The Culprit of Bitter Zucchini

cucurbitacin_eOne of our favorite meals is sauteed zucchini, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, coarsely chopped Uglyripes and pasta (and salt, pepper and olive oil of course). It's lightning-fast to prepare, is eaten slightly warm to room temperature and the leftovers make a killer frittata. However, recently our local market has been selling us zucchini that's pretty darn bitter.

I poked around the web looking for the cause. Apparently, a class of steroids called Cucurbitacins (depicted is Cucurbitacin E) are responsible for making eggplant, cucumbers and various varieties of squash bitter. Produce Pete (who, incidentally, should put up a blog) suggests selecting zucchini that are small and shiny. The larger the fruit the more likely they are to possess these bittering agents.

We here at Dave's Beer are contemplating soaking a split zucchini in brine (akin to the treatment some give Eggplant) to remedy the situation. Anyone ever try this? Leave your experience in the comments. Thanks.


Merry Christmas!

ravioliNothing says Christmas to us like raviolis on Christmas Eve. Trish and I belted out about a hundred of these babies the day before Christmas Eve with a wild toddler bobbing about the kitchen and everything. Total mayhem, but it was worth it. We had these with some baked cod that set off the smoke detectors, oh well. Wouldn't be the holidays if it weren't a little crazy.

Today, a standing rib roast (not done on the infamous Weber, sniff) and all the sides. Have a good food holiday all!



cantucciniThere's no shortage of biscotti recipes out there. My Mom makes an amazing one but my preference for this timely cookie has veered to the traditional. I made mine this year from a recipe in the 2001 Jan/Feb issue of La Cucina Italiana. This recipe is so simple, it's like a biscuit. Just a few ingredients, but its success depends on the process in which it's made. Took a few practice runs to get into a groove but finally made some good runs.

They're hard cookies begging for a dip in some hot drink but at the same time tender. I believe this tenderness is derived from gently working the dough once mixed; again, like a biscuit. Our good friend Amy makes the best I've ever had. I only hope mine are a fraction as good.

Slightly modified* recipe reprinted here for my convenience:
Cantuccini, makes about 30.
Self-rise flour, 200 g (1.5 Cups)
Sugar, 1 cup
Almonds, slivered and toasted, 3/4 cup
Vanilla extract, 1 t
Eggs, large, 2

Mix the wet with dry, divide and spread the sticky play-doh-like mass into 2 globs. Further shape the globs into ca. 12-15" logs on a parchment-lined sheet and bake in a 375F oven for 25 minutes. Cool briefly and cut diagonally and stand the cut cookies on another sheet and bake at 375F for an additional 15 minutes. Click the image for a larger image hosted at Flickr.

*The original recipe called for unbleached white flour and baking powder. Whenever I see this combination, I substitute self-rise flour. Usually the flour in such mixtures has a lower protein content (appropriate for most baked sweets) and it already has the chemical leavener in it (and a trace of salt). It's more convenient too.