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The Greening of Dinner, All Year Round

July 12, 2007 By:
Andrew Schloss, JE Feature
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The zucchini are coming! The zucchini are coming! Hiding under mulch and poking through the foliage, they are ready to take over your garden, your refrigerator and half your life, if you don't take measures now to stem their tide.

Every gardener or cook has faced the onslaught of zucchini, which descends each summer as the crops come in. But necessity is an inventive mother, offering unceasing quantities of zucchini breads, stews, soups, pancakes and sautés to help pull suffocating kitchen victims out from under the produce avalanche.

The trick to meeting such an invasion with the coolness of a cucumber is simple. You need only an oversized pot, a hefty supply of freezer bags and a recipe that can turn your kitchen into a processing plant. I have just such a formula, able to spin squash into culinary gold by the bushel.

Dubbed BZM -- "Basic Zucchini Mixture" -- the recipe yields an easy, all-purpose preparation that will last in your freezer well into the winter, just waiting to be whipped into everything from soup to cake in a matter of minutes.

The processing is simple, and once its complete, you're set to reap the harvest from your garden year-round, baking zucchini breads for holiday gifts or preparing a summer-fresh soup in the middle of March.

You'll note that the recipe is quite plain and straightforward, except for the addition of garlic and onion. This is intentional to keep the basic mixture adaptable to as many subsidiary preparations as possible, but also flavorful enough to stand on its own. One of the drawbacks of zucchini to many diners is its watery blandness. Zucchini needs aromatics like garlic or onion to give it a flavor base on which to build a palate of seasoning; otherwise, it will behave like a flavor vacuum, absorbing any seasoning you add to it without any apparent benefit.

I imagine that some of you might balk at the prospect of putting onion and garlic in recipes for cakes, breads and muffins. Rest assured that the flavors of these ingredients, as well as the zucchini, are imperceptible in baked goods. Like carrots in carrot cake, their function is to add and maintain moistness, not to contribute to the product's flavor.

It's best to store the basic mixture in two- to three-cup lots, as these amounts to be versatile and manageable.

Basic Zucchini Mixture

(Pareve/Dairy)

1 Tbsp. pareve margarine or butter
1 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove minced garlic
5 lbs. zucchini, ends removed, shredded
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large skillet, melt the margarine or butter with the oil.

Add the onion and garlic, and sauté, until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add the zucchini. Cook until it loses its raw look and begins to release its moisture, about 4 to 5 minutes. Cool and drain.

Squeeze through a clean towel to remove most moisture before using in any of the following recipes. This mixture can be frozen for months or refrigerated for days.

Yields 8 cups.

 

Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread

(Pareve)

3 extra-large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light-brown sugar
11/2 cups vegetable oil
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsps. finely grated lemon rind
2 tsps. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 cups BZM
3 cups all-purpose flour
13/4 cups pecan pieces
1/4 cup minced candied ginger

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease and flour two standard loaf pans.

Beat the eggs and sugars until fluffy. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream until fully incorporated.

Add the vanilla, salt, lemon rind, ginger, baking soda and baking powder. Mix thoroughly.

Mix in the BZM and flour until batter is smooth. Fold in the pecans and the candied ginger.

Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a crumb clinging to it. Unmold while still warm.

Serves 12.

 

Reduced-Fat Chocolate-Zucchini Cake

(Dairy With Icing)

4 eggs
11/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps. baking soda
2 cups flour
5 cups BZM
1 cup white-chocolate chips
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup raisins
1 recipe white-chocolate cream-cheese icing (follows)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease and flour two 8-inch layer-cake pans. Set aside.

Mix the eggs until well-blended. Mix in the sugar and cocoa until thoroughly combined. Mix in the oil, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

Add the baking soda in pinches, breaking up any lumps with your fingers. Stir in thoroughly.

Stir in the flour, and beat until smooth.

Mix in the BZM, white-chocolate chips, walnuts and raisins, just until evenly distributed.

Pour into the prepared pans, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Unpan and cool the rest of the way.

If desired, assemble the two layers into a cake with a double recipe of White-Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing (recipe follows).

Makes 12 servings.

 

White-Chocolate Cream-Cheese Icing
1/4 lb. butter
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1 lb. (2 packages) cream cheese, room temperature (see note)
2 tsps. lemon juice

In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt the butter.

Remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate, stirring until it melts.

Beat in the cream cheese and lemon juice until smooth. If the icing is too thin, refrigerate to thicken.

Makes about 3 cups.

Note: You can substitute reduced-fat cream cheese, though don't use the fat-free kind.

 

Zucchini Sautéed With Thyme

(Pareve/Dairy)

2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
3 cups BZM
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme and BZM, and cook until hot, about another 2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, garnished with the cheese, if desired.

 

Chilled Curried Zucchini Soup

(Dairy)

2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
31/2 cups BZM
2 tsps. curry powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
31/2 cups vegetable broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup plain yogurt

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add the curry, coriander and cayenne. Stir briefly.

Add the BZM and the broth.

Heat to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Mix in the yogurt and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Zucchini Quiche

(Dairy)

1 9-inch pie shell
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 leek, white-part only, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. herbes de Provençe
1/3 cup diced tomato
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups BZM
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

Prebake the pie crust until browned, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil.

Add the onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add the garlic, herbes de Provençe and tomato, and cook until tomato loses its rawness.

Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

Stir in BZM, milk, and eggs, until well-mixed.

Scatter cheese over bottom of prebaked crust. Pour in zucchini mixture and bake for 45 minutes, until custard is set and surface is browned.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Zucchini Latkes

(Pareve)

3 cups BZM
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsps. flour
salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Mix the BZM with the eggs, flour, salt and pepper.

Heat 1/4-inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Fry heaping soup-spoonfuls of the batter until browned on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

Serve with applesauce on the side.

Note: For a dairy meal, especially at holiday time, you can add other accompaniments like sour cream, cottage cheese or yogurt.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Andrew Schloss is a food-industry consultant and a cookbook author. His current book is Almost From Scratch: 600 Recipes for the New Convenience Cuisine.

 

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