Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zucchini Snack Attack

Before I get to the recipe, I wanted to talk about family - parents and siblings in particular. Mine just left after an all-too-brief visit over the weekend. And I've been completely spoiled! I didn't wash a single dish or lift a finger to clean the house the whole time they were here. No siree, not while Dad the cleaning guru was around. Oh, I'd made a few goodies for them and scoured the house clean before they arrived, but once they got here, I turned into a diva. And God bless 'em, they encourage it. Even the kid brother lent a helping hand now and again, hallelujah! It must have something to do with the old adage, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". Y'see, my family lives in Canada, so the most I see them is for a few days at a time, maybe twice or thrice a year. So when we do see each other, we try and cram as much affection and general family-togetherness into the visit as possible. DH also lucks out in a way, because my mom dotes on him, and weirdly enough, takes his side over mine on most matters. Don't ask me, I've no idea what that's all about! Although, if I had to guess, me thinks it boils down to the Pakistani tradition and culture, where the son-in-law is treated like royalty. Or it could simply be that DH has a way with older women, which he definitely does. Either way, we both get spoiled as a result of the parents visiting. Even Ozzy has more people to play with and hang around (like most kids, erm I mean, kitties, he completely ignores his mommy when there are other people around, ungrateful feline).
A simple, homey feast of a few childhood favorites, courtesy of Mom.

My favorite moments are the ones spent around the dinner table, laughing and giggling over family stories, enjoying tales of my brother's mad adventures, earnestly discussing world issues, all the while digging into a homemade feast, lovingly made by mom. My stove goes into overdrive when my mother is around. Being way more efficient than I am, she can prepare multiple dishes at the same time. Hyderabadi cuisine is her forte, and one that I don't even try to emulate, because really, what's the point?! I only disappoint myself because it never turns out as good as Mom's.

So my strategy is to try and add brand new recipes to my repertoire and make them my personal family favorites. And I think I found another keeper this week. One that I hope to be making several more times this season. Especially when the snacking demon attacks.

Zucchini Pakoras or Pancakes (thanks to the lovely Desiree of Life's Ambrosia for this wonderfully simply recipe. Please visit her site for more nummies.)

Serves 2-3 as a snack/appetizer

Click here for printable recipe

1 large zucchini grated, excess water removed (To do this, after you grate the zucchini, put the grated zucchini into paper towels and squeeze to release the water)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Sprinkle of ground nutmeg, about 1/8 teaspoon or less
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for shallow frying

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except olive oil, and mix thoroughly. Using a heaping tablespoon form the mixture into 6-7 patties.

2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Once heated, add patties and fry until golden brown. About 3-4 minutes per side. You'll need to add more olive oil after the first 3 or 4 patties, because it does get absorbed. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot, while it's still crispy, with sour cream or ketchup or a thick raita.

Mmmmm - frying up to a lovely caramel brown, just the way I like it!

Verdict: One of those jump for joy moments when I put this in my mouth for the first time. Oh man, just crispy and caramelized on the outside, and so tender and chewy on the inside. The zucchini almost tastes like chicken when prepared this way! DH always asks for pakoras on rainy days, and I'm awfully pleased with this new find. It's easy to put together, and hits the spot around that crucial snacking time, around 4-5pm in the afternoon.

I'm also glad I discovered this recipe in time for Ramadan, the fasting month for us Muslims. The days are even longer than last year, so DH and I are gonna need something substantial for when we break the fast at sunset every day. Me thinks this will be a worthy addition to the menu. This isn't a Hyderabadi dish, but I'm from that region and it's going to feature on my Iftar table, so I hope that qualifies me to submit this to Mona's Hyderabadi Ramadan Food Festival.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To Dorie G. And Multiple Awards!

I think I've been living under a rock this whole time. Oh I've known about the darlin' Ms. Dorie Greenspan and her iconic cookbook, "Baking - From My Home To Yours" for a long time. I follow the amazing accomplishments of her fans on the Tuesdays With Dorie event (admiring from afar, because right now I just don't have that kind of dedication and skill). But only recently did I finally manage to get my hands on the actual cookbook itself (it's extremely popular at my library - I think I was holdee # 193). I spent days scouring it from cover to cover, loving it all. Then came the dilemma of picking a recipe to actually try. Yes, I am indeed a Dorie virgin. Well, I was, till the other day when I finally pulled out a baking tray full of Dorie's adorable, and in her words "TOO GOOD", Sour Cream & Pecan Biscuits. Genius stuff, this. I'm now happy to report that I've been deflowered by Dorie! (if that doesn't make you flinch, nothing will)

Dorie Greenspan's Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits (getherbookgetherbookgetherbook - seriously. Click here to order it)
Makes 6 smallish biscuits, which serve 3 people - DG's original recipe was double the below ingredients.

Click here for printable recipe

1cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2.5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/4 cup cold sour cream
1/8 cup cold whole milk
1/4 cup (a little less) finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted


1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter, and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with the flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly (do NOT over-mix). You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between.

2. Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick, gentle kneading–3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead another 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

3. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour and pat the dough out with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even–a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

4. Use a biscuit cutter or sharp knife to cut out as many biscuits as you can. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. (The biscuits can be made up to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting–just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

6. Bake the biscuits for 14 to 16 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket. Serve right away with soft, sweet butter.

Verdict: All this biscuit needed was a generous schmear of sweet butter. The tops were delicately crispy and the insides were melt-in-your-mouth tender and flaky. I also enjoyed the toasty crunch from the pecans. DH and I managed to finish this whole lot in one day. These are perfect for breakfast, or just as a mid-afternoon snack, by themselves or with tea/coffee. Best to have them within a day or two, but I guarantee you that won't be a problem. I know that outside of the US and Canada, not many people get our fascination with biscuits. In Europe and Asia, 'biscuits' are what we call 'cookies' here. They have scones in England, which are delicious, and are a close relative to our biscuit, but not as tender and flaky I feel. I never had a real American biscuit till I moved to this country. And now I just adore them. I'm really glad I picked these as my first DG recipe, because the experience was fantastic. I usually don't ask that you, dear readers, make any of the recipes on my blog (because that's your call) - but please make this one, because I wuv it so much, and want to share that wuv with you!

Speaking of sharing some love, recently I was lucky enough to have
three different awards bestowed upon me.
It's all very flattering, and I'm truly humbled. No Oscar-speech from me, but suffice to say that I think both Sophie (from Sophie's Foodiefiles), Ann (from A Delighted Foodie) and
another Ann (from Happy And Healthy Cooking) are gems, and deserve all the devoted readers that follow their blogs. I'm supposed to pass these on to 8 fellow food bloggers, so here are my picks (it's tough narrowing it down like this):
  1. Finsmom
  2. Cheryl
  3. Lisa
  4. Cathy
  5. Kerstin
  6. Donna-FFW
  7. Debby
  8. Parita
I hate leaving people out! You all deserve these awards, and most of you are lucky enough to already have them, but I also gotta give a special shout-out to to Yasmeen, Varsha, Natashya and Natasha.

These awards also come with a tag apparently, where there's a bunch of questions I have to answer. Frankly, I think there are too many questions. Some of them are interesting, but then there are others ... I mean, do any of you
really want to know my favorite color or what I'm listening to right now?! (my cat whining and complaining, but that's what I always hear when I'm on the computer)

So I thought I'd spice things up by asking DH to come up with a few questions, being an objective third-party, and completely oblivious to blog award etiquette. And I quote:

Q1 DH: Do I have to?!
Me: Yes please, and I'm counting that one as a question.

Q2 DH: This doesn't make any sense. WHY do I have to do this?
Me: Because I'm trying to make my post interesting and I had hoped you'd be of some help. But this interview is all about
you so far!

Q3 DH: GAWD! What do you want me to ask?!
Me: *sigh* This was a bad idea. I dunno! If I knew, I wouldn't be turning to you, now would I?!

Q4 DH: Oh all right ... ummm ... ok, how about this, how much longer is this blogging thing going to go on for?
Me: *raised eyebrows*
(yes, both, because I can't do just one) Indefinitely. And I hope you're not complaining mister, because this "blogging thing" helps me be a better cook for you, and I've finally found something to do that I'm pretty good at, and I really love it .. and ... and ...

Q5 DH: Okok, sorry shweetie, let's try again ... what is your favorite color?
Me: I give up.

And that was the end of that little project, folks. It wasn't his fault you know. He was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed at the time, so I didn't exactly pick the right moment. The good news is that all the receivers of this award are now officially off the hook, and don't have to answer any tag questions! Well, you can if you want to, of course. But try to limit it to ten questions, would ya?!