Monday, December 19, 2011

greek style zucchini pancakes

not having to make a pie each week has left me searching for something to do.  who wants to clean the house or do laundry?  me neither!!!  so i jumped at the chance to participate in a community pick recipe test on  my choice was the greek style zucchini pancakes.  zucchini is one of my favorite things from the garden and i miss it now that winter has arrived.  luckily, my herbs were still growing and i had plenty of mint, parsley and chinese leeks.  the recipe calls for chives but chinese leeks are so similar in appearance and while they have a hint of garlic in the flavor, they are a great substitution.
mint on the left, leeks in the middle and flat parsley on the right.  with the cold temperatures, these herbs are still producing and are not sending out flowers.  we also have some oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary out there too.

the directions called for grating the zucchini, placing it in a colander lined with cheesecloth and then salting it to draw out the moisture.  when i did this, i could hear a sizzling/bubbling noise and it was amazing how much liquid i was able to squeeze out.  i was skeptical that what started out as nearly 5 cups of grated zucchini would eventually end up as two cups but it did.  just look at all of that green juice!

the recipe was very simple to follow even with a typo;  the ingredient list called for baking powder but the instructions referenced baking soda.  a quick email to the author fixed that-use baking powder!  hopefully she has fixed that on the site at well.  
to save time, i used a small portions scoop-#50 to be exact.  it helped me get a consistent size and the recipe stated i would get 24 small pancakes and i got exactly that-24.  my old paella pan gets a frequent work out and it was perfect for frying these pancakes.

greek style zucchini pancakes
recipe #14816 from, member dymnyno

Makes 12-3 inch pancakes, or 24 bite sized pancakes

2 pounds green zucchini, 2 cups aftergrating and squeezing as much moisture as possible
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh curly parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest(finely zested)
4 tablespoons crumbled Greek feta
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
olive oil for frying pancakes

using the large holes on a box grater, shred the zucchini. line a colander with cheese cloth and put the zucchini in the colander. sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt and toss the zucchini. try to extract as much liquid as you can from the shredded zucchini. pick up the cheesecloth and wring as much more as you can until you feel the zucchini is pretty dry. add the herbs, pepper flakes and zest and mix.  add the flour and baking powder and eggs and mix.  pour a very thin layer of olive oil into a frying pan and heat over medium high heat. using a tablespoon, scoop a heaping spoonful into the pan and flatten the top a little.  this should make a 3 inch patty. repeat until the pan is full.  fry until a nice brown and flip and cook the other side.  for bite sized appetizers, use a teaspoon.  set aside on paper towels and finish the rest of the pancakes.

serve alone or with your favorite yogurt (Greek, of course). The sauce should be very simple, like just with some lemon zest or chives, because there are so many flavors going on in the pancakes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

almond butter hummus with kale chips

has it really been a month since the pie challenge ended?  wow-time flew!  while i have been contemplating my next project, i have allowed myself to be totally sucked into the holiday madness.  the husband and i have both been busy with work-him way more than me, such is the life of the executive banquet chef for a university.  that has left me at home alone for more than a few meals.  when i am left to cook for myself, you can be pretty sure that it will not be an elaborate meal and it will most likely be vegetarian and quite possibly vegan.  

lately, without our girls at home(both are living elsewhere right now), we have taken to purchasing more organic produce and are shifting our diet towards less meat laden meals. as i have mentioned before, i have had a few blood tests come back with higher than normal levels of cholesterol.  thankfully, the highest number so far has been less than 220 but that doesn't mean i shouldn't be concerned.  a diet change that eliminated many dairy products has helped me get that number back down below 200 and i hope to keep it there.  

my recent obsession with the cookbook, appetite for reduction has given me a new weapon for my arsenal too.  that book is chock full of great vegan recipes that even a carnivore can find satisfying-providing they eat veggies, beans and grains.  while i do not plan to make the leap to a vegan diet, i am happy to say that i can easily eat vegan meals and not feel deprived.   darry is also learning to enjoy some of these changes and he recently experimented with some organic kale chips, a tasty addition to my favorite meal for one, hummus on crusty bread.  and before you say "hummus, how boring"  keep in mind that i never do anything boring-of course i have changed it up a bit!  i am not a huge fan of tahini; it tastes a little bitter to me and the level of saturated fat is high enough to cause me to think twice before consuming it.  so a thought occurred to me, what if i used unsweetened almond butter instead?  wow!!!  what a concept and what a difference-i am sold and will probably never reach for tahini again!

almond butter hummus with kale chips
yields about 1 1/2 cups hummus

1 (15oz) can of chick peas
4 tablespoons unsweetened almond butter
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
salt-if desired
kale chips-purchase or home made (great recipe here)
baguette slices or other bread

drain the chickpeas but reserve the juice.  place all of the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a food processor with the drained chickpeas and pulse to combine.  scrape the bowl and run until it is smooth adding the reserved liquid as needed to reach the desired consistency.

to serve, top each of the baguette slices with a tablespoon or two of the hummus and top it off with a kale chip.  enjoy!!!

and if you would like to try this out, please do and remember that the pies are no longer the focus here but the power of pies will always be with me...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

that can't be a quesadilla...

 one of my coworkers is from el salvador.  every now and then, she will arrive in the cafe with a bag of sweets from her favorite bakery, la espiga.  even though it is a mexican bakery, they often have traditional little el salvadorian cakes called quesadilla.  yes, quesadilla and no, it doesn't have tortillas in it.  these cakes are popular all over el salvador and are made with cheese-usually a freshly crumbled farmers cheese, but frequently parmesan cheese.  they are wonderfully rich with a slightly cheesy aroma.  and much to my surprise, even better if they sit for a day.

on a recent visit to a new mexican bakery near my house, i spied a tray of quesadillas in the showcase and added it to my tray.  all of the mexican bakeries are self serve; you pick up a tray and a pair of tongs and make your selections from the cabinets and racks and then give it to the cashier.
not bad for less than $5 dollars.  from the left:  bolillo(i bought 2 but the other is missing...), concha, quesadilla, butter cookie(that tasted a little like coconut to me) and a cheese turnover.

 the quesadilla from la conchita panaderia y pasteleria.  they had a little bit of a sandy texture from what i am guessing is rice flour.  the cake is sweet and even though it contains parmesan cheese, i could not detect it in the flavor.

now that i am not obsessing/stressing over pies, i decided that it might be fun to try and make some of these at home.  a quick surf and off i was baking my own quesadillas.  after about 5 or 6 batches, i finally settled on a recipe that isn't too buttery but is plenty moist with a noticeable cheese aroma.

 i can have cake?  twitch likes cake...
no cake for twitch!!!

 the fine, moist crumb and slightly cheesy flavor makes these good with a cup of dark roast coffee.  a few notes;  i tested these with rice flour, equal parts of all purpose and rice flour as well as masa harina(buy the plain stuff not the tortilla/tamale mix).  every recipe i read called for either all purpose or rice flour or a combination but either will work.  one recipe i read called for cake flour but i did not try that.  i used buttermilk but it could be sour cream, mexican crema or just milk.  and if you do not want to use parmesan, try a mexican crumbling cheese, just be sure to break it into small pieces.

el salvadorian quesadillias
yields 6 muffins

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup rice flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
sesame seeds

preheat the oven to 325.  grease and flour a 6 cup muffin tin.  melt the butter and set aside to cool.  in a mixing bowl, whisk the rice flour, sugar, cheese and baking powder to combine them.  pour in the butter and the buttermilk and stir to make a paste.  whisk in the egg and combine completely.  divide the batter between the cups in the tin.  sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.  allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn them out to cool completely.