Saturday, September 08, 2007


We made it through the first week of school (pant, pant) though I do feel like I've just run a marathon after having sat on my butt for a few months.

I did a little therapeutic cooking midweek which was also designed to decrease the insane baseball-bat sized zucchinis that greeted me when we came back from Georgian Bay. I swear the thing was about 5 inches long when we left for a beautiful week of camping and canoeing at Massasauga Provincial Park but I could have easily used the zucchini I found upon our return as a weapon. Since I'm too cheap to throw the massive zuchs away, I figured grating was the answer and Zuccchini Feta pancakes were on the menu.
This is the third recipe for Zucchini Feta pancakes I've made this summer and, so far, the best of the three. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I got the other two recipes but both were a bit on the flabby side. So I did a little web searching and decided on a recipe on Epicurious for Turkish Zucchini pancakes; I was swayed by the fact that everyone who reviewed the recipe (a feature I really like about Epicurious, though I often forget to add my own comments to the stream of advice) said that they would make it again--it's rare that a recipe gets a 100% approval rating.

I also liked that these had plenty of flavors added to make up for the blandness of the zucchini--feta, walnuts, dill, scallions and mint. With such a cast of supporting tastes, I probably could have used cardboard as the base and it still would have tasted good. But I dutifully shredded my massive zucchini instead. It was a little scary when I realized that it would only take half of my huge zucchini, even with the spongy core carved out pre-grating, to produce the pound of zucchini called for in the recipe. My zucchini isn't quite the size of Iron Stef's which had to be restrained by a seat belt in the car, but it came pretty close!

The walnuts are a great addition to the pancakes and make them into a substantial dinner. I tweaked the recipe a bit (the original calls for tarragon and even more green onions--1 1/2 cups are plenty!) and served them with a yogurt garlic sauce.

Turkish Zucchini Pancakes
adapted from Bon Appetite

1 pound zucchini, trimmed, coarsely grated
1 1/2 cups chopped green onions
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried dillweed
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
a shake of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (about 3 ounces)
Olive oil

Place grated zucchini in colander. Sprinkle zucchini with about 1 1/2 t salt and let stand about an hour. Squeeze zucchini vigorously between hands to remove liquid.

Combine zucchini, chopped green onions, 4 eggs, flour, chopped dill, parsley, tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in medium bowl. Mix well. Fold in crumbled feta cheese. Fold chopped walnuts into zucchini mixture. Preheat oven to 300°F and place a baking sheet in oven.

Film the bottom of large nonstick skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, drop zucchini mixture into skillet by heaping tablespoonfuls. Fry until pancakes are golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of pancakes to baking sheet in oven to keep warm. Serve pancakes hot. Makes about 20.

Serve with a yogurt garlic sauce:
Mix 1 clove of minced or pressed garlic and 1 t salt with about 1 C greek yogurt, or 3/4 C of regular yogurt and 1/4 C of sour cream. Stir to combine thoroughly (can also add shredded cucumber, chopped mint or dill, etc.)

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Rather than freak out about school starting and having to wake the kids up at 7 am when their summer bedtime has been around 10:30 PM, I'll focus on something much more enjoyable:


Brian is a great lover of beer, particularly wheat beer. Bell's Oberon is the local wheat beer he prefers, while Franziskaner is the bottled import he buys and Erdinger is the draft beer he drinks when he gets sent to Germany on work trips. Wheat beer is usually fruity and spicy with words like "clove," "toffee," "citrus," and (somewhat alarmingly) "banana" bandied about in reviews. It is also a "premium" beer and pretty expensive.

Brian has talked about home brewing since two of his work friends are brewing aficionados and he has happily sampled their wares. So this summer, he convinced me of the economic sense it made to investment in the equipment, borrowed a friend's deep fat turkey fryer (good for cooking up the wort outside so it doesn't stink up the house) and got started. He made two types on his first attempt: a wheat and a pilsner.
Here he is corrupting our kids by involving them in the beer production process. Fiona gets a dollar for helping Brian wash bottles and they each get a dollar for helping with the filling, capping, and labeling.Ian got to write "P1" on all the pilsner bottles, while Fiona got to put smiley faces on the caps of the wheat beers. After the proper number of weeks of waiting we tried the stuff and it was pretty good! The wheat was better than the pilsner, though personally I found the wheat almost too flavorful--great for sipping, but I couldn't finish a whole one without feeling overwhelmed. But Brian and his wheat-beer friends love the stuff. The pilsner had a nice initial taste but no lasting bouquet or depth.

Batch two was another wheat, which turned out well, and a Mexican style lager which, since its yeast requires a cold ferment, is still awaiting judgment.

It's great to see Brian so excited about something in the eating and drinking department; he's happy to taste whatever I cook but I don't think he really got the thrill of a well executed pie, or a tricky fish dish that turned out well, until he started brewing. And I am pleased about the economic side of the process. But he really got my attention and support when he mentioned a few weeks ago that this fall he could try and make me a batch of hard cider, a beverage I dearly love.

When I was a kid, I used to make this stuff under my bed. I wasn't a lush, and wasn't even aware that what I was doing was making the cider alcoholic; I just liked the slight fizz and sharpness that came when the cider started to turn. When a gallon was about half empty, I'd sneak it out of the fridge and hide it under my bed. After about a week, the gallon jug would show signs of swelling and I'd take the lid off and inhale the scent of my yeasty, fizzy apple cider. Since then, I've tried pretty much any hard cider that crossed my path with my two favorites being the cloudy, potent Scrumpy from the West Country in England, and dry, champagne-like Cidre Brut from Normandy.

I'll probably call our local cider mill, the Dexter Cider Mill, which still uses 100 year old equipment and an oak press, and see if we can do some sort of bulk buy to keep the price from being too outrageous.

If anyone has experience making hard cider and tips to pass on, please do!