Friday, August 13, 2010

Zucchini Across the Pond (Courgette, If You Please)

I just found a zesty zucchini/courgette and rice recipe from a kindred spirit in the UK. Her blog is Diary of a Mad Gardener and the zucchini/courgette recipe is here. From her rantings about slugs, I think I can learn from her battle experience against the slimy dark side.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Drying Herbs

This is our first year in our new house and it's my first year to enjoy my expansive herb garden. I am experiencing a bounty of fresh herbs and plan to start the drying process this week. Here is my game plan:

1. Wash your cut herb leaves and stems. Let herbs "drip dry" in a colander or mesh wire basket.
2. "Spin out" water by wrapping wet herbs in dish cloth and making big, bold arm circles (this is best performed outside because water will fly out due to centrifugal force).
3. Place herbs in a safe spot where water can fully evaporate. Evaporation may be hastened by exposing the herbs to a breeze in a shallow, loose basket, or a wire tray. Personally, my favorite method is to place the herbs loosely upon newspaper, inside my house, but near an open screened window. Bonus points if it's a sunny window.
4. Flip/turn herbs daily until all water is fully evaporated. For small batches, the ole tie the herbs in a bunch and hang upside down may be the easiest method. However, make sure most of the water is gone before bunching herbs together.
5. Keep turning herbs until all delicate parts are "crispy."
6. Now for storage. There are two options: 1) store as is, twigs and all or 2) crumble by hand and separate leaves from twigs, storing only the fragrant leaves.
7. Store in an airtight container. My easy method includes clean glass jars looking for a new life: old pickle jars, salsa jars, mayo jars, etc. However, if you use this method, make sure the jars are extremely clean and dry. You will likely want to wash the jar, air it out for a few days, wash it again and then dry. If the jar is not fully and truly clean, your dried thyme will taste like stale dill pickles - no one wants stall dill pickle thyme seasoning.
8. Note: if your herbs are not honestly dry, you will end up with mold in your dried herbs. Consequently, I wait until I think my herbs are dry beyond all dryness and then let them dry another three days.
9. Store in a cool, dry place. I put mine in the pantry or basement.
10. Have extra herbs? Dry some for friends and give home-dried herbs as a hostess gift. You'll be the prize of the party!

Sage advice from [pun completely intended]:

The practice of storing powdered herbs in paper or pasteboard packages is bad, since the delicate oils readily diffuse through the paper and sooner or later the material becomes as valueless for flavoring purposes as ordinary hay or straw. This loss of flavor is particularly noticeable with sage, which is one of the easiest herbs to spoil by bad management. Even when kept in air-tight glass or tin receptacles, as recommended, sage generally becomes useless before the end of two years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zucchini Kiku

Kiku is a Persian or Arabic dish that has many variations. This is a great recipe to serve as a side dish or even as a main entree. The portions below serve approximately six adults.


3 medium zucchini, cut into julienne or grated
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (keep two salt measurements separate)
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 eggs
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (commercially available ground pepper may be substituted)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 heavy skillet (cast iron is best)
large mixing bowl
9x13 inch casserole baking dish

Preparation: Using 1 tablespoon sea salt, salt cut zucchini; place salted zucchini slices into a colander and drain for 30-45 minutes; rinse and squeeze dry in a clean dish towel.

Kiku Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Using a heavy skillet (cast iron is best), saute zucchini for about 1 minute in extra virgin olive oil. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and mash up with a potato masher. Saute the onions and garlic until golden and add to zucchini. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat eggs with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, ground pepper, lemon juice and saffron mixture. Stir zucchini and onion mixture into mixing bowl, combining with eggs, salt, pepper, lemon juice and saffron. Pour fully combined ingredients into a well-oiled (olive oil is best) 9 inch by 13 inch pyrex (or other brand glass baking dish) pan. Just before placing in oven, sprinkle top of kiku with 1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Bake about 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until top is browned. Cut into squares and serve.

Eggplant Kiku Variation: omit zucchini and use 2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds total, peeled and cut int 1/2 inch squares. Mix eggplant squares with sea salt and leave in a colander to drain for about 1 hour. Rinse well and pat dry. Mix with sauteed onions and proceed with recipe except omit cheese or substitute for a hard white cheese, such as Parmesan or Romano.

Spinach/Herb Kiku Variation: omit zucchini and use 2 cups cooked, chopped spinach, squeezed dry and mixed with one bunch chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon chopped dill and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Mix with sauteed onions and proceed with recipe except omit saffron and use 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.

Recipe inspiration from Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon, pages 440-41.

The Great Giver: Zucchini

Once zucchini is up and running, get excited because this baby produces some serious bounty! What to do with all that great zucchini? Here's an all time favorite:

Mom's Zucchini Bread (the classic) (recipe credit to

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)


  1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.
Note: When I tried this recipe it was really sweet. In fact, my husband calls this "zucchini brownies"! Next time I make this recipe, I will use just under 2 cups sugar instead of 2 1/4 cups sugar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Today I am making chicken stock. I did not have enough carrots for the recipe so, I decided to prematurely pull up some baby carrots from my garden. They are TINY and ADORABLE! I cannot wait to see the rest of the crop when they are full grown! Note the root bear bottle cap placed in the picture for scale.

Sunny and Simple Pesto Ideas

There's nothing like fresh pesto on steaming pasta or as part of a delicious pizza! Also, you cannot beat pesto as a bread or veggie dip that is brimming with garden yumminess. The beauty of pesto is that you can eat it fresh or freeze it in small serving sizes. My mother and I often whip up enough pesto for the present meal as well as enough to fill the cubes of an ice cube tray. Once pesto is frozen in cubes, it can be popped out and transferred to another storage container. Presto, you now have pesto frozen in single serving amounts and you can thaw as needed!

Here is a basic pesto recipe:

1/4 cup nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
2 cups packed chopped raw herbs/greens (basil, kale, parsley, cilantro, etc. Best if only one type is selected)
1/2 cup grated hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or other citrus)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (regular salt may be used, but sea salt tastes WAY better)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. DONE and done. Serve and enjoy!

Whole Foods recently published the following pesto combos:

Classic: pine nuts + basil + Parmesan
Sunny: sunflower kernels + parsley + Ramano
Omega-3: walnuts + kale + Manchego
Southwest: pumpkin seeds + cilantro + Vella Dry Jack
Vegan: cashews + arugula + 1/4 cup nutritional yeast