July 28, 2011
Don't Fear the Zucchini
Are you enjoying your summer produce? Whether it comes from a farmers' market, a super market, a CSA share or your own back yard, I hope you are finding and enjoying the abundance of fruit and vegetables that are thriving this summer. At the farm we are harvesting a wide variety of crops, spending hours picking beans, choosing the best ears of corn to harvest, and finding plenty of summer squash.
Zucchini, yellow squash, patty pans, and other types of summer squash are growing abundantly. By mid-summer the plants are huge. Spiny stems up to my waist, leaves big enough to make a good rain hat. The yellow and black cucumber beetles buzz around and eat as much as they can, but they can no longer destroy the squash plants that have become a jungle of leaves and stems. One or two plants that seemed so little in the spring can produce more squash than a family might care to eat in a week. If you turn your back for too long you will have baseball bats where innocent green squash once grew.
Don't fear the zucchini*. After you have grilled it, sauteed it, baked it into bread and chocolate cake (what better excuse to make a chocolate cake than zucchini that needs to get used up?) you can hide it in your freezer for a while. Without a garden of my own, I don't have a zucchini problem, but I usually make a point of freezing a few before the season is over. Simply grate them up and freeze the grated squash in an airtight container. For very large over grown squash, I cut the flesh away from the very seedy middle, discard the seeds and grate up the flesh. If you have a food processor with a grater attachment that makes the process even faster.
You can use the grated zucchini for baking in the middle of winter, letting the heat of the oven remind you of the hot day in the garden or at the market, when you picked the zucchini that ended up in your freezer. I also use the grated squash to make savory pancakes. If you aren't sick of summer squash yet, I recommend you make these quick cakes while summer is still here so you can eat them topped with fresh salsa or the watermelon salad below.
*I am using zucchini and summer squash interchangeably. While there may be subtle differences in taste, I think most summer squash is pretty much the same and can be used for the same purposes.
Zucchini and or Summer Squash Pancakes
I make these with very simple ingredients, but there are endless possibilities. You could add some cheddar or feta cheese, herbs, or other grated veggies. I usually make the cakes big enough so that each person gets 2 or 3 for a meal, but you could also make them into bite sized appetizers. Be sure to drain the squash well, especially if it has been frozen.
2-3 medium summer squash (about 8 inches long) to yield about 4 cups grated
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
Grate the squash. Place it in a colander and gently press as much liquid out of it as you can. In a bowl, mix the squash with the onion, egg, and flour. Add salt and pepper.
Place a skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add clarified butter or coconut oil to grease the pan. Scoop about half a cup to a cup (depending on how many and how big you want the cakes to be) of the batter onto the pan. The batter shouldn't spread much and I have a large skillet, so I usually cook four cakes at a time. Cook for about three minutes, then flip. The cooked side should be golden brown. Cook for about three minutes on the other side, flip again if not done to your liking. Continue this process until all of the batter is make into cakes.
Makes about eight 3-inch cakes. Serve topped with fresh salsa, watermelon salad, lemongrass creme fraiche or other topping of your choice.
Like all summer salads, this is a celebration of what is fresh and available. I made it one night with cucumbers and mint, and another time with basil. I'll give you the basics and you can go from there.
4-6 cups cubed watermelon
2 cups tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced across
1 medium onion, diced
several leaves of basil or mint, torn into small pieces
1 cup crumbled feta
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust ingredients and flavors as you desire.