10.10.06

Back to the bench...and to the kitchen!


Whew...take a breath.
Look around.

Breathe.

Notice what's happening around you.


Now...wait a sec. What are all of these fall colors and half-naked deciduous trees doing flaunting their stuff already? What is this cold chill in the air that makes me don sweatshirts and socks while lounging about my house in the evenings? How can the houses around me be decked out with Halloween decorations this early? What is this talk of Thanksgiving turkeys and dinner plans? How is it that my mom is already suggesting buying tickets home for Christmas?

This summer, with all of its trials and tribulations, experiences and obligations, literally flew by and passed me over. Somehow, I let my last summer in Oregon just slip by, unnoticed...I didn't stretch my toes in the sand on the beautifully gray Oregon beaches, star- and moon-gaze the long nights away, or spend luxurious moments spilling over tide pools or mountain streams. I spent only a single evening in the arms of LB cuddling next to a campfire (complete with an army of mosquitos), and I can count the number of hikes spent with my dogs on a single hand. I've only posted on this blog 7 times in the last two months. I haven't made a single advancement towards the planning of my wedding in the last month and a half, and I can't think of anything I did the entire month of September!

How did this happen? Is this the pace of life that the last year of graduate school takes on? Is it the pace of life that I've let my life become? Or have I just forgotten to "stop and smell the roses" in the midst of everything going on? I'm teaching now, so yes, my schedule has become far busier than before if that's possible. I'm still cooking; at times it's my only solace from the hustle-bustle of the rest of my world, but I find myself scarfing the meals I make - sometime even beating LB to the bottom of the bowl before he's halfway done, then scrambling to the kitchen to wash my dish and start my classroom "homework" (and LB is not a slow eater!). LB and I just returned from my sister's wedding (and some much needed rest) in Colorado to find that our surroundings have completely changed in the mere 7 days that we were gone...it's already deep into the Fall season. Some small part of me knew it had arrived before I left, but there's no denying it now. But with the chill in the air, the few rainy days we've had, and all of that snow I saw in the mountains from the plane...Winter is swiftly on its way.

I refuse to just sit back and let my very last Fall (for the next several years!) slip by me the way that I allowed Summer to do. So, now that I've recovered from the wedding (especially that bachelorette party! And I did make a very *cute* cake for that occasion!), it's back to the lab bench, back to teaching, and back to the kitchen. Luckily, our friends had bumper crops of zucchini and squash this summer, so we still have several in the fridge. Perhaps you do to? Once you've made steamed and grilled zucchini a hundred times, zucchini and squash ribbons about fifty times and so many loaves of zucchini bread you can't imagine eating any more of the stuff, you can try this recipe: Zucchini Pancakes with Basil Creme Fraiche. They're much lighter and "fluffier" than you would think. We found them quite refreshing, especially as an appetizer to a hearty Fall meal, or to accompany a bowl of minestrone soup.

You can find the original recipe here.

Zucchini Panckes with Basil Creme Fraiche, adapted from epicurious.com
Makes about 7 pancakes, but can be easily doubled.

For basil creme fraiche:
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

For pancakes:
4 cups coarsely grated zucchini (1 lb)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Blend creme fraiche, basil, and salt in a blender until smooth and pale green. Chill until ready to serve. If you want a thicker sauce, you can strain the creme fraiche first on a paper towel or cheese cloth over a strainer for 20 minutes before adding the other ingredients.

Put zucchini in a colander and toss with salt. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes, then wrap zucchini in a kitchen towel and twist towel to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer zucchini to a large bowl and stir in flour, sugar, and pepper. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks, then gently fold into zucchini mixture.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 5, spoon 2 tablespoons batter per pancake into skillet, flattening slightly with back of spoon. Cook pancakes, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes total, transferring as cooked to paper towels to drain and adding more oil to skillet as necessary.

Serve immediately, with basil creme fraiche.

7 comments from you:

Paz said...

First time I'm reading about zucchini pancakes. Your recipe sounds delicious!

Paz

Karina said...

Michelle~

Time seems only to accelerate. Staying in the here and now and drinking in the beauty of each turning season is hard sometimes...

These crispy little gems look quite tasty though. Sweet.

Natalia said...

I know, things just get way too crazy sometimes and we don't get to do all the fun stuff we'd like to. Isn't life just like that? Oh well, at least we have lots of zucchini bread :) These pancakes look delicious and my next zucchini will end up in pancake form, I think!

Julie said...

Zucchini pancakes are a favorite of mine, although I've never had them with creme fraiche, another new favorite of mine. What a great idea!!

Life does get ridiculously hectic at times and it sounds like you have a lot going on. I hope things ease up just a little and you get a chance to enjoy fall. I'll bet fall in Oregon is just spectacular.

Rachael said...

Bumper crops are such a fun thing...the only bumper crops round here are lemons...and luckily they hold quite well.

These look delicious.

Enjoy your autumn!

Anonymous said...

Oh how I empathize with you, Michelle! I am in the last year myself and feel as though I don't have time to go to the bathroom, much less cook. I will absolutely make these zucchini pancakes as soon as I have the chance because they look fantastic. Congratulations on being almost done! Good luck.

michelle said...

Karina, that's why I *heart* you, dear. You're always so positive and have such a beautiful way of looking at the world. Thanks!

Natalia, so true! But yes, baked goods have such a wonderful way of making everything look better!

Rachael, I agree! Since we weren't able to have a garden this year, it's been so nice to reap the benefits of other people's excesses!

Anna, misery loves company! I'm happy to know another foodie grad student out there in the world. Congrats and good luck to you too! May our last year be smooth and full of occasional escapes from school!