Three cheers for zucchini on Meatless Monday
As a child I found it hard to smile in the summer when Dad brought ripe summer squash in every evening from his tiny garden and said, "How bout some zucchini?" I remember on many occasions thinking "Are you kidding me?" and "Not again." But now that I'm older and wiser, I see value of zucchini as a budget extender, and just this weekend, I made a special trip to the market for the possibility of getting organic zucchini for 99 cents a pound.
Many people tire of this familiar summer squash quickly (perhaps because it's so common and cooked alone it can be bland) and they often pass it up for this week's darling like English peas or okra sold for up to ten dollars a pound. But for the budget couscous cook zucchini should be the go-to summer vegetable. When bumper crops of summer squash come in they're the best buy at the market, and the only problem is, there are never enough recipes and if you don't have abundant recipes eating zucchini gets boring fast.
River Farm was selling medium to large organic summer squash for 99 cents a pound if you bought three or more pounds. I didn't need three pounds but it would make the cost of meals lower for the week so I loaded up. As I stood in line with other summer squash enthusiasts we did a Forrest Gump banter about the many things you could do with bumper crops of summer squash. "You can barbecue, bake, broil and saute" . . . Also on the list was
- lasagna, pizza and spaghetti sauce
- grilled for zucchini steaks or stuffed into pita bread sandwiches
- pickled and given away to friends
- add it to quiche and omelets
- Use it in chutney
- Bread, cakes, muffins, pancakes
- Make it into a creamy sauce (I did this in my book)
- Roast it with peppers, eggplant, garlic and other summer vegetables
I secretly love it when I see huge, huge zucchinis, big as baseball bats. A friend once sliced one of those big zucchinis and made personal pizzas out of the slices. Creative minds come together over zucchini and once you get going, you can think of many uses for this underrated vegetable. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the local ice cream makers started churning it into ice cream--I could imagine it with chocolate or a vanilla-butter cream flavor.
I like to buy a combination of colors when it comes to summer squash. I don't think my Cooking Assistant is that picky.
Grilled zucchini with a smoky flavor is my very favorite way to eat it lately, but the weather hasn't been favorable for grilling lately, and on Saturday it was so cool, my thoughts turned to soup. Deborah Madison has a great Zucchini and Cilantro Soup with Chile and Mint in her book Local Flavors. And while the lime in Deborah's recipe sounds enticing, but I was thinking about tomatoes because the grey clouds made me crave more color.
Even if it's very hot where you live, this summer soup makes the best easy summer meal.
First, I caramelized the onions, which sweetens the Walla Walla onions. Then I added zucchini and blanched the carrot slices, broccoli stalks and potatoes so the soup wouldn't take long to cook, and because the vegetables have more texture if they aren't simmered for an hour.
I actually just put it together with what I had on hand--fire-roasted tomatoes, basil and mustard greens grown from Frank Morton's seeds in the garden.
Hope you enjoy this recipe:
Zucchini Chowder with Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Basil and Parmesan Cheese
(Serves 6 to 8)
4 small sweet onions, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon oil
4 cloves garlic
4 cups sliced zucchini, about 3 medium size zucchini (6 to 10 inches)
2 medium size (5 to 8 inch) carrots, sliced
1 or 2 broccoli stems, diced
1 medium white potato, diced
2 to 4 tablespoons hot salsa
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
28 ounce can tomatoes
2 to 3 cups water
Large handful of basil, roughly chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
4 cups chopped mustard greens
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute onions in oil until lightly browned. Add garlic and zucchini. Stir and cook until zucchini softens. This takes about ten minutes. After zucchini softens stir in salsa. While vegetables cook, bring a medium-size sauce pan filled with water to a boil and add carrots, broccoli stems and potatoes. Cook until fork tender, about 4 minutes, then remove from heat and drain.
2. Place cooked vegetables and salsa, corn, tomatoes, 2 cups water and garbanzo beans in a pressure cooker or soup pot. If using a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure for 1 minute, then let pressure come down naturally. Stir in chopped mustard greens, season with salt and pepper.
3. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
Of course you'll want to serve this with some good crusty local artisan bread, unless you can't have wheat, and that's another story. Hope you this one as much as we did.
Next time I hope to have an archive of all the soup recipes so far this year.
For a nondairy version, garnish with toasted bread crumbs or croutons.
Finn isn't picky and he's pretty good at his prewash job.
But he's gone once the job is over and the empty soup bowl looks incredibly lonely.