This year has been a banner one for my garden which has been bolstered by all the time I spend at home, by being the one outdoor space I have to use and by all the extra time I can devote to it that normally I would spend commuting every day.

One of the banner crops that really has pushed its way through the garden, going so far as to knock over a corn stalk, is the zucchini.

Plated zucchini fritters

Zucchini fritters are way, other than bread, to easily use up the abundant crop. Here they are served with zhug, a Yemeni cilantro-based hot sauce, and tzatziki, the yogurt-based sauce.

I have so, so many of them and, I have absolutely no doubt that you, or maybe your neighbor, or maybe just the person down the street, is just like me and drowning in a sea of zucchini.

That’s where fritters come in.

Fritter is a broad term for potatoes, zucchini, fruit, meat, dough, and probably many more things, that have been combined and are fried. In this case, the recipe is kind of like latkes (also called potato pancakes), but with zucchini instead.

The comparison is important because both potatoes and zucchini are jam packed with lots and lots of water that need to be removed before they are turned into fritters. It’s the same process that goes into preparing decent hash browns, although usually hand power gets them dry enough for the skillet.

In this recipe, salt will help drain the water out of the shredded zucchini, with the aid of a strainer. That only gets so much water out, so there is a second step. Either the shreds can be wrung by hand or, they can be balled up into a dish towel and wrung out as the towel is twisted. I find the dish towel applies enough force to get most of the water out.

The other reason I chose to write about fritters is they go great with two other recipes I’ve already shared in previous columns, mainly, tzatzikizhug and hummus. All three make great dips for fritters.

 

Dill piles up in a container of yogurt being used to mix the Tzatziki.

Dill plays a starring role in tzatziki and it goes great in the fritters as well.  Most herbs would do well as a seasoning but, since I like to pair them with tzatziki, I always reach for dill first. It does not hurt that the dill has also been having a banner year, since it has not, yet, been pushed over or smothered by the zucchini.

One thing that most fritters need is some kind of binder. Here, I use eggs and crumbled feta, as well as a little bit of flour.

When it comes to the frying, use a lot of oil if you really want to go for that deep-fried taste, or use a lot less if you’re using a non-stick pan. I personally use cast iron skillets so a little oil often goes a long way. Alternatively, the fritters could be baked in the oven.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds zucchini
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 to 1 medium-sized onion or 4 scallions
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil as needed for pan frying

 

Directions:

  1. Shred the zucchini through the large holes of a grater. Transfer to a strainer on top of a bowl and toss with the salt and let sit for 10-30 minutes.
  2. Wring out the zucchini shreds, either by hand or by putting handfuls into the center of a clean dishtowel and twisting the towel. Try to get out as much water as possible.
  3. Finely mince the onion or shred it with the grater. Mince the fresh dill and the garlic.
  4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
  5. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add a little bit of oil.
  6. Mix in the zucchini, the feta cheese, the onions or scallions, the dill, the garlic and the pepper. Mix.
  7. Sprinkle and mix in the baking powder and flour until well combined.
  8. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto the skillet, but do not crowd them together. Lightly press down on the fritters with the back of a spoon.
  9. Turn when golden brown, about three minutes. After the other side is golden brown, remove to a plate and serve with tzatziki and hummus.

Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Aug. 6, 2007.

 

Summertime, and the living is hot, which means cooking indoors is a pain. There is a solution. The grill.

I love grills for a multitudes of reasons. They can be quick, they are outdoors, they are tasty and easy and, in the summer, cooking inside is far too miserable.

That’s where a new take on grilled chicken comes in. Specifically, it is a Thai take on the humble hunk of chicken meat.

Gai yang, also called kai yang or ping gai, or simply Thai grilled chicken, brings together some of the most prominent flavors in the west: lime, cilantro, garlic and chiles.

Thai grilled chicken, or Gai Yang, with steamed rice and a grilled green chile.

The flavors mix, meld and create something worth adding to the regular stable of meat marinades.

I was lucky enough to, most recently, take a return trip to Thailand just on the cusp of the current pandemic. That meant tourism was down and the streets were not nearly as packed as I have seen them in travels past. Although there were fewer people, there were still plenty of street food vendors with small grills and bags of marinating meat.

Many of the grilled foods had two common ingredients: lime and chiles. There is a third ingredient, which smells awful, but really adds a savory, or unami taste: fish sauce. I swear by it in most marinades, where it adds a saltiness and depth of flavor not offered by soy sauce.

It’s an ingredient that is in lots of Thai cuisine but its influence melds into the background, becoming indistinguishable on the palate, except for a sparkle.

Really, gai yang is not that different from a regular citrus marinade, with the exception of fish sauce: cilantro, garlic, lemon and lime.

The original marinade recipe I used as a base calls for chopped lemongrass and cilantro roots. I know finding cilantro with the root still on his hit or miss, and lemongrass is hard to find, so I’ve substituted lemon rind.

Making the marinade requires a good processor or blender and the chicken should sit for at least three hours, if not overnight.

I serve this chicken with some green chiles roasted on the grill and rice.

 

Wheeler’s Thai grilled chicken

Serves 2 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1-4 pounds of chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks
  • 2+ green chiles
  • 1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 1 table spoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2+ tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons white or red wine (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 15+ sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a medium lemon, deseeded and coarsely chopped

Sauce

  • 2 dried red chiles, soaked and then coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar

Directions

At least three hours prior to grilling the chicken, prepare and marinade the chicken.

  • In a blender or food processor, combine the marinade ingredients. Blend for 2-3 minutes, until everything is well combined. Everything should already be chopped.
  • Combine the chicken and the marinade in a container, bowl or ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least three hours. Overnight is preferable.
  • While the chicken is marinating, combine all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor or blender and mix until well combined. Remove to a separate container for serving and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Grill the chicken over medium to medium-high heat until done. Chicken thighs taken longer than breasts and bone in takes longer than boneless. If the chicken is bone-in, cook over medium heat. Add a little of the marinade to the chicken while it cooks.
  • While the chicken is grilling add the green chiles, cut lengthwise, to the grill and cook until the skin is well blistered.
  • Once the chicken is done, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve with rice and the sauce you previously made in the blender/food processor and the roasted chiles.
  • Garnish the plates with the chopped cilantro.

Barbecue chicken sauce recipe from Practical Thai Cooking by Puangkram Schmitz and Michael Worman

Cranberry sauce (or relish) is usually a dish reserved for Thanksgiving, Christmas and any other time you’re serving a turkey.

Whatever the occasion, cranberry sauce is one of the dishes you should make before before roasting the turkey, along with stuffing and most of the gravy.

Now, before you entirely discount this recipe, I can attest that it was one of the biggest hits from Thanksgiving 2017. The fact that spice is a part of what would normally be a sweet dish adds some to the allure.

It’s also very easy, although how cheap depends on if you can get cranberries on sale.

It’s mostly about the taste, but somewhat about the presentation.

It’s essentially your regular cranberry sauce recipe (which will gel in the refrigerator) with the addition of lemon and lime juice, a little ginger and some jalapeños.

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Whenever someone asks, “What’s a healthy recipe that’s easy and I can snack on?” I have a stock reply.

Hummus. (See just the recipe here).

It’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s delicious and it can go with vegetables, bread, with other sauces, or be served as a spread.

So, what is hummus and why should you make it at home?

Hummus is a mix of cooked and crushed chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, with tahini, also known as sesame seed paste.

There are some other ingredients: lemon juice and salt, as well as a host of optional ingredients including garlic, peppers, artichoke hearts and other seasonings.

Mainly though, it’s just cooked chickpeas and tahini, blended together.

Things can get a little bit more complicated if you’re willing to take the extra step (frugal and healthy) of cooking the chickpeas yourself.

Even then, hummus is a super simple recipe.

It’s also cheap.

Adding the chickpeas to the blender.

Normally, stores sell 8-16 ounces of hummus for $3 to $8.

You need eight ounces of tahini for this recipe which sells for $3. The pound of dried chickpeas is another dollar.

It makes a full 72-ounce blenderfull, which is a decent return on investment.

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Tzatziki, a yogurt sauce made with lemon juice, dill, and a few other ingredients, is a fantastic side to a variety of dishes, including zucchini fritters, curry fried rice and hummus, especially when paired with pita bread.

(Skip to just the recipe)

It also goes very well as a compliment to zhug (a hot sauce made of cilantro, peppers and lemon/lime juice) creating what for me is the ultimate quadfecta in pita and falafel sides: zhug, Tzatzikihummus and tabbouleh.

Tzatziki poured over curry fried rice makes an easy and delicious meal. All this is missing is some zhug.

There are a couple of things to consider when making tzatziki, aside from how to spell it.

The first is what kind of yogurt to use. I use full-fat plain yogurt or, if I’m going through a DIY phase, I use yogurt I’ve made from whole milk.

Plain full-fat yogurt is superior (in my opinion) to the more popular and prevalent fat-free and 99 percent fat free options because it has less sugar.

Yogurt makers add sugar to make up for the taste of the lost fat. Naturally occurring fat is a lot more healthy than artificially added sugar. Less sugar, less problems.

Dill piles up in a container of yogurt being used to mix the tzatziki.

Second,  good dill, which can be surprisingly hard to find. When I find it, I buy a large bunch. You can also add some chopped mint to the batch, if you’re feeling a little adventerous or have mint on hand. If I have it, I add it. If I don’t have any available, then it doesn’t go in.

Tzatziki is more like art than science. The amount of lemon juice used, of dill, of lime juice, of salt, of garlic, everything is up for interpretation.

For just the recipe, see the page here, or see it after the jump (more link).

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