Thursday, September 12, 2013

Once upon a time

There were three squash plants.
I pulled them all out the other day. They were nasty. All covered in powdery mildew which, if you haven't experienced it, is quite powdery indeed. As I cut off squash tentacles in order to make yanking the whole plant less unwieldy, a white miasma engulfed me. Knowing that it is some fungus that kills plants,  I felt I should not inhale. So I would take a big breath on the lawn, and then run over to the raised bed and pull on the plants. 

I decided that three plants is just about right for getting to do a variety of dishes; I had two zucchini and one yellow squash. I know my father just kicked himself back from the computer desk screaming, "What?! You hate zucchini!" (I may have exaggerated the scene for dramatic effect.) And this is partly true. Really, though, I hate steamed zucchini, as I believe all steamed vegetables are punishment for some dastardly deed committed in another life. 

I used to watch Molto Mario on the Food Network, back when the cooking shows were much better and every other one was not about cupcakes. Mario was great because he would pull down a map of Italy and talk about the region that his dishes came from, and then he would cook right there for his guests, usually three somewhat famous people. He once did a shallow-fried zucchini on pasta. It was quite fun to toss little squash rounds into hot olive oil, but it was also messy and a pain, so I take mine to the oven and blast them at 425 or 450 for 15 minutes or so. It can be had simply in a bowl or on top of pasta with some Pecorino and herbs of choice.
Speaking of herbs, I discovered that savory goes very well with zukes. I made a couple different patties and put savory in both to rave reviews. Well, Teddy refused the try them and Sam only grudgingly did so because I wouldn't make him a grilled cheese and he knows that low blood sugar makes him vomit. I got both patty recipes from magazines and they both go smashingly well with green goddess dressing - man, is that stuff good when homemade. Which reminds me of the time I poisoned Josh with some very old store-bought dressing. Good story: I plated our salads and put the old dressing on his and opened a new bottle for me. I do recall feeling like the smell was off, but I also recall thinking, eh! what could happen? Vomit and diarrhea, that's what.

Why is is called green goddess? I figured it was a 1960s thing created on some commune, but it actually originated in the 1920s when a chef at San Francisco's Palace Hotel made it for an actor and named it in honor of the play he was in. I don't make mine with mayonnaise because I don't like it (!). I prefer using buttermilk, yogurt, or a combination thereof.

I also pickled some zukes. I made a bread and butter zucchini pickle, which came out tasty, but mushy. There is no way around the mush if you are going to make your cans shelf-stable. The pickle on the right is a fridge pickle, i.e. crispy, and has sugar, cloves, and allspice. It's "supposed" to be a marinade for beets, but the mix reminded me a lot of the zuke pickles that Vios puts on their lamb burger. I'm irritated with Vios, though, so we shouldn't talk about them. I won't even link to their homepage. 

And I finally stuffed blossoms. You might notice that your plant has several blossoms that never fruit. These are male and usually the first flowers. We all know that males can't make babies, i.e. fruit, by themselves, so pluck those males and stuff them! I made blossom pasta sauce last year, but found they have little flavor on their own. Stuffed blossoms, naturally, are quite different and delightful. I did two versions: stuffed with Spanish cheese and pan-fried; and stuffed with ricotta, poached, and served in a chicken broth.

There were but two zuke dishes on the docket that I didn't get to: zucchini soup and zucchini puree (as pasta sauce). They both sound too bitter for my palate. I find unadulterated zucchini taste bland and, somehow, squeaky.

I am excited to move on to the winter squash. Now those are my favorite. I really want to stuff a pumpkin with soup, bread, and cheese this year! What do you do with squash?

Green Goddess Dressing
1 cup plain yogurt or creme fraiche (maybe 3/4 yogurt and 1/4 buttermilk)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or green onions
2T chopped fresh tarragon
2T chopped fresh parsley
1T white wine vinegar
1T anchovy paste

Blend and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Goes great on lots of things.

Zucchini Fritters
1 1/2 lb. summer squash of choice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup + 3T AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2T grated Parmesan
2T minced shallot or green onion
1T minced summer savory
a couple grinds black pepper
1/4 beer - pretty much any kind, but probably not a stout or porter

Grate the squash and place in a large colander. Massage 1tsp. of salt into the shreds and let sit to exude liquid for 30 minutes. Place the mass in a clean dish towel and squeeze like crazy to get as much liquid out as possible. Whisk the flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper together in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the beer. Then fold in the shallot, herb, cheese and zucchini.

Coat the bottom of a nonstick pan in olive oil and heat over medium. Drop 1/4-cupful sized patties in and flatten. Brown for 4-5 minutes per side.

These are nice served on a salad with a generous spoonful of green goddess dressing. Smoked trout and rice are lovely alongside. And don't forget to polish off that beer you opened to make the fritters.

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