Zucchini On My Mind

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Summer Harvest Goes Out In Style

Summer’s end fills our kitchens with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and summer squash. Most of us have many ways to turn garden abundance into pantry staples, but those over-achieving zucchini have a lot of folks stumped by September.  I learned to appreciate zucchini and other summer squash as a student in Italy, where cooks have countless ways to make this humble vegetable truly delicious. Some of my favorite treatments are the simplest, relying on fresh, flavorful produce. Here’s one that works beautifully with the young and tender but also does wonders for the hulking brutes that hide under the leaves until they’re huge.

Roasted Zucchini Wedges

2-3 zucchini or 1 huge one
2-3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil**
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 lemon, cut in 8 wedges

** I use avocado oil for its high temp tolerance

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut zucchini into 2 inch lengths, then cut these lengthwise into 6-8 wedges or more, depending on girth. Don’t worry if they’re unequal, it’s all good. Pour the oil into a rimmed baking sheet, add zucchini wedges and gently toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 F for 30-40 minutes until wedges are caramelized and slightly crisp on the bottom. Serve at once, with lemon slices. Serves at least one.

Grilled Teriyaki Zucchini

A quick homemade teriyaki sauce converts monster zucchini into a delectable entree. Tucked into crusty rolls, slathered with more sauce, and lively with slices of sweet onion and spicy peppers, the grilled zucchini “steaks” are toothsome indeed. Use the same approach with thickly sliced eggplant, sweet potatoes, or beets for a memorable melange. Leftovers taste great the next day, in cold sandwiches or served up as a spunky side dish.

Grilled Vegetable Teriyaki

1 cup plain rice vinegar
1/2 cup shoyu or soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 inches fresh ginger root, finely chopped
2 large zucchinis and/or eggplant, etc.
sliced diagonally in inch-thick slabs
6 crusty sandwich rolls, split lengthwise
1 sweet onion, sliced in rings
2 cups sweet pepper strips
1 cup chopped cilantro

In a shallow bowl or pie dish, combine vinegar, shoyu, maple syrup, garlic and ginger and stir to blend. Add vegetable slices, turning to coat well. Let them marinate for at least 30 minutes, turning a few times while you start the coals or preheat grill. Brush buns with teriyaki sauce, reserving about 1/2 cup, and sprinkle buns with onions and peppers. Set grill high above the coals, then grill veggies until tender (6-7 minutes per side), basting with remaining sauce and turning twice. Layer grilled veggies into the buns and serve, garnished with cilantro. Serves 4-6.

Stovetop Ratatouille

This simple and speedy version of the classic French ratatouille relies on braising to bring out flavorful natural juices. Like soups and casseroles, it tastes lovely served hot with warm rosemary bread, and even better the following day, served cold with a garden salad and ripe peaches.

Braised Ratatouille

2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon minced thyme
1 teaspoon minced oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups eggplant, cut in 1-inch dice
3 cups diced tomatoes, with juice
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon hot or smoked paprika
1/2 cup chopped basil

In a wide, shallow pan, cook oil, garlic, thyme, oregano and fennel seeds over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and cook for 3 minutes. Add eggplant and tomatoes, stir to coat, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 5 minutes. Add peppers and zucchini, cover pan and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, uncover pan, and simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender but not mushy (shapes should remain distinct; about 15 minutes). Serve hot, garnished with basil. Serves 4-6.

Making The Most Of The Big Beasts

When giant zucchini are discovered, many cooks turn them into zucchini bread. This heathy baked version of a classic Italian dish converts monster zucchini into a tastes-like-more crowd pleaser. Reheat any leftovers in a low oven (225-300) to avoid turning the cheeses into plastic (!).

Baked Zucchini Parmesan

2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon minced oregano
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 large zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 quart pasta sauce (I use homemade marinara)
12-16 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2-3 cups coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

In a wide shallow pan, combine oil with garlic, oregano, onion, pepper flakes and salt over medium heat and cook for 1 minute. Add zucchini slices and cook for 5 minutes, turning once. Layer zucchini slices into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan in rows, overlapping slices a bit to fill pan completely. In stovetop pan, add tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add pasta sauce, simmer for 5 minutes, then pour over zucchini. Layer on mozzarella and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly and golden (45-50 minutes). Let stand 10-15 minutes, then serve hot. Serves 8-10.


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