It’s Already Falling Apart (and I don’t mean the Zucchini Cakes)
This post brings us to one of my fatal flaws. I knew this would blow up in my face at some point, but didn’t expect it to happen quite so soon. I REALLY thought I was keeping things pretty simple this week…HA!
When it comes to menu planning, I tend to overestimate both my available time and the amount of food two people need to eat in one week. Then I find myself agonizing over how to cram two hours worth of food prep into 25 minutes, or how to use up mountains of leftovers before the rot sets in.
I’m already feeling behind because we had “leftovers night” on Tuesday, when I had originally planned to make Broccoli-Noodle Casserole. And I should mention the other issue of importance here, which is that we have a very, very small refrigerator because that’s all that would fit in our current kitchen. So the hoarding of leftovers is completely unfeasible from a space perspective.
Thursday afternoon, I had to work, conduct a phone interview at 1:00, pick up my newly refurbished, post-car-wreck Subaru from the Progressive service center, and somehow get dinner on the table in time to leave for a movie around 6:00. Chris, at one point, made the innocent suggestion of “I was thinking maybe we shouldn’t worry about dinner tonight”, which went over like a ton of bricks. What do you mean, not worry about dinner? Don’t you know I’ve PLANNED for this? We can’t afford to eat out. We can’t really even afford to go to this movie, though we’ve already bought tickets. I have a BLOG to write! And you know how cranky I get when I don’t eat. I’m making the zucchini cakes and the carrot soup. It won’t be that hard.
The Cookbook: Grazing Along the Crooked Road: Recipes and Stories – Past and Present, by Betty Skeens and Libby Bondurant, Henderson Publishing.
The Crooked Road is Southwestern Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, 253 miles of roads that wind their way through history. This is an area ripe with ethereal beauty and mountain music. It is also home to a great little town called Floyd, where we’d go periodically for a dose of hippies and farmers. Floyd hosted the only real health food store in our general area (45 minutes away from where we lived). There’s also an old-timey general store where you can see live music on Friday nights. That’s where I bought this cookbook, and am thrilled to have a memory of the mountains to bring with me to Cleveland.
This cookbook is a compilation of recipes and stories collected by the authors as they meandered along the Crooked Road, county by county. It brings to my mind the serene grandiosity of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the gentle kindness of the folks who live along it.
Libby Bondurant was kind enough to give me permission to use this recipe, and also graciously allowed me to link to their web site www.crookedroadcookbook.com. Check it out!
The Recipe: Zucchini “Crab” Cakes
Other Menu Items: Carrot-Ginger Soup with Chile Butter and Roasted Peanuts
Cooking It Up:
This meal was pretty much a series of “meant tos”. I meant to make the soup over my lunch hour, but ended up in the shower instead. I meant to start the meal at 4:00 so it would be easy to eat by 5:30, but I ended up on a phone call.
I forgot that I had planned to make my own herbed stuffing mix rather than spending $2.50 for it at the store. I forgot that the carrot soup called for a potato, and that it takes me a really long time to peel 1 1/2 pounds of carrots. I forgot that most of my previously huge stash of odd condiments (like a jar of grated ginger, also for the soup) were either used up or tossed before we left Virginia. They wouldn’t have fit in our new refrigerator anyway.
So I didn’t get underway until almost 4:30. By 5:00 I was starting to panic, though the zucchini cake batter was mixed up and the soup was mostly in the pot. I poured myself a Guinness and willed myself to take a breath. That’s the other thing about me – if I’m tense or nervous, I actually forget to breathe. Very annoying and potentially dangerous.
I have to tell you, I struggle with cakes, fritters, or really anything cooked in a pan that could potentially fall apart. This is because I’m perpetually impatient, and don’t let my oil get hot enough before adding “whatever it is” to the pan. Then, I poke it and prod it before flipping it too early, and go into full-fledged hysteria when the thing falls apart before my very eyes.
In this case, I’m proud to say, I didn’t do any of those things. And by 5:25, I had four beautiful zucchini cakes warming in the oven, and the last two sizzling in my skillet. The carrots for my soup weren’t QUITE tender, though the apple I had substituted for the potato was sending a lovely aroma wafting through my house. And while powdered ginger is never quite as good, I was okay with “making do” under the circumstances.
Then it was time to puree the soup. This is supposed to happen in batches in the blender, generally after letting the soup cool for a little while so you don’t burn the crap out of yourself during this process. Throwing caution to the wind, I scooped some of the piping-hot soup into my food processor. So far so good…nothing’s melting yet. I dumped the rest of the batch in – and watched in horror as hot broth erupted from the bottom of the food processor, made its way nimbly across the counter, and poured over the edge onto the floor (and my feet).
You, being generally smarter than I am, may have already guessed this, but my batch of soup was too large. It flowed into the unsealed center hole of the food processor, and therein lay the problem.
Luckily, Guinness in stomach, I managed to get most of the soup back into the pot, and clean up the kitchen. Chris came downstairs to check on me at this point, and I’d like to think he was pleasantly surprised to see me calmly (well, relatively) cleaning up the kitchen rather than huddled, in a state somewhere between catatonia and hysteria, on the floor, which has been known to happen in the past.
So, we only ate zucchini cakes that night, though luckily I did have some green salad leftover from the previous evening. The soup went in the fridge to be finished for another meal. And we made it to the movie on time.
Lesson learned, though knowing me, I’ll have to re-learn it the hard way a time or two. But we’re going to hear Skeletonwitch at the Grog Shop tonight, and though that show isn’t until 9:00 p.m., I think we’ll be eating leftovers for dinner.
Zucchini “Crab” Cakes, adapted from Grazing Along the Crooked Road
Shred about 3 slices whole wheat bread in food processor (end crust pieces are good). Leave some chunky pieces so it’s more the texture of stuffing mix. Spread on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle some ground sage, salt and black pepper over the bread, along with any other additional stuffing seasonings you enjoy. Toast in 300 degree oven for 10 minutes or so, or until they’re slightly browned but not totally crunchy. Stir about half way through cooking so they brown evenly.
Grate 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled (food processor works well, but a hand grater isn’t too bad either). Mix zucchini and bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add 2 beaten eggs, 1 TB melted butter, 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning, plus a little salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together with a fork until well blended.
Heat 2 TB canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Form zucchini mixture into patties about 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide, and place each patty in the hot oil as you form it. (Don’t try to make all the patties at the same time and then think you’re going to pick them up again…they’ll fall apart, I swear to you.) Do not touch the patties for at least 3 minutes, maybe even more depending on the heat of your oil. When nicely browned on underside, carefully flip the patties over and brown the other side. Drain on paper towels. If you have to cook your patties in 2 batches, as I did, keep the first batch in a warm oven on a paper towel-lined baking tray.
I thought these were tasty, easy and fabulous with just a dab of sour cream. I couldn’t believe they didn’t fall apart when I flipped them – the batter looked like it was just dying to cause that sort of kitchen drama. I’m guessing they’d also be yummy with grated carrot instead of the zucchini, so I’m excited to try that too. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Until next time,