This week at the farmer’s market, we noticed an abundance of zucchini. There were also figs and eggplants. Here are some delicious ways to prepare some of the things you will find at the market.
Zucchini & summer squash
When I lived in Iowa, the only time people would lock their cars was during zucchini season. It was a defense mechanism because if you left your car unlocked, people would sneak zucchini into it. Things don’t seem to be that extreme here, but the markets are certainly brimming with all different kinds of summer squash right now.
One of the very different kinds of summer squash I encountered recently is called trombetta squash. It is shaped like a trombone, with a long curling neck. The farmer, Corrie Leisen, said that the flavor resembled an artichoke, so I was sold. And he was right.
I cut it into batons resembling short fat French fries, sprayed them with a spritz of olive oil and added salt and pepper and quick-roasted them. Delicious, and I knew I found a winner when my husband asked for more of a vegetable.
What if you cannot find trombetta? To make zucchini that even your zucchini-hating friends will like, follow Julia Child’s method for shredded or grated zucchini. It has a fancy French name, but it is very simple to make. Shred the zucchini, toss it with some salt (one teaspoon for each pound of squash) and let it sit in a colander or strainer to drain for at least four minutes or up to about an hour.
Squeeze it to remove the excess moisture just before cooking. It can be sautéed in butter and finished with cream, or in olive oil, with the addition of garlic. You can add other green vegetables to it like spinach. I guarantee if you serve this no one will even know it is zucchini, and it will be enjoyed by all. The bonus is it is a vegetable dish that you can prepare in advance and heat up at the last minute, making meal timing a breeze.
Don’t forget to remove the seeds if they are very large and tough, in the case of a zucchini that grew too big. Speaking of big, at least once a zucchini season I like to take a really big one, scoop out the seeds and discard them, and then remove and reserve some of the flesh.
Brush the shell with some olive oil, and bake the zucchini boat in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Chop and sauté the flesh you removed, along with an onion and some garlic. Then add some ground beef or ground lamb, sauté until brown, add some tomatoes (fresh or canned) and a dash or two of cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes and then put it back into the baked shell. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature.
Some other zucchini ideas include cutting zucchini or yellow summer squash into planks as an elongated oval about one-third-inch thick. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill or pan-fry in a non-stick frying pan until golden brown.
Arrange in a single layer on a pretty serving plate or platter. Sprinkle with any good quality vinegar that you have on hand such as balsamic, seasoned rice vinegar, or red wine vinegar cut with half red wine, or some of that great “Sonomic” vinegar from Sonoma Port Works. Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint. Serve at room temperature.