Nonna’s Fried Zucchini Flowers

Closeup photo of zucchini flowers

Zucchini flowers: a sure sign of summer.

It’s that time of year again! That moment, where bright orangey-yellow flowers on zucchini plants are in full bloom. It was also about at this time of year that these same flowers prompted a summer inspired blog post.

Seeing them at Vicki’s Veggies’ kiosk at the Stop Farmer’s Market at Wychwood Barns struck a chord. It brought me back my Nonna’s back yard where countless amounts of zucchini flowers, tomato plants, herbs and vegetables could be found. During the summer months she’d always serve some fried zucchini flowers as a nice savoury snack.

Needless to say, I had to emulate this childhood memory by preparing a batch. I had previously asked her for the recipe, but since it has been about two years since the last time I had prepared them, I was a little rusty. The best way to know how it’s done is to go directly to the source. So I called up Nonna. continue reading

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Tasting the Past: Cara’s Pineapple Skillet Cake

Upside down goodness: Cara's Skillet Pineapple Cake.

Upside down goodness: Cara’s Skillet Pineapple Cake.

Since receiving the recipe box, I’ve noticed that the original owner had quite the sweet tooth. While peeking through the recipes cards, I’ve noticed an impressive amount of desserts with a hint of savoury dishes every now and then.

The pineapple skillet cake quickly caught my attention. Hand written in blue ink, this recipe has the name “Cara” underlined on the top right hand side of the card.

I was quite eager to tackle Cara’s recipe; which is essentially a pineapple upside down cake with an alias. Ever since reading issue number three of Lucky Peach, I have wanted to bake this simple, yet effective recipe. There’s something about a caramelized fruit topping that soaks up into cake that is quite decadent. This timeless dessert is sure to please.
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Cooking like it’s 1997

“Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère” (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies) – Photo Eric Rados.

Last weekend, while In Laval, my parents had asked me to empty up some drawers containing various items dating back to my years as a student. After reluctantly parting ways with DAT and Mini DV cassettes from my first ever reports and segments produced in university and scripts from acting classes, I stumbled upon something I had completely forgotten about: a series of recipes from my secondaire 2 (Quebec’s equivalent of grade 8) home ec class. It was then, during the 1996-1997 school year, that Danielle Langlois was teaching the basics of cooking to École d’éducation internationale de Laval alumni.

The class was divided in two groups. While half of the students were sewing buttons and toques with Anne-Louise Blain, the others were learning the ropes in the kitchen with Danielle Langlois. A couple of weeks later, the groups switched.

My memory was a little fuzzy as to how the class was structured so I asked my friend and fellow blogger Vanessa about it. She reminded me that the class was divided in teams of three to four students. Each class was organized around a theme. We had learned various things like how to bake cookies, prepare eggs benedict or serve up a “Mexican dip”. The recipes were obviously quite basic, but the class introduced us a bit more formally to certain techniques and ingredients.

Revisiting the list of ingredients of certain recipes was sort of like travelling back in time. For instance, trans fat wasn’t an issue on anyone’s radar back in 1997. My fellow classmate and friend Véronique remembers that the chocolate cookie recipe required a specific brand of vegetable shortening that clearly contained trans fat at the time; an ingredient that many of us would steer clear from today.

“Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère” (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies) – Photo Eric Rados.

Blast from the past: a recipe

For the purpose of this blog entry, I revisited the Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies”) recipe.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of butter or margarine (it actually specified margarine)
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. of baking powder
  • ½ tsp. of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup of lukewarm water
  • ½ cup of granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. of salt
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • ½ tsp. of baking soda

* I added about ½ tsp. of a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander
*I added a good heaping of raisins

Method

  • Preheat oven at 375 ° F.
  • Beat butter or margarine until creamy. Mix in sugar until blended.
  • In another bowl, mix in flour, baking powder, salt and oats.
  • Mix baking soda and vanilla extract into the water.
  • Combine dry and liquid ingredients to the butter and sugar.
  • Roll out the cookie dough until about 3 to 5 mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to make the cookies. (I felt as though this step was labour intensive so I simply scooped out cookies with a spoon.)
  • Bake in oven at 375 ° F for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Cool and serve.

Verdict
Without being exceptional, they were decent. I’m glad that I added the raisins and spices for extra flavour.

Some final thoughts

I can still remember my 14 year old self waking up before everyone else Sunday morning to prepare my first-ever batches of muffins or crêpes. I guess the home ec class served its purpose: easing us students into the kitchen and ridding ourselves of any apprehensions that we could have had. While the recipes weren’t particularly adventurous or too difficult, the experience was nonetheless an empowering one.

What were the first dishes you learned how to prepare? Got any home ec or cooking class stories to share? Don’t be shy!

A glimpse of some of the techniques learned in Home Ec.