Friday, August 12, 2011

What to do with an oversized zucchini

August 12

I've spent the week visiting family in Denver, which is always fun. I've played Guitar Hero and run around at Chuck E. Cheese's, had my breakfast burrito at Pete's Kitchen and calmed my stomach with a Colorado Smashburger after indulging in the rides at Elitch's. I've examined the local beer just to make sure it's still awesome. I'm somewhat despondent that the peaches are not yet in their prime, but I'm working through that heartache.

I've even done some cooking.

We had some family over for dinner and mostly had it catered: We drove to Tacos y Salsas and bought 30 assorted tacos. But I thought some sort of vegetable was in order. So I looked in my mother's refrigerator and was confronted with a giant zucchini from the garden.

My eyes narrowed. When I was growing up, the family custom was to slice zucchini into rounds and saute them with onions, peppers and tomatoes. The mushy centers of those rounds still haunt me.

So I started by peeling the thing, slicing it into quarters and scraping out that damn mushy middle. Looking at the seeds that came out with the gunk I was instantly reminded of making Jack o'Lanterns, and the side activity of toasting pumpkin seeds.

I'd never heard of toasting a zucchini seed. But I separated them out and set them on a cookie sheet to dry.

I decided to dice the zucchini flesh and blanch it in salted water, mostly as a delaying tactic while I thought of what else to do. But actually it blached beautifully. I dropped it into salted boiling water and then drained it and rinsed it in cold water as soon as the water started boiling again.
The zucchini was tender, but still had body. And it tasted fresh and green, like an August evening.

I had thought of making a salad out of it, but I didn't think it needed to be buried in vinegar and olive oil, so instead I just picked some basil from the garden, tore it and added it to the zucchini, along with black pepper and some salt. Then I stuck it in the fridge because it seemed like something that should be served ice cold.

I had dried the seeds in a 200 degree (Fahrenheit) oven, and they already started to get crunchy and nutty. I heated the oven to 400 and promptly burned most of them. But the ones that survived were very much like smaller versions of the pumpkin seeds of my childhood and would have been a great addition to my zucchini dish, but we ate them beforehand.

Anyway, the zucchini was a hit. Next time I'll add some blanched, diced garlic, as well as toasted seeds, which I'll toss in a dry wok instead of trying to toast them in an oven. They cook really fast.

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