Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Squash Cakes

This recipe is a bit of a repeat but this go-round featured with yellow summer squash in place of zucchini since the yellow squash in the garden is burying us alive.  Most of it will end up shredded and frozen to use later, but if you can stomach one more serving without creating an aversion, these squash cakes are an effortless summer meal.

Summer Squash Cakes:
*3 medium summer squash, whole, ends removed
*1 cup crumbled feta
*sea salt
*black pepper
*1 small sweet onion, skin removed
*2-3 fresh eggs
*high quality AP flour
*olive oil

Shred squash into a large mixing bowl. Lightly sprinkle with salt and stir. Allow to sit for 10 minutes then transfer to a mesh sieve. Gently press shredded squash into sieve to strain excess water. Return to mixing bowl. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Shred about 1/4 cup of the onion into mixture. Stir. Mix eggs into mixture with a fork, followed by the feta. Then add enough flour to create a batter, slightly thicker than pancake batter.Line a cooling rack with paper towels.Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Coat with olive oil. Spoon mixture into hot skillet to create small cakes (about 3 tablespoons of batter for each cake). Loosely shape and flatten slightly with a fork. Brown each cake until golden, flipping halfway through.Transfer to cooling rack and repeat with remaining batter, oiling skillet as needed between batches.

Serve warm with sour cream or crème fraîche and chopped chives. 

From The Garden

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Lazy Wife Greasy Bean

I ran into my friend Paul among the seed display at our local hardware store early this spring, and naturally we started talking about plans for our gardens. He is a man with a disposition worthy of notice, and made big beards cool way before lumbersexual was a common term.
As we talked, Paul spoke rather passionately about bringing back the old-timey vegetables common to Appalachian gardens before kale began riding its seemingly breakless wave.
"You know like greasy beans and turnip greens." he waxed. Had it been church, Paul standing before his congregation of one at that moment, I would have stood up and waved my hands toward heaven. He was right, him and his beard. It was time to move on from the kale and beet rut and get into it.
I have succumb to such a rut in my own garden, planting provider and burgundy bush beans each and every year. To be completely honest, the thought of trellising seems like too much extra work in the manic rush of spring, so I go for the bush variety and that's that. But....mentioning this to Paul, he shrugged it off like a lame excuse.
Turns out it was. It was lame for so many reasons. Not only did my trellis look good and add some nice variety and height to the average rows of veggies, Lazy Wife Greasy Beans have proven to be OUT OF THIS WORLD tasty. buttery, texture you can't imagine until you bite down on it, flavor without a ham hock (though I would never refuse a ham hock....). I haven't had an experience at the dinner table so satisfying for a long while.

This is an example of heirlooms becoming nearly completely crowded out by commercial varieties. Higher yields, sturdy shelf life and blah blah blah have plagued the world of seed diversity since the industrial agricultural "revolution".
Literally a handful of guys own patents on the anemic variety of seed genetics these days, and these very guys most likely do not have gardens. They own petri dishes and labs, but not soil. That is, not working soil with like, worms in it.
This is a sad reality for more than just the security of our food. This reality also tastes bad, metaphorically and quite literally.

Many commercial bean varieties are grown in Florida, but Lazy Wife Greasy Beans grow particularly well here in WNC, and not in many other regions. These were the bean found in almost every garden in this region until the home-garden-generation couldn't convince their offspring to keep planting and putting by.

The dynamite seeds (those with regional stability, and incredible flavor) became virtually lost with the shift of buying vegetables from the grocery store, and I personally mark this as the beginning of vegetables getting a bad rap (which may closely coincide with our nation's devastating health crisis.) Who wants to eat vegetables harvested by a machine 10 days ago from a region really far away? Nobody. Even butter doesn't guarantee a satisfactory experience. This is why children don't eat their vegetables: they came from the store, and from bogus seeds with not enough genetic history to make us want to eat them.
But my child has eaten portion after portion of these greasy beans since putting them on the table, followed closely by her parents. They are special beyond measure, simply simmered in salted water with a chopped onion from the garden and a slab of butter. Nothing else.  I will be growing greasy beans in earnest from here on, putting by and passing down to whom ever remembers the experience fondly enough to plant a row.

To my wise friend Paul.......thank you! To the hot shots with the patents on tasteless seeds....SUCKERS!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fried Green Tomatoes with Sweet Basil Aioli

My born-and-raised southern husband would pick all the unripe tomatoes and fry them to layer with bacon and mayonnaise between soft white bread if it weren't for his wife smacking him away from temptation. It's only the beginning of patient.
But he confessed this evening, scraping the remainder of the sauce onto his last forkful, he would eat all tomatoes green and fried if he had his way.
Well, things like this warm my heart. And even though I find it highly worthwhile to wait until a tomato is deeply bushed and full of sinfully sunkissed juice, there is something special about jumping the gun.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Sweet Basil Aioli:

Sweet Basil Aioli:
*4 florets fresh basil leaves
*1 garlic clove
*juice from 1 lemon
*1 egg
*olive oil 
*sea salt

Place basil and garlic in a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse. Add lemon juice and egg. With bade running add enough olive oil to create a thick sauce (about 2/3 cup). Season with sea salt with blade running. Allow to whip until consistency is airy but spoonable, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape into a glass jar fitted with a lid and store in the fridge until tomatoes are ready. 

For the Tomatoes:
*3 green tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/2'' thick
*1 1/2 cups buttermilk
*2 eggs, beaten
*1/4 cup coarse grits
*2/3 cup flour
*2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
*1 teaspoon sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper
*olive oil for frying

Place sliced green tomatoes in a bowl of salted water for at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours before frying. Drain and rinse with cold water. Whisk buttermilk and eggs in a small mixing bowl and add sliced tomatoes. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare breading.
Mix grits, bread crumbs, sea salt and black pepper in a separate mixing bowl. Place enough olive oil over medium heat in a skillet for frying. When oil is hot, begin dredging tomatoes in breading mixture thoroughly before placing in skillet. Allow to brown for about 4 minutes before flipping. Transfer to a wire rack layered with paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining tomato slices adding olive oil to skillet as needed.

Serve warm drizzled with basil aioli.