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It’s here.  That part of the summer when the piles of zucchini start getting bigger and when (at least in the midwest) you have to be careful to lock your car so that no one can leave a bag of garden-fresh zucchini on the front seat.

At least that’s the joke they tell.  Funny thing is, I actually like zucchini.  My brother, though, that’s another story.  He’s famous in our family for refusing to eat zucchini and for smuggling it out to the trash in a napkin whenever it was served.  I’m not sure he would like this zucchini, but so far, everyone who has tried this version has loved it.

So, I thought I’d share it here. Just in time.

It’s not a hard recipe.  The trick is to make sure the oven is hot enough (I like it at about 450 degrees) and that the zucchini is cut into thick slices (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick).  The rest of it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

(Note:  the beautiful, ripple-edged zucchini in this picture were a gift from SV who grew them in her garden.  Thanks!)

Easy roast zucchini

(serves 2-4 people as a side dish)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

About 2 pounds fresh zucchini

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Nanami Togarashi assorted chili pepper* (or cayenne pepper to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a sheet pan.

Slice the zucchini into rounds ½ to ¾ inch thick and place them on the oiled pan, sliding them around to ensure that the undersides are coated with olive oil.

Brush the tops of the zucchini slices with the rest of the oil.

Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle them as evenly as possible over the tops of the zucchini slices.  I sometimes use the brush I used to spread the oil to more evenly distribute the spice mixture.

Put the pan into the oven.  Check it after about 20 minutes and shake the pan a bit to make sure that none of the zucchini is sticking.

Put the pan back into the oven and check it again after about 5 more minutes.  If the zucchini isn’t browning yet, put it back for another few minutes.

When the edges of the zucchini start to brown, flip the slices over and return the pan to oven for another 5 or 10 minutes, until all the slices are turning brown around the edges.

Slide the zucchini into a serving bowl, spiced side up.

Serve straight from the oven or at room temperature.

*available at Asian food stores (I got this jar at Uwajimaya)

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

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Spring Crab Salad

Spring seems to have finally arrived here in Portland.  And it’s about time!  I feel as if it’s been months since I saw the sun, even though I know that it has peeked out for as long as a few hours at a time in the past few weeks.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees.  I’m not sure how I can contain myself.

One of the first signs of spring, of course, are tulips.  These were given to me by a thoughtful co-worker.

And the other sign of spring?  Farmer’s markets, fresh, local produce, lots of greens and daylight that lasts into the evening and inspires leisurely, light meals.

Today the intermittent sunshine and a big pile of ripe mangoes at the grocery store (and a package of fresh Dungeness crab meat in the fridge)

inspired me to make a crab, mango and avocado salad with micro greens (from the farmer’s market) and a lime ginger vinaigrette.

For such an elegant dinner, the prep was incredibly easy and the flavors a perfect combination of sweet, tart and little bit salty.

Crab, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette

(Serves 2 hungry people as a main course, or 4 as a starter)

For the Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking briskly until the dressing emulsifies.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Set aside while you assemble the salad.

For the Crab Salad

2 cups fresh salad greens

2 ripe mangos (I like the Manila variety), peeled and cut into small dice

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced into thin slivers

8 ounces fresh crab meat (here in the NW we use Dungeness Crab, but any fresh crabmeat will do)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Choose a nice plate on which to assemble the salad.  Spread the greens evenly over the plate.  Cover the greens with a generous layer of mangos, saving a few for garnish.  Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the plate and fill in the middle with the crabmeat.  Garnish with remaining mango, and, if you like a little spice with your crab, sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the whole thing.

Just before serving, drizzle no more than ½ of the vinaigrette over the salad.  Serve with the extra dressing on the side.

Even though we’ve finished dinner, the sunset still seems a long way off.  It must really be spring at last!

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One of the things I do to get inspired to post on my own blog is read other blogs, especially food and knitting related blogs.  I have a few favorites (some of them are listed in the right-hand column — take a look) that I check regularly.

The other day during a brief break at work (it’s been really busy there lately so there haven’t been many breaks), I checked out Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  I love her site because it is so beautiful and because the food is always good.

The recipe she posted last week caught my eye right away.  The photo of the finished loaf cake was striking, the recipe looked like something I could make with ingredients I had at home, and I haven’t baked in a while.

Of course, I did have most of the ingredients, but I also had some bananas that needed to be used and I didn’t have any garam masala in my spice drawer.  Heidi suggested that bananas could be substituted for the roasted winter squash in her recipe, and encouraged bakers to use other spices if they had no garam masala.

I mashed one very ripe banana (happily that gave me exactly the 1/2 cup I needed), and decided to use Chinese 5 spice to replace the garam masala.

The cake turned out really well (though it needed a bit less time in my oven than the original recipe called for — my loaf was fully baked in about 45 minutes).

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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