In my role as mother and chef, it is my job to push vegetables. And in my capacity as family Chief Financial Officer, it is my job to push cheap and local vegetables. But when it comes to zucchini, one can only push so hard.
It comes down to this: My children will eat zucchini under duress, but they like it to have body and texture. A friend puts it in salad raw, and they find that acceptable.
I love zucchini. It's rich in color and texture, and in Connecticut in the summer, it grows like kudzu in Georgia.
But I like it the old-fashioned, New England way, that is, cooked until it is soft and served with a dab of butter and maybe some salt and pepper for excitement.
This fills the kitchen with squash-scented steam, however, and my family think that this comforting – to me – mush is inedible.
I, on the other hand, would rather not eat zucchini raw and in chunks. And so we were at a standoff.
It has been suggested to me by those to whom I gave birth that the easiest thing would be not to cook and serve zucchini – ever. And their eyes light up with hope when they say this.
But zucchini is in season and, therefore, is cheap at the grocery store and free when provided by friends and neighbors. I feel that it would be morally wrong to omit from our diet altogether something so nutritious and plentiful.
So, what's the solution?
I found a way to compromise. My kids get texture and flavor. And I get my zucchini cooked. Everyone is much happier. And as an added bonus, I don't steam up the kitchen.
Here's what I do:
Sometime between lunch and dinner, I gather my squashes about me and choose the best. As a side dish, I use one large zucchini or two small.
When we are given baseball-bat-size zucchini, I chop off a chunk between five and nine inches long for six of us.
I wash the zucchini well and lop off the top and tail.
Then I quarter the squash lengthwise and chop it into chunks that are larger than I would prefer but still manageable – maybe 3/4 of an inch each.
If they were any larger, they'd be uncomfortable to eat. Any smaller, and they'd become mushy.
I put the zucchini chunks in a microwave-safe container and sprinkle them with Italian salad dressing as I would dress a salad. I don't measure the dressing, but I don't think I use more than a tablespoon.
Then I cover the squash, pop it into the microwave, and cook it on high for five minutes.
Once the zucchini has cooled slightly, I put it in the refrigerator to become thoroughly chilled.
At dinnertime, I bring it out as a side dish, and while there are no cheers of joy, nobody hides it under his plate, either.
This recipe also works for cauliflower, and you can jazz it up with marinated mushrooms or artichokes for company.