I had a "feeling famous" moment.
Yesterday, I received my first email question! The moment was thrilling. Reader mail!
I had visions of Oprah-esque magnitude. Dressed in age-appropriate casual chic-ness, trying not to give you my profile lest I should disappear from view (I would be skinny Oprah in this moment), and gazing directly into Camera One, I would address you, my best friend, saying, "Melinda from College Park, PA writes, 'I have a challenge for The Improvised Chef's Three Way.'"
I bet you do. And you know I love a challenge.
"'It's probably an easy one, but I'm not that creative in the kitchen."
Stop. Don't say that!
"My co-worker brought me a zucchini - a HUGE zucchini - and we have to figure out what to do with it so it doesn't go bad. Any ideas?"
Well, Melinda in College Park, since this is a family show I am going to refrain from calling this Scott's Three Way with a Huge Zucchini. It simply begs a law suit. Instead I will make some small talk about how now is the time of year when zucchini seems to be taking over your garden like Audrey II, and, blithely and benignly, I will tell you exactly what you can do with that huge zucchini.
There is a ton of stuff you can do with America's favorite gourd. As stated earlier, I love to grill and marinate the suckers. It makes for great snackin' and impresses people on an antipasti plate. (For the recipe, see Confession post). My mom used to make zucchini bread which tasted like love in loaf form(and if she was at home instead of selfishly going on vacation I would post her recipe). Throw it into a chilled soup with potatoes for a veggie summer supper, add fresh zucch to a salad with garbanzos, artichokes, hearts of palm and olives for a little Mediterranean feel, or you could make zucchini pancakes.
Chilled Zucchini and Potato Soup
For a vegetarian option, omit the stock and use water. Whenever I use veggie stock in soup, it tends to take on a general vegetable flavor instead of focusing on the star veg.
2 Tbl olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and chopped
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1 medium Yukon gold potato, chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (string 'em up)
4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbl lemon zest
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and add onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, potato and zucchini. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until veggies are tender. Add wine. Once wine has reduced to half, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes until potato cubes are fork tender. Remove from heat and take out thyme sprigs.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a food processor, whir that sucker until smooth. Stir in cream and lemon zest. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill that bad lad until completely cool.
Sauteed Zucchini with Lemon over Penne
Contrary to my beliefs, not everything has to be a big production. This is one of those KISS recipes (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Easy, tasty and satisfying.
2 Tbl olive oil
1 1/2 lbs zucchini, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1/2" slices - it's prettier this way
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 pound penne
1/2 cup shaved asiago or pecorino cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil. Once we have bubbles, add in the pasta and cook for roughly 7 minutes.
Once you have dropped the pasta, heat oil, garlic, and red pepper over medium high heat. In a single layer, add zucchini to pan. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip zucchini to brown other side, about an additional 3 minutes. At the last minute, add lemon juice, zest and basil. Toss to coat.
By this time your pasta should be ready to drain. So drain it and return it back to the pot. Drizzle in a little olive oil and throw in that cheese. Give it a stir.
To serve, place cheesy pasta on plate and top with the lemony, basily zucchini and pine nuts.
These babies are yummy and totally cheap eats. Combine lemon juice, yogurt (or sour cream), and whatever fresh herbs you have laying around to make a nice little dippin' suace for them.
1 HUGE zucchini
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbl. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup grated parmesan or asiago
1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt n' pepper
Using a box grater, grate zucchini and carrots. Transfer to a clean towel and squeeze out all moisture. Imagine a particularly frustrating child's neck as you wring. I do. Place in a bowl with onions and garlic.
In a small bowl, beat eggs and add to veggies. In yet another bowl (we certainly are using a lot of bowls), combine flour, baking powder, cheese, salt 'n pepper, and herbs. Add to eggy vegetables and give it a good stir to combine.
In a non-stick pan, heat up canola oil until very hot. Spoon in mixture, creating "silver dollar" pancakes and cook until crisp. Flip 'em and do the same. Drain excess oil on paper towels.