Vibrant Food — Off the Shelf

by in Books, June 27th, 2014

Vibrant Food - Off the ShelfSeasonal cooking has become a household idea over the past couple of years, and it’s not hard to understand why. This rings especially true as summer heats up with lush promises of fresh produce. Admittedly, there are a lot of good seasonal-produce cookbooks that really do a spectacular job of highlighting the potential nestled within the freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables, but this year I’m especially taken with Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food.

Vibrant Food takes an artistic approach to building dishes around seasonal ingredients, but not in a way that makes the recipes difficult. (Usually when someone approaches food “artistically,” it can get quite complicated quite quickly. That’s not the case here.) Much to the contrary, the dishes are bright, delightful and striking both in beauty and in flavor. The vibrant colors are as well-balanced as the fresh, crisp flavors that fans of good food appreciate and expect as they eat their way through the seasons. Put simply, the book is gorgeous and the recipes are delicious.

Vibrant Food also casts a wide net with the types of dishes featured. You’ll find everything from your new favorite breakfast granola (I can’t stop eating Cherry Ginger Granola with Peaches) to a new favorite summer cocktail (the Pimm’s Cup). My personal favorite from the summer collection, though, is the recipe for Sweet Corn and Squash Fritters with Avocado Crema. The crunchy and smooth textures of the fritters mixed with the bright bursts of corn, a little heat from the jalapeno and the cool, creamy balance of the crema make for a perfect summer bite. They’re especially great if you’re still looking for that perfect vegetarian-friendly dish for your 4th of July barbecue.

Sweet Corn and Squash FrittersSweet Corn and Squash Fritters with Avocado Crema

I can’t get enough sweet corn in the summer. I eat it on the cob with salt and butter, tossed into salads, and in lots of fritters. I tire pretty quickly of summer squash, but here it plays an essential role as a binder and builder of structure. The corn makes everything bright with those little bursts of sweetness in every bite. And the crema feels rich and decadent but is nothing more than an avocado blended until creamy with yogurt and a squeeze of lime and salt. Perfect summer eating.

Fritters
2 small ears corn, preferably white, husks and silk removed
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated yellow squash (any summer squash will work here)
1/2 to 1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
5 green onions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Avocado Crema
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)

Stand the ears of corn upright in a large bowl. Using a very sharp knife, slowly slice the kernels of corn from the cob and into the bowl. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, jalapeno, green onions, basil, cilantro, and salt. Add the egg and mix until evenly combined. Add 1/4 cup of flour, mixing again until combined. If your batter is on the wet side, continue adding flour in 1 tablespoon increments, using no more than 1/2 cup of flour. The consistency of the batter should be moist, but more vegetable than batter. Set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.

While the batter rests, make the crema by combining the avocado, yogurt, lime juice, and salt in a bowl. Blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor until creamy. Set aside.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Working in batches, measure a scant 1/4 cup of the batter for each fritter and drop it into the pan, lightly pressing with a spatula. Cook 3 to 4 fritters at a time, undisturbed, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Flip and cook the other side for about 4 minutes more. Place the fritters on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding another tablespoon of oil to the pan at the start of each batch.

Serve the fritters warm, topped with the crema and basil.

Makes 10 fritters.

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Food written and photographed by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).

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