Every year in summer time my enthusiasm for cooking, in deep hibernation during the winter, awakens. Probably because of the fresh produce from our garden (when deer don't get to it first), and the new herbs that are available: when I'm in the garden looking at what's ripe, seeing the colors and smelling the scents of spring and summer, a million ideas and cooking possibilities come to mind. This never happens in winter, when I stare at the content of my fridge with an empty mind. There's something alive and vibrant in the garden that is conducive to culinary creativity, my favorite kind of cooking!
It's lucky that I feel this way, because this year we're enjoying an exceptionally abundant crop of zucchini. Zucchini are such a wonderful and rewarding plant: they require very little work, and never get attacked by pests (at least not here). Just give them plenty of water and they'll start producing. They produce, produce, and produce: these days we're picking 10-12 of them every day. Sometimes one wishes they'd slow down a little.
So, what do we do with all those zucchini? First of all, we always compliment zucchini with fresh herbs - parsley, basil, marjoram, chives, sage and thyme will bring out exceptional flavors. Also, if you grow your own zucchini, don't forget to use the flowers, picking them early morning when they're fully open: they make a wonderful embellishment, as well as a tasty hors d'oeuvre.
Here are some of our favorite dishes, mostly adapted from local recipes.
Fried Zucchini Flowers
(photo while still cooking: fried zucchini flowers don't last long in my house once they come out of the pan!)
Discard the stems, dip in a beer batter and fry. A sage leaf inside each flower is a great addition.
Ingredients: sliced zucchini, chopped parsley, chives, basil and thyme, eggs and Parmesan whisked together with a little milk. Lay the zucchini flowers over your frittata halfway through cooking.
Spaghetti with zucchini and clams
Spaghetti sauce made with grated zucchini, garlic, parsley, a splash of white wine, chili peppers and shelled clams (my little people dislike having to fiddle with shells, preferring to dig straight into the edibles!).
Steam-cook zucchini, scoop out inside and blend with marjoram, garlic, egg, parmesan, and bread crumbs. Fill zucchini shells and bake.
These are a few of our family favorites. Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes?