A zucchini mint fritter, & a goat cheese giveaway!

Sometimes, parenting feels like being an optimistic, wild, very patient gardener (as all gardeners must be), just walking across a fertile field and throwing seeds out there, trusting something good will grow. Or something useful. We don’t know what will grow first, or when, or how.

And so last night, Pablo was being particularly charming by saying ‘merci’ to us every time we handed him something, and absolutely sensing this little inner satisfaction any parent probably feels when they hear their kid say “thank you” spontaneously. As if it were proof of good parenting. Wish it were that simple!

Feeding off our validation, he happily went on, “Merci, maman. Merci, papa. Merci, mamette.” Then he paused and looked down at his plate (which happened to contain a warm plum chards goat cheese salad he really likes). And he said, “Merci, miam miam.” Thank you, yummy food.

It took me a couple of seconds past the cuteness factor to realize what Pablo had just expressed: he was grateful, for the food, for dinner.

Gratitude, that’s definitely one of those wild seeds to throw in the wind with no clue in what form it might grow in our children. I certainly wasn’t expecting it then. Made me feel so warm within.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do since the very beginning with Pablo, is create good food associations. Food equals pleasure, family connection, laughter, friends, interesting smells, discovery… And beyond that, hopefully, food is generosity, love, harmony with the body, with the world.

And gratitude and appreciation of a wonderful, ordinary moment of the day.

I heard the sprouts of that food association when Pablo said it. Now it’s just keep nurturing it and watch it grow more.

Speaking of gratitude, I am most grateful to Vermont Creamery for giving me an opportunity to come up with some recipes, using their wonderful goat cheeses, as part of their Kid & Kid Campaign, like the cherry gazpacho with herbed goat cheese I shared last week.

If you know this blog, you probably know that I don’t do kids’ foods. Pablo eats what we eat (or we eat what he eats!). Past 12-15 months, nothing’s off limits as far as I’m concerned. So these fritters are as close to a kid’s food as I’m ever going to get, and our whole family enjoyed them thoroughly.

I posted another fritter recipe last year and was so surprised at the response it got! People really like fritters! These zucchini mint goat cheese fritters are not only good, they’re good for you (thank you, coconut oil!), and they’re easy… But I shall rest my case now, because I bet I had you at “fritters” 😉

And with one treat comes another: presenting now my first giveaway! So, for a chance to win a Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery gift basket, with three different kinds of goat cheese and some vanilla crème fraîche, use the Rafflecopter tool below to enter in a variety of ways. The giveaway ends next Friday night.

And scroll below for the fritter recipe!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Zucchini mint goat cheese fritters, with smoked salmon, dill crown & red pepper creamy goat cheese garnish

Makes about 10 fritters

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 15 min approx

Age for babies: 10-12 months, great finger food.

1 pound of zucchini
1 tsp coarse salt
1 onion
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped mint (= 2-3 sprigs)
3 oz fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup of spelt flour (AP works too)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup milk (goat or cow)
Coconut oil for frying

To serve (optional):

10 small slices of smoked salmon
Crown dill (or dill) for garnish 
Roasted red pepper creamy goat cheese

Cut off the ends of the zucchini, wash them, and grate them by hand or in a food processor.

Pour in a bowl, add the coarse salt and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and mint. Lightly beat the egg. Crumble the fresh goat cheese with a fork.

Put the grated zucchini in a thin dishtowel (or cheesecloth), and wring the heck out of it to get rid of the excess water. Quite a bit of green liquid should come out.

In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the egg, coconut milk and milk. Add in the zucchini, chopped mint and onion and stir. Gently incorporate the crumbled goat cheese.

Preheat the oven at 200°F.

In a frying pan, melt 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil on medium/medium-high. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter in, pressing on top to flatten a bit. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges are golden. Flip them and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Cook in 2 or 3 batches depending on the size of your pan.  I had to add about 1 tbsp of coconut oil with every batch.

Set on absorbent paper, then transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 10 minutes to keep warm and increase crispiness factor.

Serve warm with a slice of smoked salmon on top, and garnish with a bit of roasted red pepper creamy goat cheese and some crown dill.

Or you can skip the salmon and just spread some of the creamy goat cheese on, Pablo enjoyed that part very much!

(The fritters keep well in the fridge, reheat in the oven at 350° for 5-10 min).

Zucchini & Mint Terrine… and thoughts on osmosis

Osmosis. The process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas or knowledge

It is a warm summer night. It’s 7pm and it’s still 85° out. We set the table outside. Eating outdoors, one of the great delights of summer. Our friends arrive, they are back to visit after moving overseas last year. A summer meal to celebrate our reunion. Grilled artichokes with shallot vinaigrette, baked tomatoes and zucchini flowers stuffed with parsley & anchovies, olives marinated in coriander seeds… I watch Pablo play and smile. He follows me from the backyard to the kitchen and back, while I carry the food out. He gets excited when he spots the artichokes. The boy loves artichokes. Everyone marvels at his mastery when scraping the meat off the leaves with his four front teeth. We all feel warm inside and out. It’s good to be together.

What we learn in life by osmosis seems to be much deeper and more meaningful than what we learn in an explicit or deliberate way. When we learn osmotically (first time I use that word!), we learn organically. Maybe because it’s a process. Or because it’s gradual. Or because it’s unconscious. And all things related to human connections and relationships, all things complex and subtle, can only be properly learned by osmosis. You don’t learn how to nurture friendships by reading a book (those who try come through as “trying too hard”). You don’t learn empathy or mindfulness in a classroom. And I guess you don’t learn cooking in a cookbook either. You learn it in the kitchen, practising, failing, tasting. It’s barely noticeable that you’re learning. But you are.
When we can find osmosis with something, that’s when we “got it”. That’s when we can get it right. That’s when things feel right. This goes for writing, for cooking, for love and friendship.

This is another area where children set the example for us baggage-ridden adults. Young children are automatically in osmosis. Their whole life is about the process of gradual, unconscious assimilation. With all five senses, exploring their world and learning, synapses going all directions. On that warm summer night, I become aware Pablo is learning so much by osmosis: the meal, what went into it. The friends. The warmth. The flavors. Artichoke. Tomatoes. And mint.

When it comes to teaching children to enjoy good food, it isn’t so much by telling them that “broccoli is good for you” or to read the labels on food packages that they will truly learn the value of good healthy eating. And all the richness of values around food in our life (the human connection, the pleasure of the senses, the enjoyment of the present moment, of nature’s bounty, etc)  can only be taught… by osmosis. Kids have to “bathe” in it. So we go pick the thyme and mint and sorrel in the backyard. We smell it. We sit down together for a meal, we savor each moment. We get excited about a new recipe. About an ingredient. We share a meal with friends to bond.

I myself have recently felt very much in osmosis in the kitchen. I have been cooking since I was a child, but only now, through this blog, a medium that is very much process-centric, do I feel like I’m truly learning. About cooking, writing, photographing, parenting, living. (I can see it now, the title of my future book, “Cooking or the meaning of life” ;-))

Back to summer night osmosis. I bring out the zucchini mint terrine I found in an old French recipe book recently. I had lot of mint, it’s zucchini season, why not? We all take a bite, and the mint just breathes some fresh air into our bones. We sit back and enjoy, with a sigh and a smile.

Admittedly, this isn’t one of those quick “whip up at the last minute” dishes (in fact, you must prepare and cook it at least a day before you serve it), but it is so delicious and refreshing that it is worth the effort.

Zucchini & mint terrine

Adapted from Recevoir paresseusement

Serves 12 people easily, can keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Age for babies/toddlers: 10 to 12 months because of the whole eggs. This has a lot of healthy veggies and herbs, it’s a great, balanced dish easily eaten with fingers.

Note: This is called a “terrine” (term usually used for pâtés cooked in earthenware, which are typically quite firm), but this is softer in texture, almost quiche-y.

4 pounds of zucchini
2 onions
3/4 cup milk
3/4 lb sorrel (or as much as you can find)
1.5 oz of tarragon
1.5 oz of mint
3 tbsp olive oil
6 eggs
7 oz bread, crust removed
A pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven at 250°F.

Peel and slice the zucchini and onions. In a large covered pan, melt (without browning) with olive oil on low heat until very soft, about 20-25 Min.

Meanwhile, wet the bread in milk and squeeze the milk out by hand, to obtain a semi-dry mixture. Set aside.

Wash and separate the leaves of the mint and tarragon, and chop finely by hand or in a small food processor.

Beat the eggs with a fork, add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

When the zucchini & onions are cooked, drain and chop grossly (not into a fine puree) by pulsing in a food processor.  Add the bread, the eggs and the herbs and mix.

Wash and drain the sorrel. Cook the sorrel in butter over low heat until barely melted, 2 or 3 minutes.

Butter generously a baking dish (earthenware preferably). Pour half the zucchini mixture in it. Spread a layer of sorrel. Pour the rest of the zucchini mixture over it.

Place the baking dish inside another larger deep dish. Cook in a water bath: pour boiling water in the deep dish, being cautious not to pour any water in the terrine, about half way up.

Bake in the oven for about 90 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the terrine inside the oven, for as long as possible (a few hours at least), so it dries a bit and comes out more firm.

Then take out of the baking dish, place on a serving platter, and refrigerate overnight (it tastes really better chilled).

It can be served with some bread and herbed cream cheese or Boursin as hors-d’œuvre. We also served it with a mâche & endive salad with walnut vinaigrette (2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, 5 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp walnut oil, 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, salt & pepper) as an appetizer. That would also do nicely for a light lunch.

Entering the August Herbs on Saturday contest from Lavender & Lovage

Delicious Dolmathes (Stuffed Grapevine Leaves)

Dolmathes, also known as stuffed grapevine leaves, are a Greek specialty. There are many different variations of this dish, depending on the region of Greece. Some prepare it with an avgolemono (egg and lemon) sauce, others prefer a tomato sauce. Some Greeks cook the dolmathes in a pan in the oven, while others prefer to cook the dolmathes on the stovetop. In this recipe Eva shows us her unique way of preparing this classic Greek dish.

For the Dolmathes:

  • ½ pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup of chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup of chopped mint
  • 1/3 cup of chopped dill or anise
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ cup of washed and strained uncooked rice
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 20-30 grapevine leaves

For the lemon sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Juice of half a lemon

To begin you need to blanch your grapevine leaves. Some grocery stores sell jars of preserved grapevine leaves, but if you are using fresh leaves you need to blanch them by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes then rise with cold water and pat dry.

In a large bowl mix together the ground beef, onion, parsley, mint, anise, egg, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, and salt and pepper.

Once you have mixed these ingredients well you may begin rolling your dolmathes. Place your grapevine leaves face down (smooth side down) on your countertop. Place a ½ teaspoon of mixture at the top of the leaf and roll the leaf by folding in the sides and rolling downwards. Roll the leaves tightly. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up. After you have finished rolling all of the dolmathes, pour about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a medium size pot and place your dolmathes (with the seam side down) in the pot. Put the pot on medium heat and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

In another small pot, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. After the water has come to a boil pour it over your dolmathes. Place a small heat-proof plate over your dolmathes and close the lid. Turn the heat down to a light-to-medium heat and let it cook for about 45 minutes. Once it has cooked, remove the dolmathes from the pot and place on a serving plate. Be sure to keep any remaining juice to make the sauce.

To prepare the lemon sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with half a cup of water. Add the juice of half a lemon to the leftover dolmathes juice. Add the flour mixture to this and whisk the mixture well. Let it come to a boil for 1-2 minutes until it thickens. Strain the mixture as you pour it over the dolmathes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve!

Delicious Dolmathes (Stuffed Grapevine Leaves)

This video along with the last two, were created without the use of a tripod (all 3 were recorded on the same day). We learned our lesson and got a tripod. Sorry for any shaky hands 🙂

Dolmathes, also known as stuffed grapevine leaves, are a Greek specialty. There are many different variations of this dish, depending on the region of Greece. Some prepare it with an avgolemono (egg and lemon) sauce, others prefer a tomato sauce. Some Greeks cook the dolmathes in a pan in the oven, while others prefer to cook the dolmathes on the stovetop. In this recipe Eva shows us her unique way of preparing this classic Greek dish.

For the Dolmathes:

  • ½ pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup of chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup of chopped mint
  • 1/3 cup of chopped dill or anise
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ cup of washed and strained uncooked rice
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 20-30 grapevine leaves

For the lemon sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Juice of half a lemon

To begin you need to blanch your grapevine leaves. Some grocery stores sell jars of preserved grapevine leaves, but if you are using fresh leaves you need to blanch them by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes then rise with cold water and pat dry.

In a large bowl mix together the ground beef, onion, parsley, mint, anise, egg, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, and salt and pepper.

Once you have mixed these ingredients well you may begin rolling your dolmathes. Place your grapevine leaves face down (smooth side down) on your countertop. Place a ½ teaspoon of mixture at the top of the leaf and roll the leaf by folding in the sides and rolling downwards. Roll the leaves tightly. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up. After you have finished rolling all of the dolmathes, pour about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a medium size pot and place your dolmathes (with the seam side down) in the pot. Put the pot on medium heat and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

In another small pot, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. After the water has come to a boil pour it over your dolmathes. Place a small heat-proof plate over your dolmathes and close the lid. Turn the heat down to a light-to-medium heat and let it cook for about 45 minutes. Once it has cooked, remove the dolmathes from the pot and place on a serving plate. Be sure to keep any remaining juice to make the sauce.

To prepare the lemon sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with half a cup of water. Add the juice of half a lemon to the leftover dolmathes juice. Add the flour mixture to this and whisk the mixture well. Let it come to a boil for 1-2 minutes until it thickens. Strain the mixture as you pour it over the dolmathes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve!

Saucy Greek Burgers : Greek Recipes

Saucy Greek Burgers – This distinctive, delicious, Greek burger recipe is made with ground lamb, and served with a one of a kind, exquisite, mint yogurt sauce recipe included. Also served in Pitas, for more Greek tradition, these phenomenal, BBQ burgers are a “Must Try”.

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Servings: 6
Main Ingredient: Ground Lamb
Difficulty Level: 2

Ingredients to make Saucy Greek Burgers

For yogurt sauce:
12 Ounces plain yogurt
2 Small garlic cloves
1/4 Teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons shredded fresh mint leaves, or to taste

For burgers:
2 Pounds ground lamb
1/2 Cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives, 12 to 15
6 small pita loaves
2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
2 small green bell peppers, cut in rings
1 red onion, sliced thin

Directions to make Saucy Greek Burgers

Step 1:Make yogurt sauce: Mince and mash the garlic with the salt. Drain yogurt in a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel set over a bowl 30 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and combine with the garlic and mint.

Step 2:Prepare grill and oil rack. Set grill 5-6 inches from coals. In a bowl gently combine the lamb,feta and olives. Form into 6 patties about 1” thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill for about 7 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Step 3:Split pitas form a pocket.Transfer burgers to pita pockets and top with tomatoes, bell peppers and onion. Serve burgers with yogurt sauce.