Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Great Zucchini Challenge

It has begun.  It is the middle of June, and already Matt's generous planting of zucchini and summer squash is yielding bountiful produce.

Those first several squash are always exciting.  Matt worries that I pick them too soon, but I ignore him and slice them up thin to fry in olive oil.  Less than a week later, they are coming in a pretty steady stream.  We're eating sauteed squash every other night, and I am polling people at work to find out if any of them will take zucchini.  Within days, we are eating it every night and I no longer care if people at work like squash.  They are taking it home anyway.

Yesterday, I discovered we'd missed one (nine), and I found myself dealing with enough zucchini to start a baseball team (although, as vegetables go, these are shaped more like quarterbacks).  After sauteing one (half) for dinner, I decided to try my hand at zucchini baked goods.

Zucchini baked goods confuse me.  Maybe I'm missing something here, but the zucchini bread, zucchini muffin and especially the zucchini chocolate cake all just seem like a way of dealing with excess zucchini: a coping mechanism for zealous home gardeners.  It's the human version of peanut butter on Henry's monthly heart-worm pill.  You can either make baked goods with a rich, dense crumb or you can make a sub par and equally unhealthy product with shredded zucchini in it. Yum.

As a kid, I didn't complain.  We didn't eat sweet breads or muffins very often, but zucchini bread was permitted.  Quick breads = bad.  Zucchini quick bread = have a third slice.  It was like the ice cream we were encouraged to eat the last morning of vacation.  Then I grew up and started taking my calories without the zucchini, thanks.

But last night, the behemoth zucchini scared me, and I made muffins.  The recipe came from Smitten Kitchen.  Deb gave me the brownies that have never let me down, and I confidently grated my zucchini and stirred it into the batter.  When I came in from putting up my birds, the house smelled comfortable and promising.  I spread two muffins with butter and gave one to Matt.

They were just like I remembered.  Meh.  Not bad, but not great.  The dumpy country cousin to a real muffin.

Now I'm on the hunt for real zucchini recipes.  Recipes that celebrate the zucchini.  Recipes that can't be improved by eliminating the zucchini.  I have my eye on a couple recipes like this sandwich from How Sweet It Is and this pasta from The Pioneer Woman.  My cousin Jamie sent me one for a quiche that I'm super excited about.  And I'm even wanting to try this tart from Smitten Kitchen.

If you have any recipes that you like or are curious about, send them my way.  I'll try any recipe you send me  with three exceptions:

1. Crazy expensive - if it calls for 24 karat gold dust, it's not happening.  Twenty-four carrots are ok.
2. Really weird ingredients - I'll try almost anything.  But I'm telling you now, zucchini jello is out of the question.
3. Allergies - if it has cinnamon in it, I have to substitute nutmeg or allspice.

So that's where we're at.  Some people challenge themselves to climb mountains or quit smoking.  Mark Zuckerberg (spellcheck just tried to change that to cheeseburger, haha!) challenged himself to eat only meat that he's killed himself.  I'm challenging myself to eat copious amount of zucchini.  Baby steps.

As long as I have recipes and zucchini, I will be blogging zucchini.  Stay tuned...


  1. A classic from Julia Childs. http://food52.com/recipes/18672-julia-child-s-tian-de-courgettes-au-riz-zucchini-tian

  2. Hopefully this works: https://www.facebook.com/notes/valerie-chest-coffman/chicken-tortilla-soup/9183242397. If not, you can find it on my facebook page under notes --> Chicken Tortilla Soup. This is a mild tortilla soup because I don't do spice. It says 1 medium zucchini because that's what the original called for, but we have added up to 3 and it still tastes great! Plus my husband actually likes the soup a little chunkier with all the zucchini. Also, once I found corn and black bean salsa, I've stopped using other kinds. I've thought about adding more black beans, because they taste so good in there!

    1. I actually have a jar of corn and black bean salsa I didn't know what to do with. Looks like that recipe will help me with two mystery ingredients. Thanks!

  3. I just did a blog post with some links to good zucchini recipes. Unfortunately we have never had good luck growing it so we have to buy ours. We love the Oven Roasted Pasta recipe--I have made it three times in the last two weeks! You can definitely increase the amount of zucchini in that recipe. You could also leave out the meat and serve it as a side dish. Here are the links:



    1. I cannot believe you've never had success with zucchini here. I do remember our prolific crops in the Midwest, but my in-laws's garden has always produced generous amounts of zucchini as well. Thank you for the recipe. I can't wait to try them!

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  5. A couple of thoughts on zucchini...
    1) Leah, who studied Italian, noted that zucchini is actually a plural word in Italian. The singular form would be zucchino. We decided the reason one never refers to a zucchino is because it never comes singly.
    2) Garden Rule #1- Never plant more than one zucchini plant. Better yet, share one plant between yourself and a neighbor.
    3) Doc Euler gave us some amazing zucchini relish once. There is no way to make it better by leaving out the zucchini. I will see if I can get it for you.

    1. And here I always thought that garden rule #1 was - never plant mint in the ground! Someone on Facebook also mentioned zucchini relish. If you can get me the recipe, that'd be great. It sounds amazing!

  6. This was great! I love the "Zucchini quick bread = have a third slice." It's so true - why do we think that throwing in a little vegetable makes any recipe healthy? I haven't had a zucchini dilemma yet, but I will be filing away all of your successes for future reference. Thanks!

  7. I realize zucchini season is almost over by the time I'm writing this, but I just started reading your charming blog and thought I'd weigh in. For next year, anyway.
    I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini myself, and although I do have a chocolate zucchini cake recipe that I like, and I do substitute zucchini in my favorite banana bread recipe with good results, I do like to showcase the vegetable itself from time to time, also. Here's an interesting recipe from epicurious.com that calls for eggplant, but I've subbed zucchini before and liked it. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Marinated-Eggplant-with-Mint-109747 - I serve mine with goat cheese on toasted bread (walnut bread is nice, or Publix has a lovely cranberry nut bread).
    I've also made a carrot salad recipe (yogurt, honey, lemon juice) and done half and half zucchini and carrots. THAT was yummy. And a friend of mine made a zucchini salad with tomatoes and olives (I think) with a vinaigrette, but the cool thing about that was that she used a vegetable peeler to shave the zucchini into long ribbons.
    Mainly I just roast my zucchini (along with all the other vegetables in my house) all at once (well, on different baking sheets) in the same oven, and plop it on, in, and near anything else that I happen to be eating at the moment.
    This year I branched out on my smoothie repertoire with beets and kale, so why not zucchini?
    If you haven't read the book An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, you should. It changed my whole perspective on cooking (and maybe some other things, too). I feel like you would identify.


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