Cooking seasonally helps me feel connected to the Fall we miss so dearly in the United States. It's sunny season once again in Ethiopia and I am desperately trying to feel connected to the falling leaves, pumpkin pie latte, visible chilly breath in the air, gnarly looking gourd kind of weather back home.
One of my favorite ingredients is squash during this time of year (anytime really but especially during the Fall). In the States acorn and butternut squash is prevalent but overseas we've had access to large yellow squash that taste somewhat like a combination of the two State-side varieties. The squash in the Philippines was very sweet and creamy. In Ethiopia it's not quite as sweet and creamy but along the same lines in flavor. It's perfect for two of our favorite family meals.
Have you ever made vegetable fritters? Vegetables taste delicious this way and it's perfect kid food. Smitten Kitchen has a great selection of vegetable fritter recipes but we prefer squash fritters like our cook in Manila used to make. I've adapted Yaya's recipe a bit here (since she never wrote it down for me I had to recreate it-I kind of like mine better even).
Squash fritters with ginger soy dipping sauce
4 cups grated squash
1/2 yellow pepper diced
1 green onion or leek diced
salt and pepper
1 large egg beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
vegetable oil for pan frying
Peel and grate the squash ( 4 cups can be an approximation-slightly off is just fine), dice the peppers and onions or leeks. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl and season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir the vegetables so salt gets distributed. Let the bowl sit for a few minutes to soak.
In a small bowl combine the flour and baking powder. Set aside. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a skillet on medium heat.
Get a large towel or cheese cloth and pour all the salted vegetables on top and press all the extra liquids out of the squash. Return to bowl. Add the beaten egg and stir. Then pour in the flour and baking powder combination and toss to combine. It shouldn't be too wet and gooey so there are liquids dripping off the vegetables when you grab a handful of the mixture. It should only be slightly gooey like the photo below.
Place handfuls of the squash mixture into the hot oil pressing to flatten the glob slightly. The oil should sizzle nicely. Allow the fritter to cook on each side-turning only once for about 3-4 minutes or until the fritter is nice and brown. You want the egg in the middle to cook and the outer edges to be crispy. If your fritter gets too dark turn the temp down on the burner slightly. Use a sppatula to remove the fritter and place on a paper towel covered platter. To keep the fritters warm and still crispy, heat your oven to 200 degrees and place cooked fritters on a drying rack or holed baking sheet before serving.
Ginger soy dipping sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 large lemon juiced or 2 medium lime's juiced
6 cloves garlic minced
1 small white or purple onion minced finely
2-3 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
pepper to taste
Combine all these ingredients and then taste. If you like a little more ginger-add more. If you feel it needs a bit more citrus-feel free! Keep in mind that the ingredients really soak and combine after the sauce sits in the refrigerator some. I make this and we dip right away. Any leftovers get placed in the fridge overnight. The next day this sauce is a lot stronger. Just a word to the wise. Fresh ginger is the key to the flavor of this sauce. Buy the fresh ginger and keep it in a plastic bag in the freezer. Frozen ginger grates much nicer and you will never have to worry about it going bad. Best part is that you will always have fresh ginger when you need it!
This next dinner is a recipe I found in Real Simple years ago. It's become a favorite that we make often.
1 box whole wheat spaghetti or angle hair pasta
2 Tbsp butter melted or browned on the stove
2-3 cups squash cubed
1 head of garlic peeled, cloves separated
8 ounces of bacon cooked crispy
1 cup toasted walnuts, pine nuts or hazlenuts
1 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano cheese
2 green onions or leeks chopped
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
Boil the pasta as directed for al dente noodles, drain, rinse and toss with the melted or browned butter. Place the pasta in a large bowl and top with roasted squash, garlic, crumbled bacon, toasted nuts, grated cheese and chopped onion. Sprinkle the top with a dash of salt, pepper and a generous dash of nutmeg.
A simple and delicious combination of Fall flavors.
The last recipe is one I tried from Smitten Kitchen. Her recipes are always delicious. I adjusted this one a bit for what I had on hand and the entire family really loved it. It would be the perfect hearty meal for an evening after a cold trip to the pumpkin patch or family trip to the park to gather leaves that have fallen from the trees.
Bacon and white bean pot pie
Your favorite 9 inch pie crust
2 leaks chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 large white onion diced finely
6 cloves of garlic
8 ounces of bacon cooked crispy
2 cups of canned white beans rinsed (or one large can which ever you prefer)
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups cups chicken broth
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
I decided to make this a large 9 inch pot pie instead of small individual sized portions. It saved a lot of time. I also used my favorite pie crust recipe and it was flaky and delicious for the pot pie. Just remember to omit any sugar your pie crust recipe calls for when making a savory pie. I didn't have Swiss chard so I used leeks and carrots. My kids wouldn't eat chard or spinach so I'm glad ours didn't contain any obvious green stuff!
In a large skillet I cooked the bacon and then removed it. I sauteed the onions and carrots in some of the leftover bacon fat until softened. Next I added the garlic and leeks, salt, pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes and sauteed until softened. All the vegetables were then moved to a bowl. In the skillet (with all the browned bacon and onion bits coating the bottom) I added the olive oil and heated it on medium heat for 2 minutes. Adding the flour makes it sizzle a bit. Use a whisk and combine the flour and oil, stirring until it's a golden color. Slowly add the first cup of broth whisking as you go to combine the liquid with the flour mixture. Constantly whisking and adding it slowly will prevent any lumps. Then add the next two cups of broth and bring it to a boil, whisking periodically. Soon a gravy will form before your eyes. Taste it and add salt and pepper until seasoned to your liking. Turn off the burner when you have the gravy consistency you like.
Oil the edges of a 9 inch deep pie plate. Pour the vegetables in the bottom and add the white beans. Stir to combine. Pour the gravy over the vegetables and beans. Cut small vents in the middle of your pie crust and then gently cover the top of the pie plate with the crust. Fold and pinch the edges. Beat an egg with 1 Tbsp water and brush on the top of the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden and bubbling out the top.