Creamy Yummy Zucchini

First a pal stopped by to say hi and offer me some garden goodness – zucchini just picked.  Then my neighbor Zia Vittoria walked in with an apron full of – you guessed it – zucchini just picked.  Not wanting to be ungrateful for the bounty, I hugged each zucchini carrier and said “I can’t wait to cook this.”  Then I walked into my kitchen and added the zucchini to the growing pile on the counter.  “Jack,” I bellowed, “tonight all we are eating is zucchini.”

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Like an early explorer, I searched high and low for yet another way to use this abundance of zucchini.  Nope, no more batter fried zucchini.  Nah, not interested in zucchini bread.  Yuck, I have done the turn it into spaghetti strands and pretend it is full of carbs.  Boing!  Then I remembered I had read a super easy and great looking recipe on FaceBook.

You know how people like recipe pages on FaceBook, you read them for a nano second and then can never find them again?  That really, hasn’t happened to you?  I had remembered seeing this recipe liked by a couple of foodie friends. It required tossing the zucchini with eggs.  Not a scrambled egg dish or a frittata or an omelet but a creamy yummy looking zucchini dish.  Could I find the recipe again?  Did I remember the name?  Did I remember the names of the foodies who liked the page?  NO!

I did remember the pictures!  Paper thin slices of zucchini in a frying pan and a hand pouring some melted butter and olive oil on them. A pot of broth on the stove and a scoop. Egg scrambled with parsley. A half a lemon being squeezed.  Parmesan cheese.  Now, what order were those pictures in???

Off I went to try to recreate the creamy yummy zucchini recipe. Yup, I made some mistakes, but that made the evening interesting.  I would have taken pictures but my hands were busy.

  1. Cut thin slices of the zucchini – leaving the skin on for the cool green color.
  2. Dump the slices in a frying pan.
  3. Melt a wee bit of butter and add a wee bit of olive oil. Then toss this over the top of the zucchini and mix it up. My first mistake was too much oil and butter.  When the zucchini cooked down there was too much liquid .  A little amount is plenty.
  4. Sauté the zucchini for a wee bit and had about 1/2 cup of vegetable broth. Again, I screwed up with my “more is always better” mindset.  I used about 1 cup and had to drain the soggy things.
  5. When the zucchini is almost cooked, toss on some fresh ground pepper and salt.
  6. Squeeze 1/2 a lemon and strain out the pits and pulp.
  7. Beat 2 eggs with thinly chopped parsley.  For sure only 2 eggs – the picture showed two yolks. When it is frothy, toss in the lemon. I thought that the lemon would make it curdle or do something weird.  But it didn’t.
  8. Think spaghetti carbonara!  Stir the beaten egg, parsley and lemon mixture into the cooked zucchini. Make sure there is not a lot of extra liquid! Remember my over liquid mistakes.  How did I rectify it?  I made a second batch with hardly any liquid. Two days later I made a third batch – yes I am binging on this dish.  Thinking outside the box, I got out the colander, tossed the cooked zucchini in it and let it totally drain. Then I put it back in the frying pan and added the egg mixture.  Voila!  It was magic.
  9. Now, toss a healthy handful of Parmesan cheese into the mixture and serve.

I don’t have a picture.  I know it sounds strange – but I was in comfort food heaven.  It was the Mac and Cheese of vegetables and didn’t have hardly any bad stuff in it.  Why am I writing this?  So that I remember what I did and can make it again tonight, next week and whenever I want Creamy Yummy Zucchini.

Ci Vediamo!

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More Zucchini Recipes.

 

The zucchine elf - Zia Vittoria!
The zucchine elf – Zia Vittoria!

Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini by my door.  These things must multiply like rabbits.  Last year, it seemed like I was chomping down on zucchini blossoms daily.  Bundles of fully formed zucchini didn’t appear because we were all too busy frying up the flowers – remember this post:  Fried Squash Blossoms     Don’t forget – all recipes are posted in the recipe section.  Look above the Tower Picture to find the tabs.

Giambotta

I thought I knew how to make giambotta!  Take whatever summer vegetables were starting to turn ugly in the fridge, slice them, dice them and sauté them with ground meat, dump in a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, add a pinch of salt and a few basil leaves.  Easy peasy.  Since everyone in New Jersey grew zucchini, the first giambotta I ever ate featured zucchini, more zucchini and nothing but zucchini.

EEEEEEE. Midgeee, questo non e ciambotta.  I got my hand slapped by Santina the butcher when I ordered carne macinato – ground meat – and she asked what I was making.  I got my head smacked by every other elder who I asked about giambotta.  But, I swear my mother or grandmother or someone always added ground meat.

Simply put, giambotta is a beautiful blend of fresh – not almost rotting in the fridge – vegetables.  Zucchini, green beans and eggplant are pleantiful now.  Carrots spill over in the market with fresh white onions and tomatoes.  I add tomatoes but my cousin and ace cook Carmella Fusco didn’t and her giambotta was magic.

The trick I have learned here in Pontelandolfo about cooking some vegetables is to not add any liquid.  The vegetables have all the liquid you need.  Put a nice thick layer of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a pan and add the vegetables in order of how long they take to cook. I always start with the onions, then toss in carrot slices, then add the beans, zucchini and eggplant.  Rats, Jack hates eggplant – he puts it in the ‘tofu category’.  Don’t tell him that the perfectly formed cubes are eggplant.  I toss in so little salt that it doesn’t count and add a handful of crushed fennel seeds.  Note:  No added liquid like that can of  squashed tomatoes that I used to use.  The vegetables do have enough liquid to create their own sauce.  Also, I’m the only one that seems to add carrots to the mix. Yummy.

I can not tell too many lies – I often still add ground meat to the onions and when it is brown add the vegetables.  I also often dice up fresh tomatoes and toss them in too.

Carmella’s Spaghetti with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers

When cousin Carmella sends me a “WhatsApp” text that says –Venite a pranza oggi?   I always quickly respond with a SI!  Carmella is a world class cook and lunch at her house might be the simplest of ingredients but they are always tossed together delectably.  Check out Carmella’s cooking on her Facebook Page A Pranza dalla Nonna.

Today we had another variation on the zucchini theme, Spaghetti with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers.  Fresh, local ingredients easily tossed together and delicious.  Zucchini flowers, zucchini, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, hot pepper, spaghetti and pecorino cheese round out the list of ingredients. (You lucky New Jerseyans who belong to a CSA like Hillsborough’s fabulous Martenette Farms have access to lots of zucchini and zucchini flowers this time of year.)

As I was slowing chewing my spaghetti, I asked Carmella her secret.  Simplicity is the secret.  She cut the flowers into little pieces.  They added great orange color to the pasta.  A few cloves of garlic were chopped and after cutting a zucchini in quarters it was thinly sliced.  She put a walloping helping of olive oil in the pan – it thickly covered the pan – and added the garlic.  She let that sizzle for a second and then added the zucchini and flowers.  Next came a tazzino – espresso cup of water – or two fingers in a Nutella glass – and salt.  The veggies cook until the water has evaporated and then they sauté for a couple of minutes more.

At this point the salted spaghetti water should also be on the stove.  Cook the spaghetti as you normally would.   When the pasta is done, drain it and add it directly to the pot that has the oil and sautéed zucchini.  Carmella said, saltare in patella.  Toss it and let it cook a wee pit in the pan.  At this point she also added a hint of hot pepper and freshly grated pecorino cheese.

That was our primo piatto!  Zucchini heaven!

(Carmella is one of the cooks who opens her home for the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program.  Interested? Message me.)

Ci vediamo

Midge

 

Zucchine Sono Arrivate! Ricetta 2

The zucchine elf - Zia Vittoria!
The zucchine elf – Zia Vittoria!

 

Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini (zucchine in Italian) by my door.  These things must multiply like…..   Wait – you already heard this!  Remember recipe 1!

Thank you subscriber Karen T. for reminding me about the vegetarian lasagna of my earlier life.  Le zucchine, grilled, becomes the best lasagna noodle. I don’t have a griddle – only a big frying pan.  First step slice the zucchine long ways – of course I ignore all the safety cutting rules I learned in 4-H and to make the thin slice pull that knife right towards my chest – don’t do that.

Tossed some of our heavenly local EVOO in the frying pan and after what felt like I had been standing on my feet for hours – enough were done.

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Since the oil was still hot I sliced up due melanzane – egg plant – and did those too. Note that I did them after I did the zucchine. Jack lumps eggplant with tofu as the two things that give him the food creeps.  God forbid una melanzana touch the zucchine!

For filling I dumped 500 grams of ricotta in a bowl, tossed in a egg, a bunch of grated parmesan, splash of pepper, fresh basil and oregano.  Stirred it up and called it art.

Stupidly, I had oiled my baking dish, then looked at the zucchine which had been essentially slathered in oil, grabbed a paper towel and wiped out the dish. Next, I laid down a layer of zucchine and with panache glopped and spread the ricotta mixture.

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My burnt fingers reminded me that  I had just roasted red peppers and had an ah ha moment.

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I added a layer of red pepper for color.  OK, time for a layer of mozzarella – shit we don’t have any.  Some days you win and some days you just have fun.

Creative a pinch of this and dash of that cooks use what they have.  I had great local cheese – cows milk integrated with hot peppers.

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Remembering that it melted well on a panino, I grated it up.  Tossed it on top of the red peppers and then added a second layer of zucchine slices.

Followed that with the requisite ricotta mixture and thought – I need another red layer to artistically balance the red peppers.  Hey, we bought super Spanish salame at the salumeria – I don’t think it was from Spain but they call it Spanish. The salame is crusted in black pepper.  OK, so this isn’t a vegetarian dish – but you don’t have to use salame.

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A layer of that, more ricotta, grated cheese and then – shit – I don’t have enough zucchine for a complete top layer. How could that be, I have bushels of zucchine?  Oh, yeah, I got tired of standing by the frying pan.

Thinking quickly, I eyed the eggplant, if I put some in the middle and cut Jack’s slice from the edge would he know that his precious zucchine might have egg plant kooties?  I just won’t mention it and use tons of grated cheese on top to disguise the critters.

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Rats, can see the eggplant – but will Jack?

Applause! Buon appetito, Jack. (Wink, Wink)

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Zucchine Sono Arrivate! Recipe 1

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Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini by my door.  These things must multiply like rabbits.  Last year, it seemed like I was chomping down on zucchini blossoms daily.  Bundles of fully formed zucchini didn’t appear because we were all to busy frying up the flowers – remember this post:  Fried Squash Blossoms

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This year, I didn’t get invited to imbibe as much in my favorite fried flower.  Now I know why.  People let the blossoms grow into long green meaty vegetables.  But what is a woman to do with them?  I can’t say no thank you – half the time I don’t know where they come from and the other half – well it would just be rude.  I remember making tons of zucchini bread in Flagtown but we’re in Italy – so it is time to start finding out what the elders do.

Zia Paulina taught me how do make a simple zucchini topping for pasta.  Actually, she tortured me with a little knife by insisting that I cut paper thin zucchini slices without using a cutting board, mandoline slicer or food processor.  None of my slices were thin enough – come carta – like paper!  When I finally got the thinness just right she was pleased.  Then I watched her dump some olive oil in a frying pan, sauté the zucchini slices and toss them with pasta and a healthy dose of parmigiana.  Prima piatta was finished.

I decided to see if anyone else tossed zucchini with pasta – a quick web search found lots of recipes.  Being an independent type, I ignored all the advice and just followed my instinct –  the pinch of this, a handful and there you go style of cooking. The first step was to create the paper thin slices that really worked in Zia Paulina’s dish.

Note - I slice towards my thumb!  How dumb but it works.
Note – I slice towards my thumb! How dumb but it works.

My smart ass husband watched me get closer and closer to lopping off a finger and he decided to show me how to get those paper thin slices.  First he took out the potato peeler and peeled the skin off one cucumber.  Then he cut it in half and started making short thin slices with the peeler.

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Master chef makes quick work of the zucchini – but where is the cute green? Oh, next to the cutting board.

 

Jack’s system would absolutely work.  But I wanted the zucchini – which I know had absolutely  no yucky chemical crap on them – to have that cute green trim.  White zucchini against white pasta couldn’t look very appealing.  So I finished up the rest using the potato peeler on unpeeled zucchini.

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Cripes, they didn’t teach me this in 4-H. What a cool use of a peeler.

The actual cooking of the dish was much simpler.  I sliced up some onions and a red pepper.  Why the red pepper?  Because I had it and I liked the color – back to white pasta and white onions and white zucchini – you get the idea.  The olive oil that we have here is literally from the trees in our yard and pressed locally.  It is heaven on the tongue all by itself.  It really helps to use good olive oil for dishes like these.  While the water for the pasta was getting up to boil, I quickly sautéed the onions and peppers.

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What a beautiful red color! They do not sell green bell peppers here – because red means ripe!

Salt, pepper, a touch of garlic powder – I noticed that none of my Italian relatives cook with onions and garlic in the same dish.  Loving garlic anyway I can get it, I tossed in the garlic powder.  When I added the zucchini, I happened to look out the window at the basil growing madly and thought – why not.  The basil added at the end gave the dish more color and a little zing.  Here is the final product – I added grated cheese to the dishes before I tossed them.  Buon appetito!

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