Squash Croquettes



Drew and I decided not to grow squash in our garden this year.  While we like what you can do with squash, we don't eat enough of it to justify the garden space while our garden is still small.  We didn't count on our other family members giving us a whole load of squash all at once!  What to do?!

I think I've mentioned it on here before that, while I'm thoroughly a Southern girl, I am still no good at frying things, like the iconic squash and okra.  I'm working on it, but in the meantime, I had to find something creative to do with all that squash.

This year I wasn't feeling the casserole or stuffed squash recipes, but I found a squash croquette recipe in one of last year's Cooking Light issues.  It's a sort of hybrid between squash casserole and fried squash, and maybe a bit lighter than either of the aforementioned choices.   A bit time consuming (most time is inactive) but well worth it, these fritters are simple to make and very enjoyable.  They're even good cold the next day, and yes, I do know that from experience. 

Squash Fritters
adapted from Marie Rizzio, via June 2010 Cooking Light

4 2/3 cups (1 ¼ lbs) coarsely chopped yellow squash
½ cup chopped green onions
1 cup crushed crackers (about 30 crackers)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
Canola Oil
Sliced Green Onions for garnish (optional)
Steam squash and ½ cup green onions, covered, 15 minutes or until tender.  Drain well and mash mixture with a fork.  Stir in crackers, salt, sugar, and eggs.  Cover and chill for 3 hours; drain well through a fine mesh strainer.

Place cornmeal in a shallow dish.  Divide squash mixture into 12 equal portions, shaping each into a ½ inch thick patty.  Coat in cornmeal. 
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat.  Place 4 patties in pan and cook 1 ½ minutes on each side or until golden.  Repeat with remaining patties.  Garnish with onions if desired. 

Because our schedule has been oddly busy lately, I ended up steaming these and draining them for a couple days.  Everything came out fine. 

The original recipe used saltine crackers.  I used Ritz.  I stand by my decision. 



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I remember last year going to the small chain restaurant, Nothing but Noodles, with some girl friends and ordering bowtie or farfalle pasta with pesto.  I am pretty sure that it wasn't my first introduction to pesto, but from that night on I was absolutely hooked.  Its combination of sharp pepper-yness from the basil and richness from the olive oil and the subtle nutty flavor the pine nuts contribute are wonderfully balanced and a wake up for your taste buds.  I grew some basil last year, so I made some pesto after that.  I couldn't wait until my basil plant was leafy enough to make more, and Monday my day had come!

While you can purchase enough basil to make pesto, it would make your dish quite expensive.  I'd suggest growing your own or finding a friend who grows basil and get leaves from them.  For this recipe, you'll need two fairly tightly packed cups of basil leaves.  Pine nuts are also somewhat newer in the grocery stores of rural NC, but you should be able to find them in larger stores.  The best price I've found is at Trader Joe's.  If you don't want to fork over the money for those, you can sub in walnuts.

The preparation is very simple; all you need is a food processor, and if you want to do a little pre-food processor prep, a knife. 

If you're not very familiar with pesto, it has a variety of applications!  Besides being a pasta sauce, it can be a sandwich spread or topping (think of it taking the place of mayo) or it can be mixed with mayo or sour cream for an interesting binder for chicken/pasta salad or a dip.  Just google pesto and you'll get the idea. 

makes approx. 1 cup pesto

2 cups packed basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

If you want, mince the garlic before placing in the bowl of your food processor.  Add all the ingredients except olive oil and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Turn the food processor on and slowly stream in the oil until the pesto mixture is a smooth, sort of thick paste. 

Use immediately or store in small batches in air tight containers in your fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in small batches (an ice cube tray works great here) for up to 3 months.

Cucumber Water


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I am afraid this post may seem a little weak in light of my hiatus last week.  The thing is, though, that I have been drinking cucumber water like it's going out of style for over a week now. 

I can't explain why, but there's just something really refreshing about cucumber water that makes me want to drink it over regular water in the summer.  It's somehow almost more thirst quenching.  It's cool, a little sweet, and whispers of the summer sun.  This year we planted four cucumber plants in our garden.  Each one has survived to create more cucumbers than we know what to do with.  If and when I find a good pickle recipe I will share it on here.  I've already make and canned two different batches of pickles, but I'm not completely happy with either one.  Go figure. 

So, other than pickles, cucumber water is a somewhat novel way to enjoy your sudden garden payload of cucumbers. 

I have to give credit to my missionary friend, Jordana, who introduced me to cucumber water last year when she was home from Sweden.  She had it at a cookout, and I loved it at first sip.  I am so glad I tried it, despite its unconventionality. 

Cucumber Water
1/2 gallon water
Approx. 4 inches of cucumber (1 pickling cucumber, half an English cucumber), sliced into thin slices

Combine the two into a pitcher, preferably one with a lid that has a filter so that when you pour the cucumbers don't come out with it.  Allow to sit in fridge for an hour or so before serving.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti With Braise Kale



I was excited to find a local farmer who grew tuscan kale (aka black kale, dinosaur kale, lacinato kale, etc).  Unlike the kale you find in the grocery store, its leaves don't curl up like crazy at the ends.  This kale reminds me more of swiss chard. I'll put in a shameless plug for this local farmer, check out this page for Red Hill Farm's produce and other information.  If you're looking for quality Italian produce, this is your guy. 

So back to the kale.  I was excited to find it locally so that I could try this spaghetti with braised kale, a recipe I've had marked for a couple years.  This recipe takes some prep work, as does nearly anything that utilizes leafy greens, but is fairly simple and quick once everything gets going.  While I'm not sure that I did the best job of braising the kale, the dish still had a great taste and both Drew and I agreed that we'd like it again.  The garlic and lemon nicely complement the kale and everything comes together for a lovely, "light" meal.  I say light because for some reason it doesn't seem heavy but it's pasta so it has to be heavy, right?  Sigh.  Either way, it's darn good, and I enjoyed it in the heat of summer, but am sure it's warming on a cold evening too. 

If you're not scared of leafy greens, try this, and if you're like Molly Wizenberg was, a skeptic, try this too.  You may find a new favorite dish. 

Spaghetti With Braise Kale
from Molly Wizenberg and Bon Appetit, October 2009

1 pound lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 pound spaghetti
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse kale. Drain; transfer to bowl with some water still clinging.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Summer Squash Sauté



Garden harvest time is in full swing in the Carolinas, and I couldn't be happier!  While Drew and I are still eagerly anticipating our first big garden harvest (other than cucumbers), we are blessed to have generous family members who are already pulling things out of their gardens.  I never really appreciated the garden harvests as a kid; while I enjoyed most of the food, I took it for granted.  Now that I'm older I understand what people mean when they say that there's nothing like a home grown vegetable.  It's funny how you grow to appreciate something as simple as eating food pulled from your own back yard. 

Yellow crook neck squash is ubiquitous in this area during the summer, but I have to confess that, despite being a Southern girl through and through, I am no good at frying squash (the best way, in my humble opionion, to prepare and eat squash).  I plan to work on it at least once this year, but I can't work at it too much or I'll be as round as a summer squash.  So, what to do with all that squash if you're not going to fry it?  I looked around online to find out what others are doing, and came across squash pickles, squash bread, and one of my favorites, the squash casserole. 

I wanted something new but something that highlighted the squash in its peak, something that didn't load it down with butter or sugar.  Then I found a recipe for the squash sauté in an old issue of Kraft Food and Family.  I gave it a go yesterday.  While I think the recipe could benefit from more tweaking (adding salt or other spices, possibly), it's pretty good on its own and showcases the squash itself, which is just what I wanted.  The basil is a surprising and delightful foil for the vegetables.  This recipe is quick and simple and makes use of some of that squash and zucchini that is in its peak right now.  I humbly submit to you the

Farmer's Market Squash Sauté
from Kraft Foods

2 zucchini, sliced
2 yellow squash, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan Cheese
COOK vegetables in hot oil in large skillet on medium heat 3 min., stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook 3 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender. REMOVE from heat; stir in mozzarella and basil.
SPRINKLE with Parmesan.