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zucchini glut

There is a Marge Piercy poem that I think perfectly sums up zucchini called Attack of the Squash People.  I think of it every year around this time.  I learned some time ago to plant just a couple of zucchini seeds at a time, but then I discovered tromboncino.

Tromboncino substitutes for zucchini in pretty well any recipe. I like it a bit better – the texture is a bit firmer and it doesn’t have that edge of bitterness that larger zucchinis get.  But then, I like that bit of bitterness too, and bitterness in vegetables is often a sign of antioxidant phytochemicals that are very good for you.  Not always, alkaloids that do nasty things to your liver also taste bitter, which is probably why we omnivore humans have evolved to enjoy a bit of bitterness as adults, with full grown livers and a bit of education about what is safe to eat, but reject it as children.

Tromboncino fits better into my late summer garden. It is a rampant climber, like a very vigorous climbing cucumber in growth habits – a nifty trick that keeps it up off the ground conserving ground space and protecting it from mildew diseases.  It lasts a long time – I’ve had tromboncinos overwinter and bear right through into the next spring.  And if you think zucchini are prolific…

So this is my dilemma. A nice sequence of zucchini plants, so there is zucchini if I want it.  For rattatouille for instance, that I think needs that bitterness.  A nice range of tromboncino plants, so I can save seed without it being inbred.  And not too many of either. A Gordian Knot.

I give a lot away, I have an extensive repertoire of recipes, I feed overgrown ones to the chooks, and still the kitchen bench at almost any time has more zucchini and trombies on it than it needs. Ah summer.

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zucchini haloumi patties

The zucchini glut is upon us!  (And the tromboncino are about to start now too).  This was a make-it-up as you go recipe, and the quantities are very negotiable. But it is fast and easy and a good way to make zucchini work for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The Recipe:

(Makes 6 patties).

In a bowl mix together:

  • a large zucchini or a couple of medium ones, grated
  • a matchbox size piece of haloumi chopped into small dice (or a bit more if you like)
  • a good handful of sweet or lemon basil chopped fine
  • a spring onion chopped fine
  • about half a teaspoon of grated lemon zest (or a bit more if you like)
  • two small to medium size eggs
  • a good handful of wholemeal flour

Squish together with your hands to make a thick patty mix.  Shape into patties and shallow fry in light olive oil in a medium hot pan.  You want your pan hot enough that they cook in a few minutes each side to golden and crispy.

Serve hot with a salad and chutney, or with a poached egg, or cold in a lunch box.

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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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cheesy zucchini balls

I had many thoughts in mind for the platter this week – lots of different produce in glut and lots of occasions for sharing.  But in the end I had one of those weekends where time just runs out and I found myself ditching all the cordon bleu options and going for very quick and easy.  This is not the super healthiest of recipes but it’s a way of turning bulk zucchini into deliciousness in minutes.

The Recipe:

Makes 18 balls – a good quantity for a party plate or a platter for two with accompaniments.

Grate 1½ cups (packed) of zucchini. Put it in a strainer over the sink and squeeze out as much liquid as you easily can.  You don’t need to be too diligent, but you want it a bit drier than zucchini naturally is.

Put a thick slice of bread in the food processor and blend it to fine crumbs.  You want 65 grams, which is about a cup, of soft breadcrumbs.  I used my Eggs and Yoghurt Sourdough, but I think just about any bread would do it.

Mix the grated zucchini and the breadcrumbs with

  • 1 egg
  • 100 grams of smooth feta cheese, crumbled. (You can substitute low fat ricotta and a bit of salt, which is still good but you won’t get the same melted cheese middle).

Use your hands to mix it all together.

Grate 40 grams of parmesan cheese on the fine side of the grater, like this:

DSCF3103

Take teaspoons full of the zucchini/feta/breadcrumbs mix, and with wet hands roll it into little balls.  It should stick together nicely.  Roll each ball in grated parmesan to coat it well.

Heat about 1 cm of light olive oil or another shallow frying oil in a heavy pan.  Fry the balls for a minute or two on each side until golden.

Drain on brown paper and serve with a chutney or salsa dipping sauce. I served these on a platter with fresh raw cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber, which make a nice contrast for the cheesy richness, and with three salsas – pomegranate and roast chili, basil and pepita, and mango.  The pomegranate and roast chili was the best, so good that I’m going to play with it a bit more to get the quantities written down then post the recipe.

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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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zucchini and feta patties

It hasn’t been a great year for zucchinis. This La Ninã year has been so wet here, that they are only having a short life before succumbing to fungal diseases.  The trombochino though is loving it.  Because it climbs, the vines and fruit are up off the ground and get better air flow.

It’s the difference between growing commercially and home gardening, and one of the reasons why I think the permaculture is hard to monetise. Permaculture systems have a lot more value and productivity than can be easily turned into money. Commercial growers would grow one or the other. Too much variety and you don’t get enough of any one thing at one time to make up boxes for sale.  Home growers are best off planting one or two vines of each, each month. You have insurance against weather conditions – too dry for trombochino and we eat zucchini, too wet for zucchini and we eat trombochino.  January’s planting gets frizzled in a heat wave and December’s can bridge the gap. February’s planting gets 125 mm of rain in three hours and can’t learn to swim fast enough, and it’s ok, December’s is still hanging in there.

It means that even in this least zucchini friendly year for a long time, my repertoire of zucchini recipes is still getting a workout.

The Recipe

This  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe really does come together in a lot less than half an hour.

(makes about 15 patties)

Grate 180 grams of low fat feta cheese and 3 medium sized zucchini (about 1½ cups of grated zucchini).

Mix with

  • a large spring onion, finely chopped
  • a handful of sweet basil, finely chopped
  • a clove of garlic, crushed or chopped
  • one, or more, or less, chilis, finely diced
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup wholemeal self raising flour

Use wet hands to shape the mix into patties and shallow fry in olive oil till golden.

Serve with a salad or vegetables or as is, with a salsa or dipping sauce. We had it with the last of last year’s Chilli Jam. I’m waiting for the lemons now to make a new batch.

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