arugula

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place beets in a medium bowl, and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish and cover with foil. Roast for 1 hour or until beets are easily pierced with a knife. When beets are cooled, rub beets to remove skin. Cut beets into bite-sized pieces.

To make dressing, mix vinegar, mustard, horseradish, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in olive oil while whisking and continue to whisk until olive oil is fully incorporated.

To serve, place arugula on a platter and mound beets in the center. Sprinkle with celery and green onions. Best served at room temperature. Serves 4.