Seasonal pantry: 3 ways to enjoy your abundant zucchini crop

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A few days ago, a reader asked what to do with all the zucchini in her garden, a question one hears through the summer growing season.

Zucchini, even a single plant, can pose a problem to the home cook as they seem to grow and reproduce while your back is turned. It is all but impossible to keep up.

If you are in a zucchini rut, it can feel overwhelming if you’re growing it. Just how much stewed zucchini or ratatouille can one person eat? There are many other ways to enjoy it both raw, lightly cooked, and turned into soups, risottos, and pasta dishes. Today’s recipes offer delicious ways to keep up with the harvest.

This refreshing soup is remarkably creamy, so voluptuous that people who don’t cook much often insist that it has a lot of cream in it. But it has none; it is the zucchini itself that creates the creamy texture and depth of flavor. It is delicious both chilled and hot and is a delicious way to use up garden zukes.

Chilled Zucchini Soup
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small yellow, cut into small dice
6 garlic cloves, minced
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
6 cups homemade chicken broth, chicken stock or vegetable broth
— Whole milk yogurt
— Fresh basil leaves

Put the butter and olive oil into a medium or large saucepan set over medium heat and when the butter is melted, add the zucchini and sauté, turning 2 or 3 times, until it begins to pick up some color, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and several turns of black pepper and transfer to a plate.

Add the onion to the pan, reduce the heat and sauté gently until the onion is soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Return the zucchini and any juices to the pan, add the broth or stock, increase the heat to medium and simmer until the zucchini is tender, from 3 to 6 minutes or a bit longer if using Romanesco zucchini.

Remove from the heat and let rest about 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or pass through a food mill. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Pour into a large bowl or tureen, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and as long as overnight.

To serve, ladle into soup plates, top with a very generous dollop of yogurt and a few basil leaves and enjoy right away.

Variation: To serve hot, remove from the soup from the heat, cover, and set aside briefly. Cut a medium Romanesco zucchini into medium julienne and sauté in butter until lightly browned. Season with salt, pepper, and a little squeeze of lemon juice. Divide this zucchini among individual soup plates and top with hot soup. Add a generous dollop of yogurt and a few basil leaves to each portion and enjoy right away.

Zucchini “noodles” – raw zucchini cut into long, thin julienne using a mandoline, available in almost any cookware store – have become increasing popular in recent years, as people search for substitutes for wheat-based pasta. But you needn’t be allergic to wheat or gluten intolerant to enjoy zucchini prepared in this way.

If you like your noodles very tender, you can blanch the noodles in rapidly boiling water for about 45 seconds but it isn’t necessary. You can use zucchini noodles in such dishes as fettuccine Alfredo, spaghetti Carbonara, and even spaghetti Bolognese.

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Romanesco Zucchini Noodles with Warm Tomato Vinaigrette
Serves 3 to 4

1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
— Kosher salt
2 tablespoons best-quality white wine vinaigrette
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 cup tomato concassé (see Note below)
— Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley or thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
— Black pepper in a mill
3 medium-large Romanesco zucchinis

Put the shallot and garlic in a small bowl, season with salt, and stir in the vinegar. Let sit 20 minutes.

Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan set over low heat and warm through. Stir in the tomato concassé, lemon juice, and the shallot mixture, and heat, stirring gently until the mixture is warm; do not let it boil.

Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley or basil and the chives, and add several turns of black pepper. Taste and correct for salt, oil, and acid. Set aside briefly and keep warm.

Trim and discard the ends of the zucchini. Use a mandoline fitted with the 1/8-inch wide blade to cut the zucchini into long ribbons.

When all the zucchini has been cut, fluff the noodles with your fingers, divide among pasta bowls or soup plates and season with salt. Spoon the warm vinaigrette over each portion and enjoy right away.

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These pickles are easy to make and quite delicious, best made with smaller rather than larger zukes. The recipe is adapted from one in “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” by Judy Rodgers (Norton & Co., 2002, $35).

Quick Zucchini Pickles
Makes about 2 quarts

2 pounds small to medium firm zucchini, washed, trimmed, and cut into very thin rounds, preferably using a mandoline
2 small sweet white onions, peeled and very thinly sliced.
5 tablespoons kosher salt
4 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard flour (dry mustard, such as Colman’s)
1 tablespoon white mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon white peppercorns

Put the zucchini and onions into a glass or stainless steel bowl, add the salt and toss gently. Let sit for 30 minutes. Add enough water to cover the zucchini and set in the refrigerator for about an hour. Drain the liquid off the zucchini and spread them on a tea towel to dry; alternately, put them into a salad spinner and spin off the liquid. The zucchini should be quite dry.

Meanwhile, pour the vinegar into a saucepan, add the sugar, mustard flour, mustard seed, turmeric, and peppercorns and set over medium heat. Stir gently, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, and remove from the heat.

Let the pickling liquid cool completely and when it has, add the dry zucchini and turn it to coat it fully.

Transfer the zucchini to pint jars and pour the brine over them; they should be fully submerged. Seal the jars and refrigerate for a full day before enjoying them.

These pickles will keep for weeks.

Variation: If you like your pickles with heat, add one hot chile, fresh or dried, to each jar before sealing it.

Michele Anna Jordan is author of the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com and visit her blog at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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