Invention of the summer

We’ve been trying to keep up with two zucchini plants all summer… zucchini bread galore, catch them before you have a softball bat on your hands, you know the drill. My friends Lark and Dan had served thin-sliced zucchini straight off the bar-b-que and sprinkled with smoked salt at a backyard dinner party last summer, and it was the inspiration for my Zucchini Bacon.

From the grill with love.

First off, let me assure you, it is more baconesque in shape than flavor, though with some smoked paprika and smoked salt, it does get into the salty savory neighborhood. The way to make it is to slice the squash into 1/16″ ribbons on a mandoline, and then just toss them with the above spices plus some olive oil. They take 2 or 3 minutes on the first side, and another minute or so on the other side. Pull them off the grill before they get too crispy, though the thin areas will start to brown nicely.

It wasn’t a huge hit with the kids, but it is nice because it is sliced so thin that most of the moisture evaporates out. The thing I’ve been using them on is sandwiches; it’s a nice additional flavor to a regular turkey or cheese sandwich. So there you have it… more bacon for you.


Baking with Weeds

Yes, weeds in the plural, dandelions to be specific. Hannah and I were out on an errand, and I was telling her about a recipe for dandelion bread that I had just read about (in Langdon Cook’s foraging book Fat of the Land – anybody seeing a trend here? However I can guarantee I won’t be diving down to the bottom of Puget Sound to spear lingcod anytime soon.) Of course she was delighted by the idea of cooking with flowers, so we kept our eyes out for a good patch. We found some huge dandelions out beside a sketchy Chinese restaurant and filled the only vessel we had handy – mom’s hat.

Back in the kitchen, the process of picking the yellow petals from the flower head was a bit tedious, but got easier as I refined my technique. I needed to get a full cup of them, which was no small feat, and Hannah lost interest pretty early on in the project. The bread was a basic quickbread, and the dandelions only seemed to add color (though a lovely color it was), and apparently also a ridiculous amount of vitamins. The flavor was pretty plain, and next time, I’d add some cinnamon, or maybe lemon zest. Fortunately we had some tasty lemon curd from the Bent family pantry, and it made the perfect accompaniment.

I’m also thinking that dandelion petals could go into pancakes or scones just to sneak in a little extra nutrition and interest from the kids, but only when I have an extra half hour to kill. The recipe is after the break.



Tomatoes in November?

There have been some questions as to what ever became of that box of green tomatoes we put away awhile back. They were all very hard and green when they went into the box, wrapped with newspaper, and when we checked a few weeks later (almost three weeks later, according to the timestamp on the photo) we had some turning red. At that point we had to do some editing, because some were also going moldy.

Well, the nice thing about a box of green tomatoes is that eventually you forget about it. Another few weeks passed, and we opened the box and found that they were all red and ready to eat. Not a nice fire-engine, candy apple, fresh from the vine in August red, but red enough to call it a tomato, look it in the eye, and maybe cook it in a sauce with some pasta or throw it on a pizza (which is what we did).

Thanksgiving came and went, and this pile of semi-red tomatoes wasn’t going anywhere, and they were starting to get dangerously soft. I had just read in Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that they dried a lot of their tomato crop, so I turned to the internet to learn about oven-drying them (as there is no sun to be found these days.)

Turns out it was a pretty easy process. I sliced the tomatoes down to about 1″ wedges, and then (with Hannah’s enthusiastic help) squeezed out the excess liquid and seeds. They were lined up on a cookie sheet and put in a warm oven (180° is as low as ours goes) for about 10 hours one day. I turned off the oven at bedtime and removed a few that were done at that point. The next morning it took another couple hours to finish the drying, getting to about the dryness of a raisin. Now I have them in a paper bag, distributing the excess moisture and drying out a little more. I think I’ll keep them in a jar of oil in the fridge.

Written by dan in: Food,Garden | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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