Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eek! The Zucchini Are Coming!!

Great, grand, abundant, ample, enormous- all words that can be used to describe the vegetable with humongous possibility many gardeners are graced/laden with this time of year. A few days ago (August 8th) was National Zucchini Day, formally known as Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day. I love this idea - after the sun goes down the zucchini people come out, creeping around the neighborhood with their hefty organic baggage, who are either exacerbated at what more to do with their bounty or just excited to play Secret Summer Squash Santa.

I remember a fellow cook telling me he didn't like summer squash (" boring, plebeian, nothing special"). I was shocked and felt pains for all the zucchini he may have neglected in his life. I quickly expressed my love for this most versatile vegetable and explained my favorite ways to enjoy summer squash.
Grilled, fried, fritters, pickled, raw.... And there is so much variety possible under the summer squash leaf umbrella - in addition to the common green zucchini and yellow crooknecks, there are multiple colors in all shapes and sizes -bright yellow, creamy yellow, dark green, speckled green, minty green, patty pans, ridged, bumped, round, crooked. I don't recommend growing this many types or you will be forced to play Squash Santa, but you can always find a large variety at the farmer's market. My personal favorite varieties are the flavorful costata romanesca, a green-speckled striped ridged Italian heirloom variety, and the little fine-textured pale green tromboncino pictured below. I tried to grow the costata romanesca zuke this year but I think my baby was switched at the nursery- I got a green eight ball variety instead.
Ideas for the Summer Squash Glut

These have been my standbys year after year....

Grilled- See my recipe from a couple weeks ago for Grilled Zucchini with Red Huckleberries and Feta

Fried- Try zucchini fries- battered or dry, oven-baked or fried.

Fritters- Turkish zucchini cakes with dill and served with yogurt sauce. Check out this recipe for Kabak Mucveri. This is a good way to use the bigger squashes.

Pickled- Every where you look on the interweb for zuke pickle recipes you run into Judy Rogers' awesome version for Zuni Cafe Zucchini Pickles. Check it out here. Another fun spicy version is here.

Raw- Use a mix of small to medium multi-colored summer squashes. This is a beautiful display of summer squash's pleasing colors and silhouettes. Shave squash thin on a mandoline and toss with lemon, olive oil, salt, and a fresh herb. Good herb pairings - basil, mint, tarragon, chives, fennel pollen. Try on top of grilled bread with fresh mozzarella.

Soup- Chilled green zucchini soup thickened with potato and topped with yogurt. See recipe below.

Eggy- Like my grandma used to make - a little sliced onion with zucchini cooked soft and soupy and eggs stirred in at the end. Recipe below.

Spread- An easy Tunisian dish-boil whole zucchini til soft, mash, drain excess liquid, and mix with harissa, garlic, lemon, caraway, coriander and olive oil. Yum. Yum yum on fresh pita with feta cheese.

Curry- Made this for the first time the other day- I think it will be a new standby- coconut turmeric lemongrass curry with summer squash and cherry tomatoes. Just make a favorite curry sauce, drop in squash and cook til tender. Remove from heat and stir in cherry tomatoes. I served mine with quinoa and a plethora of aromatic herbs and lettuce on the side.

Soft Zucchini and Eggs

This sounds simple, and it is easy to make, but for just a few ingredients it is so tasty and satisfying. I like this as a quick lunch. My grandma would make this as a side dish with dinner. My partner says this is his favorite breakfast.
I have never measured anything out when i make this- the technique is the most important part. The soft wet texture of the dish is best with "zucchini style" summer squash- the green or yellow straight tube varieties.

butter, a couple pats
onion, about a half, sliced thin
2-3 medium zucchini, sliced thick(1/3 -1/2 inch)
2-4 eggs, beaten
basil, optional

Heat frying pan (nonstick is nice because of the eggs but not necessary) over medium high heat. Add butter, onions and zucchini. Stir about and season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat to medium to keep vegetables from browning. Cook until zukes are tender, soft and vegetables release liquid. If not that much liquid comes out add a water to cover bottom of pan by about a half inch. I aim for a mix of textures- some of the zuke pieces to be just turning soft and some to be on the mushy side.
Add eggs and stir until they begin to set. Pull off heat and continue stirring until eggs turn to soft curds. Stir in optional basil and enjoy.

Chilled Humongous Zucchini and Potato Soup With Yogurt

This is great dish to rid yourself of huge zucchini. Honestly, it might taste a nip better with the younger sweeter sizes but it is still delicious with the big ones and a nice alternative to the ubiquitous zucchini bread. This makes a lot- share or freeze for later use.
During 'Heat Wave 2009' a couple weeks ago I made this in the morning coolness and brought the vat to an after-the-hot-hot-sun-goes-down-late-night-BBQ. All I wanted to eat that week was chilled soup. There is only a little bit of potato in here to give it that pleasing thick grainy texture. The cucumber is optional but helps lighten the soup, and very convenient if you have excess of those too. And this is actually really good hot or cold.

Olive oil
1 large or two medium onions, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 humongous zucchini, halve and remove any big hard seeds, sliced thin
1-2 cucumbers, peeled(unless soft skin variety), large seeds removed, and sliced thin, optional
5 -6 scallions, green and white part separated and chopped
a few handfuls of herbs- parsley, dill, and mint, chopped
plain yogurt- flavor with herbs if desired

In a large pot saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Add zucchini, optional cucumber, and white part of scallions. Stir and push down into liquid. Just cover by 1 inch with water and bring to a boil for a couple minutes. Remove from heat. Residual heat will continue to cook vegetables. Stir in half of the chopped herbs. Let cool to room temperature. If desired place in a ice water bath to speed up this process.
Once cool, puree soup with green scallion tops, remaining herbs, and a glug of olive oil. Adjust the seasoning with salt and herbs and consistency with water if needed. Chill until cold.
Serve with a swirl of yogurt and lemon wedges.

1 comment:

  1. Yum! I have a huge zucchini from mom I need to use. Nice post Christina :)