It’s the bounty time in the garden, when I sign off every email with “and how many zucchinis do you want?”
The gardens are different every year, and this summer’s hot, mostly dry weather has sped up some plants and slowed others. Our broccoli formed huge heads very early, but I planted beans when it was so dry they barely germinated and I had to replant — and water.
Mostly everything’s been coming along nicely, with something new every week — cabbages and potatoes this week, okra next, maybe tomatoes the week after? The winter squashes are setting nicely; the corn is slow.
And then there are zucchinis. Our first fruits were a little late, but they’re making up for lost time, coming in fast and furious now. The pale yellow summer squashes and the bright golden zucchini are coming in strong, too, but in a more dignified manner than the green zukes, which fill my picking basket every day and our dinner plates every night.
I like to pick zucchini when it’s small, young and tender. But I went to Vermont last weekend and missed two days of picking — one of which got an inch of rain. When I went out Monday morning with my basket, I had a dozen pretty large zucchinis, in addition to the basket full of small and tasty dinner-sized variety. No baseball bat- or canoe-sized zukes, at least, but it was time to unload — before everyone is inundated with every other gardener’s zucchini overflow.
A friend I was meeting for lunch said she’d love a couple, but by the time we met someone else had dropped off three at her house. Same for another visiting friend, who had just received a load from a cousin.
I had better luck bringing a bag to work for the zucchini bread bakers, who also shared their family recipes: deep-fried zucchini rings, with holes where the seeds were removed; and mini pizzas made with zucchini rounds topped with marinara and mozzarella.
There are lots of ways to enjoy these delicious gems. When they first come in, we just sauté them with a bit of butter and salt and pepper, and marvel at their fresh summer flavor. Then we start changing things up — tossing in different herbs, adding onions and broccoli rabe, mixing them into our omelets.
One of my favorites is roasted zucchini. Slice thin rounds of zukes and toss them in some olive oil, salt and pepper and your favorite herbs, then spread on a baking sheet and top with a bit of parmesan cheese (or tomme if you have an overabundance of goats like I do). Roast at 450 for five minutes or until they start to brown. Serve hot, or eat them cold the next day.
Lately I’ve been using zucchinis to help with that other abundance we have right now: goat cheese. I invented a fritter made of chèvre and eggs and grated zucchini, held together with a little ground flax seed, although you could use any kind of flour. I made a sort of lasagna, using long, thin slices of zucchini in place of the noodles, and using lots of goat ricotta and tomme. (If you’re going to try this, either salt and press your zucchini first to get some of the water out, or cut down on other liquid in your lasagna.)
I had a gardening friend who never planted zucchini, although it was one of his favorite vegetables. His reasoning: It took up too much space in his small garden, and he was actually helping every other gardener out by accepting their zucchini overflow.
I hope you are sharing in some of the season’s bounty.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Aug. 14. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or on Twitter @Hartley_Maggie. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are not necessarily those of the newspaper’s.
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Categories: Life and Arts