This is the time of the year when the gardens are beginning to produce the work of the gardeners hands and backs. Since I don’t have a garden, I’m not sure if the zucchini are ready to eat or if they’re still on the vine and too small. However, sooner or later they will be overflowing every bag and basket you can find.
Zucchini is a small summer squash, which belongs to the species cucurbita pep. It can be yellow, green or light green and has a similar shape to a cucumber. On a culinary level, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked. But, botanically, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. Blossoms from zucchini can be eaten fried, using a tempura batter, stuffed, sautéed, baked or used in soups. (In the past, I have given you a recipe for the fried zucchini or squash blossoms).
The first records of zucchini in the United States dates to the early 1920s and it was almost certainly brought her by Italian immigrants and probably first emerged in the United States in California.
Zucchini are usually picked when the seeds are soft and immature, preferably not over eight inches in length. Many people feel that the bigger the better and I have seen them given away in a huge size. They can grow up to three feet long but are not very appetizing at this size as they are fibrous and have large seeds.
The zucchini is almost always served cooked, but they are good also sliced into sticks and served with dip. They can be baked, steamed, boiled, grilled or fried and they are delicious any of those ways. They can also be used to make a bread that is similar to pumpkin bread, and, a lady told me the other day that she had pickled several jars. I have heard of doing this but have never tried it.
If you feel you need more information, just Goggle the word zucchini and you will have a surfeit of information, just as I have. If I gave you all the information just from the one site I picked, my column would take up half of the paper!
The joke that I have heard over the years is that you can count who your friends are if they still open their doors to you, knowing you have a garden that contains several zucchini plants. Now, if your friends are bringing you more zucchini than you can consume, here are a few recipes to help you dispose of them. (No, none of them involve the garbage disposal!).
This recipe is delicious, I made it several times while I was working at the paper and we all enjoyed it, and I also served it to family members who were visiting and they like it also.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
4 zucchini (6-inches long)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup canned, chopped tomatoes, drained
½ cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped black olives1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
¼ cup chicken broth
Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and hollow out, leaving a 3/8-inch shell. Coarsely chop the zucchini and onion and mince the garlic. Set aside while you heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the zucchini, onion and garlic. Stir together, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook, covered, 5 minutes longer. Uncover and stir in the bread crumbs, olives, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Stuff the zucchini halves with the filling and place in a shallow baking dish. Pour the chicken broth over the zucchini. Bake 30 minutes or until tender.
Following is a recipe for squash casserole that is really good and that I have made many times.
Salt and pepper or seasoned salt
Cooking oil for deep-frying
Wash zucchini and slice into even slices about ¼-inch thick or cut into small chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, or seasoned salt, (I used some Julio’s® seasoning the other day when I made this and it came out really well). Let stand a few minutes. Dredge in flour until well coated. Dip slices into milk, and than back into flour. Fry a few at a time until golden brown and tender.
2½ cups sifted flour
Preheat oven to 325ºF
¼ cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup cooking oil
1¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini
1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped nuts.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside. Cream together butter, oil and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy, using electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and beating well after each addition; blend in vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition; stir in zucchini. Pour batter into greased 12×9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on rack. Cut into squares to serve.