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Green Tomato Pakoras

30 Sep

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Well, it happened. I’ve been wearing boots for the past week—a very rainy week, I might add—which can only signal that summer is officially over, and it’s time to buckle down and prepare our nests for the long, grey days of autumn and winter. And spring. And part of summer. But who’s counting?

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In anticipation of our summer plans that would keep us away from home for most of July and August, we planted a rather modest vegetable garden this year. Our main garden component was tomatoes, and we were able to harvest a really nice crop after our return, which made for a lovely welcome back home. The tomato plants were still going strong as of about a week and a half ago, but with the cold weather sitting on top of us, it is obvious that the plump green tomatoes holding onto each vine have absolutely no chance of ever ripening. This, of course, is not a bad thing, particularly if you are as big of a fan of green tomatoes as I am.

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I wanted to experiment with more ways to enjoy green tomatoes (aside from the ubiquitous—and delicious—fried green tomatoes), so, as I am wont to do when faced with a challenge, I turned to my Indian roots in the name of experimentation. It took me about five seconds to realize that my crop of green tomatoes was practically begging to be drenched in a spicy besan batter and pan fried into golden and crisp green tomato pakoras. I’ve made a few types of pakoras over the years, and I have to admit, I think these right here are my hands down favorites. In addition to using besan (chickpea flour) in the pakora batter, I added a bit of rice flour for an added lightness and crispness, and, in the interest of pumping up the mild flavor of the green tomatoes, I added a finely diced chile to the batter. The end result is nothing short of dreamy. With a stash of green tomatoes to keep me company, it almost makes me not so sad that summer has come to a close.

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Last Year: Homemade Multigrain CrackersCheddar Apple Cornmeal Bread, and Apple and Toasted Oat Cookies with Penuche Frosting –is anyone else noticing that all of these recipes practically scream “AUTUMN!”?

Green Tomato Pakoras

¾ cup besan (garbanzo bean flour, also called gram flour)

½ cup rice flour

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 small chile, finely minced, seeds removed if you are concerned about spiciness

3 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

¾ to 1 cup water

3 to 4 large to medium-sized green tomatoes, sliced into rounds

vegetable oil

ghee (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together besan, rice flour, dried spices, chile, cilantro, and salt. Stir the grated ginger into ¾ of a cup of water, then slowly whisk the water into the besan mixture. You want your pakora batter to be thicker than pancake batter, but not so stiff that it clumps over the tomato slices. If your batter seems to thick, slowly whisk in the remaining ¼ cup of water until the batter lightens up a bit.

In a large, heavy skillet (cast iron works very well here) set over medium high heat, pour in about ¼ inch of vegetable oil, or a mixture of vegetable oil and ghee. Heat the oil until a pinch of batter dropped into it immediately begins to sizzle.

Using your fingers (seriously, don’t even bother with tongs or a fork here—fingers just work so much better), coat three or four tomato slices at a time in the besan batter. Gently place the tomato slices in the hot oil. They should sizzle and bubble immediately. Cook the tomato pakoras for about 3 minutes on each side, give or take, until the batter is deep golden brown and quite crisp. Remove tomato pakoras to a wire rack lined with a double layer of paper towels.

Serve pakoras warm or hot, with chutney or raita.

Serves 4 to 6 people as an appetizer.

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Zucchini and Egg Hash on Brioche Toast

6 Sep

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It is a commonly heard joke that, come the end of summer, you can’t safely answer the knocking at your door without running the risk of being met with an enormous bag of zucchini that someone is trying to trust upon you. If you see a neighbor crossing the street and attempting to flag you down while clutching a suspicious bulge of something or other in the hem of his or her shirt, your gut instinct is to run in the other direction. There is zucchini in that shirt! Run away, before you are made to accept it out of sheer politeness! Except if you are me, of course, in which case you will meet your neighbor halfway across the street, arms outstretched in anticipation of getting your hands on more garden fresh zucchini. Zucchini fritters, zucchini spears with Parmesan, grilled zucchini, zucchini in pakoras, and, of course, all varieties of zucchini bread—I wait all year to have enough zucchini at my disposal that I can cook with it nearly every day.

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We always grow zucchini in our garden, but this summer, what with all of the traveling we were going to be doing, we planted a very small, modest, and manageable garden. This garden consisted of a few tomatoes, a pot or two of herbs, and absolutely no zucchini. When we got back from traveling, I fully anticipated at least one person to begin unloading their garden zucchini spoils on us—in fact, I was very much looking forward to it—but it never happened. I briefly considered turning the tables on my neighbors, knocking on their doors and politely inquiring on the status of their zucchini population, but because I did not want my neighbors to begin thinking of me as, how to put this gently, completely nuts, I quickly abandoned the idea. Thus far, the only zucchini I’ve been gifted has come from my in-laws, two people who know how to grow a great garden.

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My in-laws are also avid cooks, so we often take the opportunity to discuss how we like to experiment with different foods and ingredients. My husband’s mother was telling me about a great way to cook zucchini as a sort of hash, shredded, sautéed, then lightly seasoned. I was immediately interested. I can’t remember who brought up the idea of putting an egg on top of the hash, but I do remember that I was the person responsible for immediately wanting to place the concoction on top of a piece of lightly toasted bread. It only took until the next day before I brought all of the ideas for this dish together: shredded, lightly crisped zucchini with a soft-cooked egg nestled within, placed on a piece of thick-cut brioche, and sprinkled with a generous serving of chopped garden tomatoes. Just in time for the end of summer, it’s the perfect way to celebrate your garden’s crop of delightful excess.

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Last Year: Fruit Crisp Made on the Grill, Grill-Roasted Lemon Rosemary Potatoes, and Pane Coi Sante, Bread of Saints

Zucchini and Egg Hash Over Brioche Toast

2 cups shredded zucchini (from 1 large or 2 small zucchini)

¼ cup thinly sliced onion

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 or 3 eggs (2 if your eggs are large, 3 if your eggs are rather small)

2 slices of thick-cut brioche, lightly toasted

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

Place zucchini in a clean dishtowel, and squeeze tightly until a great deal of the zucchini’s juice is released. Alternately, you can just grab small handfuls of the zucchini in your hands and squeeze until the juice runs out, but some people may find this method a bit too barbaric (but not me—you have my full permission to proceed as you wish).

Heat olive oil in a medium pan set over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions, and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds, while stirring. When the onions have just started to lose some of their stiffness, add the zucchini, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, and sauté zucchini and onion, stirring occasionally, until dry and slightly browned, anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate. Form two (or three) small nests within the zucchini, then crack an egg into each nest. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and allow the eggs to cook until they reach your desired doneness.

Place a piece of brioche toast on a plate, top with half of the zucchini hash (making sure to include an egg, of course), sprinkle over a bit of chopped tomato, and add a touch more salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

Tangerine Zucchini Bread

19 Jul

Our refrigerator is broken. This is certainly not a good thing, but it is, to be totally glass-half-full about it, certainly an interesting thing. Why? Because while perusing the contents of our warm refrigerator, I came across some long forgotten items that had been, over time, shuffled towards the back regions, never to be seen until disaster struck and I was forced to reckon with them.

But that’s all right! Because if one should make lemonade from lemons, one should also make delicious, moist, toothsome tangerine zucchini bread from freshly picked zucchini and long-lost tangerine marmalade.

The original recipe for this bread called for standard orange marmalade, but I think this tangerine boost really takes the bread over the top. In fact, if you can locate (or, if you are the marmalade-making type, conjure up on your own) different types of marmalade, like mandarin orange, satsumas, or any other citrus fruit, I’d bet this bread would take to it nicely. Even apricot jam, which the original recipe lists as a substitute for marmalade, would be a great addition.

I hate to cut this short, but the contents of the refrigerator and freezer are currently sitting in two coolers that are rapidly becoming no-so-cool, and I now have to figure out what I am going to make with a dozen eggs, half a head of cauliflower, two types of chutney, five bottles of hot sauce, three bunches of lettuce, a bunch of carrots, half an orange bell pepper, a jar of Dijon mustard, four jars of jam, a jar of fish sauce, a huge bottle of soy sauce, and some organic ketchup. And that’s just about half of the stuff from the refrigerator, never mind the freezer. Wish me luck.

Last Year: Highlights from a 1985 copy of Joy of Cooking, in which we learn how to cook muskrat and raccoon

Tangerine Zucchini Bread Recipe

Adapted from Tartine

As usual, I reduced the amount of both sugar and oil in this recipe. The original recipe called for almost a full cup of sugar total (¾ cup in the bread, plus 2 tablespoons sprinkled on top), but I cut the sugar content down to only 1/3 cup, swapped the granulated sugar for light brown sugar, and omitted the dusting of sugar on top. The result is just perfect, and with the marmalade and shredded zucchini to round things out, so moist and flavorful, it’s impossible to detect any loss of either sugar or oil.

1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup light brown sugar

½ cup tangerine marmalade (or any other marmalade of your choice)

2 ½ cups grated, fresh zucchini, lightly squeezed to remove some of the excess juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9” by 5” loaf pan, knocking out any excess flour.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a sifter, then set aside on top of a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar, and marmalade until combined. Add the zucchini and salt, and whisk to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sift the flour mixture mixture directly into the bowl containing the egg and zucchini mixture. Fold the flour into the zucchini mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. Bake in the center of the oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 60 to 65 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert on to a wire rack, turn right side up, and allow to cool completely.

Serve at room temperature.

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