Category Archives: zucchini

delicious and virtuous

After a weekend of eating cheeseburgers, meatballs and fresh baked danish, I felt the need to curb my calorie count and try to get in a few more vegetables. This is especially true given the up-coming bevy of Hanukkah parties (read: over-consumption of fried potatoes) I will be attending this weekend. Something with less than two sticks of butter, fewer than twice my RDA of carbohydrates and preferably lacking any pork product. But also, something delicious, warm and satisfying.

fish en papillot

This recipe for fish fillets baked in parchment is so many things a good recipe should be: flexible, adaptable and beautiful. You can make it for two (as I did tonight) or for twenty (as I have for Passover in years past). Almost any fish fillet — salmon, halibut or flounder — works well and you can use whatever vegetables are knocking around your crisper. After a mere ten minutes in the oven, the moist and delicate fish combines with the pat of butter, lemon, wine and shallots to make a lovely sauce, which the vegetables seem to inhale. And the whole thing is so lovely, you’ll feel like it’s a special occasion, not a sacrifice.

Fish Fillets En Papillot

(Serves 2)

¾ lb flounder (or sole) fillets, about 4 hand-sized pieces
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons butter, divided
4 thin slices of lemon
2 tablespoons white wine, divided
1 carrot, julienned
1 small zucchini, julienned
6 asparagus spears, sliced into 1” pieces
2 sprigs of dill
salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 450º. Blanch asparagus (for 4 minutes) and carrots (for 2 minutes) in salted, boiling water. Drain and run under cold water. Cut two large pieces of parchment paper (about 10” long); fold paper in half and trim paper so it resembles an oval when un-folded.

Set one parchment paper oval on counter, un-folded. About 1” above the crease, place 1 teaspon of butter. Scatter with half the minced shallots. Top with two slices of lemon and sprinkle with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the wine. Place two fish fillets atop the lemon. Season fish liberally with salt and pepper. Scatter half the vegetables (asparagus, carrots and zucchini) over and around the fish. Top with sprig of dill.

Fish and Veg

Fold the bottom half of the parchment oval over the fish and vegetables. You will now have a half-moon in front of you. Starting at one end, make one 90º fold. Your next fold should be on a 45º angle. Continue around the semi-circle, making 45º angles, until you reach the end. The last angle should be 90º; tuck the corner under the last fold. Repeat with remaining packet.

Folding Parchment

Place the packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes, depending upon thickness of fillets. Open packets and serve.

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the pickle project

I may be behind by about 6 months as I write this, but I think pickles are the next big thing. That came out wrong. I think pickling is the next ancient craft to be “rediscovered” by my generation. It’s like knitting ten years ago, just before Stitch ‘N Bitch came out. Someday there will be a funky little book with a title like, Can It! Homemade pickles are everywhere, including the tables of hip, urban eateries across the nation. Even my local fancy-pants sandwich shop offers a homemade selection of delicious “house sweet pickles” on the appetizer section of the menu (which, to me, is simply un-American; pickles should be free).

Pickles2

Starting in late September, I began tackling my own pickle project. The idea of canning has appealed to me for a long time. As a kid, we’d make strawberry jam every summer, but that was the extent of my experience with preserving. A few years ago, I purchased the Ball Blue Book along with some supplies, but I was so intimidated by the technical side of it all. And the thought of having 8 quarts of a tomato sauce I might not even like paralyzed me with fear. Then, for my birthday this year, my sister got be a copy of the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, which includes several recipes for small batch pickles and relishes that are stored in the refrigerator, and don’t need to be “processed” to be shelf-stable. Thus began a several week long project involving pickle research, mass procurement of vinegar and stinking up my whole house with the smell of brine on a regular basis.

By Thanksgiving last week, I had produced four varieties of pickles for a pre-dinner pickle plate: spiced peaches, pickled Jerusalem artichokes, red onion pickles and zucchini pickles. The spiced whole peaches are barely a pickle — the whole fruit suspended in a sweet syrup, studded with candied ginger, the vinegar providing a subtle heat. The pickled Jerusalem artichokes are crunchy and bright. The red onion pickles are so heart-breakingly lovely, crisp and spicy that I immediately forgot about the tedious process of repeatedly blanching cold onions in hot brine required to produce them. But judging by the quantity consumed, the zucchini pickles were the winner (although, I love both the red onion pickles and the spiced whole peaches). They are tender but substantial; assertive from the mustard seed, but with an underlying sweetness that mellows them out. These pickles are very simple to make, but they require the use of a mandoline to produce thin, long ribbons of zucchini.

Zucchini Pickles, Adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

1 lb zucchini

1 small yellow onion

2 tablespoons salt

2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow or brown mustard seeds

scant 1 teaspoon tumeric

Wash and trim the zucchini and, with a mandoline, slice into 1/16″ thick ribbons. Slice the onion very thinly and combine with the zucchini in a large, shallow bowl. Add the salt and toss the vegetables. Cover the zucchini and onions with cold water and a few ice cubes and stir to dissolve the salt. Let the vegetables sit for 1 hour.

Drain the vegetables and dry completely, either using a salad spinner or clean kitchen towels. Rinse and dry the bowl and replace the now dry vegetables. In a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients for the brine and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes. Set the brine aside until it is just warm to the touch (if it’s too hot, it will cook the zucchini and you’ll end up with a soggy pickle).

Cover the vegetables with the cooled brine and stir to dissolve the spices. Transfer the vegetables and brine to clean pickle jars (either one quart-sized jar or two pint-sized jars). Cover and refrigerate at least two days before serving. The pickles will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.