Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zucchini Time

It's zucchini season. Good news for some. Bad news for others. I don't know if I've ever met a guy who loves zucchini. I know my husband and sons want nothing to do with it. Real men don't eat zucchini, right?

The most important thing about the zucchini is to pick it when it's small. No bigger around than a banana. This can be tricky because they grow so fast. It requires vigilance. Sometimes I see one in the morning that looks a little small and by mid-afternoon it's ready.

One summer when the kids were little, a zucchini got away from me. One day I found it under some huge leaves. It was big. I decided I might as well see just how big it could get. It got huge. The kids were thrilled. After we finally picked it, we painted a face on it, wrapped it in a receiving blanket, and left it on the neighbors' doorstep. They passed it on to some other neighbors. I don't know how far Baby Zoe got. I suspect that a practical cook somewhere down the street cut it up and made it into a casserole for her large family.

One of my favorite things to do with zucchini is to dehydrate it. I learned this from my friend Karla. She is the healthiest eater I know. One summer day we were on a hike. She whipped out a baggie and started snacking on something. It was a homemade trail mix that included stuff like flax seed crackers, nuts, sunflower seeds, and zucchini chips. Zucchini chips? Yes, she had made them herself. I tried some and was hooked. I've been making them the last few summers.

Here's how:

Slice small zucchini into thin round slices, maybe between an eighth and a sixteenth of an inch thick.

If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can dry them in the oven, door ajar, at the lowest temperature. Put the zucchini on cookie sheets lightly sprayed with non-stick spray.

Or, if you want to get earthy, you can dry them outside under a screen on a hot, dry, sunny day.

Or you can buy an inexpensive food dehydrator. Spray the racks lightly with non-stick spray and fill them up with zucchini slices. Plug it in.

Whichever method you use, make sure you get them good and dry. They should be brittle. Zucchini chips. Yum. The whole dehydratorful fits in a baggie. It's like a baggie of gold. Very valuable to me. I have to hide them when my daughter comes over. Sometimes I share.

I've sprinkled them with seasoning salt before drying. They're good, but I really just like them plain.

Kent and I were at his parents' house recently, comparing garden notes. My mother-in-law mentioned that she likes to grow her zucchini big so she can make zucchini cake with it. I mentioned that I always make sure I pick mine small. My father-in-law asked,

"But what if you want to make a cake?"

"Then I make a cake. You don't have to have zucchini to make a cake."

I hope they weren't offended.

My own mother makes really good zucchini bread. It might seem like I'm partial to my own bloodline, but I did grow up with this stuff. It's the only thing I'd eat with nuts in it as a child. It's really good with whipped cream cheese on it.

My Mother's Zucchini Bread

4 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup honey

Combine above ingredients. Mix well.

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix dry ingredients. Combine with zucchini mixture.

Sometimes my mother would bake this in loaf pans, but I know from personal experience (both eating it and making it) that it's hard to get it to bake evenly throughout. The center is often underdone. Which I actually kind of like sometimes. But you might not.

So, the very best way to go is in a Bundt(think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"). Bake it at 325 degrees for one hour. It actually makes enough batter for a Bundt pan and then a few small loaves. Small loaf pans work.

As kids, we lived on this stuff in the summer. And into the fall, because it freezes well.

We belong to a church that emphasizes dressing modestly, avoiding revealing clothing. What does this have to do with zucchini? Our little niece, Annie, used to include in her prayers, to the wild delight of her older siblings,

"And please help me not to want to wear a zucchini."

And you definitely won't want to wear a zucchini after you eat this stuffed zucchini. So good, but not so good for you.

Stuffed Zucchini

(This makes enough for a crowd. A good way to get rid of your surplus. Just make it and serve it to them and they will eat it. And love it.)

8 small zucchini
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4 cup chopped chives or green onions
1 cup stuffing cubes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash zucchini. Cut off ends. Parboil for a couple of minutes. Plunge into cold water. Split in half lengthwise and scoop out a little bit. Arrange in baking dish. Melt butter. Mix in cheeses and sour cream, salt, paprika and chives. Spoon over zucchini. Mix stuffing cubes with Parmesan cheese. Distribute over zucchini. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.

Everything I do with zucchini, I also do with yellow summer squash. I even make chips out of it. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been growing a very special yellow squash. Something evidently went wrong at the blossom end, because it was growing square. Yesterday was the big day. I harvested it. I immediately took it in the house and took a picture of it with my cell phone. I texted it to two of my kids with the caption

"Sponge Bob Square Squash."

I haven't heard a thing back from either of them.

We had a large group of B.Y.U. students over for a pizza party the other night. I made a salad to go with the pizza, and I cut up a bunch of zucchini into sticks and put them out in a dish.

"You're not putting those out, are you?" Kent asked me.

How I loved pointing out to him the empty bowl at the end of the night.

And a big thank you to whichever of the girls scarfed them down.


  1. I LOVE zucchini. I hope you'll share with me once I get out there!

  2. Melinda,
    I agree that you are a wonderful writer! I will enjoy your blog - keep writing!!! Loved sponge bob square squash (even if your kids didn't!) I might have to try drying zucchini.

  3. I am definitely going to make some zucchini chips. I am so glad you linked me up to your blog from your facebook post. I've missed you! By the way, wasn't there a book called "The Gentle Eater" that you recommended at book group some years ago. I've looked for it and can't find it. Do I have the title wrong or something???

  4. I think it was called Intuitive Eating. I may have a copy of it somewhere. I'll let you know if I find it and you can borrow it. Thanks for all your comments!

  5. Melinda, if you love zucchini, you need to go to Pizzeria 712 and try the summer squash pizza! Seriously--Yum! If you have yet to experience this restaurant, it is really quite amazing--they use fresh local produce in season as well as change up their menu often--it's a culinary sensation!

  6. Melinda, you have solved the mystery of the baby zuchinni. I have to admit that when it got to our house, we turned it into zuchinni bread!
    I will definitely try your dried zuchinni chips. What a good idea.

  7. I just made my mother's zucchini bread with applesauce instead of oil. It is just as good, and a little better for us. And still addictive.