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.
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