In defense of a highly versatile crop: Impress your friends with these different zucchini recipes

By TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder

Published: 07-11-2023 2:45 PM

How do I love zucchini? Let me count the ways…

I know zucchini don’t always come in for a lot of praise. In fact, I tend to think of them as the fruitcake of summer. And I rush to defend them just as I always defend fruitcake.

At Christmas the fruitcake bashers jest that fruitcake is so heavy it can be used as a doorstop. Many of these people have never tasted fruitcake… or have never tasted fruitcake lovingly made in my kitchen, in any event.

Similarly, in summer and fall the jokesters snicker that country dwellers are so frustrated with their bumper crops of zucchini that as soon as the sun sets, they tiptoe around and leave the things anonymously on their neighbors’ doorsteps.

It’s true that even one little zucchini vine can go crazy if left untended. Gardeners who forget to check their patch for a couple of days end up with vegetables the size of baseball bats instead of the tender little green gourds that inspired the Italian name zucchini, which means “little squash.”

If you remember to check your zucchini patch frequently, however, you’ll be rewarded with small, curvy cylinders that are highly versatile. You won’t need to give them away. You’ll be too busy thinking of new ways to eat them.

They cook quickly, especially if you just fry slices in a little butter and olive oil and toss in a few herbs and a little salt and pepper.

Grated zucchini can lend vitamin A and moisture to soups, sauces, breads, brownies, cakes and casseroles.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

PHOTOS: Fight prompts brief traffic backup on Hope Street in Greenfield
Sunderland Bridge being reduced to one-lane traffic next week
Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls father-daughter duo of assistant coach Jay Liimatainen, pitcher Madi Liimatainen celebrate Father’s Day weekend as state champions
Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls blanks Georgetown 5-0, captures MIAA-record 11th state championship in program history (PHOTOS)
In new hands, Green River Festival returns with headliners CAKE, Fleet Foxes and Gregory Alan Isakov
Mutton and Mead organizers chart new course with ‘Roads to Revelry’

You may parboil zucchini; cut them in half lengthwise; scoop out the pulp; combine the pulp with cheese, herbs, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, salt and pepper; re-stuff the mixture into the skin; and bake the stuffed zucchini.

You may also use zucchini to make pickles or relish and stretch summer’s bounty throughout the year.

Zucchini are cheap, and they’re good for you. As my grandmother used to say, “What’s not to like?”

Consequently, if any of my neighbors would like to leave a few zucchini on my doorstep, I say, “Bring ‘em on!” I didn’t grow any myself this year, and I have lots of zucchini recipes in my repertoire.

If you’re a former zucchini skeptic, try calling this vegetable (it’s technically a fruit, but we generally use it as a vegetable) by its French name, courgette, a graceful appellation for a graceful food.

Just avoid the term the British use: vegetable marrow. This technically refers to zucchini that have been left too long on their vine and have grown to ungainly proportions. That food sounds depressing, and frankly, it is.

Today I’m sharing a recipe for zucchini pancakes. They’re rather like latkes – potato pancakes – flavored with onion and a little cheese.

The recipe is adapted from one given to me in the days when I prepared simple dishes in the cookware department of a large department-store. It came from Pat Money, a representative of the cookware company Calphalon.

Pat added Old Bay Seasoning to make her pancakes into a sort of ersatz crab cake. As a defender of zucchini, I eschew the Old Bay. I don’t need to pretend that these little latkes are anything other than what they are.

The pancakes are highly caloric so invite a crowd over and share them. They make a fun appetizer. If you have an electric frying pan, plug it in in your entertainment area so you can cook them in public; then pop them onto little plates and serve your guests as the latkes finish cooking.

Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 small onion, finely minced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (add a little more if you like)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

2 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed dry in a dish towel (about 4 cups)

1 cup flour

extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine the eggs, canola oil, onion, garlic, cheese, baking powder, salt and pepper.

Stir in the zucchini, followed by the flour.

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a nonstick frying pan to coat the bottom of the pan lightly. Heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat until it shimmers.

Place heaping soup spoons full of the zucchini batter into the pan, about four to five at a time. Flatten them slightly with a spoon or spatula and fry them until they are golden around the edges and can be turned, about three minutes.

Turn them over and fry them until they are golden on the other side, two to three minutes longer. If you need to add a bit more oil during this process, do so.

Drain the pancakes on paper towels and serve them warm. Makes 25 to 30 small pancakes.

I like to eat these plain, but a little sour cream or tzatziki sauce might be very nice with them.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her most recent book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.

]]>