Saturday, July 28, 2018

Corn Fritters with Shishito Peppers

My vegetable garden is laden with summer crops. The lush greens are spilling over their confines, sprawling over its boundaries. Its the fault of the rain. Trailing tomato branches, bush-like basil, green beans hidden under huge leaves greet me after a short vacation. And behind the burgeoning green beans, I discover shishito peppers. I cannot remember buying them, but clearly I must've, as small green peppers lie waiting to be plucked. Shishitos are delightful, either stir fried, grilled or flash fried in batter. Some of them are spicy and other mild as ever. The fun is in biting into the peppers, taking that spicy chance. Today I plan to nestle thin slices in corn fritters. 

These fritters are a snap to make. Flour, baking powder, eggs and buttermilk are whisked together till smooth. I like the addition of buttermilk for a tangy taste. You could very well add milk or half and half. Chopped garlic, salt and pepper are the flavor enhancers. Fresh or frozen corn is stirred into the batter. Spoonfuls of batter are dropped into hot oil in  a skillet. Slices of red and green shishito peppers  are embedded into each fritter,  acting as a garnish, making pretty designs.  

Serves 3-4 as a side

3/4 cup AP Flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Several grinds of Black Pepper
2 Garlic cloves
1 Egg
1 cup Buttermilk or Milk
1 cup fresh or frozen Corn
3-5 red and green Shishito Peppers or any mild Pepper
3 tablespoon Canola Oil

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Mince garlic and add to flour.

Break egg into another bowl. Whisk well.

Add buttermilk to egg and mix well.

Pour liquid into flour and mix gently.

Defrost frozen corn and drain all water. If you are using fresh corn kernels add them directly to the mix.

Cut shishitos into thin slices.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a skillet. 

When oil is hot drop large tablespoons of batter in the pan.

Arrange a few shishito slices over the fritters, pushing them into the batter. 

Cook for 3-4 minutes till the underside is golden brown. Flip the fritters and cook again for 2-3 minutes.

Finish the batter in the same fashion, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

You can make them ahead of time and reheat them in a 300F oven for 10 minutes. 

They are best eaten warm or hot.

These fritters are light and lovely. Shishitos lend a peppery bite. Not too hot, just a hint of heat. I await the lethally hot ones. The bush is brimming with flowers and fruit and the weather is muy caliente... its a matter of time.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Grilled Zucchini with Goat Cheese and Basil Vinaigrette

Summer squash floods my miniature garden. Every morning I am rewarded with gaping yellow blooms which evolve into succulent green fingers. Zucchini is a bane, a blessing and sometimes a curse especially when you see that baseball bat hidden among spiny green leaves. Summer is in full swing and with it the garden that gives. In that spirit I grill these lovely tender veggies.

My verdant basil bush yields more than enough for a quick vinaigrette. Basil, garlic, salt pepper and extra virgin olive oil blended, result's in a thick puree. Zucchini is halved, seasoned and grilled. You could do the grilling on an outside gas or charcoal grill or very easily on a stove top one. Both work well, though I prefer the smokiness of the outside grill. Chop the grilled zucchini into half moons. Dribbles of vinaigrette coat the zucchini. Goat cheese crumbles are my new best friend. I love their soft, salty texture. They are scattered over the veggies and the plate goes on to the table. 

Serves 4

2 smallish Zucchini
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Goat Cheese Crumbles
2 tablespoons Basil Vinaigrette

Basil Vinaigrette

1/2 cup Basil leaves
1 Garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin Olive Oil

Make the vinaigrette by blending basil leaves, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil till you have a thick puree. Scrape puree into a container. Cover the surface with cling film so the puree doesn't discolor.

Start your outdoor grill. 

Cut the ends off the zucchini. Halve them lengthwise.

Coat the cut surfaces with olive oil,

Season with salt and pepper.

Grill cut side down for 5-6 minutes. Flip over and grill for another 2 minutes.

OR heat a stove top grill till smoking. Follow the same directions for grilling the zucchini.

Take zucchini off the grill and cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Put them on a plate.

Drizzle about 2-3 teaspoons of basil vinaigrette over zucchini.

Scatter goat cheese crumbles over zucchini and enjoy.

This side is so light and refreshing. It offsets the meaty steak and potatoes. We grill romaine as well. That's another story!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


The World Cup soccer semi-finals are on. No home teams are playing, just an adopted one...the Croatian contingent! Having just visited the country, I am bewitched by this region's inherent beauty, their warm hospitality, the fresh food and their love for all things Croatian. I lend my raucous vocal support to the team, sitting on the edge of my seat through the elimination rounds, hoping the team will make the finals. And complementing the cheering is some cold beer and cevapi.

Cevapi is a thick beef kebab, seasoned with chopped onion, minced garlic, paprika, chile flakes, salt, pepper and baking soda. The last item allows the kebab to retain a soft texture when grilled or pan fried. It works like a charm! Formed into thick oval patties, the cevapi are either grilled or pan-fried. I have tried both with equally great results. I use thick pita bread like the one I had in Zagreb. Pita breads are halved and smeared with ajvar. A Middle Eastern condiment, ajvar is a bright red relish made with eggplant, red peppers and chile. It adds an element of zest and zing.  A handful of arugula lines the pita, followed by a beef patty. More ajvar is dabbed on, along with sliced onion. It is game time!

Serves 4-6

2 lbs ground Beef
2 small Onions
3 tablespoons minced Garlic
2 teaspoons Paprika
1 teaspoon Chile Flakes
2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
4-6 thick Pita Breads
2 cups Arugula
Red Onion, sliced thin

Place the beef in a bowl.

Finely chop onions. Add these to the beef.

Season beef with minced garlic, paprika, chile flakes, salt, pepper and baking soda. 

Mix well so spices blend into the beef. 

Cover and marinate beef for a couple of hours or overnight for best results.

Start the grill if you plan to cook them in that fashion.

Form beef into oval patties the size of your palm. 

Grill patties for 3-4 minutes per side. 

OR pan fry patties in a nonstick saucepan with very little oil.

Assemble cevapi by heating the pita breads.

Cut pita in half. Open up the half and smear with large tablespoon of ajvar.

Put arugula into the half pita.

Nestle the cevapi over the arugula.

Top with more ajvar and sliced onion. 

Enjoy them with sliced tomatoes and a cold beer!

In my rush and anticipation I forget to take pictures. The ones that I have taken are not my best attempt. The shakes are from too much excitement. My bad. Please trust me....these taste delicious. A slightly messy two handed meal, these succulent kebabs take me back to the original Zagreb kebab. Croatia steals my heart. The food reminds me of that happy visit. The cheering begin. Onward to a World Cup win?