Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zucchini (the saga contiues)

Like I said on Monday's show, I am not yet sick of zucchini and I fear the end of the season. Yes, I usually like to eat what's in season until I'm so sick of it that I can't stand to face it again....until it comes in season the next year. Not so with zucchini. When it is fresh, I will eat it and weep on that day when I see that the plants in the garden are not going to produce even the tiniest, scrawniest little squash. But I will not live in the future here knowing that there are a couple months of wonderful fresh zucchini yet to come.

That's but one of the joys of living in Sonoma County. When my sister back in Michigan is pulling out her vines to magically transform into something wonderful over the winter in the compost heap, I will joyfully be picking zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant out of my garden, when her leaves are turning orange, our naked ladies will be exposing their pink beauty.

I am going to start out with the recipe for the picture above as it has turned out to be my favorite way of eating zucchini this summer. In fact, it is what I will be having tonight having just finished kneading my pasta dough. This recipe comes from a member of the Jamie Oliver Forum who lives in Friuli, a region of Italy located in the Northeastern-most part of the country.

Pasta with Zucchini ala Mada

3 coves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-1/2 inch slices of pancetta

Pinch of chili flakes or 1 Calabrian dried chili, chopped

5 or 6 medium zucchini, washed, trimmed and grated through the large holes of a box grater.

Salt and pepper to taste

Several zucchini blossoms, if available.

.75 pounds dried pasta (fettuccine seems a good choice for this or if homemade, tonarelli.)

Pecorino cheese for the table.

Heat water to boiling in a large pot. If using dried pasta, add about 10 minutes before the sauce is done.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add pancetta and saute until it just starts to crisp. Add garlic and chili flakes sauteing very briefly just until garlic starts to color.

Add grated zucchini and mix everything well. Cook, turning from time to time, until zucchini is tender. Season and dress the pasta. Sprinkle torn zucchini blossoms over the top.

This next recipe is one that was probably my favorite a few years back. After I made it the first time, I found myself being requested to repeat it several times over the course of the summer. Considering how delicious this turned out to be, I was more than happy to comply. This does take some waiting time so you may want to plan part of your day around it. Although the original recipe calls for using fussini or spaghetti, I am particularly fond of fussili bucati, which unfortunately, I have only seen made by De Cecco.

Pasta with Fried Zucchini Sauce

1 1/2 pound zucchini
12 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
Vegetable oil for frying
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (Plus more for serving)
1 pound pasta such as fussili or spaghetti

Cut zucchini into sticks 2 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch thick.
Sprinkle liberally with salt, toss and place in a colander to drain for a few hours.
Remove zucchini and dry on towels.
Coat zucchini with flour and place in a strainer or a clean colander and shake off excess flour.
Pour 1/2 inch of oil in a pan, add garlic, heat and when very hot, add enough of the zucchini sticks to loosely fill the pan frying until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels or a rack. (Remove garlic when it starts browning.)
Cook pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water.
While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Pour drained pasta into skillet and turn several times. Add zucchini, torn basil leaves, cheese and turn again.
Serve with extra cheese.

For the next recipe, I would suggest sticking to the recipe pretty much the way it's written. I did try to play around with it last week and came up very very short of what it should have been. With everything I've said about the superiority of homemade pasta, the boxed version definitely does have its place. (I would not trade a plate of good old spaghetti with a good tomato sauce for a lot of things.) I decided to try the following recipe with some homemade pappardelle, a wide noodle, with disastrous results. That was "cooking for the bin" at its finest!

Pasta with Zucchini, Ricotta and Basil

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 or 4 medium zucchini, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch dice

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 pound penne or other cut pasta

1 cup good quality ricotta cheese

1 cup basil leaves, torn up plus a few left whole for a garnish

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.

Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add zucchini along with a large pinch of salt and several grindings of fresh black pepper.

Cook until zucchini begins to brown and then lower the heat and continue cooking until it is tender.
About 5 minutes before it is done, add pasta to the boiling water.

While pasta is cooking, put ricotta and half the basil in a bowl that you will serve the pasta in.

When the pasta is done, drain reserving about 1 cup of the liquid using it to thin the ricotta to a sauce-like consistency.

Add pasta, zucchini, remaining basil, cheese and gently but thoroughly mix well. (Garnish with a sprig of basil.)

Although I announced that the show would be about zucchini sauces for pasta, I realized that nothing is written in stone and that I couldn't pass up a recipe sent by a listener and friend for fried zucchini flowers. Like I mentioned on the show, the last time I made fried zucchini flowers they were so terrible I had to throw them out. (As I soon did with the recipe.)

I fried some zucchini blossoms for the first time. They were GREAT. The batter was very simple - 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup white wine, 1 egg.

This next recipe is one that I really like and must admit that it takes a little time and so I don't make it quiet as often as I do, say the quicker pasta recipes. But these Zucchini-stuffed Crepes
are certainly something that will impress your friends the next time a dinner comes up for which everyone must bring a dish to pass. Just a note on making crepes. They are dead easy to do. It's just the first one or two and never want to come out exactly right. Not to worry, you can even use those first couple "mistakes" in this recipe and it will be fine. I speak from experience.

Zucchini-stuffed Crepes

1 1/2 pounds zucchini

1 pound ripe roma tomatoes

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/4 pound boiled ham, minced fine


Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 pound Italian fontina, chopped

1 cup grated parmesan cheese


Crepes (recipe follows)

Cut an 'x' on stem end of tomatoes and drop into boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, peel and coarsely chop.

Dice zucchini into 1/2 inch cubes

In a large skillet (12 inches) put onions and oil and turn heat to medium and cook until golden.

Add garlic and continue cooking until it, too, has lightly colored.

Add ham and stir together. Add zucchini, turn all ingredients again and turn heat to medium high cooking until zucchini has browned.

Add salt and pepper and tomatoes turning the heat to high after this last addition and continue to cook for another 15 minutes stirring frequently.

Pour contents of pan into a bowl and add the fontina and half the grated cheese and mix well.

Turn the oven to 450°F and butter bottom and sides of a baking dish.

On a work surface, lay a crepe flat and spread top half with 2 tablespoons of the filling. Fold the bottom half to meet the top forming a half circle. Fold sides in half to form a triangle and set in baking dish with the curved side down. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the crepes and dot with butter. Bake in uppermost part of oven for 20 minutes until a golden brown crust starts to form.


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/3 cups milk

3 eggs


2 or 3 tablespoons butter

Put flour in bowl and pour milk in a thin slow stream all the while beating with a fork to avoid making any lumps.

Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition and adding a pinch of salt in the end.

Place 1/2 teaspoon of butter in an 8-inch pan a put on medium low heat.

Stir batter and pour 1/3 of a cup into the pan moving it so it spreads over the entire bottom.

As soon as it is firm, turn with a spatula and cook other side until it, too is firm.

Repeat with remaining batter stirring before adding to the skillet.

I know that there are a zillion recipes for zucchini bread out there and that everyone probably has her own favorite. But what would a show about zucchini be with talking about this seasonal favorite? It's probably the way many of us first enjoyed zucchini. (Notice I didn't say "ate.") I got this recipe online several years ago and it is my go to recipe for this old annual favorite.

Zucchini Bread

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Beat eggs, oil and sugar until light. Add zucchini and vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir into other mixture. Fold in walnuts

Grease two loaf pans divide the batter between them. Bake @ 325°F for 1 hour or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted comes our clean. (Try this with cream cheese instead of butter on top.)

My Quick Fix last Monday was something I had in Sicily a few years back and has remained one of my top ways to enjoy summer's zucchini with pasta.

Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce

1 28 0z can plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic smashed
few sprigs of fennel tops (wild if you can get them)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 lb zucchini (peeled and diced)
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more for frying zucchini)
1 small can (80 grams) of good Italian tuna (drained and flaked)
salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Pass tomatoes through a food mill and put in a pan together with garlic, fennel, sugar and olive oil. Simmer for 15-20 min. and fish out garlic and fennel
Meanwhile, saute diced zucchini in olive oil until golden and season with salt.
Add zucchini to sauce and heat through and then add tuna.
Mix sauce with finished pasta and serve.
Although it's a no-no to use grated cheese with fish, we can't help but love us our pecorino!

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