Too Much Zucchini Is a Good Thing

I am so glad I have too much zucchini because I have a stellar bunch of yummy-sounding recipes that several of you have sent me. There are zucchini bakes, and pasta dishes, and even zucchini cookies! So we might as well celebrate zucchini here for a couple or three weeks.

Normally I plant a modest amount – like one hill – but this year I put in three plus I planted out a “rescue zuke” from a friend who had a pathetic looking seedling that seemed to want to live. Then I also grew a couple of hills of patty-pan squashes, two green ones and a yellow. Patty pans make round, scalloped edged squash which cook up like zucchini or the more familiar yellow summer squash or crooknecks. It is a form of insanity, I suppose, to grow this much squash and if I get sufficiently exasperated with it all, I can just pull the plants up.

So here, just because we have them, are two zucchini recipes. One, the zuke and pasta dish from Sharon Smith in Monroe, is so quick and simple to make that it will take your breath away. The second, zucchini “cutlets” from Beverlee take a little more time, and turn zucchini slices into a main dish. This time of year, I am very likely to take a vegetarian turn simply because of the garden plenty but if your family feels bereft without meat, tuck a nice sweet or spicy Italian sausage alongside the pasta or cutlets, add a salad or sliced tomatoes, and everyone should be happy.

With the pasta dish, Sharon says to use any kind of pasta: macaroni, spaghetti, or I should think, one of those nifty fancy kinds like fussili, (corkscrew) or farfale (bow ties), or those wagon-wheel shaped numbers. You can get away with slightly less pasta in proportion to the zuke if you want to lower the carbs, or stretch the dish by using more. If you have one, I think this is a good time to use the food processor to grate the squash, otherwise you are in for a little exercise hand-grating. Don’t stint on the parmesan or romano cheese. She suggests tossing the finished dish with chopped fresh herbs like basil, parsley, or mint. I would add the possibility of halving a few cherry tomatoes and tossing them in; the heat of the pasta and squash will soften them slightly.

The cutlets are so good because they have a crusty exterior and tender interior. The cheese mixed with the crumbs is essential. Beverlee suggests seasoned bread crumbs; if you have only plain crumbs, sprinkle a little dried basil, oregano, and garlic powder into them. Beverlee also says top with tomato sauce if you wish, a good idea. Or you could always add a sprinkle of mozzarella or even crumbled blue cheese.

Pasta with Zucchini:
3lbs. zucchini
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound pasta (any kind)
¾ -1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Grate the zucchini, salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the moisture to end up with about six cups of squash.

In a sauté pan, heat the butter or oil, cook the garlic for half a minute. Add the zucchini and cook until barely tender, stirring to coat with the butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile cook the pasta al dente, drain (reserving a little of the cooking water if you wish a moister sauce) and toss with the zucchini and half the grated cheese. Serve with the remaining cheese on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Zucchini Cutlets
3 medium zucchini squash
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1-1 ¼ cups breadcrumbs
2 rounded tablespoons of grated Romano cheese
Parsley (fresh or dried)

Trim the ends from the zucchini, peel, if you wish, and cut into strips about one inch wide, four inches long and three-quarters inches thick. Mix salt and pepper with the beaten eggs. Heat cooking oil in a large skillet until hot. Mix cheese and breadcrumbs. Dip slices of zucchini into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture. Brown them on all sides, turning gently to avoid breaking the slices. Add more cooking oil as necessary. Sprinkle with parsley to serve or top with a tomato sauce or cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.