cooking food Uncategorized

Pass the zucchini, please

My husband is the gardener in our house. He gets assists from the kids, but mostly the garden is his baby. My involvement is limited to picking and using what he grows.

Every year is different. I still remember fondly the year of arugula, when we were swimming in the bold, spicy green (arugula pesto, anyone?). Also the fall when a volunteer ended up producing a dozen or so large, delicious butternuts, my favorite variety of winter squash. There was the volunteer that yielded one precious, flavorful cantaloupe melon, and the volunteers that gave us reams of pretty but otherwise useless gourds.

zukeLast year a drought hindered output, this year it was too little time. A little lettuce, some tomatoes, grapes from the grapevine, and not much else. Except for the zucchini. That we’ve have plenty of, for weeks. I imagine I’m not the only person in this situation (I refuse to call it a problem). Here’s what I’ve done with the surplus.

First, I confess that although I love to cook, I tend to go for the simple. When I do follow recipes, I rarely do it religiously. I eyeball quantities. I’m an estimator. Perhaps I got this from my Italian mother. The only time I ever saw her use her recipe book was when she was baking cookies or making a cake.

I love zucchini straight up, and I’ll alternate between broiling, frying, sauteéing, and roasting. For broiling, I slice the squash into thin strips and lay the strips onto a cookie sheet sprayed or brushed with olive oil. More oil on top, and generous sprinklings of salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, or whatever spice strikes my fancy, and they’re ready to go under the broiler for a bit. To fry, I slice the zucchini into rounds, drop them into hot oil, sprinkle them with spices and let them sizzle undisturbed (that’s the key) for a couple of minutes before turning them over. When I roast, I cut the squash into long chunks, toss it with olive oil and spices, throw on some minced garlic if I’m not feeling lazy, and stick it in the oven at 425 or thereabouts for about ten or fifteen minutes.

We’re lucky enough to have a spiralizer, so we make zucchini pasta, too. To cook or not to cook is the question. We have thrown the noodles into a hot cast iron pan and sauteed them (it only takes a minute), then tossed them with tomato sauce. They tend to get watery but we don’t mind that. This summer I also tried dropping them into boiling water for one minute and that worked pretty well. They’re fine raw, too. My new favorite recipe involves throwing an avocado, a cucumber, and a couple of garlic cloves into the blender until nice and creamy, then adding a little lemon juice and salt and pepper. Toss that sauce with the raw spiralized noodles and you’ve got a delicious cold zucchini salad. Chop up some of your surplus tomatoes and cucumbers and throw them in, too, if you like.

What about those massive zucchinis you didn’t pick soon enough? They’re delicious if you stuff them. There are a million recipes out there for stuffed zucchini, but in the tradition of my mother, I just make up my own. Last night I sliced my monster zucchini in half, scooped out the inside, sauteed it with some chopped onion and mushroom, seasoned it with plenty of onion powder, threw in the leftover plain quinoa in the fridge and some toasted sunflower seeds, mixed in a couple of beaten eggs, and used that mixture to fill the hollowed out squash. At 350, it took longer to bake than I wanted it to, so next time I’ll do 400.

I also make a crustless zucchini pie that’s a variation on this recipe. I leave out the cheese because not everyone in my house tolerates it and instead I throw in my go-to parmesan cheese substitute, chopped kalamata olives. I change up the fillings, too, and in the past have used chopped fresh tomato, mushrooms, and various kinds of fresh herbs.

Zucchini fritters are also good. To make those, I just shred the zucchini, throw in a few eggs and some flour and whatever else strikes my fancy. It might be olives, mushrooms, chopped onions, cumin, or garlic. Squeezing the water out of the zucchini is nice but I don’t always do it. If the batter doesn’t seem to hold as well as I’d like when I start dropping spoonfuls of it into the hot oil, I just add some more flour or another egg.

Of course there’s always zucchini bread. For that I do follow a recipe, and I’m happy because I recently found a great one for gluten free zucchini bread. I’ve already made it four times this summer.

That’s it for my zucchini ideas, dear readers. They’re not particularly radical or super gourmet, and they don’t even include ratatouille, but I love them all, and of course I always welcome new ones. If you have any, please share in the comments. Happy end of summer zucchini harvest to you all!

 

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