Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When You Can't Take It any More . . . Turn It into a Fritter

Although the summer is young, my family has reached a pivotal moment: we’re growing tired of summer squash and zucchini.  I planted early, with seedlings from Early Bird Farms, and since this is my first garden at a new home, my crop has been bountiful.  I haven’t lost a single plant to squash vine borers, though I’m sure they will find me next year.                

Our standard approach to squash and zucs is to simply sauté them with butter and sweet onions.  When we tire of that, we swap the butter and onions for olive oil and Italian herbs.  I’ll also cut them lengthwise instead of into rounds and grill them, but that’s a minor and boring variation. If ever we need   little more richness in our diet, we go with a buttery squash casserole.

Tonight, however, I made my first attempt of the season at zucchini fritters, and they were a tremendous hit, more of a hit than the one time I made them last year, when they were largely dismissed as some kind of messed-up hoe cake.  There are plenty of recipes around the Internet for zuc fritters, but I like Martha Stewart’s for its simplicity—it doesn’t dictate what kind of pan one should use or offer any other unnecessary advice.  The unnerving thing about these fritters is the sloppy consistency of the batter—it’s about like a pancake batter—but the payoff is tremendous: a crisp golden-brown exterior with a slightly creamy (thanks to the egg, I guess) interior that really lets the herbs stand out.  I used fresh parsley, as Martha recommends, but I would also give basil a shot.   

The one tip I borrowed from Smitten Kitchen was that I squeezed the moisture out of the zucchini before adding it to the batter, but I did it barbarian style—with my bare hands instead of cheesecloth.

I served my zuc fritters with something my family calls “okra sauce” because I first trotted it out as a dip to accompany fried okra (which we thought needed some kind of dip that was neither ketchup nor honey mustard).  It’s roughly equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup, with a dollop of horseradish (I like to grate my own and keep a root in the freezer, but the prepared stuff is okay when it’s fresh) and a squeeze of lemon juice.  We have come to the conclusion that this Okra Sauce is the perfect accompaniment for virtually any fried vegetable.  It’s a little creamy but it has enough bite to cut through the oiliness of such fried goodies. 

GMO-Free Rabbit Manure?

There is some absurdity to the organic ethic.  I do not want to use chemical fertilizers on my garden, so I have procured rabbits to produce manure I can use for fertilizer.  But even though my bunnies help me avoid granulated 10-10-10 and Miracle Gro, there is no easy way to make sure my rabbit fertilizer is completely pure.

The definitive book on raising rabbits is Bob Bennet’s Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, and in this book the author presents as unequivocal fact that pelleted rabbit feed is the best food for captive rabbits.

Pelleted food is easy—I get it in ten-pound bags at my local Tractor Supply store for $4.99. Several weeks ago, however, a comment on a blog post asked me if my rabbit feed, and subsequent poo/manure/fertilizer, was free of GMOs. 

I had quibbled over the issue of GMO rabbit feed for some time, but the convenience and price of my rabbit pellets caused me to ignore the problem.  The primary ingredients of my rabbit pellets are wheat, alfalfa, soybeans, and corn derivatives.  The USDA approved the use of GMO alfalfa in January 2011, and most folks know that soybeans and corn are classic GMO crops.  No matter what I’m buying, I assume that products contain GMO ingredients unless the packaging tells me otherwise—USDA Organic certification, for instance, guarantees that no GMO ingredients have been used.

If I could buy GMO-free rabbit feed at Tractor Supply, I would, even if I had to pay a little more, but that isn’t an option.  The best option that I’ve found is a product by Oxbow, but it costs over three times as much, not to mention shipping costs.

The best solution I’ve found is to grow my own rabbit feed, and the best options seem to be timothy hay and/or alfalfa.  So when one of my raised beds finishes its run of veggies, the rabbit crop will go in.  Actually, I might just sow the stuff along my property line or see if I can somehow incorporate it into my landscaping as I already use native ornamental grasses.