Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recipe - Zucchini Fritters

The first zucchini have started to appear in Berkeley's farmers market, though not in the diversity shown in the photo above (which I took last summer). One of my favorite ways to eat zucchini is as a herb-laced, cheese-studded fritter. The zucchini is grated, salted, rested, and then the moisture is squeezed. There are endless ways to flavor the fritters depending on your mood and what is on hand.

Give the fritters a try soon, or file the recipe away until zucchini season in your area.

Zucchini Fritters
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, by Alice Waters

12 ounces zucchini
2 t. salt
1 t. lemon zest (optional)
1 T. herbs of choice (parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, cilantro, etc.)
1/2 c. cheese (crumbled feta, aged goat, sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella, etc.)
1 T. rice or wheat flour
2 eggs
Pepper to taste

Weights and Measures, Metric Conversion

Grate the zucchini using a box grater or the grating attachment on a food processor. Toss with the salt and place in a colander to leech out some of the zucchini's water. Place a plate on top of the salted zucchini to help the process. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes.

Rinse the zucchini, then squeeze out as much moisture as possible (a clean kitchen towel can be helpful for this).

Combine the zucchini with the remaining ingredients.

Heat a lightly oiled skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the cooking surface is ready, make fritters using a few tablespoons of the batter at a time (it's just like making pancakes). Cook on one side until light brown, then flip and cook the other side.

Serve plain or with an appropriate accompaniment -- try diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, a dollop of thick yogurt with Greek flavors, some tomatillo salsa with a cilantro-flavored fritter.

Random link from the archive: Oak Tree Galls

Technorati tags: vegetarian : Food

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Recipe: Lemon Verbena Lemonade

With summer approaching, we are entering lemonade season. A glass of lemonade is a welcome drink most times of the year, of course, but there is something about drinking fresh lemonade from a dew-coated glass on a hot day that makes it even better.

My standard lemonade is whole lemon lemonade , a recipe I found in Cook's Illustrated. The lemon juice is extracted by mashing thin slices of whole lemon with sugar before adding the water, a technique that releases the oils from the zest and makes an intense and complex drink.

Lemonade can also be infused with herbs. Lemon verbena (Lippia triphyllo, in the same family as Mexican oregano, Lippia graveolens) is a great choice for its floral aroma and delicate flavor. To extract flavor and aromatic compounds from the leaves, I steep them in mixture of hot water and sugar for at least ten minutes (this also helps to dissolve the sugar), let it cool, then add lemon juice to the "tea syrup" to complete the recipe. A recipe is below.

One of the more delicious appearances of lemon verbena is in a chocolate ganache made by San Francisco-chocolatier Michael Recchiuti (available by mail or at his Ferry Building shop).

Lemon Verbena Lemonade

2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon verbena leaves (about 10-15)
4 T. lemon juice

Make the lemon verbena syrup:
Bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add the sugar and lemon verbena leaves. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let it steep for 10 or more minutes. Pour through a strainer and chill.

Finish and serve:
When the verbena syrup is chilled, add the lemon juice, stir, and serve.

The ratios of the ingredients can easily be adapted to your preferences.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Random link from the archive: Oak Tree Galls

Technorati tags: vegetarian : Food

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Edible San Francisco has my numbers - Abalone and Dungeness Crab harvests

Photo of abalone from nugunslinger the classic's flickr accountFor the latest issue of Edible San Francisco -- "The Fish Issue" -- I contributed some interesting and revealing statistics about seafood in general and abalone in particular. For example, about one-third of the wild fish harvest is used to make animal and fish feed (the source of this figure is at the bottom of the post). The fish are generally ground up, mixed with other ingredients to make pellets or a granular substance, then fed to farmed fish, hogs, chickens and other animals.

The abalone numbers are an 'infobox' in an article about abalone farming by Marcia Gagliardi (author of the Tablehopper e-newsletter). Marcia writes about abalone biology, recreational abalone hunting, and the abalone farming industry. It turns out that farmed abalone is one of the few aquaculture products that you can feel good about eating -- it's a low input animal (they eat kelp, which grow at alarmingly fast rates, perhaps a foot a day) and produce little waste. But it takes a long time for abalone to reach market size, so when they appear on restaurant menus or fish counters the price can be as shocking as the water off the coast of Mendocino County (one of the best places to hunt for abalone).

Numbers alone do a decent job of showing how California abalone stocks were destroyed in the 20th century, but a graph is much clearer (worth a thousand numbers, so to speak). The figure below shows the annual commercial harvest from 1920 to 1996 using data from a 2003 report from the California Department of Fish and Game. (click on the graph to see a larger version)

Graph of California commercial abalone harvest from 1920-2000
Without any regulations to slow them down, harvesters caught abalone as fast as they could, decimating the population in a few decades. The large dip in the 1930s and early 1940s is the result of the Great Depression and World War II (most of the abalone fishermen were of Japanese descent and were imprisoned by the U.S. government soon after Pearl Harbor). It's worth noting that abalone are somewhat more vulnerable to overharvesting because they spend their entire lives in a relatively small area attached to coastal rocks.

As a comparison, consider the Dungeness crab. Thanks to careful management of the fishery by state regulators, good behavior by the crabbers (observing the limits, taking only male crabs, etc.), and the nature of the crab (they are caught in traps, not hand harvested), the population is relatively stable.

Reference: "Effect of Aquaculture on World Fish Supplies," R.L. Naylor, R. J. Goldburg, et al. (2000), Nature, volume 405, pp. 1017-1024.

Photo of abalone from nugunslinger the classic's flickr collection, subject to a Creative Commons License.

Random link from the archive: Winter Salsa

Technorati tags: abalone : seafood : California

Saturday, May 03, 2008

An odd juxtaposition in the newspaper

The back page of Friday's San Francisco Chronicle's "Bay Area and California" section had an odd -- but possibly intentional -- juxtaposition of article and advertisement.

The article (first photo below) is about how thieves are stealing guardrails, signs and other metal objects from state and federal roadways in Southern California (unfortunately, the article is not available on-line at the Chronicle, probably because they got it from the Riverside Press-Enterprise. The LA Times has a similar article if you're curious to see the whole story.).

Immediately below the article is an advertisement from Aaron Metals, a buyer of scrap metal.

Aaron Metals is a regular advertiser in the Chronicle -- and often in the "Bay Area" section, I think -- so it's likely that the location was coincidental. Or perhaps the layout editor was having some fun.

Random link from the archive: Choc-ing the Rubicon