Zucchini Tatziki with Pepita

IMG_2090We had a lot of zucchini laying around from nearly two weeks ago. It was one of those too-cheap to pass up kinda deals I guess. But so long ago I don’t remember. Otherwise, I don’t know what made me think we could consume that much. Perhaps it was this recipe waiting to be made. Anyway, last night was zucchini night, featuring this flavor-packed dip along with a zucchini fritata, both inspired by Almost Turkish recipes. After reading about the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, along with finding fresh, in-the-brine olives (probably one of my favorite foods of the world next to cheese), we have been increasingly modeling our meals after the Greeks, Turks, and Italians… as well as feeling a little less guilty about sopping up our whole wheat baguettes with generous glugs of herb-infused olive oil and roasted garlic heads.

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This recipe fits in right there. I used thick and rich homemade fat-free yogurt, sautéed zucchini from the market, some minced and crushed garlic, plenty of dill, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. All natural, remarkable healthy, and truly addictive. I served this up with some homemade crisps from leftover pizza dough I had frozen from a few weeks ago, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and paprika

Zucchini Tatziki:

adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup thick greek-style plain yogurt (if you can’t find greek yogurt, I highly recommend draining what you buy at the store)
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh chopped dil
1/4 cup pepitas, toast (or walnuts or pine nuts if you cannot find pepita)

Directions:
Grate the zucchini, salt generously, and sit in collendar for about 30 minutes to let drain. Squeeze out any remaining liquids from the zucchini using a clean dishtowel. Heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Peel and chop garlic. With a mortar, grind the 1/2 tsp salt with the garlic until it makes a paste. Mix garlic paste with yogurt and dill. When the zucchini has cooled, add it to yogurt mixture.

Toast pepitas in pan or oven on high heat. They will pop as they become toasted. This should IMG_2072only take 2 or 3 minutes. Let pepitas cool, and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold on toasted pita bread or crackers.

Dulce de Leche de Ajo

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Anyone in the Chicagoland area must try Mercat a la Planxa. It is a Catalan style restaurant by Chef Jose Garces, native Chicagoan but well known in the Philly area. And a related note, Chef Garces has been selected among 10 up-and-coming chefs to complete for a spot in Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef America! I don’t care if Michael Pollen is giving it a bad wrap (hey, I cook. I also like to watch people cook). However, we don’t get Food Network in Guatemala. And even if we did, we don’t have a T.V. I guess I’ll just have to beg my mom to tape it for me. I am very excited about this possibility.

My first Mercat experience was in celebration of my graduation from grad school. We were going to just stop by the restaurant to meet my Dad’s business partner for “a drink” before family time downtown and much later dinner. We began downstairs in the basement with a few cocktails, cured meets, cheeses, those yummy bacon-wrapped dates, and were much later ushered upstairs to the dining room with help of the partner’s company card. The upstairs was an open tactfully-designed dining room overlooking Grant Park. Bottles of wine, plates of tapas, paella, sausages, ect were continually being passed around, and our mouths were never bored with delicate texture and flavors we were experiencing. We left rather early (having started at 3pm), and got home around 7pm. We were happy, full and, i’ll admit, pretty drunk. We laid down for a nap and awoke at 1am, just a little late for a party we were to attend.

The second experience, this past June, was less extravagant but none the less pleasing. Since it was just the two of us, we just had a light lunch. Sea scallots lightly seasoned and tenderly grilled; sautéed mushrooms with garlic and wine; and a lovely plate of cheese served with marmalade and a garlic dulce de leche. I was skeptic and thought I would enjoy my cheese on its own; and it was good cheese which can stand on its own. But I tried it, cuz I’ll try almost anything. And it was delicious, creamy, lustrous. It went really well with the cheese, bread, and apples. So what did we do? What we always do when we try something amazing and different. Go home and make it!

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1- 14oz can sweetened condensed milk*
6 heads (not cloves) garlic, separated and peeled
A small piece of cheese cloth
A couple pinches large grain sea salt

First, roast the garlic. I like to do it in foil with a little butter in the oven. Wrap it tightly, roast for around 30-40, sometimes 50 minutes. I like to do the cloves already peeled instead of whole heads because it reduces wasted garlicy deliciousness, and it is easier to remove the pulp. When the garlic is roasted to prefection and cooled off a little, put it int he cheese cloth and squeeze the garlic through. This will make it very smooth and easier to whisk into the milk.

Second, make the dulce de leche. Put the milk in the top of a double boiler, and cook on medium heat. Before the milk gets very thick, whisk in the garlic. Then keep stirring it occationally until it is a thick deep caramel color. If you don’t have patience, like I often don’t, you can do this in the microwave, but be very careful and take it out very frequently (every minute or even 30 seconds). The firrst time I made it in the microwave I overcooked it and it was pretty gritty, not lustrous and smooth. It was still delicious though, I would say.

*You can be more natural and use sugar and milk. I would prefer that normally too, but it would probably take twice as long. With the sweetened condensed milk it is much quicker. Plus, if a can is good enough for David Lebovitz, its good enough for me.