Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Zucchini Sticks ever

Oh my I love fried zucchini, and so does my 9 year old. Being that I was exhausted and needed a pick me up, I asked the hubby to grab two zucchini at the store on his way home and I got to work. In the past, I would simply bread the zucchini in dry bread crumbs that I had seasoned, but today decided I wanted to try a new approach. I scoured the web and looked at all the recipes and decided to do a battered stick. Here was what i did.

Slice a well washed zucchini into sticks (rounds would work as well). I made a bowl of seasoned flour, with salt, pepper and a little cayenne.

I then made the batter using an egg, some milk or half and half and a half cup of flour. I wanted the batter pretty thick, about the consistency of melted premium ice cream or pancake batter. I then seasoned this as well, with salt, pepper, a iittle "complete seasoning" and some tabasco. The first time, I dredged in the dry flour, then put in the batter, then back in the flour. The result was pretty good and the batter held tight to the zucchini, but there was just not a good coating/zucchini ratio. The next time I dredged in the dry flour then into the batter and then into the oil...this was perfect! The batter spreads a bit and creates a case around the zucchini, but there is so much flavor in the batter that I like the extra crunch I get. I cooked over med-high in veggie oil until really super crisp, added a little salt when they were draining and served with blue cheese dressing....oldest child deemed these the best ever and she has eaten a lot of zucchini sticks in her short life :)

Easy Potato Pancakes

I made potato pancakes, or latkes, last night for dinner alongside a delicious brisket in red wine. My neighbor is expecting and indicated that she was craving potato pancakes so I sent some over for her and then she asked if they were easy to make...and well, they are!

Here is the recipe I use, I tend to eyeball it a lot since potatoes come in all sizes.

I use my food processor to grate the potatoes and carrots on the small grate disk. My food processor has a chute, so I have all the shredded material shoot into a huge bowl filled with ice cold water. The water will keep everything from going brown from oxidation.

Last night I made about 25 medium sized potato pancakes. I used 10 potatoes that were medium sized and three smaller carrots. I peeled the potatoes two at a time and then would grate them...I really dislike when my potato pancakes are gray, so small batches are the best trick. Halfway through the potatoes, I shredded the carrots. You can also add in onion and grate just as you do the potatoes and carrots, but my kids don't like it with the onion. For this sized batch, I would use one medium to large onion.

Once all the carrots and potatoes are grated and are happily sitting in the water, get another smaller bowl out and start heating your frying pan. Once warm, add vegetable oil to the pan, enough to coat the bottom well, but you don't want too much, the pancakes need to crisp and fry, but not deep fry! I preheat my pan and oil on a 7 on my stove dial, and then turn it down to 5 when actually cooking.

In your small bowl, beat one egg well. Take two big handfuls of the potato/carrot mixture, squeezing each really, really, REALLY well before adding to the egg. Once both squeezed handfuls are in the bowl, add three or four tablespoons of flour and salt and pepper, stir well. I then always do a small mini test pancake to check for consistency, seasoning, etc. When ready to cook, I use my "tablespoon" from my silverware set to place two or three blobs in the pan, flattening each a bit when they are placed. Don't overcrowd the pan or they won't crisp and watch the heat. There should be some sizzle when placed but make sure they are frying the whole time, and also watch that the heat is not too high. They take a few minutes per side, you want them to get nice and brown and crispy. I then place finished pancakes in an oven that was set to 350 and then turned down to 275 once pancakes were made.

Keep making in small batches until you are done...then eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chicken with Two Tomatoes

Oh I cannot express to anyone how much I love tonight's dinner. It is like home, hearth and super deliciousness all wrapped up into one easy meal. I call it Chicken with Two Tomatoes, but really it is with two KINDS of tomatoes. The nice part about this meal is you can add things to it if you like, and it is yummy over pasta or like we are having it tonight, couscous.

OK, here is what I do

For my family, I need 6 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I cut into strips. Saute in some olive oil with four big cloves of chopped garlic on a reasonably high heat so the chicken gets a little browned, but be careful not to burn the garlic...if you are worried, wait until the chicken is almost done before adding the garlic. Add in some sundried tomatoes, I used just about half a small jar, and I sliced mine into strips. Then add basil, oregano, salt and pepper to your taste...fresh is best, but dried will work here too. Once the chicken is cooked through, turn the heat off, and add a handful or two of cherry or grape tomatoes that have been sliced in half. The heat from the pan will help warm the tomatoes, but won't make them super mushy. Once the chicken is cooked and tomatoes in, I then make the couscous (or pasta). When the couscous is done and ready to serve, turn the heat back on the chicken, add a few tablespoons of butter and crumbled feta cheese. The goal is to get the butter all melted and the cheese melty and soft, but not all hot and disappearing. Then serve the chicken and tomatoes over the couscous so that it soaks up all the yummy goodness!

This is also fantastic with fresh baby spinach stirred in when you add the butter and feta, other options are capers or olives, yummy!