If you grow zucchini, you probably have a garden full of zucchini jokes by now. My favorite is how you have to lock your car doors this time of year. This is to prevent someone you know, or don't know for that matter, from depositing a big box of this green vegetable in your backseat. And then there's the fact that gardeners are usually waste-not, want-not types of folks, so they tend to get a bit schizophrenic when they have to choose between picking more of the stuff or just yanking it out of the ground.
Yes, zucchini is easy to grow, and once we get the kind of rain we had lately, it seems like it literally explodes. This is a phenomenon that was once confirmed by a neighbor and fellow gardener. He tells me his dog was out in the garden with him, picking a few late strawberries here and there, when he - I'm speaking of the dog now - let out a yelp and took off at a run for the house.
When the gardener caught up with his canine buddy he discovered a furry face full of slimy green zucchini drippings.
"It looked like he had put his face too close to a blender," he explained.
Even the dog's ears were full of the stuff. The best he can figure is that an overgrown zucchini exploded right in his dog's face. The heat will do that to zucchini.
An otherwise excellent watchdog is now afraid of zucchini. Hopefully, would-be burglars will never catch on to this dog's new-found phobia - otherwise they will simply arm themselves with a big vegetable and make off with all the garden goods while the dog crouches in fear under the front porch.
Of course, the secret to avoiding this disaster is to always pick your zucchini when it is young - like right now. This cuts down on the amount you need to give away and this vegetable tastes best when it is of a smaller size.
The other trick is to pick it before it even sets fruit. Zucchini blossoms are delicious in salads and stir frys or stuffed and fried.
Fried zucchini blossoms
When picking blossoms, look for the ones that are beginning to open, but are still slightly swirled and twisted at the top - these are less likely to hide any bugs. Plus, they stay closed when you twist them shut again before frying. Don't confine yourself to your zucchini patch - you can use any squash blossom - acorn, butternut, yellow, even pumpkin. Use your favorite ranch-style dressing for a dipping sauce.
6 fresh picked blossoms
2 ounces monterey jack cheese
1 recipe beer batter
1 tsp. oregano, crushed
1 tsp. parsley, crushed
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
vegetable oil for frying
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup beer
3/4 cup flour
Wash the blossoms carefully, making sure there are no bugs. Cut the cheese into 6 equal rectangular portions. Combine oregano, parsley and garlic powder and dip each cheese portion in this mix to cover. Open each blossom up and slide in the little rectangle of cheese.
Twist the top of the blossom shut, dip in batter and fry for about 1-1/2 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper toweling. Serve with a ranch-style salad dressing for a dipping sauce.
The brief cooking time of the vegetables really makes this dish special. It helps to meld the flavors and is well received by those who tend to prefer the cooked vegetable to the raw.
4 Tbsps. olive oil
3 small zucchini (about 1 pound)
1 clove crushed garlic
1 red pepper - green is fine, but red is prettier
1 small red or white onion
3 or 4 plum tomatoes or 1 large slicing tomato
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp. parlsey, crushed
In a saute pan, heat the olive oil. Wash, but do not peel, the zucchini, then slice into very thin rounds. Slice the red pepper and onions into thin strips.
Saute the zucchini, crushed garlic, red pepper and onions very briefly - just until the zucchini wilts a little. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Slice the plum tomatoes into thin rounds and add to mixture. Squeeze the juice of one half lemon over all, straining to remove the seeds.
Sprinkle the vinegar, herbs, and salt over all and mix everything together. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
Zucchini on the grill
Wash, but do not peel, zucchini. Slice in half lengthwise, and brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper.
Other vegetables that work well on the grill in this same manner include eggplants, crookneck yellow squash, patty pan or green tint benning squash, sweet bell peppers, banana peppers and plum tomatoes.
Toss a bit of fresh picked dill or sage on the grill to infuse the vegetables with a nice herbal essence.