Grilled Zucchini with Yoghurt Cumin-Lemon Sauce

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When you belong to a CSA, especially in the Northeast, at some point the CSA goes into overdrive with certain vegetables. In other words… it’s too much of a good thing.

In the beginning of the season, we get so much lettuce that I am thinking to get a rabbit to consume all these leafy greens. Then the next bout of vegetables that come in plentifully are zucchinis. It’s not like we get 2 or three zucchinis, we get 6 HUGE zucchinis at a time. This is the time you may want to fire up the grill and char those greens. That is the simplest thing to do, and when you combine it with a super uber cooling cumin yoghurt sauce, you’ll consume those green squashes in just one sitting. Zucchini has a tendency to be all water. So when you grill it, it shrinks. This is the case where size means nothing. So bring it on zukes and enjoy this deceptively easy dish that speaks volumes in flavor.

Grilled Zucchini with Yogurt Lemon-Cumin Sauce

Serves about 6

Ingredients

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove finely minced
About 6 (each) zucchini, sliced lengthwise
4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
Sea salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
¼ cup chopped mint

Directions

  1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients along with a pinch of salt and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside while making the vegetables.
  2. Heat broiler. Arrange vegetables in a single layer, cut side up on two baking sheets. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. OR arrange coated vegetables on grill rack (over medium-high heat); grill vegetables 8 minutes or until just tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Place vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped mint and dollop of sauce on top.

Afghan Ratatouille

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Might seem odd to call a french dish, Afghan. After all, Ratatouille is a stew of simmered summer vegetables usually with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Interestingly in Afghanistan, and really in the entire Central Asian region there are notorious for stews as well – all utilizing seasonal ingredients, excepting that the spices and herbs rule in the stews. My mother regularly made this version of Ratatouille and always called it Choresh, which basically means in farsi – stew. Probably the closet cousin to this dish is the Persian Eggplant dish called Choresh Badjeman. The emphasis on my dish is on the spices: cumin and turmeric, which gives it more color and more of an earthy, slightly smoky flavor that I love so much. Traditionally the french cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. I use one pot for everything, just like all Central Asian cooks. We cook everything in one pot and let it cook slowly over a low flame.  It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. Generally speaking ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to illicit the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant. I like to serve this over basmati rice so that the rice can absorb the flavors and get soaked into each grain.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers,  (preferably sweet) cut into 1/4-inch slices
on the horizontal
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  5. Then stir in bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.

Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in a Coconut sauce

A few years ago, I went to Costa Rica’s Vista Del Valle (View of the Valley). It’s a lush self-sustaining hotel that grows its own produce, has an estuary, tropical birds and a butterfly garden pitched atop a mountain that is carved into the tropical forest. Below you will find some of the photos from our trip. The restaurant uses all the produce that grows in the forest, creating surprising dishes from Earth gifts. The head chef there served this dish to me from El Rosario, Costa Rica who graciously shared this simple and outstanding Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in Coconut Sauce. I decided to post it now, because I just got some fall carrots from my CSA and had some zucchini to throw in. At the bottom of this post you will find directions on how to purchase tofu and make it taste outstanding.

Race Horses flown in from Spain
Outdoor restaurant overlooking the lush mountains. Even the tables are made from the trees that fall in the forest.

Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in Coconut Sauce

Follow post to the bottom where I make suggestions on how to purchase and make tofu taste great.
Serve this dish over jasmine rice and garnish with some fresh basil for a beautiful presentation.

 Serves 4

 

Ingredients
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 (16 ounce) package of firm tofu, pressed and drained (click on link for directions) and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion
3 carrots, julienned
2 zucchinis, trimmed and julienned
½ cup Coconut Milk 
½ teaspoon red pepper
1-teaspoon sea salt
Brown Jasmine Rice or your favorite rice
, for serving
 
Directions
  1. Preheat that skillet over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Spread over the surface of the pan. Pat the tofu dry one more time and put it in the skillet it in a single layer, with plenty of room around each piece. Don’t crowd the pan, or the heat will drop too much and the tofu will steam, not brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches if it’s too crowded. Cook on one side until it is deeply golden brown, then flip. If you are doing cubes, it becomes impractical to get all sides of every piece, so instead you’ll just toss them every minute or so and hope to get most of them.  When both sides are done, remove to a plate.
  2.  In the same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, stirring and shaking the pan, for about 7 minutes or until it just begins to turn translucent. Add the carrots and sprinkle with salt so that the carrots will sweat. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes. Then add the zucchini and stir to combine with all the other ingredients. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover the skillet, add the tofu to the vegetables and stir gently. Pour in the coconut milk and red pepper and stir to distribute evenly. You can add salt to taste if you like.
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Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu

 
I use this method in lots of recipes, and frequently for simple stir fry weeknight meals. It is easy to do, takes just minutes, and the results are far superior to simply cutting up cubes and throwing them in your stir-fry.Step 1: Buy Good Tofu. Find a store that moves a lot of tofu so you are getting the freshest tofu available. You want the stuff packed in a rectangular, water filled box (or maybe wrapped in plastic), in the refrigerator section, not the shelf-stable boxes. Choose an extra-firm tofu with the latest expiration date you can find. If you open it and smell more than a tiny whiff of sourness,  or it feels slimy, it isn’t going to be good.
Step 2: Dry Your Tofu. Open the package, drain out the water, and press it. You can follow another post I wrote I pressing tofu here. Cut the tofu into desired cubes or slabs. What we need to do is get the surface of your tofu dry so that it browns up on the skillet. Put down a clean dishtowel. Lay the tofu out in a single layer on said dish towel. Put another clean dishtowel on top and pat well, all over, to remove as much surface moisture as possible. It will also reduce dangerous and unpleasant sputtering when you put it in the skillet.

Step 3: Pan Fry Your Tofu. The optimum pan for this job is a cast iron skillet.  It holds a ton of heat, and develops a lovely non-sticking surface. You will cook this over very high heat, in a flat bottomed skillet because it allows the tofu to stay in contact with the hot surface for longer periods of time.

So: preheat that skillet over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of a neutral vegetable oil that can tolerate a high smoke point, like sunflower oil or canola oil. Spread over the surface of the pan. Pat the tofu dry one more time and put it in the skillet it in a single layer, with plenty of room around each piece. Don’t crowd the pan, or the heat will drop too much and the tofu will steam, not brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches if it’s too crowded.
Cook on one side until it is deeply golden brown, then flip. If you are doing cubes, it becomes impractical to get all sides, so instead you’ll just toss them every minute or so and hope to get most of them.  When both sides are done, remove to a plate. Don’t add the vegetables and sauce on top of the tofu. It will ruin the crust. Instead, remove the tofu from the pan, do your vegetables, then add the tofu back just in time to marry with the sauce.

Zucchini Latkes

I know what you are thinking…. zucchini latkes?? When you think of Chanukah, typically most people are thinking of potato latke. But really, what is the origin of potato latke and who said that we need to just eat potato latke for Chanukah. Well, we don’t!

Potato latkes has its origin among Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, where potatoes grew in abundance. Consequently the potato latke became the quintessential Chanukah dish commemorating the little olive oil that the Jews found in the holy temple in Jerusalem after its desecration. Mizrachi (Eastern or Asian origin) Jews- of which I am,  eat a variation of latkes- mainly, but not exclusively consisting of any of the following: spinach, cauliflower, leeks or zucchini.  It really depends from which country you come from and what grows indigenous there. Nice to know that they were eating to the seasons and cooking with what is grown locally.  Makes sense, right?
Yet, there are more traditions behind the “Festival of Lights.”

The eating of dairy foods amongst some Jews is another custom and has its roots in the story of Judith- the ultimate feminist. Judith was a pious woman who had a plan to save the Jews by pretending to surrender to an Assyrian general, Holofernes, who led his army in the 2nd century BCE to conquer over the Jews so that he could be exalted. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was sieged and the Jews could not practice their religion. Judith used her beauty and charm to ingratiate herself onto Holofernes. She brought him her home made cheese and wine (nothing like food to a mans stomach) and went back to his tent.

Judith hand fed Holofernes her cheese and wine until he fell asleep. She managed to stop him from his terrible acts so that the Jews could recapture their Holy Temple and rededicate themselves to their holy services. The first order of business was to light the menorah in the temple, but very little oil was found and would only last one day. The miracle of Chanukah was that the little vile of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted 8 days.



It is for this reason that we eat foods fried in oil (typically olive oil) and eat dairy to pay hommage to a brave woman who wooed a dangerous general with her cheese!


These zucchini fritters inculcate the story of Chanukah with green rope like strands sizzled in olive oil commemorating the miracle of the oil and has a touch of parmesan to honor the ultimate feminist Judith for her courageous acts. For an extra punch, I suggest dipping the fritters into a salsa which adds a delicate piquancy to these light zucchini fritters. 

Makes 12 fritters
Ingredients
3 1/2 cups zucchini, grated through a food processor fitted with a metal blade
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons All Purpose Gluten Free flour (or regular flour if you are not GF)
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

Directions

  1. Squeeze the zucchini in a dish towel to remove an excess water, then combine with Parmesan, eggs, flour and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat enough oil to cover the base of a large frying pan. Add 2 tablespoons of the mixture for each fritter and cook 3-4 at a time. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with a spoonful of salsa.

Zucchini & Mushroom Salad in Chili Lime Dressing

Just came back from Europe- was in Amsterdam and Berlin. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with over 100 canals where homes- as old as from the 1600’s were built on the canals. Amsterdam was not always a city of canals- it’s reclaimed land from the ocean. To keep up with the growing demand of the ever growing population during the Golden Ages, Amsterdam had to build out.

Berlin….. is another story. Trying to encapsulate the feeling of Berlin is a bit difficult. It’s not a particularly beautiful city- there is a certain dreary feeling. After WW II, the U.S. flattened most of the city. So what remains are some historical places- in German called PLATZ. The University where Albert Einstein went to college is still a sought after university. All the statues are still intact. Sadly, the largest synagogue in Germany was burnt down, but what does remain is the facade and inside in a museum of what was. Most of the city has been built up and parts of it look like a throw back to the 1950’s.

So I came home this past Friday which is after my CSA delivery on Wednesday. When ever I go away, I make sure to arrange for my share to be donated. As I came home to no food from my summer crop, I had to scrape a meal together with the little food I had left in the fridge. The next day, I ran into a friend of mine- Phil who lives in Kings Point and has a large lush property with tennis courts and along the tennis courts he grows zucchini. If you have ever grown zucchini then you know when it comes in- it really come in. The garden gets taken over by these large yellow flowers that look like they have given birth to zucchinis. So Phil generously offered that I come by and do my shopping. That’s where this salad comes in….

This summer salad harmonizes sour and spicy flavors into a burst of freshness. The cilantro is aromatic and brightens the mild flavor of zucchini and mushrooms. An ideal and easy dish to prepare when there is a plethora of zucchini popping up in your local market, which is just about to come. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and enjoyed over the course of a day or two. This recipe comes from one of my most favorite vegetarian cookbooks, 15- Minute Vegetarian by Sasann Geiskpf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

3 zucchinis
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
½ red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Dressing
¼ cup freshly squeezed limes (3 limes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
Ground Pepper to taste

Instructions

1 Slice each zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut the halves crosswise into ½ inch slices.
2 Place a steamer basket into a large saucepan. Fill the pot with enough water so that is just barely reaches the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add zucchini and cover. Steam for 5 minutes or until tender crisp.
3 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper until emulsified.
4 In a medium bowl, place the mushrooms, zucchini, and onion, and toss. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables, sprinkle the cilantro and toss to combine.


Stuffed Zucchini Boats with melted chedder (Gluten Free)




This is the time of year, right in the peak of #summer where #zucchini is just popping up everywhere. It’s in the farmers markets, super markets, back yard growing as intrusively as weeds and of course my CSA. You see the only problem with zucchini is that when it comes…. it really comes. This past week I received 6 zucchinis in the share, and last week received another 6, so what do we do with all this zucchini?? Don’t get me wrong, I love this low calorie vegetable but how much can you eat in a week??


Well that’s where this stuffed zucchini boats come in. This recipe is delicious and easy to prepare that you will not be able to stop eating them and I highly suggest you invite some friends to enjoy it with you. They will wish that you had even more zucchini. It almosts tastes like a Zucchini lasagna with the cheesy crust and moist stuffing except with half the preparation time.


Imagine that, a green homely tasteless vegetable has been turned into a cheesy tasty melt in your mouth boat. Zucchini lends itself beautifully to stuffing. But, more importantly, it allows one to replace a starchy vegetable, like potatoes which is very high in carbohydrates with a low-carb vegetable. Guilt free, you can eat as many of these boats as you desire.

This recipe comes from Sara Finkel, Jewish cookbook author from her latest culinary collection Simply Delicious.


Serves 8

Ingredients


4 medium zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large onion, diced
4–5 tablespoons oil
1 cup Gluten Free Buckwheat flakes, crushed
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 red or green pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut zucchini in half, lengthwise, and scoop out insides with a spoon, leaving a ¼-inch shell. Sprinkle zucchini shells lightly with ¼ teaspoon salt.
  2. Dice scooped insides and set aside.
  3. In a skillet, saute onion in 2 tablespoons oil. Remove from heat and mix with diced zucchini, crushed buckwheat flakes, 2/3 of the shredded cheese, red or green pepper, remaining salt, and pepper.
  4. Fill zucchini shells with mixture. Drizzle about a teaspoon of oil on top of each one. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese and place in a baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the baking dish. Cover and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 40–45 minutes until tender. Remove cover for last 15 minutes of baking.