Friday, July 31, 2009

Using Up the Zucchini Glut

It's always the same with zucchini plants: they give, and give, and give until we just can't take it anymore. This year I planted two of them, which is one more than any family of less than ten people needs, thinking that I would donate the harvest from one of them to the local foodbank. But the June rains did in one of the plants, so I'm only dealing with a normal garden glut of zucchini. As usual, I'm racking my brain to figure out what to do with all this bounty, other than the usual tales of leaving the vegetables on neighbors' doorsteps in the dead of night, or disposing of them in parking lots via any parked car I can find with an open window.

I realize this topic is probably a wee bit late for many of you. But here in the northeastern section of the US, incredibly heavy spring rains have pushed back a lot of crops by about three weeks. I'm just now getting that familiar overwhelmed sensation with my garden. So here's a roundup of ideas I've found and used to cope with zucchini overload.

101cookbooks.com has an excellent special zucchini bread which I made a few batches of both this year and last. They freeze well. This really is special - not your granny's zucchini bread. She calls for curry powder or other even more assertive seasonings in her recipe, but I favor a hefty dose of cardamom, a little cinnamon, and the merest whiff of cumin in mine. In fact it's a pretty forgiving recipe. Even if you think you don't like zucchini bread, I'd urge you to give this one a fair shake.

Chocolate zucchini cake is good too. It took me a while to try this one, but I became an instant fan when I did. The zucchini was almost undetectable in this super moist cake, and I was using one of the gargantuan zucchinis that got away from me. Had I used the properly sized little ones I don't think even I would have noticed any trace of the vegetable.

Another blogger posted about partially dehydrating fat zucchini slices and then caramelizing them in a saute pan. Without getting rid of a good portion of the water, it would be pretty hard to caramelize zucchini. I haven't tried this one yet, but check out the post - they look fabulous. I think I'd try layering them with some mozzarella, or grilled eggplant, or both.

Julie posted about zucchini slice, which is a crustless quiche-y, souffle-y sort of preparation. Very easy to make, but I found I needed to use five eggs to one cup of flour. If you don't have any of the self-rising flour called for in her recipe, substitute 1 cup of all purpose flour along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I also added some kernels cut from a grilled ear of corn. Very tasty, suitable for any meal of the day, and you can use up a good deal of zucchini with this recipe! As Julie suggests, if you're going to bake one of these, you might as well bake two, maximizing the use of the oven during the hot part of the year, while stashing a meal for later on in your freezer.

I once had a recipe for zucchini-lemon muffins. I suspect it was a version of the flexible muffin recipe from the Tightwad Gazette. After cutting down on the sugar from the basic recipe, I added grated and squeezed zucchini, lemon juice and a little zest, plus walnuts. These made a great breakfast muffin that I often sent on the road with my husband when he traveled a lot for work. It saved him a little money, and though it may not have been the healthiest breakfast in the world, he would consistently eat them rather than resorting to even less healthy choices, while also saving him time in the morning. You could make these with whole wheat flour if you're quite health conscious. If you try these, remember that you can use more zucchini than it would seem at first glance, especially if you're vigorous about wringing lots of liquid from the zukes.

You probably don't need tips on how to squeeze more meals out of your zucchini plant, but I'm going there anyway. Cut off some of the male flowers and use them as vegetables in their own right. I hear down in Mexico they make soups out of the flowers. Italians like to batter fry the blossoms. Cleaning and stuffing the flowers is a bit of a chore, but I usually manage it once per season. After making sure there are no lurking critters inside - I once brought a bee inside the house that had slept overnight in a blossom that had closed at sundown - fill the blossom with a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, or even a little grated zucchini. Then dip them in beaten egg, seasoned flour, shake off the excess, and pan fry them. If getting the stuffing into the blossom cavity is too laborious after the first attempt, just batter fry the cleaned blossoms. This makes a lovely appetizer. I also like sliced squash blossoms on pizza. It brightens up the pie.

If all your zucchini management efforts are overwhelmed by the abundance of the plant, and if your neighbors have taken to guarding their doorsteps, you can always, as a last resort, grate and freeze zucchini for later use. So here's a tip. The day after you freeze it, pull it back out of the freezer and let it thaw. Pour off all the water that comes out of the vegetable and freeze it again. All that water was going to come out anyway when you were ready to use it. By getting rid of it now, you free up a lot of freezer space, allowing you to store more of it.

And remember, when it all gets to be just too much, your local food bank or soup kitchen would probably be thrilled to have your excess zucchini.

9 comments:

RoseG said...

This cake is so yummy and you don't even notice the zucchini. It freezes great too. Read the reviews for alternatives.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chocolate-Zucchini-Cake-907

tansy said...

completely dehydrating the zucchini slices and shreds is another option!

i just read over at walnutspinney.blogspot.com about sprinkling the zucchini slices with cinnamon and sugar before dehydrating or with some type of seasoning salt and eating either like chips. yum!!

completely dehydrated slices/shreds can be rehydrated in the winter to add to soups/breads/etc.

we started out with 6 zucchini plants and the squash bugs killed off 5 but that remaining one is giving us plenty.

all hail the mighty zucchini!

(love your blog).

Diane said...

We made bread and butter type pickles from zucchini last year and they are better than the cucumber pickles.

henbogle said...

I read this on a blog last year, can't remember which one. Shred the zucchini and freeze in ziplock bags. Shredded zucchini is a great addition to winter soups and stews.

I tried it last year and was so glad I did. I used it all winter and it made a great addition to soup.
Ali

Anonymous said...

As I write this, my husband is using up 7 good sized zucchini in our favorite way...grilling the slices with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, onion powder and parmesean. I then dehydrate the lot of them into zucchini chips. I use the Foodsaver to can up the chips in jars and we eat them during the fall.

Thanks so much for your blog!

Elizabeth said...

De-lurking to say thank you! Your work inspires me to try harder to make small changes in my own life. And the zucchini timing is perfect, I just found 3 huge squash hiding in the garden.

gardengrl said...

I think you have been tiptoeing in my garden....needless to say..I have zuchini coming out my ears. I always make zuchini relish...(this is always a request from family members for the holidays)..grate and freeze some(then my "picky" teenager doesnt even know its in most things)..give some to neighbors (yes,they gratefully accept them)....but the food bank idea is fabulous...and I have a bank less than a mile from me. Guess I will load up the wagon and walk the zukes there.Bonus---I get exercise while doing a good thing.

Cowgirl in the City said...

Hmm... I love zucchini. I usually make a ton of zucchini bread and then freeze it for the rest of the year, and so I always have something on hang to give away to friends.

Anna M said...

We make zuke pancakes. 1 shredded zuke, 1 egg, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup cheese and fry in whatever fat you like. You can spice these a hundred different ways and use various fats for flavors.

My husband likes them fried in bacon grease or schmaltz.