Way Too Much Squash. Way.

This morning I looked up various pie recipes, because I hear that Okara, that wonderfully pulpy by-product of tofu production, can be used in a “dump” pie to make its own crust. This was just in the service of, oh, making use of something we already have. I wasn’t thinking that we should put into use some of the SQUASH that is piling up by the boxload around here… But then I found, serendipitously? — that zucchini can be used in place of …apples? From yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor comes a recipe for… wait for it… Zapple Pie.

Is this something from the Midwest?! Remember those awful recipes for Ritz Mock Apple Pie (and I shouldn’t even include the link to that abomination!) that people used to make? This by turns horrifies and fascinates… See, West Coast people make, oh, ratatouille, with excess squash. But if you’re from Boston, maybe this is the way to do it.

Zapple Pie

This mock apple pie is a delicious way to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals.

Filling:

  • 6 cups peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced zucchini (about 2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

To make the filling: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine zucchini, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir to mix and cook until tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, mix the flour with the remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice until smooth. Stir into the zucchini mixture. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

To make the topping: Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans or walnuts.

Spoon the filling into the pie shell. Top with half of the streusel topping. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling bubbles.

Sprinkle the remaining topping over the pie. Turn on the broiler. Place pie under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until topping is browned.

Set the pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or completely cooled. It is best served on the day it is made. Serves 6 to 8.

Source: From ‘The Classic Zucchini Cookbook’ by Nancy Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman

Oh, go ahead. Throw some okara in the crust. Why eat anything recognizable?

From The City Gardener’s Cookbook, which came out in 1997 comes a better idea for excess zucchini than even ratatouille.

FUDGY ORANGE-ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH ORANGE GLAZE

This dense orange cake, drizzled with orange glaze, is always a favorite at the annual harvest banquet.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. cardamom powder
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • calendula blossoms and petals, tuberous begonia blossoms, or orange mint sprigs, for garnish; some people add miniature chocolate chips.

    Orange Glaze

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioner’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together and set aside. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk to the butter mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Fold in the zucchini, orange zest and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured bundt cake pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

To make the glaze, ina bowll mix together the sugar, orange juice and vanilla. While the cake is still warm, drizzle with the glaze. Garnish with flowers or mint spigs.

I hear you can add Grand Marnier to the glaze with some excellent results. I look forward to trying at least one of these… guess which one.

New Oven’s First Bake…

SO! The oven showed up this morning at 8:30, and it’s all sparkly, sleek, and wonderfully black and shiny! As an added bonus, of course, we have a grand total of 1 cm clearance between the oven door’s handle and the dishwasher door when it opens … and that’s only by dint of squeezing the oven right up against the refrigerator (yes, bad bad energy consumption, etc. … or didn’t you know that your appliances want room to themselves?).

In order for it to be fully “here,” however, we needed to test it. Problem was, what should we test it with? I mean, yes, it’ll cook (ceramic cooktop), but will it BAKE? So, since we had two monstrous zucchini sitting around, waiting to be fed into the vegetable drier (Okara took precedence yesterday), I figured we’d do zucchini bread. Now, let’s note that when I say monstrous, I mean that there are near-fully-developed seeds inside, which need to be scooped out before you begin.

So, a sore arm and withered fingers later, I ended up with 12 cups of lovely square-cut zucchini bits. I used our Benriner (shown to the right) slicer, because I’ve found that it does less damage to the veggies; it actually slices them, as opposed to grating them, which gives a better overall texture to most things which ask for “grated” ingredients.

This zucchini was added to flax seeds, blended flax seeds (as egg replacer), water, diced almonds, soy milk, pineapple juice, quinoa flour, whole wheat flour, oat bran, xylitol, splenda, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla extract, fennel seeds, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and … um … oh, yeah. FORGOT TO ADD THE OKARA!

Rats. Those of you who use recipes? This is why you do. This is where you can get all smarmy and say your “I told you so’s” and I’ll agree with you. The problem? I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have a recipe. I have plenty of recipes. I have two PDA’s (one Windows CE, the other Palm), each of which synchronizes with my recipes on the PC. I brought a PDA with me. It was sitting there on the counter. The recipe I was using as a base recipe was right there. You see, though, the problem? Not that I was using it as THE recipe, but as the “base recipe.” It was a recipe for banana bread. Were there bananas involved?

Smells great, though. Off to check … four loaves and a plate of muffins, all at the same time. It’s a trial by fire for it.

Context

Just by way of context, I thought I’d toss a couple of pictures up here. These are shots taken from the back deck, looking East and SouthEast. This first is Mount Diablo, with plumes of steam in the foreground.

This second is the San Francisco Bay … or is it the Carquinez bay at this point? In any event, this is looking just to the right of the mountain, at the city of Martinez across the water.

So, enough of the context and on to the cool links. Thank you Makiko for the detailed instructions on making Soy Milk, Tofu, and Okara! I must say that we went out about a year ago & purchased the wooden press/mold with all good intentions, after watching Ming Tsai whip up some Tofu, and we’ve been looking at that press sitting the pantry ever since.

So, today we followed the directions for the soymilk (great on its own, especially with a teensy bit of salt) … and then followed the directions (mostly) for the tofu, and have marvellous tofu sitting in the fridge right now! We used 20 oz. of soybeans instead of 16 (we had 20, ya know?), and we used 2 Tbsp of Epsom Salts instead of going out to track down anything special by way of coagulant, and it worked out wonderfully!

And, as an extra bonus, we’ve got Okara in the vegetable drier right now, getting all nice & ready to be a fiber-addition to some zucchini bread.

Slumming With the Food Mags

Let’s be clear: I hate Food & Wine Magazine, okay? There was never such a useless, flashy, pretentious piece of tripe on newsstands just begging my ‘good-life’ aspiring, faux Gucci wearing, “The Valley” name dropping, hipster chic-addicted, soul-deprived friends to buy it. One such dear one actually brought me one, and I am still completely bewildered as to… why. Oh. Yeah. For the article on tomatoes. Which the woman grows with the help of her Latino staff and has her caterer prepare for her party guests at her fabulousa Valley estates. WHATever.

But for all that it’s just another empty, soul-starving, glossy, yawn-inducing, read-in-the-dentist’s-office magazine, I did find an interesting tidbit I might have to …improve upon. It’s an eggplant dish.

Now, I’m not fond of eggplants. Frankly, they just don’t have enough nutritional value to me to bother wanting to deal with their inherent… sliminess. So sorry, but there you have it. I’ve done them in stir-fry, but since we’re keeping fat and carbs on the down-low, there hasn’t been any parmesan happening… and it’s just as well, since you kind of have to fry the eggplants first… And, since our garden seems content to produce six pounds of eggplants a WEEK, I’ve got to do something. So, I am slumming with the depressingly chirpy and wealthy foodies, and hoping to improve upon their August featured Thai Vegetable and Smoky Eggplant Salad. Almost nothing could be easier than this salad. Unbelievably, I have almost all of the ingredients just sitting around at home, growing on the deck, or fresh in the garden right now, and we’ve got a beach picnic this weekend!

  • 2 long purple eggplants (1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 8 fresh makrut lime leaves, minced, or 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 red Thai chile, minced
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Hass avocado—halved, pitted and thinly sliced (have to buy that!)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into thin julienne strips
  • 1 medium English cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Snipped chives, for garnishing
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews, coarsely chopped


Directions

Light a grill. Using a fork, prick the eggplants in a few places. Grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until the eggplants are very soft and blackened all over, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and let cool slightly. Cut the stems off the eggplants and scrape off the charred skin. Tear the eggplants into long strips and discard the seeds. Transfer to a bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the lime leaves with the lime juice, soy sauce, chile, brown sugar, garlic and lemon zest. Stir 3 tablespoons of the dressing into the eggplant. Arrange the eggplant, avocado, carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and red onion on a platter. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the vegetables. Sprinkle the chives, mint and cashews over the salad and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The smoky eggplant salad can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.

One Serving= 314 Calories, 16 gm Total Fat, 2.6 gm Saturated Fat, 41 gm Carbohydrates, 13 gm Fiber.

Now there is NOTHING like flavor in a salad, and this sounds really flavorful and unusual, even with the slimy squash-stuff… I may give it a shot. It seems like it needs something crunchy… here is possibly where a good salad goes bad, but oh well.

T-1 Day until Baking Commences! A sugar-free zucchini bread is planned; quick breads are notoriously gummy and deeply soggy if not baked slowly and thoroughly. Hard to believe we’ll be testing the oven soon! Hopefully this won’t be the last of our small purchases for home improvement…

Christmas Already?

It’ll certainly feel like it this afternoon, as I unpack 5 or 6 skeins of yarn and can get back to working on my aran-esque sweater, and can gift TadMack with some lovely plush, chunky chenille yarn. So, this week will be a week of gifts, perhaps, as the new oven comes in on Wednesday!

That said, I should be able to work for a bit, right? To concentrate upon the inanities known as writing a specification? Unfortunately, hibernation-brain cometh early this year … along with lack of enthusiasm. Sigh.

An update as to pricing of the Cool Wool: The U.S. site bumped up their prices to $80 for 10 balls (1/2 a kilogram). The E.U. site still has their individual balls for €3.95 ($5.09), and their 1 KG boxes (of 20 balls) for €79.00 ($101.81). So … let’s see … that’d make the U.S. price $160, for an equivalent to the E.U. site’s price at $101.81. Guess which site (which raised its prices in the last two days!) is NOT going to get my business?

Waiting for Yarn…

So, as I wait for my yarn to arrive from whatever alternate dimension it’s in, I’ve started a project using the forlorn greenish yarn purchased in a fit of “let’s make a shawl for this lady who likes green.” The yarn’s been sitting (three large balls of it) for about a year. We’ve cast it onto various things, and given up because it turns out to be a bit of a pain to work with: it’s cotton, and seems to be made up of a series of loosely associated strings, rather than anything so wholesome as a yarn.

So, it’s sitting there, and it looked to be the best of the bunch, as far as the leftovers go (still sulking about the expense, yes).

I cast it onto a set of single-point size 4 needles, intending to work something flat-ish like a shawl or a shrug or whatever the “in” term is for something you throw over your shoulders to keep warm. I cast and cast, up to 134 stitches. So, the thing will end up being about 36 inches wide if you don’t stretch it out at all. A goodly width.

I’m working as follows:

  1. s1, k1, *k*, k2
  2. s1, k1, *k2tog*, k2
  3. s1, k1, *k into front and back of each stitch*, k2
  4. s1, k1, *p*, k2

Or, translated into something more reasonably understood:

To give ourselves a nice edging, we’re going to use 4 extra stitches (called a selvage). These first and last two stitches on each row will be treated the same, no matter what row we’re on. They’re worked like this: slip the first stitch of the row, as if to knit. Knit the second stitch. Do whatever you’ve got to do with the row, all the way up to the last two stitches. Knit these last two stitches.
Apart from the selvage, we’re going to:

  1. Knit a row
  2. Knit two stitches together, across the entire row
  3. Knit into front and back of each stitch before slipping it off the needle, across the entire row
  4. Purl the whole row
  5. Repeat

Now is also the time to realize that at the speed you knit and with the number of stitches you’ve cast on you’re doing about an inch every two hours; at this rate, you will have to knit for about 72 hours in order to get something just square-shaped.

I hope that I will get faster. I’ve read Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears, and thought I had taken her advice to heart: I gave up holding the yarn in my right hand & switched to the left, and I knit very loosely. Now I’m beginning to see the wisdom in another of her pieces of advice: unless you like fussing over a piece forever, knit using huge yarn. If I’d used nice chunky yarn, I’d have an afghan by now. Instead, I have a lovely horizontally-ridged, lacy piece … of about 4 inches in length.

But, I must say that I do enjoy just being able to zone out until the last couple of stitches of a row. It’d be easier if the yarn weren’t so multi-stranded-string-like, but it’s still much more relaxing than the Aran-esque sweater project which is awaiting the next installment of yarn. Perhaps not as rewarding, and definitely more boring, but … more of a sedative. As The Yarn Harlot says, “Knitting has this reliable rhythm that comforts a freaked out obsessive compulsive….

Still with the yarn…

About a year ago – when it was last cold and dark and the urge to knit hit hard – I purchased a few balls of Lana Grossa’s “Cool Wool” Merino 2000 Superfein. No, I don’t know which part of that’s the product name, thank you. It’s 100% Merino wool, and, yes, super fine. It appears to have been ringspun or something (not the textile expert), and was a joy to work with, although, being really … fine, it took all of three balls to knit up a hat. While the hat’s beautiful (and monstrously huge), I don’t know that I’d go through that again just to have a hat which will be worn in front of the computer & nowhere else.

All that said, I’ve still lusted after this yarn, and thought that maybe I’d be able to find it online for … well, cheaper than the little yarn store in my neighborhood. Yes, local business, etc., but the stuff is expensive, and I’m feeling frugal with my habit at the moment. It’s probably the coming dark or something, so leave it alone! It’s a disability. When it starts to get light again, I’ll splurge and buy all of their lovely silk ribbon yarns and knit up some ruinously expensive scarves.

So, I went and did a search, and ended up at the manufacturer / importer’s site, which wasn’t much of a help as they’re in Germany & the yarn’s manufactured in Italy. So, I went searching some more, and found a site in the U.S. which sells the stuff for pretty close to a fortune. And then, with a little digging & poking, found a site in the E.U. (search for “Cool Wool”) which appears to sell it for about half of the U.S. price (my Euro / USD conversion being iffy). So, if I were in Europe, I could get a ball of the stuff for €3.95, whereas in the U.S. I’ve got to pay $7.75 if I buy it online, or I’ve got to kick down somewhere on order of $12 if I subsidize the nice grandmotherly Dutch lady a mile down the road.

If it wouldn’t make me feel like I was turning into my father, I’d contact the manufacturer and buy a huge box of the stuff. And then, someday, some relative would wonder at my sanity, as I did at the box of square Ray-Ban eyeglasses frames I happened upon in the garage one day as a kid. I mean, why buy so much yarn / many glasses frames? Creepy.

More Knitting Thoughts

So, I’m going through my various bookmarks, looking for someplace that’ll tell me how to knit a horseshoe cable (basically: cable to the back & then immediately cable to the front – no big deal). So, I end up just googling for it, and end up on DIYNetwork. And, if I want to get a good look at the pictures (which I do, ’cause the descriptions suck, as usual with anything to do with knitting), I have to turn off my popup blocker. And of course, upon refreshing the page I get a pop-up ad. From the University of Phoenix.

Now, I don’t know about you, but would you want to go get a degree from a place which advertised via pop-up ads?

My new red-heart yarn is on its way … from someplace called Wyoming, MI. I believe that this is the place which maintains that alternate dimension in which everything from the 1970’s is kept, alongside of the as-seen-on-TV warehouses. Billy-the-bearded-buffoon who sells everything seen on TV probably lives there. Be afraid.

To work with me, I suppose. Sigh.

Knitting thoughts

So, I’m thinking of doing an Aran pattern for this sweater, and have been researching stitches. I’ve found a site with descriptions of what some of the stitches mean, and another site which debunks the myth of Arans being used to identify families (or claims to). I’m particularly attracted to the Honeycomb Stitch (to the left) and to the Horseshoe Cable (to the right). We’ll see what ends up happening, though, as it appears that the company I started with (Red Heart) has discontinued the color I’ve been using … so I’m having to switch mid-way. That’s OK, I suppose, as I’ve not really been following any particular pattern, but just going intuitively. I did figure out how big around I wanted it, and how long, and have been sticking to that, but I’ve started with a varied series of stitches in a long panel for the back, and have been knitting back-and-forth joining the back panel together for the round.

At some point I’m going to have to worry about attaching arms, and making a neck, but that’s a ways off yet (using size 8 needles, with a fairly heavy yarn).

Feeling the cold on its way.

Things I Should Avoid for my Own Good

Do the lovely people at Apartment Therapy know just how much time they make me waste asking myself pointless rhetorical questions? Questions that start like, “Of course I don’t need these bloody overpriced Italian faucets. Of course not. Does that make them any less cool? Should my bathroom faucets really resemble microscopes? Of course not. Is there extraneous metal used in this design? Of course. Will it make it stupendously more expensive. Of course.”

Sigh

Design websites are EVIL.

It’s kind of like the idea that watching too much TV really screws with your psyche because everyone looks so flawless and airbrushed and pancake made-up and well-lit? Well, I’m of the opinion that there’s a truth close to that regarding the concept of design websites… too many things come together so neatly and nicely that they give you hives when you think about your own place. And don’t get me started on home transformation shows: why can’t I ever find that perfect ticky-tacky chandelier and spray paint it for immediate classy gorgeousness at MY house? Anyone else that tries that stuff, well, it looks… a bit more crafty than artsy, perhaps? Plain tacky? I dunno… Well, I’m about to get my chance to try some ‘junky to funky’ magic … my mother just informed me that she’s doing a big flea market thing on September 3… now let’s see if we can’t LEAVE more stuff there than we take away. Yeah, that would be good…