Thursday, August 21, 2008
Preserving Summer / Conserver L'été
I didn’t mean to be away from my blog. I didn’t mean to leave you starring at this olive and chicken tagine, which started to go bad, for this long. August has been very busy around here. And the busiest month is yet to come, both for my kitchen and I.
I don’t know about you but since I can remember, our summer afternoons have always been filled with preserving the year’s bounty. It was a ritual, written in our book of life.
My father would bring us crates of green peppers, tomatoes, apricots and peas and my mother and I would spend our afternoons in the kitchen peeling, seeding, halving, blanching, roasting, cooking and freezing while talking about how this summer looks hotter than the others, why the cousin didn’t get married and how I need to work quickly instead of talking all the time. “El-hadra wel maghzel!” she always tells me, which means: “chitchat and distaff!”
The next day was the same: peel, seed, halve, blanch, roast, cook and freeze, chitchat chitchat, repeat! By the third day, afraid of not being able to reach the lower part of the crates and just growing tired of all these never ending crates laying around the kitchen, my mother would give the rest to neighbors and friends saying to herself that we have fairly enough for the winter. Until next summer comes along with crates, funnels, ladles, pots and wiser hands.
This year, although away from my mother’s kitchen, was no exception. Green peppers have been roasted and frozen, strawberries and blueberries were turned into jam, verbena was dried for our late nights herbal teas, basil was turned into pesto, pounds and pounds of ripe, delicious tomatoes were turned into the most exquisite tomato sauce and hot peppers were either roasted and frozen, or dried and turned into Mo’s, that would be my other half, signature hot sauce: Harissa.
Although being a North African condiment, I didn’t grow up eating Harissa that much. The rare occasions where I would have Harissa was at street vendors where they serve it along with Karentika, a chickpea based snack a bit similar to the Italian Farinata. Though it added a nice heat to the snack, I didn’t enjoy Harissa by itself. It was unnecessary hot and that was it. No flavor, no aromatic spices. Just hot!
And then came Mo, with dried chilies in one hand and tales of the best Harissa he’s ever had, while studying in Paris, in the other.
All I knew about Harissa was shattered into million pieces and blended with the dried chilies and the spices, and I loved it. I loved being wrong because my life will never be the same without Mo and his four jars of Harissa in our fridge. And while I wish I could give you the recipe of his Harissa, there is a tiny close in our marriage contract, next to the do-the-dishes-from-time-to-time-honey close, that says that I shall never give away his recipe to anyone. But you can always persuade him to send you a jar or two.
We usually eat Harissa as a condiment with soups, tagines, grilled kefta, couscous…in a word everything but desserts and salads, but this time I wanted to mix it to my usually boring squash fritters batter. Yellow squash can be very bland sometimes and the warmth of Harissa along with cumin, coriander seeds, garlic and mint add a much-needed burst of flavors to the fritters and conclude a happy ending to an intense day of preserving summer.
Yellow Squash Fritters with Mint and Harissa
Recipe: Serves 4
- 1 pound small yellow squash, grated (You can use green zucchini as well)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
- ½ tsp cumin, freshly ground
- ½ tsp coriander seeds, freshly ground
- 1 tsp Harissa paste
- 10 mint leaves, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
Squeeze the grated yellow squash dry by wring it out in a towel. (Using a towel is the best way I’ve found to get rid of the excess water, which you can use to water your plants)
In a large bowl, combine the yellow squash with the rest of the ingredients. Heat a film of olive oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. For each fritter, pour a generous tablespoon of the squash batter into the pan. Turn them over after the bottom turns golden. Cook on the other side until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve right away.
Beignets de Courgettes jaunes a la Harissa et Menthe
In Francais Please: Pour 4 personnes
- 500g courgettes jaunes, râpées (Vous pouvez la remplacer par de la courgette verte)
- 2 gousses d’ail, émincées
- 2 oeufs entiers, légerement battus
- 2 c.s de farine
- 1 petit bouquet de persil, haché
- ½ c.c de cumin, fraichement moulu
- ½ c.c de graines de coriandre, fraichement moulues
- 1 c.c de harissa
- 10 feuilles de menthe, hachées
- Sel et poivre noir fraichement moulu
- Huile d’olive
Essorer les courgettes râpées dans une serviette pour enlever le plus d’eau possible. (Vous pouvez arroser vos plantes avec l’eau des courgettes)
Dans un bol, mélanger les courgettes essorées avec le reste des ingredients. Faites chauffer un filet d’huile d’huile dans une poêle ainti-adhesive sur feu moyen. Pour chaque beignet, verser une cuillere à soupe du mélange de courgettes dans la poêle. Retourner quand la surface des beignets prendra une belle couleur dorée. Faites cuires l’autre coté jusqu’à obtenir une belle coloration. Egoutter sur du papier absorbant et servir tout de suite.