August 15, 2011

In May, I wrote a post about what I hope the summer would bring, ice cream and celebration, kind, lazy hours to follow a rather challenging spring.  And I said I hoped I would hold fast to the clarity that cancer-fighting had brought; a keen sense of what was important, and what wasn’t.

It is frighteningly easy, how quickly one’s promise to those priorities can lose ground.  Vanity, ego, routine, obligation, and practicality creep in, stand in the way, take things back to the “normal” you promised yourself you’d never return to.

And so, when the idea came into my head—the crazy idea to drive to Memphis on a Friday, spend two days with my mom and drive back again—I ruled it out.  It was too crazy.  People didn’t do that, or rather people like me (who plan everything ahead of time) didn’t do things so impulsive.  And I “should” probably spend the weekend getting ready for school, cleaning the house, blah blah blah blah.

But I couldn’t shake the thought.  I missed my mom, and wasn’t going to see her again until October.  That just seemed too far away.  So Thursday night, as Jill and I were coming home from a lovely evening out with friends, I tossed out my crazy idea.  “I still really want to go,” I said.  “Then go,” she said.  “It’s not like you’ll regret it.”

And boy oh boy was she right.  From the moment I surprised my mom in her driveway (she was tending to her garden, of course), I knew every mile I had driven was worth it.  She didn’t know whether to hug me or scold me—I had caught her off-guard, I drove all that way alone, she did not have all of my favorite foods prepared—the look on her face is one I’ll never forget.

We went to the movies, sat outside in the sunshine, ate ice cream cones, read books.  We talked about politics, and plans for the future, and discovered a new Mexican restaurant right by her house. I loaded new music on her ipod and she put my hair into French braids, like she did when I was a girl.  Despite her lack of notice, she is managing to send me back with a cooler full of food.

Sometimes the idea that seems totally crazy is actually the sanest one of all.


I found this zucchini recipe in Food & Wine, adapted the dressing (it’s really more like a dip) recipe in Bon Appétit.  They were a very big hit with my father-in-law, a man who knows his fried foods and who always gives his honest opinion.  He didn’t even think they needed anything on them, but the Green Goddess is so fantastic on sandwiches you might ought to make it anyhow.

Because I’m turning into one of those people, I made both the ricotta (for the fritters) and the mayonnaise (for the dressing) from scratch.  Turns out they are both very easy to do, but it’s so not necessary.

for the dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup scallion, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 T tarragon vinegar (you can use white vinegar & throw in 1 T fresh tarragon)
1 tsp. anchovy paste

Blend it all in a food processor, or whisk very well by hand.  Keep refrigerated until time to use.

for the fritters:

2 medium zucchini, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, very thinly sliced
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
salt & pepper

olive oil, for frying
lemon wedges, for serving

Stir together the zucchini, garlic, shallot, ricotta, eggs, zest, & 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Add the flour and stir until just combined.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  In a large skillet, heat ¼-inch olive oil until it shimmers.  To make the fritters, drop in 2 tablespoons of the batter at a time, flattening them with the back of a spoon.  Fry in batches, turning once, until brown and crisp (3-5 minutes).  Drain on paper towels and serve right away, with the lemon wedges and dressing.



  1. We’re all glad to benefit from your surprise trip! Happy new school year – just had opening chapel here! love you.

    Comment by Katherine — August 15, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  2. Delighted to add zucchini fritters to the growing stack of printouts from Blue Jean Gourmet. I’ll try them this week.
    Hugs, Mary Jane

    Comment by Mary Jane — August 15, 2011 @ 10:59 am

  3. Nishta…I think you absolutely made the right decision to go see your mom…I so enjoyed reading about your time together…very important not to second guess ourselves!
    I will try the zucchini fritters tonight, they sound awesome…Thanks!

    Comment by Laurel — August 15, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

  4. “Sometimes the idea that seems totally crazy is actually the sanest one of all.”

    I have a quote in response:
    When love is not madness, it is not love.
    ~Pedro Calderon de la Barca

    a little madness or crazy is a GOOD thing – it’s boring being completely sane and predictable.

    xoxoxo – you are awesome!!

    Comment by mel — August 16, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  5. we are overrun with zucchini from our CSA! I am making these this week! i’m scared to attempt my own ricotta though, although everyone swears it is so easy! if i did accomplish it, i fear i’d eat a whole loaf of ciabatta with ricotta and honey on it!

    Comment by mary-kathryn — September 13, 2011 @ 10:10 am

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