Saturday, September 26, 2015

Zucchini Fritters


Oddly enough this blog post needs a prologue.  I wrote this blog post a few weeks ago and just failed to post it.  I guess I have a lot on my mind!  (More on this later.)

When you read this, just pretend it is August.  Although, it is 2015, and it takes little to no effort to get your hands on some delicious zucchinis...so read this post however you want and save the recipe for your next dinner party.  It's a keeper :)

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I'm really into all the zucchinis that are happening right now!  We recently made a cake (check it out here.  No seriously, check it out, it's really yummy!), a sweet.  And now I'll show you our other and more common way of handling zucchini abundance in our kitchen!

Enter Zucchini Fritters with Asian Dipping Sauce....

I like to use the big hearty zucchinis.  I'm going to grate them and fry them and they need to be able to hold it together, literally, when things get hot.




^^ Fritter Batter.  Say that five times fast :P








Zucchini Fritters with Asian Dipping Sauce

(Recipe modified slightly from Five Heart Home)

Ingredients for the Fritters:

3 large grated zucchini
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 egg
1/4 c + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 c canola oil (for your frying pan)

Ingredients for the Dipping Sauce:

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Crushed red pepper flakes
Scallions

Directions:

For the dipping sauce, whisk the first four ingredients together and serve in a small bowl.  Garnish with scallions before guests arrive!

For the fritters, after grating, press zucchini between paper towels to squeeze out excess water and transfer drained zucchini to a large bowl.  Add salt, egg, flour, salt & pepper then mix it up to form your batter.

Meanwhile, in a large cast iron skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat (don't allow to smoke).  Once the oil is hot, drop by the large spoonful scoops of your fritter batter.  Cook each fritter for about 3 minutes per side or until the underside appears golden and fluffy.  If you're doing other prep in the kitchen and your cook one side a little long, it's cool I promise, they are still good when a little extra crispy!

Transfer cooked fritter to paper towel to drain an excess oil.

If you can't eat the fritters immediately you can keep them warm in the oven on a cookie sheet, for up to 30 minutes at 200 degrees.  I often go this route because I like to serve these as an appetizer - I love a good fruit and cheese plate but if I have time I try to go the extra mile.

Another great alternative to fruit and cheese is....well, it is still cheese, but this Simple and Savory Baked Brie!  Serve it with some crusty warm bread and you will have happy friends :)

Thanks for reading!

- Charlie


Buttermilk Berry Shortcake with Homemade Vanilla Whipped Cream


Well hello there, you decadent little shortcake, you!

Fall has arrived and I decided to peruse my draft posts to clean up my inventory and I found this baby.  I was so in love with this recipe that instead of blogging about it, I made it and served it at three different dinners in one week!  (I'm aware I have a hosting problem...)  I'm certain my guests appreciated it but I was holding out on my readers...no more.

This shortcake recipe is simple and quick, with just 10 ingredients between the shortcake and the whipped cream, you better believe I'll be making these again and again.  Although berries are no longer in season in Michigan, there is nothing wrong with eating these shortcakes with a little strawberry jam and goat cheese.


Buttermilk Berry Shortcake with Homemade Vanilla Whipped Cream

Shortcake Ingredients:

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp + 2 tsp white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 c + 2 tbsp chilled butter, cubed
1/2 c buttermilk
4 c fresh berries (sliced if necessary)

Vanilla Whipped Cream Ingredients:

1 c heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional; also, I've used Amaretto before and it's delish)

Directions:

To start, cube your butter and put back into the fridge or freezer to stay cold.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt, whisking before you move on.  Use a pastry cutter to cut in the cold butter until the cubes are crumbly in the flour mixture, I use my hands and a fork to separate any butter cubes that are sticking together.  Pour about half of your buttermilk in and stir, then add the rest of the buttermilk and stir until the flour mixture is moistened.

Drop 6- to 8-spoonfuls onto your parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Keep them about the same size to ensure even baking.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes our until tops and bottoms are turning golden brown.  Let cool on a baking sheet and serve as soon as possible!  I like to do everything about an hour before guests arrive then

To make the whipped cream, in an electric mixer, whisk your three ingredients on high until cream reaches stiff peaks.  Don't over-whip, I've been there and it is not pretty.  This can be made about an hour ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

If you prefer pictures of step by step instructions with cutting the butter, these two recipes provide more photo detail:


Both are repeated often in our house!  Follow me on Facebook (here) and on Instagram @charlielbl and tag me in a photo of your creation.  I can't wait to see :)


Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Quick Trip to San Francisco


For the first time in a while, we took a plane heading West out of Detroit :)  Andy had to go to San Francisco for a conference this week so we went a few days early and made a mini vacation out of it.

Although we only had two full days, we managed to eat a decent amount of delicious food.  And as per usual, the food is usually the part of traveling that I look forward to the most, ha!  This post might have more food pictures than people or the city!

We didn't see everything there is to see but with two days that's okay with me.   Since I get insanely motion-sick these days - it is getting worse as I get older, wtf!?! - I managed to avoid getting in any vehicles while in California.  In retrospect, it is kind of a bummer because, with our limited time in SF, we only made it within about a 2.5 mile radius from our hotel near the Powell BART stop.  But, I really hate feeling sick so I'll take a long walk, up hill - both ways - over nausea.  Plus, it is San Francisco, I'm sure we'll be back!

Our first day we walked through Chinatown before it was too packed and made our way North to get some fuel before exploring.  Andy took me to one of his family's favorite places, Pat's Cafe.




We walked 2 miles to get to this meal - and I don't think I've ever been hungrier!  It was so nice to come down this side of the hill and spot that cheerful sign...






The obligatory visit to Lombard!  What a funny street!




A perfectly awful hill to practice being a warrior...


^^ I'm only smiling because we were on our way dooown the hill...














Of course we ventured into the Ghiradelli factory.  SO much chocolate.




Fisherman's Wharf


















After a little rest, I left my good camera in the room and we went up to The View Lounge on the top floor of the hotel .  Based on the lack of a photo it looks like I thought this Shirley Temple looking drink was more picture worthy than the actual view, but that's not the case!  It was a fun bar with a pretty good view and nice atmosphere but I was hungry so more focused on getting out of there!


We walked to Nob Hill / Russian Hill for dinner at Seven Hills...and yes we walked uphill the whole way.  It was so worth it though!  This place was adorable and the food was exactly what we were hoping for.

Arugula and Farro salad, with corn, tomato and feta


We always get the Tomato Braised Polpette, I don't know what it is, but appetizer meatballs are always so amazing.  They reminded me of the Polpette from Cafe Spiaggia in Chicago...


I always order the Pappardelle at Italian restaurants.  Usually it is wild boar ragu but this was a Calabrian sausage.  It was sooo delicious!


Surprisingly, the fish was just okay.  They said it would be cooked medium rare - which is the only way in our opinion - and it came out well done and tasting of the charred marks you see.  Luckily the currant-esque sauce it came with was tasty.


Since I'm basically a grandmother, we walked home after dinner and spent the rest of the evening reading kindles and drinking wine we bought from one of the many Walgreens near our hotel.  I started and finished my book this weekend, it is called The Guest Cottage.  It was an entertaining, easy and pleasant read that I recommend if you're looking for that sort of thing.  I had just finished Go Set a Watchmen and A Farewell to Arms so was in the mood for something 'easy' and this hit the spot :)

Saturday, we didn't rush out.  Like I said Andy was here for work so he was working while I enjoyed my coffee and book in bed.  We made it out of the hotel around noon and walked to have lunch in Hayes Valley at Chez Maman.  A very cute southern France themed place and the food was perfect.



I ordered the classic burger but added cheddar, egg and avocado because I couldn't decide which topping I wanted.  'All of them' is an acceptable answer, right?


Andy had "the best Croque Madame since Paris" :)



Ahh this burger was so good!  Served on ciabatta bread instead of a bun.  I loved it.



Fortuitously, Smitten Ice Cream was right around the corner!  And I tend to always have room for ice cream...



Smitten Ice Cream uses liquid nitrogen to freeze each cup once it is ordered.  The liquid nitrogen makes exceptionally small ice crystals and creates smooth, dense ice cream and it was exactly that.  A heavy little cup of creamy sweetness!


I went for the salted caramel.  I was tempted to try that sweet corn but she said it was reaallly sweet and as much as I love ice cream, I really love plain vanilla!  Salted caramel was close enough :)


After our lunch and ice cream stop, Andy unfortunately had to work for the rest of the day.  We had plans to go to Golden Gate Park and visit the Japanese Teahouse but we had to scrap them.  Instead, I went shopping with our cousin Emily at Westfield.  She said this Nordstrom is the best ever - and it was!  Our mall situation is mediocre at best in Ann Arbor, so I do most of my shopping online.  It was fun and oddly unfamiliar to see things, in person, in the store!  I scored a top from Madewell (LOVE) and some over the knee boots; I've been eyeing these but ended up with these.  Pretty proud of myself since I usually end up liking the more expensive of two options for some cursed reason!!!

Later we went to dinner with Emily, Aunt Laura and Uncle Trond, in the Financial District at Wayfare Tavern.  The decor was old timey and it was dark so the photos are kind of bad.  It didn't help that I had Aquaphor over the camera for the first picture, whoops!  Their "bread" is actually a 'Popover' (Yorkshire Pudding).  It's just a dough made of egg, milk and flour and the bread is filled with air:


This Prime Eye of Beef Tartare was so fresh and spicy!  Wow this was delicious!


Trond and Laura got the fish, Halibut & Seabass...


The rest of us ordered Chef Tyler Florence's famous fried chicken, served with a bundle of herbs, lemon slices.  It was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  The "secret" is that he bakes it for 2.5 hours at 200 degrees before battering and frying - nice move!  If I ever fried chicken (I don't) I would totally bake first too, it makes so much sense.


We ordered the Baked Macaroni & Cheese to share.  I couldn't tell what was a noodle and what was a blob of ooey gooey cheese.  It was divine.  I was only sad I didn't have more room to eat more!




The next morning I had to get up early to catch a flight home and take care of the wee baby Jules while Andy attended the conference.



See you tomorrow, my love!