Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Zucchini Season Is Here!

At first the summer squash trickle in. A nice 6-inch zucchini here, a 3-inch pattypan there. Then all of a sudden, a monster. Such is the way of the summer squash.

Overgrown Zephyr

At my CSA pickup this week, we were entitled to six items in the summer squash/cucumber bin. There were squash of several varieties: zucchini (of course) in both yellow and gold colors and long and round shapes, a light-skinned Mid-East type, some yellow squash (both straightneck and crooked), pattypan (look like flying saucers), and Zephyr (yellow with light-green ends). I went straight for the golden and green straight zucchini, because they are the most versatile, lending themselves to easy slicing, julienning, and cutting into spheres. I skip the round zucchini since they are only good for stuffing, while the straight zucchini can work fine for stuffing and everything else. Another time I’ll try the Mideastern type to see if the flavor varies.

You’d think with the season just beginning, there wouldn’t be any overgrown summer squash, but, of course, there were a few. Even at a farm, where the gardening is anything but haphazard and careless, those pesky squash can get out of control easily. One rainstorm and there you have it: a monster. It doesn’t help that a healthy plant is big and leafy, fully capable of playing hide and seek, till the squash is overgrown. The plant just wants to produce seeds.

Naturally, there was unlimited access to the overgrown squash. You’d think that after years of growing my own zucchini baseball bats, I’d have had enough. But no, I happen to have a full repertoire of recipes that deal with overgrown zucchini, and I was hankering to make the Zucchini Cheese Squares that I made for Serving Up the Harvest.

Zucchini Cheese “Squares” fresh from the oven

The squash I used was an overgrown Zephyr, so the dish lacked the green flecks that usually dominate the color. The eggs I used were free-range guinea fowl eggs, so the color is a bit more golden than usual. Also, for the cheddar I substituted a mix of Grafton cheddar, Crawford Farm’s Vermont Ayr, and provolone cheese — what I had on hand.

The plated meal

While happily applying themselves to dinner, my family commented that the title doesn’t do the dish justice. They got no argument from me — but no one came up with a better name. The dish could be called a spoonbread, but most spoonbreads are made with cornmeal, and the texture is usually softer. The flour and baking powder rule it out of the frittata category. The eggs aren’t separated, so it isn’t a soufflé. We pondered the problem until it disappeared.

Literally. Not a crumb was left. Let me know if you come up with a better name.

Zucchini Cheese Squares
Serves 6 to 8
My kids love these “zucchini pillows.” The texture is softer than a bread and denser than a soufflé, with just the trace of crunch from the onions. It makes a great side dish, especially on a picnic, where the squares can be eaten out of hand. You can use overgrown zucchini here.
3 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 onion, diced
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or lemon pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs, beaten
  1. Combine the zucchini and salt in a colander and toss to mix. Set aside to drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 7- by 11-inch or 9-inch-round baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl stir together the flour and baking powder. Add the onion, zucchini, cheese, thyme, and pepper. Mix well with a fork, breaking up any clumps of zucchini.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the oil and eggs. Pour into the zucchini mixture and mix well. Spread evenly in the baking dish.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden.
  6. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut into squares, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman © 2007, 2009. All rights reserved.
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