Say Yes to Zucchini
Your neighbor comes over with an armful of the bloated green vegetable,
and the farmers markets are flush with zucchini of every stripe. We offer you 12 great reasons to embrace the bounty with enthusiasm and a good chef’s knife.
1 It’s a gateway vegetable. A fresh, flavorful zucchini will remind you of all the riches available now at local farmers markets (www.nhfma.org) and produce stands. You may even get addicted to freshness.
2 Killer zucchini bread. Forget the quick-bread version that tastes like cake. Keep reading for a savory recipe using extra virgin olive oil and parmigiana regianno. Maybe you can actually count it as a vegetable serving instead of dessert.
3 Meet the grower. While you exchange money or thanks for the produce you receive, you have a chance to interact with someone with dirt under their fingernails. Fear not, the dirt is probably organic and you can rejoice in knowing there is no middleman taking an undeserved profit. Farmers who wholesale often receive only 10 cents on the dollar.
4 Find compassion. They are so prolific and unworldly fast-growing, people are desperate to find them a good home. Why shudder thinking of their alternative fate —the compost heap, when saying yes is a means to a better end. You’ll earn a “Save the Zucchini” bumper sticker and be a better person for it.
5 Make Ratatouille. You’ve seen the movie, now taste the renaissance of the dish with a special recipe from Giorgio’s to follow. And that little rodent thought he could cook.
6 Get healthy. Just-picked vegetables have more available vitamins and minerals. One cup chopped raw zucchini with skin has 17 calories, 1.4 grams of protein, 3.6 grams of carbohydrate, 1.7 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fiber and is a good source of vitamin C with 11 milligrams. With a glycemic load of zero it is on the hit parade of diet foods.
7 Reduce your carbon footprint. Your neighbor only burned shoe leather to deliver, while produce at the supermarket is shipped an average of 1,500 miles, sending quantifiable amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment.
8 Save a farm. By supporting local farmers you help ensure they do not sell out to the next developer who will plant McMansions on the rolling hills. Wildlife habitats are protected, too, as we all benefit from the rural views.
9 Support genetic diversity. A local zucchini is grown for flavor. Supermarket varieties are for the most part selected for curb appeal and long-distance viability. Eight-ball, patty pan and cousa are just a few of the different varieties on local stands.
10 Ensure a tasty tomorrow. By supporting a farmer or local gardener you are honoring the profession (or hobby) and hopefully passing the joy of gardening on to the next generation.
11 Green is good. Colorful vegetables add to the spectrum of a healthy diet and “green” growing methods used by small farms are sound for the planet. Sustainability in agriculture is a key concern, so we do not deplete the soil of nutrients.
12 Become a Localvore. Yes, eating only food grown within a 150 mile radius can be a challenge, but in September it is pure joy. (www.hannahgrimes.com is a good resource.) Learn to preserve the bounty by drying zucchini as chips, or shredding it and popping it in the freezer for breads, soups and stews. Learn preserving techniques through the UNH Extension Service (extension.unh.edu). NH
Savory Zucchini Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
3 cups shredded zucchini (squeeze in
a kitchen towel to drain liquid)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cups parmigiano reggiano
4 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon black pepper or red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil (you could use up to 1 cup)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the first 9 ingredients and set aside. Mix the yogurt, eggs and oil and add to the flour mixture and mix lightly until blended. Fold in the basil last. Place batter into a greased and floured bread pan and bake for 1 hour. The center of the bread should spring back when bread is done.
Courtesy of Master Baker Steve James
Dried Zucchini Chips
When Mary Ann Esposito of “Ciao Italia” (www.ciaoitalia.com) has an over abundance of small zucchini, she uses a dehydrator to make chips.
Small size zucchini, washed, dried and thinly sliced into rounds
Fine sea salt
Finely ground cayenne pepper
Place the slices on the racks of a dehydrator and dry according to the manufacturer’s directions until the slices are crisp like potato chips. Or place the slices on a wire rack atop baking sheets and dry them in a 175° oven, rotating the sheets occasionally. Drying time could be anywhere from 1 to 2 days.
Layer the chips in clean glass jars, sprinkling each layer with oregano, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cap the jars and shake them to distribute the seasonings. These will keep for several months in a cool, dark place.
Eat them like potato chips!
This recipe from Giorgio’s in Milford is from Greece and best served with grilled bread, imported feta cheese, and Kalamata olives.
1 pound potatoes. quartered
1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
10 oz. white mushrooms sliced
2 cups peeled and ground tomatoes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Feta crumbles (optional)
Cut eggplant and zucchini into bite-size pieces, sprinkle with salt and let stand to drain for one hour. Rinse and dry well. In a sauté pan heat some oil and lightly brown eggplant, zucchini and potatoes; arrange them in an oven-proof casserole, add remaining ingredients and bake covered for 45 minutes at 375°. Sprinkle some feta crumbles on top a few minutes before taking out of oven.
Chef John Circharo brings a new level of sophistication to Manchester at Ciao Baby in the former location of Baldwin’s On Elm. The Italian bistro menu is an updated take on southern Italian classics from zuppe di pesce to veal marsala. The pleasantly brief menu offers just enough options for diners, while allowing the kitchen to prepare each meal to order.
New owners Chris Hatem and Bob Haur transformed the former cool and contemporary Baldwin’s space to a rich and romantic environment with deep-red walls and a touch of exotic upholstery.
Circharo has garnered kudos for his Miami and Fort Lauderdale stints and most recently wowed diners in New York City. His Italian roots reach back to Calabria and the Naples area, and like most Italian chefs learned his first lessons from grandparents. His rigatoni is served with a Neopolitan-style “Sunday” sauce, inspired by his grandmother’s slow-cooked pork shoulder.
The appetizer menu ($10 to $15) alone could sustain and satisfy many eaters. An oversized meatball is made in the classic manner with beef, pork and veal, and the shrimp scampi brushetta and the eggplant stack all taste as good as they smell.
The emphasis here is on quality ingredients and careful balance of robust flavors. If you appreciate a good sauce and aromatic garlic and onions, I am sure you will like Ciao Baby. Tony and Carmella would be sooo happy here.
Oh, the desserts are homemade, too, and worth a try.
— Susan Laughlin
1105 Elm St.
Open for dinner Monday through Saturday at 4 p.m.
Zucchini Hash Browns
August’s annual Vermont Zucchini Festival is hosted by Ludlow, in Okemo Valley. The big event includes a zucchini bake-off, live music, zucchini carvings, zukapult, and Mr. and Mrs. Zucchini Head contests.
3 cups packed grated zucchini
1 cup packed grated potatoes
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon pepper
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 egg whites, beaten
1 tablespoon canola oil
Lay paper towels over a cotton kitchen towel. Place grated zucchini and potatoes on towels, fold together twist and wring.
In a large bowl, combine zucchini and potatoes, toss with flour. Stir in onion, parsley and spices.
Let mixture rest 15 minutes, then stir in egg white and oil, just until combined.
Warm a nonstick frying pan on medium-high heat. Fry hash browns in patties until crispy on both sides.
Exerpted from “New England Summertime Cooking” by Sherri Eldridge.
Eldridge has taken the classic cuisine of our region and used a heart-healthy sensebility to create 150 recipes that include the nutritional analysis.
Harvest Hill Press, July 2007
Food for Thought
Butter is Better
Butter has been redeemed by science and is once again a savior in the culinary arts. Well, at least in moderation.
By Master Baker Stephen James
The taste of real butter just can’t be duplicated. Butter is “real” food, made easily from real cream. If you have ever made whipped cream and over whipped it, you made butter. That’s how easy it is. Partially hydrogenated shortenings and margarines have finally taken a back seat to real butter due to the increased health risk related to transfats.
As a culinarian, baker and pastry chef, couldn’t be happier. For most of my career, chefs and bakers were always pushed to “take it easy” with the butter, mostly because hydrogenated shortenings were cheap, they didn’t have to be refrigerated, had a higher melting point and made products that lasted longer.
It seems that all things come full circle. I remember when eggs were bad and now they are good again. Butter was bad and margarine and shortenings were good, and now butter is good again. It really comes down to moderation. But I’m very happy about this return to butter in commercial kitchens and hopefully at home, because “taste” is back.
You’ve all tasted frostings and butter creams that didn’t contain any butter, cookies made with margarine or shortening and butter “flavor” added instead — also butter cakes were a thing of the past but have made a comeback. Any good chef will tell you that good cooking is always about building flavors. Butter helps us to do just that. Shortening never added any flavor; it was just cheap and convenient.
I remember going to a retirement community several years ago and doing a culinary demonstration for the kitchen and bakery staff. The chef told me they never used butter because it was not healthy for the residents. But I thought, hydrogenated shortenings are? The real reason they didn’t use butter was like every other establishment, the cost was considered too high. I made a phone call last week to this same place and now they are now trying to replace all trans-fats.
The right answer is going back to real butter, and preferably, unsalted butter. The only reason salt was added to butter was as a preservative, that’s not necessary today. If I want salt in something, I’ll add it.
Butter always made a big impression on me because the melting point is below body temperature, around 90 degrees. When tasting products made with butter, it melts right away and doesn’t leave a greasy taste on the top of your mouth like shortenings do.
Butter sales are up, so enjoy the taste of butter again before some product comes along that we’re told is so much better. I still miss using lard in pie dough — now that had flavor. But that’s another story for another time. NH
Steve James is corporate chef for the Galley Hatch Hospitality Group