Squash the Latkes!

I must confess. I am a fritter fan. Fritters, latkes, call them what you will, I love these crispy, little, savory pancakes.

They remind me so much of my grandmother, though hers were made with potatoes and served exclusively with applesauce and a dusting of cinnamon. German to the core, these babies were something else. Fresh and hot from the oil with just enough grease and a sprinkling of kosher salt, nothing was better than Annie’s potato pancakes.

Made with your choice of squash, potatoes or root vegetables, my hunch is that once you get creative with fritters, latkes or pancakes, you, too, will fall for this scrumptious way to (willingly and longingly) consume more vegetables.

In the summer, I frequently make zucchini fritters with a homemade aioli or a yogurt-herb dipping sauce. Over the last five years of this blog, I have in fact shared four fritter recipes–two recipes in 2011, one in 2012 and one in 2013–so let that be a testament to my affection for fritters.

Whenever the occasion presents itself, and always during Wurstfest and Passover, David and I make potato latkes which celebrates our collective heritages with some of our favorite edible memories.
But, truth be told, I had never ventured into the world of root vegetables or winter squash.

I have seen lots of recipes for beet, carrot as well as butternut squash latkes and a few months ago I purchased a lone spaghetti squash latke at the prepared food section of Whole Foods’ flagship store in Austin–which totally opened my eyes to the true possibilities and versatility of spaghetti squash.

When we tested the spaghetti squash latke, we agreed that microwaving did not do it any justice, but in just one bite, we knew it had potential. And I knew that making them at home would be way better than this attempt. Why I particularly wanted to make them as home was because David was sorry I only bought one, so I knew we could be on to something…though we love spaghetti squash and use it as a pasta alternative quite frequently, I had never thought of using it in a fritter or latke.

As a subscriber of thekitchn.com, I remembered a recipe they featured in December (which I printed as a reminder to make the recipe) and decided to give it a shot. Adding mostly herbs, an egg, a touch of Pecorino-Romano and garbanzo (chickpea) flour, this recipe let the spaghetti squash shine and was free from gluten and grains which is always a plus.

Since I started today’s blog post with a confession, here’s another.

Of all the fritters, latkes and vegetables pancakes I have made, these are definitely my new favorite. Lucky for me, after we ate these, David said, “That was a good meal,” and coming from an-on-the-road-to-reform-but-stubborn-carnivore-who-isn’t-excited-about-another-vegetarian-meal, that is a real compliment.

(Not sure how to cook a spaghetti squash? This is the easiest safest way. I promise.)

Buen provecho!

If you like zucchini fritters and potato pancakes, get ready to add spaghetti squash latkes to your list of favorites. The trick to making these latkes crispy? Let the cooked and shredded strands of spaghetti squash sit in a colander for 15 minutes. And then, using your hands, take one handful of squash and squeeze out the excess water. You will get at least two tablespoons of liquid, which prevents the latkes from crisping up. Place squash on the baking sheet and continue squeezing until all of the squash is done.
Servings 2 generously
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet thanks thekitchn.com for this perfect recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pound spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup green onions finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
  • 5 sage leaves chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper as desired
  • Peanut or grapeseed oil for frying

Instructions

  1. To cook the spaghetti squash, follow these instructions. Once it has baked, shred the squash into "spaghetti" strands and place in a colander.
  2. The trick is to squeeze, squeeze and squeeze the spaghetti squash to remove all of the water. Grab a big handful of squash and squeeze and then squeeze again. Place squeezed squash a large bowl.
  3. To that bowl, add the green onions, parsley, sage and garlic and toss to combine. Fold in the egg and cheese, chickpea flour, salt and pepper. Toss until well combined.
  4. Using your hands or a soup spoon, place the squash in your hand and form a flat disc. Place the latke on a plate and continue forming the latkes and flattening lightly, one by one.
  5. Heat the oven to 400.
  6. Heat a skillet over high heat and add a few tablespoons of oil. Once it is hot, test the temperature by placing a few strings of spaghetti and if the oil sizzles, you are ready. Remove the test and begin to cook the latkes.
  7. Place a few latkes in the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Depending on the pan size, 3-5 latkes should fit at one time.
  8. On another plate, place a few paper towels.
  9. Turn the latkes when it is golden and crispy, this will take about 2-3 minutes. Flip and fry on the other side. When the latke is ready, remove it from the pan and place on the paper towel lined plate. When you have a few latkes on the plate, place it in the oven so it stays hot while you continue cooking the remaining latkes.
  10. When ready to serve, plate and add a dollop of aioli, sour cream (or creme fraiche), sriracha-mayo or chipotle-mayo or yogurt-herb sauce.
  11. Combine with a colorful salad filled with textures and flavors and enjoy.

Stewing Over Eggplant

Purple is my favorite color and I love eggplant.

The hostess of our recent Les Dames d’Escoffier International monthly meeting did not know either of these factoids, but she did know that I only eat pork. When she was planning the Mediterranean feast of lamb stew and couscous, she was thoughtful enough to prepare a vegetarian entree for me–and for any other “difficult” or vegetable loving members of our chapter.

I had two servings of this remarkable and richly flavored eggplant stew that night and, honestly, ever since then I have been thinking about recreating the dish at home. Or at least something like it.

Though it may not feel like fall in South Texas, it’s almost November and the farmers’ fall harvests are just beginning to make their way to the market. Mustard and collard greens, spinach, radishes, Swiss chard, green beans and eggplant are some of my favorite fall vegetables.

Since I picked up a few eggplants last week, I decided to celebrate Meatless Monday by making this stewed eggplant and tomatoes. Savory, easy to make and super simple, all you need are a few fabulously fresh and preferably locally grown eggplant, an onion, a few cloves of garlic and a can of whole peeled tomatoes to whip up this vegetarian stew that will only get better with time.

Serve over polenta or couscous or brown rice and sink your teeth into fall.

Buen provecho!

Stewed Eggplant and Tomatoes

This sturdy and hearty stew is something that both vegetarians and carnivores will enjoy. Serve over creamy polenta or another grain of choice along with a salad and dive in to a tasty and healthy fall dish. If meat is required at your dinner table, grilled Italian sausage would pair quite well.

Servings 6 - 8
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet followed this recipe found on Cafe Johnsonia's blog who retrieved this recipe from Mark Bittman's 2005 cookbook The Best Recipes in the World

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic peeled and left whole or diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant diced
  • 1 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Parmesan cheese optional garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat over medium high and then add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and season with a little salt, stirring frequently until the onion turns slightly golden and softens, about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. 

  2. In goes the diced eggplant and season again with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, stirring often, cook until the eggplant starts to turn golden.

  3. Then add the tomatoes, crushing each tomato with your hand and removing the hard nub at the top of the tomato, if needed. Stir well and season again with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the sauce begins to thicken and the flavors have started to meld, about 10-15 minutes.

  4. Turn off the heat and allow the flavors to marry a bit more as it cools on the cooktop. Taste the stew and adjust seasoning, if needed.

  5. Just before serving, check and see if the stew needs to cook a little more. My sauce was thick and the eggplant still a little too al dente, so I added some water (a cup) and let it continue to cook so the eggplant became somewhat soft but was no longer al dente. Then stir in freshly chopped or torn basil leaves, about 5-7 leaves. Stir well to combine and let it cook another few minutes so it permeates the stew.

  6. Heat thoroughly and when ready to serve, spoon polenta, couscous or brown rice onto a plate or bowl and top with the stew. Place a whole basil leaf (or two or three) on the top, a sprinkle of Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper. If using, garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

October Fresser Fest

Schumann. That was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was a full-blooded German born and raised in the small German community of New Braunfels, Texas, about 30 miles north of San Antonio. Braunfels means “brown rock” in German and was named after the city Braunfels in Germany.

Fluent in German and a great cook, my grandmother Annie taught me to love sauerkraut, rustic sausage, vinegary German potato salad, sweet and tangy braised red cabbage, pfeffernusse cookies and many other dishes that were staples in her family.

Fortunately, David loves German food, but that doesn’t mean we eat it frequently. And honestly, most of the German restaurants that do exist in and around the city are not very authentic and tend to be watered down versions of what my great-grandmother cooked and that’s not what we want to eat.

When the opportunity presented itself to attend an authentic German-centric cooking class at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, I jumped at the chance. The fact that it was taught by the inimitable Chef Hinnerk Von Bargen who hails from Hamburg, Germany, and knows a thing or two (or three) about food sealed the deal.

Since we no longer struggle through the crowds at Wurstfest in New Braunfels which occurs annually at the end of October and early November, I was particularly excited about getting to eat and prepare a wide variety of classic German favorites. All of this in honor of my German heritage. And what an honor it was.

The CIA student kitchen is worth the entry price alone and cooking in this kitchen is a privilege. An acutely well-stocked pantry and fridge, a room dedicated to equipment (pots, pans, baking sheets, colanders and more) and a pantry for serving dishes, I could easily get used to this. (Bonus with this cooking class is that they have a staff member who washes all of the pots and pans, plates and silverware. Since I do most of the dishwashing at the house, I was thrilled.)

The Saturday Kitchens Boot Camp is offered on, you guessed it, Saturdays and in just six hours, you will laugh, learn and love what you create. (To see the entire list of course offerings, click here and here.) Filled with like-minded people, our class had 15 people. We broke up into four teams which was a manageable amount and allowed us to periodically check in on the other groups and see how their dishes were coming along. Throughout the class, Chef Hinnerk would call us all together for “teachable moments” and “demos” where he would instruct on exactly what to do.

Whether it was sharing with us the two ways to cut an onion or teaching us how to extract the baked potato using a wire rack so that the “baked” potato fell into a bowl and left the skin, count on learning plenty of tricks from the professional chef throughout the day.

Though it was not a “pressure” class, basic culinary skills are a prerequisite as it made so much more sense. What I enjoyed the most was having a complete booklet that included every single recipe, even though our group only made five dishes. With three people in my group, that meant we all helped a bit with each dish though we were each responsible for one single dish.

I was on Team 1 and that included Chris Dunn, a CIA graduate and writer for the San Antonio Express-News, and a young man, Octavio, who is from Juarez, Mexico, and whose grandmother lives in Guanajuato where he has spent quite a bit of time and eaten a lot of great food. The three of us quickly knew that we shared a love of culinary arts and we knew we would work well as a team. Together, we figured out our plan of attack for each dish and then went to work.

While Octavio began to season the pork tenderloin and rub it with Dijon mustard, Chris made the brie appetizer and I got to work peeling kohlrabi and salsify (for the creamed kohlrabi). Even in professional kitchens, there are times when you have to punt and this was one of them. Because the supplier had only delivered tiny kohlrabi, Hinnerk used salsify to fill the hole. It worked like a charm and no one knew any different–though most of the people did not even know what kohlrabi was. Considering kohlrabi was a staple in my grandmother’s kitchen, I was thrilled to see it on the menu–and knew immediately that this was a dish I wanted to make.

David worked in a group with three women and he tackled the pork schnitzel and mushroom gravy. Two of his very favorite things. Plus, as the self-named grill master, he grilled the bratwursts which were lovingly made by my good friend, Ming Qian, who happens to be Hinnerk’s wife and the founder of Ming’s Thing, a very popular member of the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market.

Unlike other typical cooking classes, we really cooked. Using Hinnerk’s tried and true recipes, these dishes sang and our feast was incredible. The table was piled high with dish after dish after dish. Then we piled our plates with a little bit of this and that and all sat down as a group to savor our creations. Everything was spot on and really truly amazing.

If you belong to a club, organization or a company that warrants team building opportunities or just have a few friends you want to cook with, this class would be just the kind of thing that can change perspectives and establish long-lasting bonds. Working together toward a common goal and celebrating with a meal is a fantastic way to regroup, build harmony and allow the “teachable moments” to resonate indefinitely.

As a departing gift, you receive a complimentary tool for the kitchen. David and I went home with a big ladle and a sturdy sieve. Every time we use these tools, we’re going to think back on this spectacular day we spent cooking up a traditional German feast at the CIA and smile.

Buen provecho!

Breaded Pork Cutlet "Hunter's Style" (Jagerschnitzel)

After we came home from the Saturday Kitchens class at the CIA, David asked me what my favorite dish was. Really, everything was spot on delicious, but I most loved the red cabbage and the jagerschnitzel. The fact that the jagerschnitzel is called "Hunter's Style" sealed the deal for me to share these two recipes with you. Plus, these dishes pair well together and will make a great family meal.
Servings 6
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet received this recipe from Chef Hinnerk Von Bargen, CIA Associate Professor

Ingredients

  • 12 - 3 ounce pork cutlets trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Breading station

  • Flour beaten eggs, bread crumbs--all in separate containers
  • 1-1/5 pounds button mushrooms stems removed and quartered
  • 1/2 cup brown veal stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Chives sliced thinly, garnish

Instructions

  1. Pound pork cutlets to an even thickness and season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, dip in egg wash and coat with bread crumbs and set aside. Continue until all of the pork cutlets are coated.
  2. At service, pan fry pork cutlets in hot oil until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to drain any excess oil.
  3. Add more oil to the pan as needed and continue cooking the cutlets until they are all cooked.
  4. Once all of the cutlets have been cooked, add more oil to the pan and heat. Then add the mushrooms and saute until cooked through. Deglaze the pan with the brown veal stock and reduce by at least half. Add the heavy cream and cook until it starts to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  5. To plate, put two cutlets on a plate and cover in brown mushroom gravy. Serve with a side of braised red cabbage (recipe follows).

 

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples (Apfelrotkohl)

When the weather starts to cool off, it's time for braised red cabbage. This German staple gets its flavor from a red currant jelly, white wine vinegar, red wine and Granny Smith apples. The trick is to get the flavor profile neither too sweet, too tangy or too anything. And this recipe is just that. Perfectly balanced.
Servings 8
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet received this recipe from Chef Hinnerk Von Bargen, CIA Associate Professor

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds red cabbage sliced very thinly
  • 2 ounces duck fat goose fat or lard (this is going to give it a much richer flavor than just oil, but olive oil is fine)
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups chicken stock I use vegetable stock
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • Kosher salt sugar, freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Squash the Pasta Craving

A friend was at the market the other day and exclaimed, “Just the sight of these winter squash cooled me down.” And how right she was.

Though summer squash is versatile, it is “summer” squash. Considering it is almost September in South Texas, we have had our fill of yellow squash, golden zucchini and green zucchini. Since May.

Lucky for us, the early arrival of winter squash at Kubena Farms in Seguin means we can begin our edible transition into fall. Think acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash.

While we have made zoodles with zucchini, our favorite “non-pasta pasta” is, hands-down, spaghetti squash. My only complaint with this particular winter squash was that I would struggle with cutting this seriously hard winter squash in half before baking it. I can’t tell you how many times the knife just hung there, stuck in the center of this hard squash until I could get David’s strength to help push it through. In fact, I would never even think about making this if he weren’t home to save the day.

Thanks to Elana Amsterdam and her wonderful blog, Elana’s Pantry, I can now cook spaghetti squash whenever I want. Anytime. Whether David’s home or not.

That’s right. I don’t fight with the spaghetti squash anymore. I bake it whole.

Just deeply prick the spaghetti squash twice with a fork, place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put it in a 350 degree oven for one hour. Once it’s cooked and cooled, it will so easily slice in half and, then effortlessly, you can scoop out the seeds.

The real fun is turning the spaghetti squash into noodles. Using a fork, just scrape and pull and, before you know it, you will have a plate full of “pasta.” No, it’s not “pasta,” but this paleo version is completely satisfying. After he cleaned his plate with this Meatless Monday meal,  he said, “This was really good.”

And if my picky husband says that about this paleo meal, that’s quite a vote of confidence. Perhaps this recipe will also help you squash the pasta craving.

Buen provecho!

Perfect Paleo Spaghetti (Squash)

If you love spaghetti but not the carbs, give spaghetti squash a chance. Top with your favorite tomato sauce and Parmesan, meatballs, Italian sausage, sauteed mushrooms or just drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and generous amounts of Parmesan.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Author The Cowgirl Gourmet is grateful to Elana's Pantry for this trick

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash about 3 pounds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a fork, prick the spaghetti squash twice--one on either side. Place squash on the lined baking sheet.

  2. Once the oven is at temperature, place in the oven and cook for 60 minutes. (Cook less time for smaller squash)

  3. Remove from the oven and allow spaghetti squash to cool on the baking sheet for 20-30 minutes.

  4. Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and then, using a fork, scrape the cooked flesh into "spaghetti" noodles. One half will generously serve two people.

  5. Top "spaghetti" with your favorite tomato sauce and any additional toppings such as sauteed mushrooms, and if not cooking for vegans, add some grilled Italian sausage and grated Parmesan cheese. Reserve any remaining "spaghetti" and store in the refrigerator.