Sunday, June 30, 2013

zucchini: 20 ways to chow down on squash

Zucchini and summer squash, like June, are busting out all over, and farmers markets are abundantly displaying their green, yellow, and dappled best. Like a good farm-to-table disciple, I am eating zucchini in droves, and therefore am in need of solutions to the piles of squash that now sit dreamily on my kitchen table. The ideas and recipes below traverse the sweet-savory spectrum, and feel free to chime in with any summer zucchini favorites!


1. Fritters: Grate zucchini, mix it with egg, flour, salt, lemon, and garlic. Form palm sized patties, and fry them up or bake them.

2. Frittata: Saute zucchini and onions in an oven-safe saute pan (cast iron works beautifully). Pour a mixture of eggs with a dab of cream and a smidge of salt over the vegetables and let it cook for a few minutes. Throw in some goat cheese or mozzarella. Transfer to the oven. (Want more detailed instructions?)

3. Tartare: Slice the zucchini paper thin, and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Mmmm...

4. Pizza: Saute the zucchini, and layer on pizza dough with goat cheese, pears, and caramelized onions.

5. Salad: Roast chunks of zucchini, and toss with onions (raw or roasted), tomatoes, and corn.

6. Stuffed: Hollowed out, roasted a bit, then stuffed with either more vegetables or a mix of ground turkey and vegetables (early recipe - and photographs! - here)

7. Sauteed: With olive oil, basil on top. 'Nough said.

8. Gratined: Layer zucchini and cheese in a casserole dish. Bake. Eat.

9. Sauced: Cooked down with tomatoes and onions, and served over pasta.

10. Fried: Slice thinly, coat with an egg and flour batter, fry, drain, and serve hot.

11. Lasagne: Zucchini strips in place of lasagna noodles in your favorite recipe.

12. Towering: Layer roast zucchini with mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and top with basil.

13. Roll-ups: Slice zucchini thinly and lengthwise, and wrap it around the filling of your choice (prosciutto and arugula, perhaps?)

14. Crostini: Cut zucchini as you would slice a baguette, and top with dollops of cheese, or caramelized onions, or corn salad, or chopped tomatoes and basil...

15. Soup: Like squash soup, use zucchini for a milder, sweeter soup.


1. Bread: 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, pinch of salt. Stir that all together, then grate the zucchini, mix it in, and add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and vanilla. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil into two eggs, beat them together, then add 2 teaspoons milk or half and half. Mix the wet into the dry, stirring constantly. Butter a bread tin (or a pie plate if you're like me and don't own a bread tin), and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes. This recipe is a riff on a recipe from the gorgeous Home Made Summer.

2. Muffins or Cupcakes: the above recipe, but feel free to switch out the dried fruit for dark chocolate chips. Add a sugar topped coating or vanilla icing for cupcakes.

3. Whoopie Pies: I have to give a shout out to Not Without Salt for this recipe. I've toyed around with flavors using this as a base recipe, and her instructions for whoopie pie filling are just about perfect.

4. Pie: A savory/sweet combo, use a tart shell, fill with cheese and thinly sliced zucchini.

5. Cookies: Add in grated zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts, and you get a tender cookie.

Bon zucchini appetit!

Monday, June 17, 2013

and now, celebrating National Vegetable Day!

"Eat your vegetables." How many kids shudder hearing that phrase? It's a threat, one of those phrases that definitely has a second, unspoken clause... "Or else!" Sometimes, the threat isn't even the silent kind - "Eat your vegetables or you don't get to go play!" or "You don't get to leave the table until you eat your vegetables!" Even if your parents never spoke those words, the scenario is often viewed in movies or commercials or tv (ie our contemporary culture) as a vegetable-eating martyrdom, a bizarre ritual of childhood that must be completed in order to go on with the rest of the day. The impending green doom of the dinner hour.

When I was younger, I never particularly liked vegetables either. The much-maligned greens were always last on my plate, and second helpings of mushy vegetables unheard of. Frozen vegetables made me wince and gag, with their icy water pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Salad was mostly tasteless, unless smothered in blue cheese dressing. Tomatoes were almost acceptable, but then again, tomatoes are fruit.

In part, I'm sure it's in our tastebuds. The terrifying and fascinating mapping of taste presented in Salt, Sugar, Fat outlined how children develop a taste and longing for the eponymous three things, and how salt and sugar levels, when lowered in products, don't give the same taste satisfaction to kids. If they aren't imminently delectable, kids don't beg for them, meaning sales plummet. Vegetables don't come with that kind of taste built in - by turns mellow, bitter, crunchy, faintly sweet,"tasteless," and with little to no fat to make a smooth taste, we are not genetically primed to crave these vitamin-, mineral-, and all-around-good-stuff-packed powerhouses over a Twix bar.

And yet. Even though it's not necessarily a longed-for taste at first, when you start cooking more vegetables, and eating more fresh things, it feels good. Not just in that I'm-healthy-and-oh-so-much-more-superior snobby style, but a craving develops for the various tastes in and of themselves - they "grow" on you (please pardon my pun). I can hardly believe the anti-veggite child in me can write this, but I think the vegetable deserves poetic odes. Complex flavors and unlimited variety now have me skipping from vegetable booth to vegetable booth at my farmer's market, or careening around the vibrant stacks at Whole Foods, scooping up this and that, trying out tastes that just aren't found anywhere else. It makes me more adventurous, too, challenging me to mine the internet for unusual greens and what to do with them. Garlic scapes? Not a problem, I can make scape-almond pesto! Kohlrabi? Under control. 3 varieties of kale? To the internet to see what spices and sauces play off each variety! My anti-veggite childhood self may just have grown into earth-and-vegetable-adoring maturity.

And so, in honor of National Vegetable Day, I recommend amending the time honored admonishment: "Eat your vegetables because you like them, and ENJOY!"