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Wednesday, July 25, 2007 03:24 am

Zucchini abundance

HereÂ’s how to make a faux crab cake

Untitled Document My job is to think about food. As a constant forager for news that relates to the food we eat and the myriad interconnected environmental, political, ethical, and health issues in a constantly changing global economy, I have a lot of stuff swirling around in my head. For the most part, I am able to sort through the chatter and compartmentalize accordingly. Lately, though, all I can do is worry.
The trouble started when I got wind of Shaq’s Big Challenge, the ABC reality-TV show starring basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, whose mission is to turn six Miami-area teens “from fat to fit.”
I’m watching for a few minutes, and suddenly it dawns on me: Fat kids are no longer the exception to the rule, with Fat Albert or Rerun from What’s Happening!! as fatty novelties of the 1970s. We have become a nation of young fatties, and there’s enough blubber to justify a reality show. Sheesh. I turn my attention to headlines about the 2007 Farm Bill, an omnibus piece of legislation rewritten every five years that determines food policy for the next five. Now I really have a headache.
I learn that about 70 percent of farm subsidies appropriated by the 2002 bill went to commodity crops: cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat. The incentive for these farmers is to overproduce, which allows them to sell below the cost of production, which means that it’s a great deal for the junk-food industry to take corn and turn it into high-fructose corn syrup for sodas and Twinkie-like school-lunch snacks that are too darn cheap to resist for a young fatty on Shaq’s show. If one of those kids had a dollar to spend on dinner and the choices were a minicanister of Pringles or a zucchini, what do you think our nation’s future generation would pick? Uh-huh. Speaking of zucchini, the green veg is having a prolific moment of its own right now. Once that vine gets started, it just keeps on giving — but during this television season the notion of too many zucchini is somehow comforting.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Crab Crab Cakes Adapted from John Shields, chef/owner, Gertrude’s (in Baltimore), as part of Cooking Fresh from the Mid-Atlantic, edited by Fran McManus and Wendy Rickard

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini Salt 1 cup breadcrumbs One egg, beaten 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon mayonnaise    or plain yogurt Juice of half a lemon 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley Vegetable oil for frying
Place grated zucchini in a colander; sprinkle lightly with salt. Let zucchini sit for about 30 minutes, allowing it to drain. Squeeze to remove additional  liquid — zucchini should be fairly dry. Place zucchini and breadcrumbs in a large bowl and mix together. In a smaller bowl, combine egg,  Old Bay, Dijon, mayo, lemon juice and parsley, mixing well. Pour egg mixture into zucchini-breadcrumb mixture and mix gently yet thoroughly. Form into eight patties and chill for about 15 minutes. Heat a small amount of oil in a sauté pan and cook patties on both sides, browning well, about 5 minutes on each side. Serve with tartar sauce, chopped capers, fresh basil, lemon wedges or halved Sungold tomatoes.
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