Freitag, 15. August 2014

Summer squash harvest

After returning home from my summer holidays I had to look after my garden. The courgette (or summer squash) was brimming with fruits and now I had to deal with the lot. There is something strange with summer squash, first it is all blossoming and you start picking the small delicious fruits with flowers still attached, the next time you look at it, there are several really big fruits hidden underneath reminding on the Hindenburg. What to do with those big guys... Husband doesn't like to eat summer squash that much, especially not those recipes calling for filled summersquash (filled with ground meat and baked as my mother always do), where the big ones would come in handy. Had to think about something else. This is a dish using up one really big summer squash - and hubby eats it without complaining at all:
Summer squash croquettes

Very easy to prepare and delicious too even for non summer squash eaters:
Take one huge summer squash, the peel should be still soft and the internal core may be a bit wooly but still no hard shelled seeds should have formed. Halve the squash lengthwise and spoon out the wooly core. Ground the halves to very small strips, put the strips into a bowl and sprinkle a generous amount of salt (1 1/2 teaspoon should do). Mix and let sit for an hour. Put the soggy and watery lot in a tea towel and squeeze and press until the liquid is all gone. One big fruit will result in one cup dry-squeezed flesh, believe it or not, the whole thing consist of 80% greenish water.
Meanwhile boil 2 potatoes in their jackets until soft, peel and mash finely.
Cut 2 trimmed spring onions into slender slices and chop, also chop 5 parsley sprigs finely.
Mix squash, potato mash, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 egg, spring onions and parsley, add some good pinch salt, pepper and a pinch of chili flakes. With wet hands form small paddies and deep-fry in oil in a few batches. The croquettes are ready when they turn nicely golden browned.
They taste just fine with a home made tomato sugo or a greek yoghurt sauce and green salad. They even do taste good served cooled down the other day.

For summer squash of a decent size I like to make those: Cheese filled rolls and some Anti-pasti version

For the rolls the squash should be a little bit bigger but not big as the Hindenburg and no wooly core please. Slice squash lenthwise into 4 mm thick slices and fry the slices in olive oil until they can be bend more easily without falling apart and they show some nicely brown spots.  Add a garlic glove to the frying oil and a sprig of rosemary while frying.
Let the finished slices rest on some paper towel. Sprinkle a little salt and spread a good heaped teaspoon cheese mix on each slice, wrap it up, fix it with a toothpick and put it in the fridge for an hour. 
For cheese mix:
  • 100 g fresh young goat cheese or Feta cheese or just cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, chopped finely
  • 2 sage leaves, chopped finely
  • some chives, chopped finely
  • 1 small garlic cloves, minced
  • some salt (depends on the cheese) pepper, maybe chili, sweet paprika
stirr with cheese until well combined. If you don't have fresh herbs you can use 1 teaspoon dry Café de Paris mix, this is the spice mix for herbed garlic butter.

As for the Anti pasti:
Just cut squash into slender rounds and fry until nicely browned. Again add a few sprigs rosemary and thyme and some garlic glove to the cooking oil but remove before burned. Place squash rounds into a container, sprinkle some salt, add the fried thyme, garlic and rosmary and fill up with the oil from the pan and some more to cover. This will keep in the fridge for a few days. I like to eat those on a sandwich, with cheese or snack it away as it is.

Mittwoch, 13. August 2014

My journey to france

I made a nice trip to france. This time I visited the Loire valley. Never been there before, but as a friend and admirer of gardening and history this was something I always wanted to do: See lots of historic sites and historic gardens and eat well.
The region around Tours is pretty perfect for those kinds of interests.
It was a little bit exhausting because we started each day at 8:30 a.m and returned around 7:30 p.m. We were visting castles, gardens, museums, vineyards, market places, cathedrals, monestaries and so on.
We even ate at a convent (St.Martin, Tours) where nuns prepared us a perfect french meal, best dinner we had on our journey, starting with fresh melon and wine soaked raisins, pork stewed with olives and a rice bowl with egg plant and summer squash (baked with cheese). Delicious home cooking. The other dinners were good too with several kind of different stews, cheese plates, salads and desserts. But this one was special.
As for castles for example: we visited Villandry a famous castle and garden. What made the difference, most of the ornamental plants were vegetables, amazingly beautiful.

On our journey we had some picknicks too, betweem visiting castles or cathedrals and walking around a lot:
We visited a mushroom farm and had a mushrooms taste testing: Mushrooms were raised in caves in the hills..

We also visited a vineyard and had a taste testing on sparkling wine after we visited the winery.
Been to the castle Chenonceau too - I especially liked the gardens - here the vegetable/kitchen garden
And the kitchen of the castle - whereas the castle was a beauty on its own, it is rare to find a good historical kitchen, see the rotation unit for the grill, Iwas so exited...

We visited Blois (yes I have seen the house of magic and the castle) but here is Leonardo da Vinci's garden located besides his latest home!!! Now this is something. There was a really interesting exhibiton on Renaissance garden architecture at Blois castle at the moment which I visited too:
I also highly recommend to visit the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the parc. They did rebuild lots of his inventions.
We also visited the castle Chambord, this is the garden area with some garden houses - not the castle. I liked the combination of flowers, herbs and vegetables. And I saw the feeding of the pack of hounds which is very famous. Never seen so many dog buttocks before..

This is a market hall, one of many we have seen - I think it was in Chatres. Bought cheese, olives and dried fruits.
All in all along my journey I bought local specialities like rosé wine, orange cookies, creme caramel with fleur the sel, goat cheese, chocolates, macarons, an apron in Paris and I even ate boudin noir, fresh soft black blood pudding and I liked it. Next time I will do this journey along the Loire by bicycle. I think it is much better for my hips.