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Volume 39 Issue 13 • July 30-Aug 5, 2009
now in our 39th season

Zucchini Time

by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

Ahhhh it is zucchini time again.  I know zucchini all too well.  Most people who have grown it in their garden understand what I mean.  Zucchini seems to produce unceasingly once the blossoms turn into the small tender squash.  If you have never grown zucchini, it is relatively simple to do, and it is fairly hearty.  It does not seem to mind a growing season that may be very difficult on other plants.  In fact a few of these feisty plants can easily feed a small family for a season.  Normally I look forward to zucchini season, since zucchini bread is one of my favorite snacks.  I have to admit, my grandma’s zucchini bread recipe is still the best, though I have found some that are pretty darn good.     

  My family always had a large vegetable garden in addition to their dairy farm.  Usually we had sweet corn, tomatoes, several varieties of onions, peas, carrots, radishes, lettuces, and of course summer and winter squash.  One year my grandmother entrusted my grandfather with the planting of the garden, which they usually did together.  He tilled up the plot, made beautiful rows, and started sowing the seed.  In the past years they had planted just a couple of mounds of zucchini, maybe 5 or 6 plants total, but that year was going to be different.  Grandpa was not paying attention to what he was doing, and planted two full rows or probably more than 40 zucchini plants.  Needless to say we had more zucchini than we knew what to do with.  It was a virtual zucchini festival.  These plants fed my grandparents, my two uncles and their families, my mother and me.  They also fed all of our neighbors, co-workers, friends, extended family, and several members of the local retirement homes.  In fact we picked the squash twice daily, shredding pounds of it to freeze (we filled a big coffin style freezer full of it!) and make zucchini breads and cakes.  My grandma made zucchini bread with nuts, without nuts, with pineapple, and with raisins.  She made chocolate zucchini squares, and cookies too.  We ate zucchini three meals a day, every day, and for an after school snack.  It was unbelievable; I even carved the larger squash into art projects.

  It got so bad that we started covert missions to rid ourselves of the excess.  When a neighbor wasn’t home we left baskets or bags of zucchini on their doorsteps (even if we did not know them!).  We thought we would be smart and throw away the extra that we couldn’t use, but the pesky squash still caused us trouble.   The seeds just kept sprouting new plants in our compost pile.  We even began feeding our cattle zucchini.  My uncles begged my grandmother to stop bringing squash to them.  She just waited until they went to work to leave the grocery bags full of zucchini.  She very coyly claimed “It must have been one of the neighbors….” 

We ate zucchini omelets, zucchini quiche, zucchini blossoms, zucchini soup, zucchini relish, zucchini pasta, zucchini with tomatoes, zucchini without tomatoes, zucchini bread, stir-fried zucchini, zucchini pancakes and zucchini hash.  We sautéed, braised, baked, fried, steamed, blanched, and boiled zucchini, cooking it in any manner we could find a recipe for.  We had zucchini cakes for every family birthday for at least the following year.  The chocolate zucchini cake with mini chocolate chips is still one of my favorites, since it is terrifically moist. 

  That being said, I think I have eaten zucchini in just about every way it can be consumed.  Believe it or not I still enjoy the stuff (though I must admit it took a couple years to get over the trauma of the “great zucchini year”).  On the bright side I have a pretty good basis for a thesis on zucchini, if I ever chose to go that direction. 

  The most creative thing I have ever tasted made with zucchini was liquor.  It tasted like a smooth cream sherry, and was delicious.  Surprisingly it was made by a monk in Illinois.  I always wished I had gotten the recipe, maybe someday I will find it.  Now that would have been the perfect use for all that squash! 

Here are a few stand-bys that have gotten my family through zucchini season.  I wish you all with an over abundance of zucchini the best of luck this year.  I also remind you that it freezes well especially shredded (so does the zucchini bread and the zucchini cake and…..).

Mom’s Easy Zucchini Side Dish

  • 1 Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Ripe tomato, roughly diced
  • 2-3 Zucchini, cut into slices
  • Olive oil
  • S/P
  • Basil

Sauté the onion, and garlic in the olive oil, add the tomatoes, basil and zucchini and cook until preferred doneness (some like it a little crisp still while others prefer this dish cooked till nearly mushy). Taste, season, and serve.

 Stuffed Zucchini and Parmesan Boats

  • 3 zucchini , about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion 
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups tomatoes , cored, seeded and but into one-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb ground pork, cooked, crumbled and drained
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts 
  • 1 egg 
  • 6 tablespoons fine fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

Split the zucchini in half. Scoop out the center flesh/pulp, leaving a shell about a quarter-inch thick. Reserve the pulp.  Drop the zucchini shells into cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 seconds. Drain and run under cold running water.

In a skillet, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, tomato, basil, and the reserved pulp. Cook, for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and briefly cool. Stir in the pork, pine nuts, egg and bread crumbs. Blend well with hands. Stuff the squash with this mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend remaining bread crumbs and the grated cheese and sprinkle over the stuffed zucchini.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the stuffed zucchini, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Traditional Zucchini Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • One half teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • One half cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla extract, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans, liberally.  Bake 1 hour, then check the bread to see if a tester comes out clean, if not add ten more minutes and test again.

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