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zucchini, carrot and sunflower seed slice

Today is just the second day in the last two months that it hasn’t rained, a gorgeous sky blue day but my garden is still too wet to plant.  The zucchinis have struggled in the wet, but the tromboncinos have done really well right through all this rain.  (And the Suyo Long cucumbers – very impressed with their mildew resistance).

So my glut crop is tromboncinos rather than zucchini, but this recipe works equally well with both.

Zucchini, Carrot and Sunflower Seed Slice

Turn the oven on to heat up.

Grate 1½ cups of carrot, 1½ cups of zucchini, and one onion.

Put them all in a heavy pan with a good swig of olive oil and fry, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.  The idea is just to heat the vegetables through, soften them, and evaporate a bit of moisture.

While they are cooking, blend together:

  • ½ cup of  cottage cheese 
  • 3 eggs
  • a good handful of flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 big tablespoon of wholemeal plain flour
  • salt and pepper

Grease an ovenproof dish well.  I have a square, pyrex dish 20 cm square that is perfect for it.  You may like to line the base with greaseproof paper – it does come out without it but it makes a little less risk of sticking.

Mix the egg, cottage cheese and parsley mix with the vegetable mix.  Add 1/3 cup sunflower seeds and mix well. Tip into the oven dish and smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.

Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes until golden on top.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then tip it out and slice into little squares or fingers.

Serve on a platter to share, with chili jam or chutney or homemade tomato sauce, or cold in a lunch box or picnic basket.

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muthia andf pakora

We are flooded in and the chooks, who hate wet weather, are very miserable. But we are safe, have plenty of food and firewood and, with the new power system, even plenty of electricity.  So I’ve had a lovely day playing in the kitchen rather than the garden, and we had our neighbours (who are also flooded in, same side of the creek to us) over for a long late Sunday lunch.

I spent a couple of hours making corn vadai and azuki vadai and eggplant and beetroot  pakora and zucchini muthia, and I really needn’t have bothered cos there were two clear favourites on the platter, and they were the quickest and easiest ones – the muthia and the pakoras.

This is the third of my “Food to Share” series, a South Indian platter inspired by the ginger and turmeric and chilies going nuts in the midsummer garden.  This one has:

  • Corn Vadai – little patties made with corn, lentils and spices
  • Azuki Vadai – made with ground soaked brown snake bean seeds and spices
  • Eggpant pakora – just thin eggplant slices dipped in pakora batter and fried
  • Beetroot pakora – grated beet mixed with pakora batter and fried
  • Zucchini muthia – steamed zucchini and besan (bean flour) patties
  • Coriander mint dipping sauce
  • Hot Mango and Tomato Chutney
  • Green Mango Pickles in Oil
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber

All made from things that are so in season they are in glut in my garden.

Zucchini Muthia Recipe:

Grate two overfull cups of zucchini and put in a colander over the sink.  Let it drain for a few minutes, pressing and squeezing to get excess liquid out.

In a bowl, mix

  • 2 cups of drained grated zucchini
  • ½ cup besan (bean flour)
  • 2 dessertspoons plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon of cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric (or substitute ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 medium to mild chilis, finely chopped (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
  • a handful of herbs, finely chopped.  Coriander, fennel, or Thai basil all work in different ways.
  • pinch salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 dessertspoons oil

Use your hands to mix, squeezing the mixture together.

Use wet hands to shape into 14 little patties. They should be a bit sticky but able to be made into patties. If they are too sticky, add some more besan.

Steam the patties for around 20 minutes, till they a skewer comes out clean. You can make them ahead up to this point, and they will keep in the fridge for several days.

To finish:

In a little oil in a frypan, pop ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds.  Add a little finely diced chili, if you like spiciness (or not) and a couple of dessertspoons of sesame seeds.

Add the steamed muthia and fry for a few minutes till they start to colour. The sesame seeds will stick to them.

Serve hot with chutney or pickles or dipping sauce.

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platter 2

 

My friends Jamie and Camilla are off to Tamworth today to debut “Bush Ranger School” – their new album of country music for kids. And we got to hear the brand new hot off the press CD on the weekend.  Which was a great occasion for the second of my “Food to Share” series.

This one was served with three kinds of Tuscan flatbread (schiacciata), which sounds (and looks) much more elaborate than it is.  I just made one batch of sourdough and mixed a third of it with olives and thyme oil, a third with semidried tomatoes and garlic oil, and a third with black grapes and rosemary oil (an idea stolen from Maggie Beer). I shall try to get round to posting the sourdough schiacciata recipe some time soon, but any kind of focaccia or  Turkish bread would work well too .

griddle pan

There’s

  • sliced fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumber
  • chargrilled zucchini, capsicum, tromboncino, eggplant, and mango
  • grilled garlic and yoghurt dipping sauce/spread

I’m big on the idea of minimal kitchen equipment. I’ve been seduced by specialist tools enough times. They have a brief honeymoon then sit on the shelf, gathering dust, cluttering space, while I go back to using the same basic kitchen stuff.  It’s a real mission for a new piece of equipment to win a place in my kitchen these days. But the love affair with my griddle pan has now lasted long enough to be called a real relationship.  Summer vegetables suit chargrilling so perfectly.

The Recipe: Chargrilled Summer Vegetables with Grilled Garlic and Yoghurt Sauce

The Yoghurt Sauce:

Thin, dipping sauce is nice too, but I think this is best with strained, labneh style yoghurt.  So the first stage is to put some Greek yoghurt into a colander lined with cheesecloth (or a clean, chux-type dishcloth) over a bowl.  If you have time, simply leave it for a few hours or overnight. If you are hurrying it up, let it drain for 10 minutes or so, then put a plate on top weighed down with something heavy to speed it up.

Roast some garlic, in its skin, on the  griddle pan, until the skin is charred and the garlic is soft.  Squash it with salt to make a paste.

When the yoghurt is nice and thick and spreadable, mix with the roast garlic paste to taste.

The Chargrilled Vegetables:

Slice the eggplant into 1.5 cm thick slices lengthways.  Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for a few minutes.

Slice zucchini and/or tromboncino diagonally into similar thickness slices.

Chop a capsicum into big chunks and de-seed.

Pour a little olive oil onto a plate and add a pinch of salt and some crushed garlic.  Dip the vegetable slices in the garlic oil and grill, in batches, till they are just tender. Don’t overcook. If you can restrain yourself from moving them around too much you get the nice bar marks.

Besides serving on an antipasti platter, chargrilled vegetables are really good as a side dish, or as a topping on pizza, or in sandwiches.

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hot mango chutney, garlic white beans, marinated snake beans, marinated tromboncino and eggplant, labne, cherry tomatoes and cucumber

There have been several disparate themes mulling around vying for attention as my focus for 2013.  I’ve been thinking about packaging, and the processing that goes into making food that can be bundled up in triple layers of plastic and cardboard to survive the ordeal of trial by retail, and I’ve considered making 2013 the year of no packaging.

I’ve also been thinking about community, and how sharing food is so central to caring and nurturing and creating the relationships that hold in good times and bad, and I’ve considered making 2013 the year of parties (and barbeques and picnics and potlucks) – treat food that isn’t quite junk food.

And I’ve been thinking about the conversation that is surfacing in permaculture circles lately about the misconception that permaculture is about self-sufficiency.  The three ethics of permaculture are  care for the earthcare for people and share fairly. The first two are easy to understand, if not always to do.  The last is a bit more opaque.  It’s a mixture of the standard care-giver axiom that before you can care for anyone or anything else, you need to take care of yourself, with a warning that hoarding takes you backwards.  And it’s led me to thinking about a glut of tromboncino (again) and the realtive merits of preserving them, versus offloading them in the mailbox at the corner, versus turning them into party food to share.

Then last night I made this platter for dinner, and the three themes merged in it.  At least once a week, most weeks, dinner for us is a platter to share, in these hot summer days on the verandah watching the sunset with a cold beer to go with it.  Most weeks too, there is some occasion to share food with others –  family, friends, community. I thought I might share with you a platter each week, party food for just the household or to share, based on what is fresh, in season, and in glut.

So here’s the first of 50 platters. (I wonder what I have taken on!)

Served with Seedy Sourdough Crispbread triangles, there’s

  • sliced fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumber
  • olives from last year’s crop
  • snake beans now in glut, cut into finger food lengths, blanched, and dressed while hot with a simple balsamic-olive oil-tamari-garlic-honey dressing (we can eat an awful lot of snake beans like this)
  • labneh balls rolled in dukkah – just strained greek yoghurt, rolled into balls in oiled hands, then rolled in dukkah
  • hot mango and tomato chutney made with our ripening glut crop of mangoes
  • Lebanese Marinated Zucchini et al made with the now officially in glut tromboncino, and eggplants just because they are so good in it.
  • garlic white bean paste made with the first of the season’s mature Blue Lake beans.

Recipe – Garlic White Bean Paste:

Soak the beans and cook them. I used my Blue Lakes, but cannellini beans work fine too.  Bean Basics has the details about cooking dried beans if you are not used to it.  The quick method is to use fresh beans, bring  to the boil in water, soak for half an hour (or all day),  change the water, add salt, then boil for half an hour or so, or pressure cook for 10 minutes or less.

Drain the beans and save a little of the cooking water.  Blend them with some garlic, a couple of spoonfuls of good olive oil, and enough of the water to make the right consistency. Taste and add some salt if it needs it – beans need a bit of salt.

This makes a smooth, fluffy, spreadable paste that is perfect as a base for other ingredients.  Spread on a biscuit or toast and top with as many of the platter ingredients as you can fit. Or take to a party as a dip with biscuits or crudites.

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The number of   Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes based on pasta isn’t really reflective of how often we eat it.  I’ve featured Pasta Primavera Carbonara and Lemon Feta Tortellini made with home-made pasta, and Pasta Puttanesca and Summer Pasta in Five Minutes, and a couple of Asian versions – Phó Inspired Egg Noodle Soup and Wontons with Ginger Bok Choy Filling, which are really the same concept as ravioli but with Asian flavours in the filling.

But home made from scratch pasta, made with real eggs, meets all the Witches Kitchen definitions of good – it’s high protein nutrient dense good-for-you. It’s made with local, in season ingredients without excessive packaging or storage costs good-for-the-world.  And it tastes very very good.

Unless you’ve had a lot of practice, orecchiette for two only just make it into the half hour.  But it’s a very pleasant half hour, one in which you can chat, have a glass of wine, listen to music, and cook all at once.

The Recipe:

Makes two adult sized serves. Recipe doubles easily.

The Pasta

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ¼ cup fine semolina
  • ¼ cup plain flour  (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough)
  • a large egg,
  • a dessertspoon of olive oil
  • a dessertspoon of water
  • a good pinch of salt

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.

Divide the dough into four and roll each into a long skinny snake about 1 cm thick then cut the snake into 1 cm bits. There’s a knack to the next bit. I just squoosh each little orecchiette on the floured benchtop with a finger, dragging towards me to make the little ear shaped curled cups.

Put a big pot of water with a pinch of salt on to boil and let the orecchiette dry for a few minutes while you make the sauce.

Sauce:

In a heavy frypan, saute a chopped onion and a chopped trombochino or zucchini or squash till just tender.

While they are cooking, blend together

  • dessertspoon olive oil
  • ½ cup (packed) flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 5 macadamias (or you could use pine nuts or cashews)
  • juice and rind of ½ lemon
  • teaspoon capers

 Cooking the Orecchiette and Assembling:

Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook for just a couple of minutes until they float to the top and are tender.  Drain and add them to the frypan with the onions and zucchini, along with a couple of handfuls of halved cherry tomatoes.  Sauté for just a couple of minutes.  Toss through the blender mix and serve with grated parmesan on top.

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The first of the season trombochino, just picked and went into a Green Green Polenta.  The first of the season cherry tomatoes, just picked and into soft boiled egg and tomato on toast for breakfast. The first of the season capsicums – these ones are Hungarian Wax.  I’ve picked the first of them green to go in a breakfast frittata, but they will get sweeter as they mature to yellow.  And the first of the season button squash, not ready yet, but it will only be a few days.

It’s very exciting. The season is changing, as they constantly do, but this spring transformation is always one I look forward to. I still have strawberries and mulberries here, and the first of the blueberries very soon. We’ve been eating paw paws regularly for a few weeks now, and still a few weeks to go.

I’m still picking the last of  the broccolisnow peaspeassilver beet, kalecelerybroad beans and cabbages of various kinds.  There’s heaps of lettuces of several kinds,  lots of rocket, parsley, coriander, and dill, and I’ve just harvested all the  mustard seed for making seeded mustard, and for adding to pickles and curries.  Carrots and  leeks and spring onions and beets are all still in season, along with ginger and turmeric.  And though the wallabies (again!) got most of my asparagus, there’s been enough left for several meals.

But all the winter vegies are now giving way to the summer ones – zucchini  and trombochino ,beans,  tomatoescapsicums, and the cucumbers aren’t too far off. And I keep sneaking a look under the compost at the  new season potatoes.  They’re not quite ready to start bandicooting yet, but it’s not long, and they are such a treat it’s something to look forward to.

I am never very inspired to freeze or bottle fruit or vegetables. But the end of the season for each one, I am always looking forward too much to the next one.

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Tromboncino is my new favourite vegetable.   I got my seed from Diggers and I think they will displace zucchini in my garden. They grow like a very rampant cucumber, and by using lots of vertical space they conserve my precious intensively fenced ground space.

In my enthusiasm this year, I planted a couple of vines each planting break from late winter on. I now have one or two vines in each bed, growing up the south side fence, and I’ve got to the point where the neighbours and the chooks are just about over tromboncino and I don’t dare go away for the weekend for fear of them taking over the whole garden. Luckily I have a good repertoire of zucchini recipes, that all seem to work well with tromboncino.

I am going to try to see how long they will keep growing through winter. I have one vine that is now almost a year old – survived right through last winter. It is not bearing well enough any more to justify it’s spot, and last winter was very mild,  but still, it’s impressive.

I have let a couple of the fruit grow out to save seed.  This is my first attempt at saving seed from them, so it’s experimental, but I figure they probably go much like pumpkin or cucumber.  I have been picking the fruit at this size – about 30 to 50 cm – for eating, so it has been interesting watching these ones growing, and growing, and growing.

The bulb at the bottom has the seeds in it, a bit like a butternut pumpkin. I’ve washed and dried them, and I shall test a couple for germination this month, though I suspect like the rest of their family they are really a hot weather crop.  We have been eating all the neck part like a pumpkin. It’s not the best pumpkin ever – a bit bland and watery, like a gramma – but it works fine in soups and stews, diced and steamed as a side dish, or in muffins and scones.

If the zombocalypse hits, I think we’ll be living on tromboncino, Jerusalem artichokes, and bush turkeys.

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This is the first year I’ve grown tromboncino, so I don’t know how normal this is. Most of them have had a light, lightly striped green skin with a pale, dense, zucchini-like flesh. But one plant is bearing darker green skinned tromboncino, with yellower, more squash-like flesh.

I’ve been watching and noticing to see if there is any difference in productivity or resilience, but the only difference I’ve been able to see is the fruit colour.

I like both types, and I’d like to grow both types next year so I am leaving a couple of fruit of each type to fully mature to save seed.  Trouble is, I have only one plant bearing the dark green type. I could try hand pollinating, using a male from the same vine to fertilise a female flower. 500m2 in Sydney has a good little post about how. But self-pollination is only successful about a third of the time with cucumbers, so I might not get any fertile seeds that way. And even if I do get fertile seeds, they will have all the problems of in-breeding. So I’m just going to hope that it’s not a recessive gene, and that the mama genes are strong enough to shine through whoever the bees decide to make the dad.

But I might, next year, try planting only one kind at a time so I can get some good second generation seeds of those dark green ones. I’d hate to lose the variety altogether.

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Have you noticed yet that I have a certain amount of experience with zucchini recipes? There is a Marge Piercy poem that I think perfectly sums up zucchini: Attack of the Squash People. I thought I had learned the lesson: One, no more than two, zucchini each planting break.

But then this year I discovered trombochino.  I like climbers in my fortress fenced up-gardens  – they maximise the use of space – and I really like trombochino. They taste pretty much like zucchini – a bit firmer and denser, like zucchini minus the middle bit.   But I don’t know whether it is just this year – it has been a perfect curcurbit year, cooler and wetter than usual but with the long, light days of summer – but the trombochino are triffid-like taking over the garden. I leave bags of them in the roadside mailbox. The chooks refuse to eat any more.

This is the third in the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge series. It’s an old favourite. It uses about 4 medium zucchini.  Eight if you double the recipe – it also makes good leftovers for lunch. Makes a small dint.

The Recipe:

Makes four large serves.

This can be done in half an hour but you have to really multitask at the beginning because most of the half hour is baking time.

  • Oven on to heat up.  You need a fairly hot oven.
  • Kettle on to boil for water for pasta.
  • Food processor out.  You can do it all without a food processor, just with a grater and a blender or eggbeater, but I can’t promise half an hour.

Part 1: Pasta

Cook a cup of pasta in boiling water till just cooked. Don’t overcook it.

  • Macaroni, shells, or small spirals work best.

Part 2: The Crumble

Crumb

  • two slices of heavy wholegrain bread and mix with
  • two dessertspoons of olive oil and
  • a dessertspoon of grated parmesan.

I do this in my food processor. Leave the crumbs a bit coarse, not too fine.

Part 3: White Cheese Sauce

In a small pot, heat

  • a cup of low fat milk with
  • a cup of low fat cottage cheese and
  • 3 bay leaves,

till the milk starts to rise. It will curdle – that’s ok. Fish the bay leaves out.

While the milk is heating, tip the crumbles out of the food processor and (you don’t need to wash it), blend

  • 1 egg and
  • 2 big dessertspoons of plain wholemeal flour.

With the blender going, add the hot milk-cottage cheese mix. Pour back into the small pot and reheat, stirring with a wooden spoon, till it thickens. This will take just a minute or two.

Part 4 – Grated Zucchini and Feta

Grate

  • two packed cups of zucchini (or trombochino) and
  • 100 grams of low fat feta cheese.

Slice enough tomatoes to cover the top.

Assembling:

Mix the grated feta and zucchini into the white cheese sauce and tip the lot into a small baking tray.  I have a square, pyrex 21 cm dish that is perfect for bakes like this.

Cover the top with sliced tomatoes, then spread the crumble mix on top of them.

Bake in a medium hot oven for around 20 minutes till the top is golden and crunchy and the middle is hot all the way through.

Great on its own, or with a green salad, and makes good left-overs for lunch the next day as well.

Did your Tuesday Night Vego recipe feature zucchini too?  Feel free to leave links in the comments.

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