July has been a month of bounty – an abundance of heat, heart, corn and cantaloupe, paintings finished and paintings begun, books yet unfinished (currently reading 7), journeys to the kitchen and journeys to the beach and journeys in staying still for awhile. This summer has been a peaceful respite from the busy-ness of the year, but honestly, it’s challenging for me to sit comfortably in uncharted afternoons without the territory mapped out in advance. I like being relaxed, but I don’t like being bored. And I find myself filling up the quiet with this abundance of activity – simple activity, and not for activity’s sake (I hope). Like learning to make yogurt. Reading up on herbal healing remedies. Drawings of my dad and uncle as Russian nesting dolls (yes, this really happened).
But the best thing about abundance isn’t necessarily the private experience of it yourself, but the communal sharing of abundance. My CSA box has had more than its fair share of zucchini, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage (what do you even make with cabbage besides coleslaw?), and after reading this Times article, I was inspired to transform my bounty into colorful latkes, summer-bounty style. They are unbelievably savory and satisfying when paired with sour cream, greek yogurt, or even better – homemade yogurt cheese – with some sliced tomato or a buttery ear of corn on the side. This recipe can make as many skillet cakes as your belly can hold, so share with a friend or two or three.
summer bounty skillet cakes
1 medium-sized zucchini, grated
2 large carrots, or 4-5 small ones, grated
2 small red potatoes, grated
1/4 onion, minced
1 T dill, dried or fresh
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
Toss the grated zucchini with sea salt and place in a colander in the sink for 10 minutes or more to drain out some of the water.
In the meantime, grate the carrots and potatoes. Mix them together in a large bowl and add the minced onion, dill, and breadcrumbs. Pat the zucchini dry, and add it to the mix. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the vegetables, and mix to incorporate well.
In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. You want a thin layer of oil to coat the pan to gently fry the cakes and make sure they don’t stick. Fry up 2 skillet cakes at a time, using about 1/4 cup vegetable batter for each cake. Dump the batter on the skillet, and use the back of a spoon to gently press it out into a thin circle. After about 3 minutes or so, carefully flip the cakes to the other side to cook. They should be nicely browned and crispy on the edges.
Set the cakes on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil while you fry up the remaining cakes. Serve hot garnished with yogurt cheese (recipe below).
Line a bowl with a thin, fine weave dishcloth, muslin, or 10 layers of cheesecloth (I did the latter). Set 2-4 cups of yogurt (however much you have) in the middle of the cloth, tie up the ends, and hang the bundle, suspended, to let the whey drain. Resist the temptation to squeeze the water out! Hang it from a kitchen faucet or over a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour for strained yogurt (Greek yogurt).
To make a thick, spreadable yogurt cheese, gently place the bundle inside a very large mason jar (2 quarts is ideal), and suspend it by tying the ends of the cloth to the rim of the jar with a rubber band. Stick it in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours. The longer the cheese drains, the firmer it will become. Make sure the bundle doesn’t end up sitting in its own whey.