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Category Archives: zucchini

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

As I was on my daily walk this morning, I listened to a podcast of Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s radio show “The Splendid Table.” During the call in portion of the show, a woman asked about showing proper respect in discarding a beloved old cookbook that had literally been used to death, and for which a replacement had been found on the internet. This got me to thinking about the brief period during which I was an adherent of the “Flylady” plan of life management, and the horror I felt when one of my daily instructional e-mails suggested that I divest myself of at least one, if not more, of my cookbooks. Just for the sake of “decluttering.” The mere memory of this frightening episode made me want to come home and look lovingly at my motley assortment of cookbooks, if only to reassure myself that I did not have to part with any of them, even if I just loved one or two recipes, or the photographs, or the fact that the book had belonged to my grandmother.

Among my cookbook treasures is a collection of recipes from the Women’s Society of my church, circa 1974. Most of the contributors are women of about my own mother’s age, who were themselves mothers in their 30s and 40s when they contributed recipes. I know many of the women now, and I love to picture them in their avocado or Harvest Gold kitchens whipping up Jello molds for a salad luncheon. Don’t tell them I said that, please.

My first favorite thing about this cookbook is the Table of Contents which is divided into the following four sections: “Salad Recipes,” “Vegetable Recipes,” “Weight Watchers Recipes” and “Quantity Cookery.” No run-of-the-mill appetizers, meat dishes or desserts for this group.

My second favorite thing is that the book came from a used book sale (at the church, actually) and bears handwritten notes made by the previous owner. About the Cinnamon Applesauce Mold recipe, my anonymous predecessor has written “Christmas at Carol’s ’78. Very nice layered salad.” She did not fare as well with the 7-Layer Jello Ribbon Salad, about which she noted “very pretty but kids don’t like filling.” This was when I began to love her just a little. I’m also thinking she was (and possibly still is) a pretty good good. She writes that the Tea Garden Salad is “very good with taste of mace in topping,” and in several cases she has annotated the ingredients to change the quantities based on her own experience and preferences.

Maybe I know my 70s Church-Lady. Perhaps she is on a committee with me, or I have sat next to her in an adult education class. Maybe she moved to Florida and jettisoned the books she wouldn’t need in her new life as a sunbird. Whoever she is, I feel a connection to her when I use her old cookbook, and I hope she is still alive, well, and cooking somewhere. Here are a couple of pretty timeless recipes from the book that use seasonal vegetables:

Zucchini Omelet

(Which is Really More of a Frittata)

  1. 1/4 cup corn oil (as it is no longer 1974, I used olive oil)
  2. 2 cup thinly sliced, unpared zucchini (I also add a couple of cloves of diced garlic and a sliced onion, but this is entirely optional)
  3. 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  4. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  6. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a 10 inch skillet, heat oil and add zucchini. Cook over moderate heat, stirring several times until lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients. Pour over zucchini. As mixture sets, lift edges and tilt pan so soft portion runs down to bottom of pan. While still slightly soft on top, cut into 4 wedges and turn over to brown on other side slightly. Serves 4.

Scalloped Eggplant

  1. 1 medium eggplant
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1/4 cup chopped onion
  4. 3 cups chopped, fresh tomatoes
  5. 1 teaspoon sugar
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  8. 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  9. 1/3 soft breadcrumbs
  10. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Dice and peel eggplant. (I do not peel eggplant, but its your call). Cook (parboil) in water to cover for 5 to 10 minutes (it should be softened, but not mushy). Drain well. Melt 2 tablespoons butter, saute onion in it. Combine tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, onions and eggplant. Place in casserole and bake for 30 minutes.

Blend 2 tablespoons melted butter, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle crumb mixture over eggplant casserole. Bake 20 minutes more at 375, or until topping is lightly browned and eggplant is tender. Serves 6-8.

Zucchini My Husband Will Eat

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We are not suffering from an abundance of zucchini. I can’t really garden here due to the unfortunate combination of a big house and a small lot (resulting in complete shade) and most of my friends are not gardeners with the exception of my 10-year-old friend Hannah, who grows and shares beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers. No zucchini, though.

Since I am not aggrieved by baskets-full of the stuff, I still love it, and buy it every week at the Farmer’s Market. Unfortunately, the boys do not love it, and would really rather not see it again. Last night, I discovered that although I had planned (and published) a menu of grilled pork, corn and melon, I had not, in fact bought any corn. I had bought melon, but it turned out to be a yucky, tasteless specimen – unusual in these parts at these time of year, but it happens. So, I made a big pot of rice and stared at my zucchini, hoping to be inspired. I had the zucchini, I always have olive oil, garlic and onions, and I had these tiny peppers from the local Hmong farmers:

hmong-peppers.jpg

The Kitchen Gods were with me, and I came up with something that was not only eaten, but eaten with gratitude and enjoyment rather than a strong sense of fulfilling a duty.

Zucchini My Husband Will Eat

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 3 cloves garlic, smashed, diced, or some of each (I like to smash them because this recipe involves cooking them slowly so that they get very sweet and I loved finding chunks of the garlic in my zucchini, but dice is fine, too).
  3. 1 onion (I used a sweet one), diced
  4. 2 zucchini and/or other summer squash, cut into thin slices
  5. 6-10 tiny peppers, or 1-2 jalapenos, or whatever peppers you have, trimmed and diced (I made this dish very spicy; you might want to tailor the pepper level to your family’s fire tolerance).
  6. Edited to add: I have discovered, since publishing this recipe that some fresh or cooked corn, cut from the cob, is a fantastic addition to this dish.
  7. 1 tablespoon sugar
  8. Salt and Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a generous frying or sautee pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers and cook slowly, careful not to burn garlic or brown anything, until vegetables are soft and onions are transparent. The garlic won’t get completely soft, but when the onions are soft and transparent, the garlic is ready.

Add the zucchini and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the zucchini softens and becomes more translucent. The onion may brown a bit here, but there should be enough moisture from the zucchini to keep anything from sticking or burning. If you see sticking or burning, you can add a little chicken broth, or water.

Taste a bit of zucchini. It will probably be quite spicy. Add about a tablespoon of sugar, and continue cooking; taste again. This produced, for me, a delightful kind of hot/sweet flavor that we loved. If you’ve added less pepper, add less sugar; the idea is just to transform the flavor from purely “hot” to a more complex, sweet-hot. Continue cooking until zucchini is all soft and you’re happy with the flavor. This is delicious over jasmine rice.

Reject Pantry Day 2 and Zucchini Custard

The Pantry Reject challenge continues, and today I used the Mesquite Smoked Maine Sea Salt that started it all. After referring to the Maine Sea Salt Company‘s website, I applied about a teaspoon of the salt to a pork tenderloin, and wrapped it tightly to “marinate” for the day.

sea-salt.jpg

Rob grilled the tenderloin with no further salting or spicing. It was quite tasty, although I tasted more salt than mesquite. Considering that I still have quite a lot left in the jar, I can try again with more. In all fairness, I never said I was going to use all of these things up this week, just that I would use them.

To accompany the grilled pork, I prepared Barbara Kafka’s Zucchini Custard, which is basically a crustless quiche. We also had a bowl of very fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market, roughly chopped with a bit of kosher salt. They would not have won any beauty contests, those immense, misshapen tomatoes with the odd wormhole and black line, but they are to ethylene-gassed grocery store tomatoes what 18 karat gold is to pyrite.

The Zucchini Custard was delicious, but I think I used too much zucchini – I tried to estimate 2 pounds, but it seemed to me that the finished dish had too much zucchini in relation to the cheese custard. My recommendations are that you try this, because its lovely, but that you try for the correct amount of zucchini and slice it all to the 1/4-inch thickness called for by the recipe.

zucchini-custard.jpg

Squash and Barley Faux Mexico

Okay, so my cooking skills perhaps outshine my facility for making up names for recipes. All the good names have been taken, though – how could I hope to top, say, “Ouefs a la Neige,” or “Spanikopita?”

Anyway, I am having some sort of summer crud involving a sore throat and a stuffy nose, and so I convinced myself that some healthy food would help me get better faster. Never mind the fact that I had several zucchini, summer squash, and sweet onions on the edge of death from last week’s trip to the Farmer’s Market.

My original plan was to use up the instant barley in my cupboard and combine it with a vaguely Italian combination of the squashes, onions, garlic and some fresh Basil and Parmesan. I still plan to try this some day, but making it today would have meant dipping into the Parmesan I need to make Carbonara for dinner, so I changed continents and found a can of black beans and some cumin seeds. Here’s what I made, which was actually quite good. It could certainly be made healthier with 2% cheese, but I was using up what I had in the house.

squash-barley-a-la-mexico.jpg

Squash and Barley Faux Mexico

  1. 1 cup instant barley
  2. 1 large or 2 small zucchini, halved and sliced thin
  3. 1 large or 2 small yellow squash halved and sliced thin
  4. 1 sweet onion halved and sliced thin
  5. 1 garlic clove, smashed
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  8. 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  9. 1 can black beans, drained
  10. 1 cup shredded Mexican Blend, Monterey Jack, Cheddar or Chihuahua cheese
  11. salt and pepper to taste

Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add barley, and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

While barley simmers, heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion for about 3 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Add cumin seeds and cayenne and stir for 1 more minute. Add zucchini and summer squash and saute until squashes are soft, taking care not to burn garlic and onions. This should take up most of the time it takes for the barley to cook.

Remove barley from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. During this time, reduce heat under squash mixture to “low,” stir canned beans gently into mixture, and then stir in cheese. Stir barley into squash mixture, add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Note: I did not experience a miraculous cure, but I had a great lunch.

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