Woe to Mr. John Young for the Woburn, Mass., treatise on zucchini. (Aug. 15, Food Page)
Perhaps Mr. Young is too young to know better, but zucchini is the best thing that can happen to a garden.
The very word zucca comes from the same root as success. Like success, you never have enough once you know how to handle it.
To start with, zucchini are not most flavorful when they are so little it takes a handful to fill your hand. "Little is better" is a myth when it comes to zucchini.
My dad was a chef as well as a gardener, and it was a crime at our house to pick zucchini when they were finger length. Why, they don't reach their savory peak until they are forearm-size. And if you give them enough water, they will reach that proportion almost overnight. John Young was right on that point.
Once grown up, you have the perfect zucchini to slice and batter for the most delicious fritters you've ever eaten. I have grandchildren who can eat zucchini fritters faster than a battery of chefs could prepare them. They stand by the kitchen stove and snatch them as soon as I flip them out of the pan. Yes, fritters are fried, but if you will spray the pan first and add just a few drops of oil as they cook, they will have less fat than most prepared vegetables.
Forearm-size zucchini are also just the right stuff. I am glad someone in Woburn told John about stuffed zucchini. There is no end to what you can fill them with. Try rice simmered with sauted onions, garlic, and parsley. Try fresh tomatoes stewed with tofu and basil. Or wheat germ combined with cream cheese and mushrooms. And if you really want to get inventive, add a few raisins and pine nuts to the filling. Top with any cheese and you have a successful meal.
So what do you do when zucchini get baseball-bat size? Ah, that's the best part of this sweet success. Ever heard of zucchini soup? We have been eating it for lunch every day for the past month and will do so as long as our supply of zucchini lasts.
Fill a large pan with chunks of mature zucchini with seeds removed. Add a few garlic cloves and a small onion and parsley if it is handy. The ultimate combination is zucchini and leeks. Barely cover with lightly salted water and cook until soft. Pour into a blender. Season to taste with bullion cubes.
You can top it with croutons, stir in powdered milk to make it creamy, or add a little olive oil for a deluxe version. The result is a gourmet soup you won't believe. Best of all, the neighbors love it.
So there you are, John Young of Woburn. Woe to you for trying to whoa zucchini. Go with the flow.
Here's to your zuccacess!
Santa Cruz, Calif.