Monday, August 01, 2005

Zucchini Lessons

e-claire has a great recipe for pineapple zucchini bread. She says she put it up on her site because "realsoonnow, people will begin to break into cars to leave bags of zucchini."

Yes. Even people you would normally consider friends will soon begin pestering you with zukes the size of baseball bats. In our case, old Mr. Baber didn't break into my car exactly, but he certainly practiced extortion every August.

Old man Baber owned some property on the James River a few miles down from here. At one time all the locals used his spot for fishing and swimming or putting out their boats, and sometimes for picnics if the grass under the river maples and sycamores had been mowed. Old Mr. B. patrolled his grounds pretty regularly, looking for litter and sniffing for the smell of smoking weed drifting down from the kids lurking in the trees. He couldn't hear much but that man had a nose like a beagle.

August was a particularly sweet time to go there. The James would be low and warm, but the Rockfish, coming down from the mountains, joined the James right there so you could feel its cold veins running through if you ventured out to where they joined. Sometimes groups of people on inner tubes floated by on their way downriver to Scottsville.

Getting down to the beach could be a problem, depending on if you had to run Mr. Baber's gauntlet. And in August that meant if you wanted to swim, you'd better take the bulky grocery bag he'd whip out when he saw you coming. It was one of those times when you could honestly say that a bag of zukes was a day at the beach 'cause at old man Baber's beach that is exactly what it was. Fifteen pounds of swinging zucchini in exchange for a swim.

Life is just chock full of lessons, isn't it? In this one, you get to learn what to do with fifteen pounds of dark green, very large zucchini. Besides throw them in the dumpster, which is what some of Mr. Baber's victims did. However, I figured my karma already had enough dings in it without deliberately and with aforethought adding any further blemishes. So I devised zuke mash, thus saving my soul and making the world a slightly better place. Can't ask for much more than that from a bag of vegetables.

Here's the drill: Zucchini Mash is simply filler. A glop you use can add to recipes where the ingredients aren't precise so what goes in doesn't matter and picky eaters can't tell it's there. Zucchini has the merit of being a basic nothingness. It's where all the spaces between things are stored. So you could put it in meatloaf, casseroles, pancakes, stuffed cabbage, etc., and no one would ever know.

Zuke mash can be made in huge batches and then frozen in quart-size plastic bags; it keeps in the freezer for a looong time. In fact a friend of mine uses it in crabcakes but I won't tell who because her husband loves her crabcakes and he loathes zucchini, which everyone in the family knows well. Why spoil a good marriage?


Grate however many zukes you're stuck with, or until your arm gets tired. Use about five pounds minimum to make it worth your while.
Heat up some olive oil (maybe a T. or so) on medium. Use a largish pan.
Add the zukes and stir and cook for about 5 minutes or so until it's all limp.
Dump the cooked stuff into a colander and let it drain a bit -- or let it drain a lot if you're busy.
Get out a large clean bath towel.
Squish as much liquid as you can out of the zuke mash with your hands.
Put the mash into the towel and wring it real good. Two people do a better job, but one person will work. It's just like most things, working by yourself takes longer.
Fill freezer bags with the mash and stack them flattened out in the back of the freezer. Don't make the mistake of truth-in-labeling if a zucchini-hater lives with you.

It sounds complicated, but the only annoying part is the grating. You could probably do that more easily with a Cuisinart, if it has a fine blade for coleslaw.

There you have the perfect solution for using up zucchini. It's easier than hiding from everyone the whole month long.


At 9:17 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Ever tried zucchini bread? It's easy to make, provided one has a food-processor, and freezes well. Most people who don't like zucchini like the bread. It's a good dessert and an excellent breakfast cake as well.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

The link in my post is to e-claire's recipe for zucchini bread. I like it but can't eat it -- no flour, no sugar, etc.

I can eat them fried with green onions (tops only), or in curry, or whatever savory dish they go well with. Like mixing them with meatloaf per the zuccchini mash I mentioned. So I eat lots of it, but not with sugar or flour, both of which make me sleepy and lethargic.

One of my favorite dishes is stuffed zucchini. Maybe I'll do the recipe for that in another post. It's gooood. Lebanese, I think. At least the woman who taught me to make them was from Beruit. Many years ago...

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Danica said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I meant to say "plain" zucchini bread. But my recipe wouldn't work for you if you're avoiding flour and sugar.

I like zucchini stir-fry. Are you familiar with it?

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

I like ratatouille the best. Which is kind of stir-fry. Really, it's stew. French veggie stew. I'm making it this weekend when the Baron's Boy's beautiful friend comes to visit. She's a vegetarian.


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