Every few years I spend 2 weeks glued to the television in pure, inspired bliss. Slurping up every medal event and every moment of Bob Costas. I remember watching Shannon Miller and the USA women’s gymnastics team compete in ’96 and then prance down our narrow hallway to my own gold-medal routine. I would beg to stay up late to see bobsledders, skiers, and snowboarding. For two weeks there’d be no fighting over the remote, no turning the channel for cartoons. Everyone in the family curled up in the living room for the best competition the world can offer.
My childhood adoration has become an adult obsession. I was a freshman in college during the 2006 Turin winter games and watched every event possible. Chemistry lecture or Apolo Anton Ohno? hmm…I’ll choose gold. Every morning I updated a medal count chart on my dorm room door and hosted a closing ceremonies viewing party on my 12″ T.V.
But this photo (taken by the fantastic folks at Helios Photography) is perhaps the best example of my Olympic devotion:
2008 Summer Olympics – Image taken by Helios Photography
That’s me in the upstairs of our church watching the 2008 Beijing rowing competition, 30 minutes before I’m supposed to head downstairs and marry the kitchen partner. The Olympics and I are BFF’s. Even on my wedding day.
Not much has changed since ’08. Tonight I’m blogging from the couch while watching swimming and women’s beach volleyball. I’m celebrating gold medal runs for Team USA and a gold medal accomplishment of my own. My first batch of canning for the season is resting on the counter: 5 jars of zucchini pickle slices.
The recipe came from my canning guru Food in Jars writer Marisa McClellan at Seriouseats.com. She made her version fresh, ready to eat in 48 hours. I’m hoping to enjoy these in January just as much as July, so I chose to make a larger batch and water-bath can them. There’s a hint of lemon and just the right amount of pickle pucker – that sour, salty, savory combination perfect on sandwiches and burgers. Why not make these with yellow summer squash and have your own jar of gold medals?
Zucchini Pickle Slices
3 pounds zucchini or summer squash
1/2 tsp. lemon juice, in each jar
1/4 tsp. mustard seeds, in each jar
1/4 tsp. pickling spices, in each jar
dash of dill seed in each jar
3 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons pickling salt
1. Wash the zucchini and slice into 1/4″ slices using a sharp knife or mandolin.
2. Pack zucchini into sterile jars. Add 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. mustard seeds, and 1/4 tsp. pickling spices and dill seedto each jar.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar and salt. Stir until dissolved and then bring to a boil. Pour hot brine over each jar leaving 1/2 inch head space.
4. Seal and process in a boiling water canning bath for 10 minutes.
3 years ago today, the kitchen partner and I were married on a hot, sunny afternoon in Minneapolis. I still can’t believe how quickly time goes by, or how I fit in that dress. Definitely before butter and I became friends! After all the work meetings, appointments, and long discussions that comes with three years, I still close my eyes at night honestly believing we were two of the luckiest people in the world.
Isn’t he a stud? I love taking his picture at the end of a long day.
Mostly, I think we’re lucky because we grew up together and now we get to grow old together. He saw me in all of my 7th grade braces glory (ehk!). He took me to the junior prom. He helped me through homesickness in college. He was there for my first job and for our first home. Now he cooks dinner beside me and celebrates when my photos actually look like food. He’s simply the best.
Two sappy posts in two days. I must still be plugged into the vacation-brain.
There are secret dinner plans for this evening that I am not yet privy to. Hmm…did I mention he’s a die-hard romantic too? For an pre-anniversary dinner last night, I made some of the kitchen partner’s favorite local things: Sunrise Creative Gourmet cheese filled ravioli, zucchini, and creamy garlic butter sauce.
Topped with freshly grated parmesan, this dish is heavenly. I count it as a primavera sauce because the baby zucchini are almost a spring vegetable. Really though, whatever you have in the garden is amazing covered in cream sauce. Am I right? Of course I am. You’ll get that with three years of fantastic happy, merry, wedded-ness.
1. Prepare ravioli according to packaged directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Add flour, zucchini and seasonings, and stir until flour is dissolved.
3. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 additional minutes until zucchini is tender and sauce thickens. Add parsley and tomatoes and stir to blend. Tomatoes should be just warmed.
4. Place ravioli on plate, top with zucchini primavera sauce and grated parmesan. Serve warm.
Finally the weekend. TGIF. Here’s five things that have been rockin’ my world this week:
1. Boyce Avenue’s Covers
2. My new pair of SloggersThanks Mom.
3. Eating the cherry tomatoes straight out of the Little Acre.
4. Planning our mini-vacation next weekend to the Porcupine Mountains.
5. How fast our garden grows zucchini. How one little plant can make a two pounds of food every other day makes my head spin. I’m excited about zucchini production now. In another three weeks when I have a refrigerator full of them, I might be less impressed. For now, I’ve got enough new summer squash recipes to try. So far I’m thinking zucchini-glass-half-full.
Today’s zucchini fritters are a knock-off of classic potato latkes. The shredded zucchini is substituted in 1:1 for the potatoes. Just remember to press as much of the liquid out before cooking as possible–no one likes a mushy fritter.
Enjoy the weekend Minnesota!
Inspired by Duane Lengsfeld in St. Paul Farmer’s Market Cookbook
1. Place grated zucchini in a fine strainer with paper towel. Firmly press the zucchini into the paper towel to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set aside.
2. Combine egg, onion and flour in a small bowl. Fold in zucchini.
3. Heat the sunflower oil in a shallow skillet. Gently drop 1/4 cups of batter into skillet, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook 3-4 minutes or until golden brown on one side; turn and cook other side until browned, 2-3 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream.
I love meals with friends. Not in the dressed up, dinner party, use your best manners meals sense, but the bare feet, one more glass of wine than necessary, talk and laugh for hours meals. My first Eat Local, America! Challenge recipe hails from one of our recent chances to break bread and catch-up with a friend, and is a perfect choice for a weeknight meal for guests. It’s quick (ready in under 15 minutes) and cleans up some of the zucchini that are beginning to overrun gardeners all over Minnesota. Top it with a dollop of homemade sour cream or a fresh cucumber salsa and you’re set to impress.
1. Melt butter in large skillet with a lid over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onions and pepper and sauté for 3 minutes or until tender. Add zucchini and seasonings and cover, allowing vegetables to steam for 4-5 minutes longer. Zucchini should be tender but not mushy; it should have some crunch but not be raw. Remove from heat.
2. Place one tortilla on a flat skillet over low heat. Spread 1/4 C. of vegetable mixture and 1/4 c. of cheese on tortilla. Top with a second tortilla and allow to cook over low heat 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned and cheese is melted. Serve with favorite salsa or favorite taco toppings.
Part of the agreement when we bought our chest freezer last summer was that I would solemnly swear not to become a freezer hoarder–one of those folks who accumulates a stockpile of frozen carrots and squash from three summers back, who needlessly continues to stuff more on top while ignoring the rest. I promised that by the end of winter we would eat everything that I put in and would carefully follow the agreed upon rule of first in, first out. And in all honesty, eating down the storage hasn’t been that bad.
In the past few weeks we’ve narrowed it down and can finally see the bottom. For the most part all that’s left are a few bags of blueberries, some green beans, pumpkin puree, and the shredded zucchini I used to make a great quick bread. It seems like an eternity since I tossed the zucchini in the freezer. I had read last spring that summer squash freezes well if baked with upon thawing and wanted to test the theory.
I adapted the Fruit-and-Nut or Vegetable-and-Nut Bread recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, a staple on my kitchen counter. The result: one beautiful (and mostly local) tasty product from the freezer and a little more space for this season’s treasures!
Zucchini Walnut Bread
Adapted by Amy Sippl from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
4 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 C. milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 C. raw frozen shredded zucchini, thawed and drained well
1 C. chopped walnuts. Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease one 9 x 5″ loaf pan and set aside. Combine all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
2. Cut the cold butter into smaller pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until pieces are about the size of small pebbles.
3. Combine the milk, lemon juice and egg in separate bowl and beat well. Add to the dry ingredients being careful to just moisten the batter; it will be lumpy but don’t fret! Over-mixing will make for a tough finished loaf. Carefully fold in the zucchini and walnuts, again avoid over combining.
4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool 15-20 minutes on a baking rack before removing from the pan. Makes 1 very tasty loaf!