Archive for August, 2014

Stuffed Giant Zucchini

August 14, 2014
Stuffed giant zucchini

Stuffed giant zucchini

Every year I dutifully plant a few zucchini seeds in a sunny mound at my community garden plot. I water, weed, and wish for squash, but I usually get only lush leaves and a bounty of blossoms. While other gardeners are flinging oversized, unwanted zuccs onto the compost heap, I keep searching for some slender young squash among the wide, prickly greens. I’ve vowed to mind my plants carefully, never to let a homegrown vegetable go to waste. Yesterday after almost daily searching, I glimpsed a gigantic zucchini right in the middle of my leafy plant. I still can’t imagine how I missed it, but garden sprites are not to be outdone.

I was unwilling to let my handsome—though too large to sauté—squash go to waste. Not a fan of zucchini bread or muffins (in fruit-laced baked goods I much prefer pumpkin or banana), I set out to stuff the squash. First I rid it of as much excess water as possible, then whipped up a stuffing of aromatics and the grated flesh. With just a little cheese added, it’s a great vegetarian dish; it can be baked along with a chicken or a few loaves in the oven and is tasty either warm or at room temperature. It won’t freeze but, refrigerated, it will make enough to stretch out simple suppers for several days.

The following isn’t a recipe with measurements but, rather, a guideline. The process will work for any kind of summer squash.

Stuffed Zucchini

Overgrown zucchini

Salt

Olive oil

Onion

Garlic, chili, fresh herbs

Cooked brown rice if available

Crumbled feta (optional)

Soft breadcrumbs

Peel the zucchini; cut in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard seeds. Grate half of the squash and the end pieces of the other half on the large holes of a box grater. Place the grated squash in a bowl and toss generously with salt. Also salt the scooped out other half. Let salt draw water from the vegetable for at least an hour.

Place grated squash in a strainer and squeeze out the water. Taste to make sure it isn’t overly salty. (If so, rinse, drain, and squeeze.) Drain and wipe water from squash boat. Line a long loaf pan (or cut squash boat in half and use two pans if you don’t have a long one) with overhanging parchment, brush bottom with oil and add the hollowed squash half.

Meanwhile, sauté an onion in olive oil until soft, add as much chopped garlic as you like, a good handful of chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, or whatever you have), and a bit of chopped fresh green or red chili for some zing. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the squeezed grated squash and cook over moderately high heat, stirring often until the squash is wilted and no longer watery. Add a couple spoonfuls of cooked brown or white rice if you have some, plus a nice handful of feta crumbles. Spoon the filling into the boat, top with fresh breadcrumbs, sprinkle generously with olive oil, and bake either slowly or quickly (according to whatever else is in the oven) until zucchini is tender and the crumbs browned. Use the parchment sling to lift the stuffed squash from the baking pan. Serve with lime wedges or salsa if desired. Organic edibles saved!

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

 

Advertisements

Fresh Corn Polenta

August 6, 2014
Fresh Corn Polenta with braised kale, green beans and tomato

Fresh Corn Polenta with braised kale, green beans and tomato

Corn has now arrived in its August abundance. Great heaps of green husk-covered ears cover tables in local farmers’ markets. At this the time of year if I see people buying shipped-in fresh corn in the supermarket, I want to scream. I ask myself how can I encourage more shoppers to make the mini-effort to buy directly from farmers. Here I am nestled in the Midwest where surrounding rural areas grow the best sweet corn on the planet. Currently the most popular variety of corn is a super-sweet bicolor hybrid; even though the full cobs look alike, their flavor differs from vendor to vendor.

The old-fashioned way of eating these fresh “roasting ears” is to boil them fast and chomp kernels off the cob. I vividly remember summer suppers when we put on a pot of water to boil before we headed out to the garden. With an armload of corn, we’d first stop by the compost pile to top and tail the ears with a sharp knife before pulling off the shucks and brushing the silks. Into the kitchen, the corn spent three minutes in boiling water; then we piled it onto a platter to set alongside a saucer of home-churned butter and a saltshaker. No more than ten minutes elapsed between picking and eating.

When you’ve had enough corn on the cob for the week, this recipe for fresh polenta offers the best “creamed corn” I’ve ever tasted. It’s a snap to prepare, includes few ingredients, and is delicious hot or at room temp with any number of braised or roasted vegetables or chicken off the grill.

Fresh Corn Polenta

4 full ears sweet corn, shucked

2-3 teaspoons butter

pinch salt

1-2 tablespoons fresh goat’s cheese or grated Parmesan

Set a shallow platter in the bottom of the sink (for easier clean up), and using the large holes of a box grater placed on the platter, grate the corn kernels from the cobs. Use a paring knife to scrape more of the corn pulp from the cobs*. Measure about 2 cups.

Heat butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the cut corn and cook through, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes or until thickened. Add a pinch of salt and crumble in the goat’s cheese, stirring to melt. Taste for seasonings and it’s ready to go. The fresh corn polenta may be served at once, at room temperature or it may be chilled and reheated later.

Serves 2-4.

*For the frugal cook—break the scraped cobs in half, place snugly in a saucepan. Barely cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Lift cobs from water, cool and scrape out the remaining corn pulp with a paring knife. Using a blender, puree the broth and pulp. Use as a delicious vegetable stock.

 

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon