Zucchini, Carrot and Scallion Fritters

These fritters are an homage to the perfect little hometown restaurant we had in our shoreline Connecticut town growing up in the 80s.  A place where everybody knew our name, where you could pop in casually for a wholesome lunch, or count on it for a suitably festive and elegant special occasion dinner.

I've been thinking a lot about food of that era lately.  As a kid I was permitted to tag along on many grownup restaurant dates, luncheons and dinner parties, giving me the chance to try copious amounts of new foods, many definitely not considered on the childrens' menu.  I remember these new tastes and textures more vividly than I do where I was or who I was with (go figure.)

But what is most interesting to me in hindsight, is that what was 80s nouvelle cuisine, was in many ways using a huge amount of the same ideas of locavore cooking now--using the freshest possible ingredients, lighter sauces or preparation to let the produce or proteins really be the focus, an overall lighter, fresher, more in-the-moment way of cooking.  The only difference being that then it seemed revolutionary and nouvelle, while today it is seen as a return to the basics.

This fritter is exactly in keeping with that.  The freshest possible ingredients, at the height of their season, minimally dressed up.  In the 80s something like this seemed very exotic, today it feels like the perfect, summer, wholesome appetizer, right out of a Deborah Madison book.

And plus...ding!  ding!  ding!...it is something to do with all of those zucchini piling up on your counters, that you perhaps might be starting to resent in just the slightest way.


Zucchini, Carrot, and Scallion Fritters
by Catie Schwalb

makes about three dozen.

1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
few turns of fresh black pepper
¾ cup of milk
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup grated, zucchini, about one medium zucchini
1 1/4 cup grated carrot, about three medium carrots
1/2 cup scallion, white and green parts, about three scallions
1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds
canola or peanut oil, for frying

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Add the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

Grate the zucchini on large holes of a box grater, or with the grating blade of a food processor. Squeeze in several layers of paper towel to remove as much liquid as possible. Grate carrots to the same size. Add both to the batter.

Thinly slice the scallions. Add scallions and sunflower seeds to batter and mix to thoroughly combine.

Fill a pot with canola or peanut oil, until it is 2 inches deep. Heat the oil to 360 F. Carefully drop about one tablespoon-sized dollops of the batter into the oil (they will puff up considerably). Do not put too many fritters in the pot at once, as the temperature of the oil will decrease too much. Also if the fritters are too large they won’t cook through by the time the outside is sufficiently browned, and will still be raw in the middle. Fry until golden brown, turning over once when cooking, about two minutes total. Turn the heat down if the fritters are browning too quickly or the temperature continues to rise.

Remove fritters with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Salt lightly while still hot. Serve warm.

Dipping Sauce ideas:

Soy sauce topped with a few teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds
Sour cream or plain greek yogurt mixed with a few teaspoons of freshly grated lemon zest





Food of the (near) Future

Despite the fact that I haven't seen but a mere patch of ground at our home since prior to Christmas, despite the fact that we still have a foot of snow almost everywhere I look, despite the fact that just looking at flip flops gives me chills, the eternal optimist in me spent the balance of the weekend ordering thousands of heirloom vegetable seeds for this year's crop at our little micro farm.

Ideally, if the sun and rain cooperate, (and the sheep don't bust through the fence and help themselves to beds upon beds of gorgeous heirloom kale, leeks, peppers, brussels sprouts, beets, salad greens, and herbs, as happened briefly on one unfortunate day in October), those seeds and their resulting crop will then become a huge percentage of our food for the coming year, and many of the ingredients that I will cook for you here.

If you are bitten by the promise of dirt under your fingernails and eating within a five minute radius bug too, here are a few of my best resources for heirloom seeds and plants.  Each offer a mind-bloggling assortment of vegetables, fruit, and herbs.  They also fiercely protect seeds of endangered heirloom varieties so generations to come will have a vast diversity of produce available as well.


Chinese Dumplings

Chinese new year begins tonight at midnight.  An integral part of the celebratory feasts are meat and vegetable stuffed dumplings.  Called jiao-zi in northern China, they are typically eaten right at the start of the new year.  Their crescent shape is reminiscent of the shape of ancient Chinese currency, silver and gold ingots, and eating them at the birth of the new year is thought to bring wealth and prosperity.

When I first moved to New York City in the mid-nineties, I had my first taste of really authentic chinese dumplings.  It was love at first slightly-burned-tongue.  More of an obsession, to be honest, as I would devour as many as I could afford, as often as I could justify.

Three years ago, my husband and I celebrated our honeymoon in China.  I had the wonderful good fortune of being able to learn a tremendous amount about the cuisine, with trips to many local markets, tremendous meals, and some cooking lessons at the Cloud 9 cooking school in Yangshuo on the banks of the breathtaking Li River.

One of the dishes we cooked in class were dumplings.  Here is one of our lovely teachers explaining how to fold the rounds of dough into the crescent shape.


So below are my recipes for both pork and vegetable dumplings.  I have adapted them through the years from what I learned in that class, what I've learned from a big assortment of great cookbooks, and most definitely from what I've learned from eating this favorite of any food I can think of.  On a desert island, these are what are coming with me.

I am sure there are Chinese grandmothers who will find unauthentic hues in some part of my recipes.  But they are as authentic as I've been able to learn through every best effort, and when I burn my tongue with that first divine chewy bite, send me back to China and Chinatowns I've loved, and make me feel very fortunate.


Each recipe makes approximately 60 dumplings.

Pork Filling (for 60 dumplings)
1 lb ground pork
4 inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
1/2 cup scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 egg
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce

With the blunt edge of a cleaver or chef's knife, smash and bruise the ginger. Put into a 1/2 cup of cold water and let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Combine all other ingredients with the pork. Stirring in one direction, slowly add strained ginger water to pork mixture, making sure to squeeze out ginger to get as much juice as you can. Discard ginger solids. Stir until water is incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to fill dumplings.

You may pan fry a small spoonful of the filling to sample and adjust seasoning if desired.

Vegetable Filling (for 60 dumplings)
(Below is a combination that I enjoy and is fresh, bright and balanced. But these dumplings are a wonderful blank canvas for vegetable fillings in particular, and a great way to use seasonal produce throughout the year.)
3 large carrots
3 scallions, white and some of green parts
1 1/2 cups packed baby bok choy
8 large fresh shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger (freeze first, and grate on a microplane for great results.)
3 teaspoons sesame oil

Grate or chop all vegetables as finely as possible and combine. Alternatively, you can chop all vegetables in a food processor, until it resembles a chunky paste. Combine vegetables with salt, pepper, ginger and sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Dough (for approximately 60 dumplings)
(You can certainly use any of the round of dumpling wrappers that are widely available at grocery stores and asian specialty food markets, but if you have a little extra time, making the dough yourself is a well-rewarded effort.)
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water

Comine flour and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Slowly combine from the sides of the well, and knead until all incorporated. Knead for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.

Alternatively you can make the dough in a stand mixer using the dough hook.

After the dough has rested, roll out on a floured surface, into a rope about the width of your thumb. Cut pieces a little less than an inch, so when rolled into a ball they are about the size of a large cherry. Keep unused dough under a damp cloth as you work.

Flatten the balls into a disk and then roll out into a circle about 3-3.5 inches in diameter, using more flour as needed. You can also run them through a pasta roller, at number 4 thickness.

(Please see video above.)
Place one circle of dough in the palm of your hand. With your finger, lightly wet the outer edge of the dough with water, to help make the seal.  Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of the dough. Pinch the top and bottom together at one point, so that it is folded in half. Holding that point with one hand, use your other hand to make one fold on one side of the dough towards the center like a pleat. Repeat on that same side and then seal that half well at the top. Switch hands so the other is holding the center point. Do the same two pleats on the other side towards the center and seal.

Place finished dumplings upright on a baking sheet lined with parchment or slightly floured.
Dumplings can be frozen at this point, by placing the sheet in the freezer, freezing them individually. When frozen they can be removed from the sheet and consolidated to a freezer bag.

To Boil the Dumplings:
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add fresh or frozen (directly from the freezer, no need to thaw) dumplings. Allow water to return to a boil and add one cup of cold water to the pot. Allow to come to a boil again and add one more cup of cold water to the pot. When the water returns to a boil, the dumplings should be cooked through. The addition of the cold water also keeps the water from boiling too vigorously and breaking apart the dumplings.

Dipping Sauce:
My favorite is:
3 parts soy sauce
2 parts Chinkiang vinegar, chinese black vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
1 part sesame oil

Mix well to combine.

Another version:
3 parts soy sauce
2 parts Chinkiang vinegar, black vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
Fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced, to taste
Sugar, to taste

A Vegetable Grows in Long Island City
The Brooklyn Grange is planting a 40,000 square foot vegetable farm on a rooftop in Queens.

[vodpod id=Video.3671422&w=425&h=350&fv=]

I heard about this project initially when taking a pizza class a couple of months back with guys from Roberta's and Pulino's.  They mentioned that seedlings were planted, and the Brooklyn Grange team was close to securing a rooftop.  The plan is to raise an acre of organic vegetables, create a green space smack in the middle of the city, have a neighborhood farm stand, and supply area restaurants with the most local food they could imagine (delivering on bikes whenever possible!).

The group is in the final week of their Kickstarter fund raising campaign.  They have just under 25% of their goal left to raise.  If you are not familiar with Kickstarter--it is a site where you can donate as little as $1 to a project of your choice, but unless the goal is met by the deadline, the group won't get any of the money pledged.  Take a peek, if anything just to learn a lot more about this important, innovative, and delicious project.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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