Summer Squash Fritters

Makes A LOT (I think I got 3 dozen out of this batch.)

That saying, “don’t plant zucchini unless you have a lot of friends” couldn’t be more true!  They have a way of taking over a garden. Around this time, I am usually inundated with all kinds of squash from friends trying to unload.  So when that happens, it forces you to get creative.  Let’s be honest:  How many stir-frys or pasta with sauteed squash can you possibly have?  Baking muffins or a quick bread is an effective way of using some of your squash.  Pickling them is also a great choice.  (More on pickles in the coming weeks.)  Shredding and adding to salads or sandwiches works, but so does converting them into fritters.

In our last CSA box, we got a boat load of squash and after said stir-frys and pasta dishes were done, I just threw what was left into the food processor and started adding goodies to create a fritter bursting with flavor but that was light as opposed to heavy and oily, despite being pan-fried.  Seems impossible, but you’d be wonderfully surprised.

Thinking about what to write about squash, I found that there’s not a lot of research done on the health benefits of squash, especially summer squash.  They’re not dark leafy greens after all.  Yet, they shouldn’t be ignored…how can they be ignored when they’re all over your garden or taking over your fridge?!  And, that’s a good thing because  they’re fiber rich which is good for gut and colon, and also means they’re protective against colon cancer.  Fiber aids in digestion which helps move things, especially toxins, out of the body. They also help lower cholesterol and are anti-inflammatory, thanks to Vitamins C and A.  As for minerals, magnesium and potassium make an appearance but the star of the mineral show happens to be manganese.

Manganese helps the body metabolize protein and carbohydrates, participates in the production of sex hormones, and catalyzes the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.  The manganese in zucchini also increases the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), the enzyme responsible for protecting mitochondria against oxidative stress. Finally, manganese is essential for the production of proline, an amino acid that allows collagen to form, thus allowing for healthy skin and proper wound-healing.“¹

Suddenly it seems like a good thing that these squash are taking over our gardens and refrigerators!

You’ll need:

3/4 C farmer’s cheese or ricotta

1/2 C scallions, chopped (about 3 scallions)

1/4 C basil, chiffonade* (I had some Thai Basil from the CSA so I used 2 T basil and 2 T Thai Basil to mix it up.  Super yum combo!)

1/4 C flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 C spelt flour

1/2 C Parmigiano Reggiano

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4 C squash, shredded

2 t lemon zest + more for garnish

1 t sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3-4 T extra-virgin olive oil + more as needed

To make:

1. In a bowl, add the cheese, scallions, herbs, salt and pepper and combine well.  Add the flour in steps, slowly incorporating it into the mixture and follow with the Parmigiano.

2. Add squash and eggs and stir well until thoroughly combined.

3. Heat 2 T of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Using a tablespoon to measure, drop batter into skillet and pan fry for 4-5 minutes before turning over and cooking for another couple of minutes until golden brown.  Remove fritters and place on a wire rack over a sheet pan (alternatively, you could line a plate with paper towels, but they may get soggy this way) to cool slightly.  Repeat and add oil as needed.

4. Enjoy!

*Chiffonade means to cut/slice into strips or ribbons as opposed to chopping which is more random.  Basil lends itself to this cut.  I haven’t gotten that far on the knife skills page, but I’ll get there!

¹http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/8-health-benefits-of-zucchini.html

Fig Spread

Makes 1 C

Figs are one of those fruits that evoke a sense of mystery.  Its very shape, the thread like center surrounded by hundreds of seeds in the cavity, is unlike anything else.  They’re chewy (flesh), crunchy (seeds), and smooth (skin) making them a culinary delight to play with.  They are also succulent, juicy and delightfully sweet.  Figs are known to be delicacies in their own right.

Figs have been found in myths throughout the world.  There are images of the fig tree in the Garden of Eden and it has associations with Dionysus (Bacchus for the Romans), and Priapus, a satyr associated with sexual desire.  But my favorite comes from India.  According to Buddhist legend, Siddhartha Gautama (or the Buddha!) achieved enlightenment while sitting under the bodhi (bo is a type of fig) tree.¹  I can just picture it.  That was back in 528 B.C.

What can figs do for us today?  Dried figs (what’s used in this recipe) have more dietary fiber than prunes.  Remember that fiber benefits our gut (improves digestion) and our colon.  It also makes us feel fuller so we are less likely to overeat.  According to Rebecca Wood, dried figs are higher in calcium, “ounce for ounce” than cow’s milk.²  They are also high in protein, iron (for red blood cell formation), copper (necessary for production of red blood cells), potassium (vital component of cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure) and phosphorous (works closely with calcium for strong bone development).*  And apparently, they are also helpful to those on that inward journey.  Would anyone like some enlightenment with their figs?

What to do with this jar of bliss?  Spread it on a piece of millet toast with some cultured butter, put a dollop on your granola or in your yogurt and top with nuts or get creative and let me know what you come up with!

Namaste fellow gourmands.

You’ll need:

1 C dried figs, chopped (I used about 9 Turkish figs)

1 C water

1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of sea salt

To make:

1. Place figs and water in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until they reach a simmer (light bubbling), then reduce heat to low and cook until water is almost completely evaporated.  (You still want a tiny bit of liquid…it will be thick like a reduction.)

2. Once the figs have cooled, place them and the lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.

3. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.  It will keep for 7-10 days.  (Though I’ve used it after 2 weeks with no problem;)

4. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Fruit-in-Mythology.html#b

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

* http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fig-fruit.html