I bought a food magazine last week (hard to choose these days!) and was taken by a picture of the month's featured ingredient, Zucchini. A row of gorgeous specimens was laid out, all with flowers attached, in tight shiny skins. It made me feel sad for those grocery store zucchini, all pitted, dull, and half rotten. Zucchini is rarely displayed in the refrigerated section, where it really needs to be. This leaves us no choice but to buy our zucchini straight from a farmer, or find a little room and grow our own. I get my fill of zucchini every summer, when my plants produce enough for me, the Cafe, and our sweet little laying hens.
They love to wander the garden, pecking for slugs, snails, and the butt end of any zucchini they can reach. Almost all the zucchini I have harvested this year have had to be trimmed at the end to get rid of beak marks. I am happy to share, as zucchini is one of those garden treasures that rarely fails to provide. The hens were an addition this spring, when my daughter, who had wished on the first star she saw tonight for over two years now, finally got her dream of being a farmer. I may have influenced things a little, pointing out that while the pig, pony, goats and sheep she wanted would be very nice, chickens were probably all we could handle right now. We have a flock of 16 birds, including two young roosters who are in a contest for their very lives that they know nothing about. Unless they can work it out peaceably, it is likely one will get eaten for Thanksgiving.
My parents' garden one year produced an overabundance of baseball bat sized squash. I'm not sure how old we were, but my sister Meagan and I were determined not to let any go to waste. We decided to make zucchini loaf, something we had enjoyed at least once and that was supposed to freeze well (zucchini on its own is not a great freezer). My mother looked the other way as we blew through her baking supplies, using at least $30 worth of ingredients saving what most people would have thrown in their compost heap, or shoved into their neighbour's mailbox (not the kind of gifting I was referring to last week). In the end, we got super sick of zucchini bread, and threw many freezer burned specimens out the next spring. My strategy now is to pick zucchini small, 6-8 inches at most, and use it up right away in savoury dishes. There will always be one or two that escape your notice before turning into monsters. This is what you should use in baking, as it is practically flavourless. Or throw it to your chickens.
Zucchini with Olive Oil and Garlic
If you still don't like zucchini, try this simple but very delicious method.
4 medium or 8 small Zucchini sliced into 1/4” disks
2 t. Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional
Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Swirl in the olive oil, and let heat for a minute. Add the zucchini. Stir and cook for about five minutes, until the zucchini is hot and just tender. Add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste (lots of pepper is great in this). After another minute of cooking, the zucchini is ready to eat. If you like, you can sprinkle with an optional tablespoon or two of parmesan, then stick the whole pan under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and browned.
These are great fresh. And still great frozen. But if you multiply this recipe and freeze it, it is at your own risk.
2 C. Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 C. Sugar (Just Us! has inexpensive Fair Trade sugar)
2 t. Baking Powder
2 t. Cinnamon (optional)
½ t. Salt
1/2 C. Canola Oil
1 T. Vanilla
4 C. Grated Zucchini, squeezed of most moisture
1 C. Chocolate Chips or Toasted Walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners, or grease well with oil. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the zucchini and chocolate or walnuts, and then stir just to combine. Divide the mixture between muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are springy to the touch.
Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
1 1/2 C. Flour (part Whole Wheat or all Spelt works great)
1 C. Sugar
1/3 C. Cocoa
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
1/4 C. Canola Oil
1 T. White Vinegar
1 t. Vanilla
1 C. Cold Water
11/2 C. Grated Zucchini (about 1 medium)
1 C. Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, vanilla, water, zucchini and chocolate chips and stir gently until just combined. Pour into muffin pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.