Where has summer gone? The golden rod is in full bloom, swaying in my meadow as if in a dance with the Queen Anne’s lace. The crickets are busy chirring and the birds are stopping to fuel up on their way South. The baby raccoons and groundhogs are all grown up and fending for themselves.
The baby pileated woodpecker was caught begging for food yesterday from its parent, even though he is just as large as they are.
The nights are getting cooler and maple leaves are finding their way to the green carpet all over the farm. Harvest time is beginning and my days are about to get busier.
Yes, it is that time of year again when my garden is bursting with zucchini. I turn my back for a moment and the zucchini have doubled in size. I find myself looking for new homes for this versatile vegetable. One hint: Always call and ask first if your friends or neighbours want to take in your zucchini. Sometimes they can take up an entire shelf in the fridge.
Of course it is best to try and pick them while they are still young, but it never seems to happen that way. No matter what, I always end up with a few the sizes of dirigibles. Growing zucchini is wonderful for children; the plants are the size of the plants that appear in the landscape of "Jurassic Park."
As a chef I love to find different ways to prepare this vegetable. To me it is the tofu of the vegetable world.
Here are a few suggestions. Let me know what you like to do with your surplus zucchini crop.
Deep fried zucchini served with a blue cheese or chipotle dip
Grated raw into a salad or on top of salad fixings
Baked zucchini coins with parmesan or pecorino
Stuffed baked zucchini – this can be vegetarian
Marinated with balsamic and grilled zucchini
Zucchini pancakes and fritters or waffles
Stir fried Asian zucchini or tempura battered
Zucchini fries coated with panko or cornmeal
Zucchini coins with sun dried tomatoes and goats cheese appetizers
Zucchini ribbon salad with vinaigrette and herbs
Grated or diced and tossed into pasta
Use zucchini in omelettes or quiches
On top of pizzas or as the base for a pizza
Zucchini and spinach soup
The one dish that zucchini fails at for me was pickles. They became soggy.
The best part about zucchini is that it can be used in baked goods such a muffins or bread pudding and now we come to Zucchini Bread.
Every year I make this delicious fast and easy zucchini bread. You can pull it together in minutes with ingredients that you have on hand. This loaf freezes beautifully and I make two so there is one in the freezer for company. If you have too much zucchini on hand, just grate it and freeze it for later use. I add blueberries, nuts or frozen cranberries to the batter if I have them on hand. I also put some granola on top after it has been in the oven for about 15 minutes.
TIP: If you find that zucchini is watery, gently press out the excess fluid.
I love this zucchini bread because it is moist and not too sweet.
Farmhouse Zucchini Bread
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, optional
2 cups grated zucchini, yellow or green
2 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2 cup orange juice (and I add some zest as well)
1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil
1/2 cup toasted chopped nuts, optional
1 cup of cranberries or blueberries, optional
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.
In large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice.
Stir in grated zucchini, beaten eggs, vanilla, orange juice and oil. Add nuts and/or berries.
Mix well until flour has disappeared. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 1 hour, until toothpick inserted in loaf comes out clean.
Tip out of pan and cool on rack. Enjoy while warm, and this bread toasts beautifully the next day.