October 23, 2012

Herbed Zucchini Bread

There is something to be said about open-style galley kitchens.  My beautiful kitchen is complete with cherry cabinets, black granite counters, gas stove, and accents of chrome with full view of the entire great room.  It is my favorite spot in the condo, which should surprise absolutely no one.  But it has become something else for me, the place where I'm trying my damnedest to get back on both of my feet.  I got cleared to start weight bearing a few days ago and it has gotten to the point where I can start almost putting all of my weight on the ankle.  I will pace back and forth in the kitchen with my arms out, using the counter tops to catch me when I inevitably fall over.  But I'm getting so close!

This weekend, I got to take my first crutch-walk in my neighborhood.  I went to my favorite cafe for coffee and croissants followed by a visit to my farmers market on the way home.  What used to be a usual Saturday has become such a luxury and I'm so thankful to be getting back to normal.  To be independent.  And mostly, to smell garlic cooking in my kitchen again.

That fragrant perfume is currently wafting through my living room, a reward from my trip to the farmers market.  I got huge local garlic, just picked leeks, the last of the zucchini, and a lot of new vendor friends because my large metal accessories attract a lot of conversation.  Using these three items as inspiration, I combined my family's zucchini quick bread recipe with the idea from Ruth Reichl to pair zucchini and marjoram.

I basically took my sweet version, removed most of the sugar, and replaced it with melted leeks, garlic, and dried herbs.  I slowly sauteed the leeks in an obscene amount of butter to soften the texture, added finely minced and intensely scented garlic, and revived dried marjoram and thyme in the last few minutes of cooking.  I let the leeks cool (while resting, I could do things in about 15 minute intervals) and then combined it with shredded baby zucchini (seeds and skin included due to baby-ness), eggs, olive oil, and buttermilk.  After gently folding in the dried ingredients, I baked it low and slow to ensure the bread stayed moist and the zucchini was completely cooked.

As the bread was baking, the smell was intoxicating enough to draw my sister out of her room (okay, some of it was Gossip Girl).  She was certainly skeptical of a savory version of a Toasty classic but I definitely think that I won her over!  Because zucchini bread is not complete without cream cheese, I quickly mixed in some finely minced sundried tomatoes and schmeared it over a still warm slice.

I'm really proud of this bread and can't wait to have a slice with lunch!

October 15, 2012

Watermelon Cilantro Granita - October Secret Recipe Club

Inaugural Secret Recipe Club post!  This was supposed to happen last month, but unfortunately I broke my ankle and had surgery the day of my first reveal.  Oops, sorry SRC!  But no fear, my post was covered and I'm ready and raring to go for October!  Well, more puttering than raring but you get it.

The blog I was assigned is an adorable four-sister venture called Crumbs and Chaos.  It is run by Becca, Emily, Kate, and Megan and there are so many recipes I want to try!  The ladies have lovely baked goods, a focus on seasonal food, and highlight their fellow bloggers every week with their 5 on Fridays posts.  Bonus - the incredibly creative children's parties like the Minnie Mouse Party and the Spiderman Party.  I loved the Caramel Apple Cinna-minis for their tiny package of big fall flavors, the innovative Apple Pie Salsa that would perfectly pair with some baked pie crust pieces, and the supremely simple but flavorful Mongolian Beef Lettuce Wraps.  However, I don't have a crock pot or two legs to stand on so I chose something that was simple and fast so that I wouldn't hate my kitchen by the time I was finished.  Enter Watermelon Granita!

I love granita for its ease of preparation, its versatility, and (in my versions) a balance of tangy and sweet flavors.  The basic idea is to combine juice from any fruit(s), sweeten with a touch of sugar or simple syrup, freeze, and scrape (read: fluff) with a fork to create a light and airy frozen treat.  The key is to find the balance in the "base" of the granita before freezing by slowly adding the lime juice and simple syrup and tasting in between.  I chose cilantro and lime to complement my watermelon base, simple and unadorned flavors.

And you may be asking me, "Sarah, why are you doing a frozen dessert when my google reader and facebook is filled with apple and pumpkin recipes?"  Well, first of all, I made this last week when it was still 70-80 degrees out in DC so I could still comfortably wear shorts outside.  I hadn't taken my boots out of their boot shapers since April.  But most of all because it was barely fall yet.  This week, I feel like it is finally time to flood me with all things pumpkin and spice yet here I am with a granita.  Oh well, win some lose some.  Thanks, Crumbs and Chaos, for the inspiration!

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