First Day of School French Fries

Well, my kid is in Grade 2 now. Sorry, I mean 2nd Grade. My dual-citizen kiddo is really very American and gets mad if you call it Grade 2. There was excitement over a new lunchbox, cool school supplies (I loved school for the school supplies alone! I can spend all day in Staples now….), and a very grown up boy got washed and dressed, made his bed and cleared his breakfast dishes without being asked.

But then the anxiety hit and there was worry, and withering confidence and my very grown up boy became a very teary boy as we walked closer to school. So different from kindergarten when he proudly sat at his Very Own Desk and announced with a giant grin that we could go now. Almost 8 means more to think about, a bit less naïveté about the world, new awareness of things….and more anxiety than Almost 6 did. I hugged him goodbye, loosened his desperate grip on my arm, gave him a thumbs up from the classroom door and managed to get a weak smile in return.

As expected though, I was greeted at 3:20 with light and energy and “My day was AWESOME!!!!”
And then there was the traditional First Day of School Ice Cream and a coffee (milk) together at Starbucks, and home made french fries with dinner.

Home Made French Fries

Use Yukon Gold or another white potato for good crispy fries. Cut them into sticks, place in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425º until brown. You probably have to turn them once but you can just push them around with a spatula unless you’re Type A enough to turn them individually with tongs. Serve with ketchup….and vinegar eh?

Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Zucchini Cake

OK so chocolate. Lots of chocolate, and sour cream for richness and moisture (and as an egg replacer*) and a whole whack of zucchini grated so fine it just disappears into the cake. It’s dense enough to be eaten out of your hand, especially if you’re one of three 7-year old friends, sitting around on the grass discussing what would happen if a superhero fell into a hole to the center of the earth. Apparently Superman might survive if he flew out in time and Wolverine would be fine because he can regenerate. But Spiderman? Spiderman would bite it.

Sorry for the short post…summer has taken over my brain and I can’t think of much to write these days.

Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Zucchini Cake

Adapted from Dinner with Julie.

1/2 cup butter, soft
1/4 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
2 cups finely grated zucchini
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a Bundt pan with non-stick spray.
On high speed, beat the butter, oil, sugar and 2 tbsp sour cream for 2-3 minutes until thick and pale yellow. Add in vanilla and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

On low speed, add about 1/2 of the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, then stir in the sour cream and mix to combine. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl. At this point the batter will be really thick, but adding the zucchini will thin it down a bit.

Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips until well distributed. Bake for about an hour, until the top is springy and a toothpick comes out clean.

I was in a hurry to make this cake and had to get it out of the pan while it was still hot. To my surprise, not one crumb stuck to the Bundt pan. So whether you let it cool completely or turn it out while it’s still warm, you’ll have to experiment. It probably depends on your pan and how well you sprayed it.

*if you’d like to make this cake with eggs, replace the 2 tbsp of sour cream with two eggs. Add them at the same time as the vanilla. Reduce the baking powder to 1 tsp only.

What do Vampires Have to do With: A Variation on Macco di Fave (fava bean puree)?

We’ve had a reading breakthrough in our house! I guess all it takes is the right book. After baseball, Evan was tearing around the house and I wanted him to settle down a bit so I asked him to sit down and do some reading while I made dinner, and to pick something that was at his level so he could actually read it. (As opposed to, Avengers: The Ultimate Guide to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which, though I can see the appeal and the movie is on my list of mindless fun, that encyclopedia-type book is quite advanced).

Lovely lima beans…because I didn’t have fava beans

I came into the living room to tell him dinner was ready and found him reading to himself and not wanting to stop (who are you and what have you done with my child?) for dinner.

“Hey kiddo, since it’s just the two of us for dinner tonight, why don’t you bring your book to the table and I’ll bring mine and we can read and chat about our books?”

He was thrilled. Normally the dinner table is a no book/toy zone so it can be about Having a Conversation. Sometimes ya gotta break the rules.

So ace reporter/skeleton, Dirk Bones, joined us for dinner and solved the Mystery of the Haunted House, when he encountered a vampire using a typewriter: “Clickity-click, clickity-clack, ding!” Evan had trouble with the word ‘typewriter’. Understandable. “Mommy, what’s a typewriter? Why does it go ding? Have you ever used one?”

(Flashback to Grade 9 Typing with Mrs. Holroyde k-i-k-space, k-i-k space, d-e-d space, d-e-d space, l-o-l…).

“Yes, honey I’ve used one…this is how it works…” My inept description was ultimately followed by a You Tube demo and then his “...cool, can we get one?!

So back to the story…the vampire was writing a cookbook! Ev thought that was hilarious, especially when I asked him if he thought the vampire should start a food blog. He couldn’t put it down and at the end exclaimed “What a great book!” How appropriate, a vampire foodie. With a recipe for bat foot stew with crispy worm brains to boot. Not quite what I had in mind for dinner, but perfect for my budding reader.

This isn’t exactly bat foot stew, but is a lovely spring soup, picture it served warm but not piping hot, with good bread and a warm breeze on the deck….OR picture it as a warm, satisfying meal during these currently dreary Seattle days….whatever works where you are! To bring this back to the ‘dinnerversions’ theme….no, this soup wasn’t kid-friendly in our house…but we also had outrageously expensive corn on the cob because it was warm and we could pretend it was summer. So the kid ate the corn and had the merest lick of soup…and lots of baguette. C’est là vie.

Macco di Fave (fava bean puree)
Inspired by and minimally adapted from La Tartine Gourmande. It’s a beautiful blog with gorgeous photography. Check it out!

This is a very simple and delicious recipe with only a few ingredients: beans, onion, sage, good pecorino romano cheese. Perfect. Beatrice from La Tartine Gourmande used fava beans, tarragon and parsley in her recipe. I didn’t have fava beans on hand, so I used lima. 

1 red onion, finely chopped
1.6 pounds fresh or frozen lima beans
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
4 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup grated Pecorino romano cheese, or more to taste
Sea salt and pepper

Sweat the onions in olive oil for a few minutes until soft but not brown, add the sage and beans and stir until fragrant. Turn down the heat to med-low and add the water. Simmer until the beans are very soft and start to fall apart (or puree with a hand blender when soft), then season with salt and pepper and stir in cheese until melted. (Note: adding salt to beans will prevent them from softening so don’t add it until the end).

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and more romano and sage.