It may be the end of summer, but the zucchini's still going strong
Every year more and more gardeners realize the biggest problem with zucchini is trying to give it away. Prolific is hardly the word for it. This year I decided not to grow zucchini at all because I knew my neighbors would have plenty for me, as well as for their family, relatives, friends, and people at the office. They do.Skip to next paragraph
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Twenty years ago most people didn't know what a zucchini was. Now it's a best seller, if not a staple, year-round in supermarkets. In the gardens there seems to be a contest in growing giant sizes. You see people with them on the subway bringing them into their place of work or swapping them for tomatoes, cabbage, or corn on the cob.
Zucchini is one of the few squashes that is not native to the Americas. It was developed in Italy, although there is certainly no question as to its overwhelming acceptance in the US today. Cooking it is no problem, either, for there must be more print about what to do with extra zucchini than any other vegetable.
If you have your own garden, you can pick the small squash when it is only 4 or 5 inches long. That's the best size, although you won't find it this small at most supermarkets. The smaller squashes are usually crisper, have smaller seeds, and are less watery than large ones.
Most any size is edible, however, and the huge ones are fine when they are scooped out, filled with a mixture of rice, chopped vegetables, bread crumbs, ground meat, and seasonings, and then baked. They can also be filled with a mixture of creamed chicken, turkey, or ham, then browned under the broiler.
Medium ones are good when seeded, cut in wedges about 4 inches long or circles, dipped in flour and seasonings, then pan-fried in butter or vegetable oil. They can also be cut in half and baked with a topping of butter, salt and pepper, and grated cheese.
If the squash is really huge and the skin is tough, peel and seed it, then grate it and use in a souffl'e, pancakes, bread, cake, fritters, or casseroles.
Remember that zucchini is bland and most recipes will need seasoning. Add salt, pepper, and butter, plus onion, garlic, parsley, and other herbs according to your taste. Don't forget to use large or small zucchini as sticks for snacks or to serve with a cheese or vegetable dip as an hors d'oeuvre.
When buying zucchini at the market, look for those with firm flesh and glossy green skins. Zucchini is perishable, so remember to refrigerate it and use within a week.
Food writer Beatrice Comas calls zucchini the ``most congenial vegetable'' because it is compatible with so many dishes. Here are some of the many recipes that show its versatility. Bea's Zucchini Pickles 4 quarts sliced, unpeeled zucchini 1 quart onions, sliced 1 quart vinegar 2 cups sugar 1/2 cup salt 2 teaspoons celery seed 2 teaspoons tumeric 1 teaspoon ground mustard
Bring to a boil vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices. Pour over zucchini and onions and let stand l hour. Bring to a boil then cook 3 minutes. Pack in hot, sterilized jars. Seal at once. Makes 6 to 7 pints.
From ``The Zucchini Cookbook,'' by Helen and Emil Dander (Sterling Cookbooks). Chocolate Zucchini Cookies 1 cup margarine or butter 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 egg, beaten 3 tablespoons cocoa 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 1 cup cooked, mashed zucchini 2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Cream butter and sugars together. Add next four ingredients. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixing bowl. Stir in walnuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cooking sheet. Bake in 350-degree F. oven 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 3 dozen. Zucchini Pancakes Parmesan 4 cups firmly packed, coarsely grated zucchini 3 eggs, well beaten 1/2 cup cracker crumbs 1/2 teaspoon each dried dill, marjoram, and thyme Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese Vegetable oil for frying