Squash Fritters (with Zucchini, Potatoes, and Onions)

We bought so much squash and zucchini, folks. I had to do something.

So I searched the internet for recipes related to squash, and found many that had the same premise: shred squash or zucchini, mix with onion and spices and egg, and fry it up in butter. This sounded LOVELY. I wanted to be a part of it.

I tried to dry the zucchini, potatoes, and squash that I wanted to use on a towel, but my house was pretty muggy so I think they didn’t get quite as dry as would have been ideal for the job. Still, I moved forward. In went two eggs, some garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, and a whole diced onion. I mixed and I heated up butter in a pan, and…

well, it didn’t coalesce. The mush got browned on high heat, but only in a small area, while the rest clumped up and then fell apart then clumped again. It was more like a pan of overly soggy hash browns, which was fine, but wasn’t my goal. The second batch had to be better. I looked at my cabinets and what did I find but… CHICKPEA FLOUR.

I knew that fried falafels are delicious, and I wanted to keep the “healthy-ish” nature of this food by not adding in a bunch of wheat flour… so in went an indeterminate amount of chickpea flour. It helped it to clump and, once in the pan, the clumps stayed beautiful! They were flip-able and when they came out, delicious. I will say, the hash was also super tasty, just not nearly as solid and easy to eat. Also mushier. So yes, add the flour when you try this. This and the recipe we used for saag paneer have me convinced that chickpea flour works wonders.

 

Walnut-Spinach Pesto on Quinoa!

I read a post online called How to Make Pesto out of (Almost) Anything and got very inspired; my basil crop has been lackluster (this is what I get for growing four kinds of herbs in one badly-drained bucket) but I had a box of spinach/spring mix that was almost bad when I put it in the freezer. This is what I do with greens that are a tad slimy, and I was intrigued to see if I could mix up a pesto that would mask the greens with delicious flavors.

I started by sautéing the greens with a lot of garlic – two enormous cloves that volume wise were more like three normal cloves, sliced. The greens got a quick splash of olive oil too, so that the garlic would brown up a little. While this was happening, I roasted some crushed walnuts till they made the whole house smell nutty.

In my darling three-dollar food processor I whipped those two together with salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. I didn’t know why but I went with the advice to put a generous squeeze of lemon juice in from my trust lemon-shaped squeeze bottle of juice, and then added a little bit more olive oil. I had to get into the processor and scrape everything off the walls once, add just one more tablespoon of oil, and then voila!

I made the quinoa in the normal way (boil 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water, let simmer 15 minutes with the lid on or until the water was gone), and then cut in half about 12 cherry tomatoes because the crop is about to completely take off and I don’t want them piling up. I mixed the quinoa, all of the pesto, and the tomatoes, and when I served it, Husband declared it a success! He said it had a lot of flavor, which isn’t something he often says about vegetarian dishes. Shout out to E for being the first person to teach me that quinoa is a wonderful meal (she mixed cut cucumbers, raw tomato chunks, and feta with quinoa… SO REFRESHING.) and to N for always showing me new ways to use the old favorite. I also am so happy that I have a way to make something pesto-flavored that is disguising a whole box worth of sautéed greens, not just basil… Wonderful!

Spiced Veggie-Packed Sauce

So, I recently made an amazing discovery: with a bunch of veggies, some spices, and a secret ingredient, I can make a sauce that is super savory, convinces me that it’s creamy, and makes rice, toast, other veggies, chicken, you name it taste wonderful. You need a food processor to work this magic, but I assure you, it’s worth it.

General Directions for the Veggie-Packed Sauce

  1. Salute your favorite (or cupboard clean-out!) veggies together with just a tablespoon or so of olive oil. I used a can of tomatoes, a bag of spinach that was almost to the point of going slimy, an onion, and 3 cloves of garlic. If you don’t use at least one canned veggie, you may need some broth or water, because it should not be dry.
  2. While the mixture cooks, add a substantial amount of spicing: I used a tablespoon of a spicy stir-fry mix I’ve got, but curry would work, or if you like hot-hot, use some chipotle or red pepper flakes. Make sure you use quite a bit because your sauce will be on top of other things.
  3. Put the mixture, after it’s fully cooked, into the food processor. Pulse a few times, then add some CHICKPEA FLOUR. This flour, along with the little bit of oil, will help your sauce hold together and seem smooth and not just like a veggie paste. I don’t know how much flour I used, but I would estimate I started with a 1/4 cup and added another 1/4 cup later.
  4. Taste and add things as you need them: a bit more flour, a bit more oil, or a bit more spices. If you love chunky sauces, you can stop after a few pulses, but I really like this as a smooth sauce: very flavorful but doesn’t make you feel like you are eating something “healthy.”

Serve over rice, flatbread, chicken, on toast… anything! Obviously, this is too vague to be a mantra in itself, but the principle of sautéed veg+oil+chickpea flour+spices seems to be working for me lately. I added just a little shredded pepper jack to mine, though it was tasty without it so you can totally keep it dairy-free!

While I didn’t make this as a curry, I was inspired by the way that curries and other Indian sauces are so flavorful that you can use them to flavor other, more bland parts of the meal, like the bread or the rice. I am quite happy to be able to add so much nutrition to my rice and take it to work with me!

Surprising Place to find Food Waste

I spent this morning volunteering at a food pantry. While I did a few different things – sort out toiletries and organize food for different purposes, carefully layering canned goods on the bottom and dry goods on the top to keep the boxes from being overburdened – the biggest thing I did was… throw away food.

Let me back up for a moment: recently, there was a large, city-wide food drive that brought in thousands and thousands of pounds of food. It’s been an incredibly successful initiative, and everyone is psyched that, at a lean time of the year, a ton of food is coming in. I personally am also psyched, and was more than thrilled to come in and help sort the food at the warehouse where it’s being held and then distributed to the individual pantries where it will get to the people who need it.

However.

Some people, probably including me, didn’t go to the grocery store and buy up whatever was on sale in the canned goods aisle. Instead, they looked at their pantry or some shelves in their basement and grabbed things they’d had for a while that no one seemed to be eating. This seems like the opposite of waste at first: you take things that you already paid good money for and give them a new life.

The problem with this became apparent to me when I was instructed to sort food with far-off expiration dates, food with dates in the next 4 months, and food that had already expired. The far-off dates will be given to the local pantries; the next-4-months food will be specifically allocated to places that can move it immediately; but the rest? I was instructed to chuck it in a bin, along with anything that came open in transit or was dented.

A well-reputed food bank has to deal with a lot of pressures, and while I’m sure that individual people who are hungry may make the decision to eat expired can food (after all, the date does just say “best by” not “will hurt you by”), they cannot afford to have someone furious at them over a bad meal out of an expired can. I realized as I heaved can after can of food into the trash that what I normally do (donate food I have gathering dust in my pantry) is a terrible idea for two reasons: firstly, anything expired will go from “maybe eaten in my household, when I feel like risking it” to “definitely in the trash”, and secondly, I make the job of sorting that volunteers and hardworking non-profit coordinators do that much longer, more tedious, and frankly a bit saddening.

This is not to talk bad about people who donate to food banks – honestly, that group of people are already pretty wonderful just to be taking time out of their day to help. Still, I thought that food waste was an important thing to consider, and it made me want to check my own cupboard as I work on my “cupboard cleanout” to make sure I use up the near-to-expiring goods. I’m aware of that with veggies and meats, but rarely with canned goods.

So here’s my question, food friends: what do you do to prevent waste in your kitchen? I’m a novice and fresh from an experience of throwing lots of food away, and I’m ready to be a part of the solution, even though I bet there’s more food waste in my life than I ever thought. Together, maybe, we can start habits that help us overall waste less, which benefits our community as much as any of our recipe-sharing and storytelling does.

44. Potluck Tomato Zucchini Dip

This recipe didn’t come from anything, though it did go to a potluck, and it was part of my ongoing efforts to clean out my cupboards. Unfortunately, these sorts of things don’t always go perfectly… So a girl has to improvise.

I expected I was making something like these, a zucchini dish that would be more like a side or a hot veggie dish. I started with a big can of diced tomatoes with oregano, garlic, and basil in them, two large zucchini, and half a small log of garlic herb goat cheese. I imagined pinterest-worthy food. What I got was surely delicious but not fancy… which I guess is what to aim for!

I roasted the zucchini and didn’t count on how small it would be after that! Mixed with the cheese and the cooked tomato, it looked like a cheesy dip but not at all like a fresh, zesty hot side. I think I needed more veggie volume to make that work. Still! When I put it onto a cracked-pepper triscuit, I realized it still had great potential as a party dip.

At N’s house, I foregrounded that I might have made a disaster food, but people liked it! So… this might not be the thing to aim for when you are trying to make a fancy dish, but if you just want something delicious and veggie-ful, try it out!

Zucchini Tomato Surprise Dip

 

  1. Cook 1 can of herbed diced tomatoes in a pan on the stove top; add a little olive oil if you want.
  2. Slice and roast zucchini, at least two large ones. (If I did this again, I’d also cut them into quarters and make every slice at least 1/2 an inch thick. Grease that pan!)
  3. When tomatoes begin to thicken, add cream cheese or herbed goat cheese. When zucchini have roasted for 30 minutes, mix all ingredients together and serve on crackers or pita chips.

42. Kristin’s Zucchini Bread

This recipe, like the Avocado Bread from Khadija, was one I found while trying to clean out my cupboards. You know how after a while you have amassed the odds and ends of many different recipes and you have ingredients you didn’t even remember you bought? This summer I’m hoping to get rid of those odds and ends via recipes from blogs I respect, like this one: http://www.yellowblissroad.com/zucchini-bread-recipe/ Yellow Bliss Road is a great example of someone who has turned her passion into a full time job, but who also just produces a really great product.

I found grating zucchini (one of the two ingredients I was trying to finish up; also had a lonely almost-empty bag of flour) very soothing, but I ran into a problem: no eggs in the house! After a quick google search for egg substitutes, I thought I would throw in some applesauce… no go for that either. For a girl who claims to be clearing out the cupboards, I seem to be doing an awful lot of running out of things!

What I did have, however, were two sad neglected apples. I cut them into pieces and grated them straight into my pile of zucchini shavings, added all the other ingredients, and hoped for the best. The result? DELICIOUS. Like, maybe my new favorite sweet bread. It’s moist in the middle but has some integrity to it, and caramelized-crunchy on the exterior… I was totally pleased. Probably even better with eggs, like Kristin intended, but I’m quite pleased. When life gives you no eggs or applesauce, you can still turn old zucchini and apples into the perfect breakfast treat.