Friday, August 12, 2016

It's zucchini time - By Harrison Wood

And you thought Rhubarb time was challenging, coming up with enough ways to use it without repeating things and getting old, and now you know great ways to use the rhubarb other than just the plan old strawberry rhubarb pie; well it’s zucchini squash time, there’s no time to lose, the motivation is even greater, they’re exploding off of each plant with no time to waste.

While getting ready prepare, be one step ahead of the demon of squash and pumpkins, the squash vine borer that tunnels into the stem at ground level, ultimately destroying the plants. It’s easy, simply take a fair size piece of heavy tin foil, about a foot, then lift the lower stem, wrap the foil around the stem at ground level, leaving some of the foil on the soil around it too add an upward facing mirror that will help confuse the adult vine borer, encouraging him to go elsewhere.

A tasty vibrant squash like zucchini lets you begin slowly and early, starting first by using the abundant early morning male squash flowers, that normally get wasted, using them in ways that you never thought possible. You can start with not only batter fried squash blossoms but also by using them in an early morning tort, a quiche, or even using them while mixing your pancake batter. The important thing to remember when making the batter dipped squash blossoms is to carefully cut the connecting stem end off thus removing the bitter pistil, before cutting the flowers into wide strips just before you add them to an egg mixture. If making a tort, or quiche add several early morning flowers to an egg mix and then after adding the mixture to a prepared crust, topping the mix with several more cut flowers in a spiral pattern, makes a real surprising image, as though you were creating a sunflower appearance, cooking for about thirty minutes at 350 degrees; If you’re not quite ready for that then try something easier like a squash blossom and Gruyere focaccia or a frittata, or simply adding to your scramble egg recipe. Fried zucchini blossoms can also be combined with a side of salad, and used at dinner or lunch time, or if more adventurous, a tasty squash blossom soup.

We’ve all made zucchini bread, even though the best initial recipe I had was shared with me years ago by my Boston radio friend Dave Maynard of WBZ radio, yet now I take it one step further by poking a series of deep holes in the top of a warm freshly cooked loaf with a skewer, and then brushing on an easy to make orange syrup glaze. If you feel real adventurous, after it has cooled, finish with a white chocolate topping.

On those days when I find myself either busy drawing at the design table or writing at the computer, a simple trimmed zucchini salad with one of the late season lettuces, graced with some easy to make homemade honey dressing, a touch of either parsley, basil or better yet cut mint leaves, make my seemingly simple salad something more. If friends are over, it might be a grilled ribbon salad, highlighted with the first of the tom basil leaves atop along with a topping of fresh shavings of Parmesan cheese.

The second most common use beyond simple grilled or fried zucchini is to make a quick to cook Ratatouille, a great way to combine using up a lot of extra vegetables, like eggplant, onions, and peppers. Don’t forget the addition of a couple of bouquets of fresh thyme along with a couple of fresh dug garlic cloves and a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes, or better yet sliced heirlooms. That’s a great side dish for lunch or dinner, especially if friends are coming.
And then the hot summer days hit, you need a rest and before you can either eat them all or give enough away, the squash turns into submarines, or at least some that look large enough to be such. Well this season don’t throw them aside in the compost, bring them into the kitchen for a one dish meal.

This is a no brainer. Scoop out the center seedy flesh from a squash after it was cut halfway lengthwise, then place the readied squash into an oiled casserole dish. After preheating the oven to 400 degrees, I begin by sautéing some chopped onion and garlic, careful not to add the garlic to soon. When just starting to color I add crumbled sweet sausage, and then the saved zucchini flesh along with some chopped cherry tomatoes, mixing up the color. Cook until softened which is usually around four minutes. Meanwhile in a medium bowl while the mix is cooking I mix together parmesan (or any cheeses you prefer) along with some chopped mozzarella and some chopped parsley and basil along with my favorite homemade breadcrumbs, spooning the meat mix generously into the waiting zucchini boats, topping with the breadcrumb mix, a bit of a good virgin olive oil, bake for about 45 minutes or until was darkened on top.

Friday night and you’re looking for something light and quick to eat, how about zucchini pizzas? Start with a fairly good sized squash, cutting it into four slices, topping each one with a slice of tomato, and a bit of mozzarella, and you’re off. I top each one with a slice or two of salami, and then pop into a hot oven just until the cheese melts. Too hot, don’t worry. This one is just as tasty cool as it is warm. Play with it. Try different toppings just like you would on a real pizza.

So you can see there is plenty of room for your zucchinis in the kitchen, this is only the beginning, you may even do as I did several years ago, and plant a second planting for later in the season. Either way, enjoy.

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