Among the many blessings I enjoyed this year is my beautiful garden which, despite my not-so-green thumb, supplied enough vegetables for salads all summer, along with a goodly surplus for the freezer. Having not raised a garden in years, I relished the experience and didn’t even mind the weeding, watering, and other chores that come with the territory. Once those plants started growing I was in heaven!
However, my new passion presented some challenges. I acquired a cast-off golden zucchini that someone had placed in with the cucumbers at the nursery and was picked up by my mom when she stopped to buy cucumbers. She didn’t discover the imposter until she got home, and would have tossed it had I not taken pity and given it its own cozy corner in my garden. I had never raised zucchini but knew something about its prolific breeding capacity thanks to a well-intentioned former coworker who brought some to the office and gave me a couple to try. Per her suggestion, I prepared it like Swiss steak: browned in oil and then mixed with canned tomatoes and green peppers and seasoned with salt, pepper, and oregano. It proved quite delicious, so Irene brought me a few more. . .and then a few more. . .and then one morning I came to work to find a Safeway grocery bag full of the stuff on my desk! I tried pawning them off, with no success since everyone else in the building had also been blessed with a bagful of their own. We didn’t have the internet then, so my recipe repertoire for zucchini was pretty much limited to the dish mentioned above and Irene’s bread recipe.
But back to the present. My little zucchini made itself right at home and quickly went into full-scale production. Fruits no bigger than a cigar one day reached the size of a large cucumber the next—and two to three days later they were closer in length to a baseball bat! Given the rate they grew I couldn’t help but picture the plant as an ever-expanding air compressor that did nothing but blow these things up like balloons all day. The numbers of fruits increased exponentially and for each one I picked it seemed three more appeared. I could just picture myself becoming a public menace, foisting armloads of zucchini onto hapless people and finally prowling neighborhoods on moonless nights dressed in a dark hoodie and Groucho glasses so I wouldn’t be recognized as I deposited bags filled to bursting on doorsteps.
But before resorting to such drastic measures I wanted to find out just what all zucchini is good for—give it a fighting chance, so to speak. I surfed the internet and discovered a trove of delicious recipes, everything from entrees to desserts, for this versatile and nutritious fruit. And after trying a few of them I decided that my zucchini truly is ‘golden.’ I actually gave very few away, opting instead to grate and freeze the excess for later use. (For grating, I prefer zucchini the size of a large banana, using the bigger fruits in main dishes.) The Food Network is an excellent resource, as are All Recipes and Taste of Home. (These are just the ones I visited; there are tons more out there.) I found a particularly delectable recipe for chocolate zucchini bread on the Taste of Home site and, since I love nuts, tossed in a handful of toasted macadamias. Now this is one of my all-time favorites.
As I spent more time in the kitchen I got to feeling adventurous and did some experimenting on my own. I cut a large zucchini into quarter-inch slices, dipped them in beaten egg, rolled them in panko crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme, then browned them in bacon fat. Before serving I drizzled some mild salsa over the top. Delicious!
So. . .from now on there will always be zucchini in my garden. And people on my Christmas list can look forward to a fudgy, mouth-watering zucchini cake with chocolate buttercream frosting!
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