In & Out of the Kitchen: Zucchini invasion
As any gardener knows this time of year, there can be too much of a good thing.
Of course, I am talking about zucchini.
This year, we planted the variety seed pack of tri-colored zucchini — a pale green type called Clarimore, the traditional dark green zucchini and one that is golden yellow. They all look beautiful, taste wonderful and are prolific. Very prolific.
I like to harvest my zucchini young, 4 to 6 inches long, with the blossom still on the end. To me, they taste best that way, lightly sautéed with fresh herbs — dill or basil or thyme — and if you cook up a lot of if, you can freeze the extra.
But you know how it goes: Skip one day of picking and the zukes are 9 inches long. Skip two days and they’re a foot long; skip three, and they become canoes.
Fortunately I haven’t had a single canoe so far this year, but last week I had to do something with all those 9-inch-long zucchini that keep coming and coming.
Lots of options
There’s a lot you can do with zucchini. You can slice and grill the bigger ones — and the small ones are good grilled too, if you cut them lengthwise or in diagonals to get more surface area. You can stuff them, by slicing lengthhwise and hollowing them out, then mixing the innards with rice, chopped tomatoes, herbs, cheese and, if you like, ground meat, and then baking the whole thing. You can batter or bread slices for frying, or you can pickle them like cucumbers. You can even make them into relish.
One morning last week, I made a dozen zucchini muffins and four zucchini breads, and sautéed diced zucchini with garlic and onions to go with our eggs at breakfast. Still, I only used three of the bigger pale-green zucchini and one each of the small yellow and dark green zukes.
I need more ideas.
On Saturday, I stopped into the local thrift store and, as usual this time of year, Bea at the cash register wanted to know everything that was growing in my garden. She doesn’t garden any more but loves to hear about the seasonal progress, especially if the chatter comes with a bag of beets. Bea loves beets.
And she has some ideas about zucchini.
Here’s what Bea says: Slice zucchini thinly and put a layer in a pie pan, then cover that with Swiss cheese. Then add another layer of zucchini and another layer of cheese. “Sometimes I do three layers,” she told me, “it just depends on how much zucchini you have.” On top of it all, Bea spreads flavored bread crumbs and a bit of butter, then bakes the whole thing at 350 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour.
That sounded pretty good. So as soon as we were done thrift store shopping, I tried it out, with a few variations. No bread crumbs for us, because of the family member with celiac disease, and I subbed the cheese, since the kids don’t like Swiss. And because our chickens are nearly as prolific as our squash plants, I added eggs to make it a little more quiche-like, and to add protein. I didn’t add milk since zucchini have so much moisture in them.
Putting idea to work
So here’s my version: Crush tortilla chips by running a rolling pin over them. Sprinkle a thin layer in the bottom of a lightly greased, glass pie pan. Add a layer of thinly sliced zucchini, and cover with grated cheese — I used Monterrey jack and mozzarella — and sprinkle some fresh thyme over that. Add two more layers of zucchini, cheese and thyme. Then whip five or six eggs with a pinch of salt and pour over the top. Sprinkle another thin layer of tortilla crumbs and a little Parmesan cheese and bake.
The egg mixture spread throughout, the zucchini became tender but not mushy. I thought it was really good, and my husband and 12-year-old son loved it.
The teenage daughter does not like zucchini, but I thought this was so good I could fool her into eating it. Nope.
But since she didn’t like it, the next time I made it — the next day — I mixed in a little cheddar cheese, which the boy loves but the girl does not. Even with the daughter declining a slice, the pie disappeared quickly and our dinner guest asked for the recipe.
She got it — and four zucchini to take home.
I will have to thank Bea with a bag of beets. And maybe half a dozen zucchini.