Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes

 Here's another fabulous zucchini recipe that thinks just slightly outside the box. Yes, you can saute zucchini with olive oil and garlic, you can make zucchini bread, and you can make zucchini pancakes. But did you ever think of using zucchini instead of crab?
 I first heard of this from my brother, Dennis. As soon as he mentioned it, I began looking for just the right recipe. Well, of course, there are a million versions, and every one of them claims to be THE BEST. Clearly, the only way to settle this would be to come up with my own version! So I looked at a few different recipes, kept what I liked, changed what I didn't like, combined a few things, omitted a few others, and this was the result! Now, I'd be lying if I said they taste JUST like lump crab Maryland Crab Cakes. But, ya know what? They tasted pretty darned good! I'd definitely say they're better than you're standard grocery brand of frozen crab cakes. They're just the right texture, and between the mayonnaise, the Dijon and the Old Bay, they really do taste like crab cakes. Plus, you get to adjust the seasoning to suit your own taste. and that's always a good thing.
 So give these a try. I betcha you'll love 'em, especially if you're usually not able to eat crab or other shellfish! They're awesome!

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg beaten 
2 tbs soft butter
1/4 cup finely minced onion 
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (may add more) 
1 heaping tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
Salt and pepper

1 cup Panko bread crumbs (for dredging)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (for frying) 

 Sprinkle grated zucchini with a tsp of salt. Place in colander and allow to drain for at least 30 minutes. Place zucchini in the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather the corners together and twist the bundle so that it tightens around the zucchini, squeezing out as much moisture as possible. You will absolutely be amazed at how much liquid comes out of the zucchini! Place the zucchini in a large bowl along with seasoned bread crumbs. Toss to combine. 
 In a separate small bowl, stir together the egg, butter, onion, Old Bay, mayonnaise, and mustard. Stir egg mixture into the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and give it another good stir.
 Form into 6 patties. Place Panko bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dredge each cake in the crumbs being sure it is coated on all sides. Heat oil in a large skillet. Fry the cakes in the oil (in batches if you need to) until golden, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve immediately!

 These cakes go beautifully with tartar or cocktail sauce, just as with regular crab cakes. To make home made tartar sauce, simply mix a few tbs mayonnaise with a tbs or two of pickle relish. Easy!
Yes, I know I have two different kinds of bread crumbs listed. The seasoned bread crumbs add great flavor and bulk to the mixture and the Panko bread crumbs give you a crispy outside crust! Yes, you can clearly use one or the other for both parts of the recipe. No worries!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Zucchini Pancakes

 This is a quick throw-together recipe that is perfect for a midweek dinner, or a light lunch, or a Sunday brunch. It's an Ina Garten recipe, and as she says "It's a great way to use up all that extra zucchini." I was given a few very large zucchinis by my nephew, Daniel, who happens to have a HUGE garden, and I was only too happy to take them! This recipe immediately came to mind, and I made a batch that very night. They're perfect just as they are, but I served them with a little dipping sauce made from sour cream and fresh herbs. SO good! Come to think of it, I wonder what other kind of sauce would go well with them... Hmm... Let me know if you have any suggestions!!

2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
2 tablespoons grated red onion
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300F.

 Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)
 Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

I think the key to this recipe is the grated onion. I didn't have a red onion, so I just used a regular yellow onion and it worked perfectly fine. Just that little bit of onion flavor really gave the pancakes  HUGE flavor! Be sure to include it!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

White Chocolate Apricot Squares

 Every summer, my fabulous friends, Ginna and Charlie, throw an amazing party. It's always a bunch of great friends, great food, and LOTS of laughs. It's a highlight of my summer!! And of course, I always like to bring a delicious home baked something to the party. Since Ginna loves all things apricot, I decided to give these apricot squares a try. They're easy to make with simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. Perfect!
 The recipe is my own adaptation from one that I found on a website called Living D.I.N.K. (which means double income, no kids.) It's pretty much the same basic idea as the original, but I changed a few amounts and added a couple things. I'm thrilled with how they turned out!
 Everyone at the party loved them! (Too bad they were gone even before Ginna had a chance to taste one!!!! Guess I'll have to make more!) Thanx again, guys, for another fabulous party!
I'm sure you'll love them too. Try 'em!

1 stick plus 6 tbs butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
18 oz apricot jam
1 cup white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F.
 Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit with enough to hang over the sides of the pan. Place the parchment in the pan, smoothing it out so that it sticks to the sides of the sprayed pan. Set aside.
 In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, and sugar. Add eggs, salt, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Stir in flour. 
 Using your impeccably clean floured hands, press just slightly more than half of the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan. It helps to break off pieces of the dough, and then using your whole hand, flatten them into one even layer. Spread jam over the dough in an even layer. Sprinkle with chips making sure they're evenly spaced over the jam. Crumble the remaining dough over the chips. Bake 40-45 minutes or until slightly golden. Cool completely or chill until set.

 When it's time to cut them into squares, run a knife around the edge to make sure nothing is stuck to the sides, and then use the parchment paper as a sling to lift the whole batch out of the pan at once. Now you can place it on a cutting board and use a big knife to make perfectly even cuts without damaging your pan.

You can use almond extract instead of vanilla, but a little goes a long way. Too much almond might compete with the flavor of the apricot jam. Just sayin".
 To make it easier to crumble the dough, place the rest of the dough in the fridge while you're pressing the bottom layer, and spreading the jam and chips. It'll firm up just enough to crumble a little more easily. I like to break off TINY little pieces of dough and place them across the surface of the jam. It covers more evenly, and you still get a little jam peeking through.
 Not a fan of apricots? Use whatever kind of jam you like! Seedless raspberry goes famously with the white chocolate chips. Or how about orange marmalade for a creamsicle sort of vibe? You could also do a black forest vibe with cherry preserves and semisweet chocolate chips. It will all work!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Zesty Zucchini "Spaghetti"

 Here's a quick and easy throw together dinner that, for me, screams summer in a bowl. Instead of having pasta (since I'm choosing to restrict carbs from my diet), I decided to make "noodles" out of the zucchini! It's not exactly the same, of course, but it absolutely satisfies the craving for a big bowl of delicious and hearty Italian-ness.
 I used a mandolin slicer to make long strands of zucchini and they act as the spaghetti. Then you add some tomatoes, basil and cheese, and boom, there's your dinner. It was SO flavorful, I couldn't stop eating it! And it's something different to do with all the extra zucchini (if you happen to be lucky enough to have your own vegetable garden.) Definitely give this one a try!

3 medium zucchini
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
handful fresh basil
kosher salt to taste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
lots of Parmesan cheese (or Vegan substitute)

 Shred zucchini into long noodles using a mandolin slicer or box grater. Set aside. Add a few glugs of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for just a minute or so, being careful not to burn it. Add the can of tomatoes, salt and red pepper flakes. Add the zucchini noodles and give everything a good stir. Cover and cook about 8-10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Add grape tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Toss everything together and serve immediately.

 When you shred the zucchini, go lengthwise so you wind up with nice long noodles. Just shred the outside of the zucchini down to the seeds. If you try to make noodles out of the center where the seeds are, they'll just fall apart. You can either discard the center or chop it up and throw it into a soup or salad.
If you don't have a mandolin slicer, you can still dice up the zucchini and saute it for a bit before adding the other ingredients.
If you'd like to add chopped onions with the garlic, go for it!
 If you'd like a thicker sauce, add a little tomato paste with the can of tomatoes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Blackberry-Cantaloupe Salad

 Ok, this one is so easy and quick, you barely need a recipe. Yes, yes, I know you can throw any kinds of fruit together and call it a fruit salad, but this one has a deliciously fragrant dressing that goes with it. It's refreshing and tasty and healthy all at the same time, and it's just slightly different from the norm.
 I was in the produce market and I saw how plump and juicy the blackberries were, so I HAD to get some. Then I saw this recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and I thought "Oh! Perfect!" So here is the recipe as it was listed, but I didn't do it exactly as written. Feel free to put your own personal spin on it, just as I did. I'm sure you'll love it!

2 cups blackberries
1/2 cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except mint. Cover and let stand 30 minutes (or refrigerate, up to 2 days). Stir in mint just before serving. 

I  used honey instead of sugar, I used lemon balm instead of mint, and I only added half of the fresh ginger, just because I didn't want it to overpower the other flavors. Absolutely delicious!
If you're not a fan of fresh ginger, simply leave it out! The dressing will still be wonderful. Promise!
For best flavor, serve it at room temperature!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Eclair Cake

 I first saw this recipe when it was posted by a friend of a friend on FB, from a website called Chef In Training. Actually, I think I probably saw this ages ago, but never took note of the recipe, and then completely forgot all about it. This time, however, I was sure to save the recipe and try it, and let me just say that I would like to by a vowel, because O. My. God.... this is one of the most delicious desserts you'll ever taste! Not even kidding.
 The first thing that makes this recipe so awesome is that it requires no baking at all, which makes it the perfect summer dessert for when you don't want to turn on a hot oven. And since there's no baking required, there's no knowledge of baking required, which makes it perfect for the cooking novice. It's also super convenient, because not only CAN you do it ahead, you MUST do it ahead. So it gives you plenty of time to get everything else ready for your event.
 Now, when you first look at the recipe, you're gonna think "wait, where's the cake part?" Well, tbh, it's not really a cake. But here's the thing.. The graham crackers are layered between fluffy mounds of vanilla cream, and they get all nice and soft so you can cut through them, just like a cake. It's kind of like when you dip a graham cracker into a glass of milk and it gets all soft and yummy, know what I mean? That's why you MUST do it ahead! The graham crackers need time to soak up all the velvety yumminess. I made this for the gang and it was GONE in literally minutes. True story! I absolutely promise you there won't be any leftovers.
You simply MUST try it!!

2 (3.4 oz) packages Vanilla Instant Pudding mix, dry
3½ cups whole milk
12 oz. cool whip
2 (14.4) oz packages graham crackers

3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup powdered sugar

For the cake:
Blend milk and vanilla pudding packets for about 2 minutes. Fold in Cool Whip.
In a 9x13 pan, layer graham crackers to cover entire bottom of pan. You may need to cut and shape the crackers to fit nicely.
Pour half of pudding/cool whip mixture on top and level.
Put another layer of graham crackers to cover entire surface. Cut and shape crackers accordingly.
Put the second half of pudding/cool whip mixture on top and level.
Put the final layer of graham crackers on top with bumpy side down. This will help the top look more smooth when you go to put the frosting on top. Once again, cut and shape crackers accordingly to avoid pits and cracks.

For the frosting:
Microwave butter and milk just enough so that they are melted together. You do not need to boil it. Add cocoa and powdered sugar and blend together. This will be a runnier frosting/glaze. Pour over top of graham crackers and smooth out nicely.
Refrigerate overnight. Cut into squares and serve.

One thing that absolutely helped in assembling this dessert was using a pan with sharply squared off corners. That made it easy to fit the graham crackers in. And you should definitely cut the crackers to fit. This helps mostly with the top layer. Yes, you're covering it with a chocolate glaze, but you'll still be able to see the crackers underneath and you want it to be a nice even layer. And if you like a LOT of chocolate glaze, go ahead and double it!!  I certainly won't judge you.