How familiar does this scenario sound to you?
You go to the produce section. You have a list of what you need. You buy what’s on the list. Then you make another loop around the produce section and buy more vegetables and fruit just because they look so pretty and tempting. When you get home, you feel so good for having bought all those vegetables and fruit. You just know you’re going to have super healthy dinners and snacks all week long.
And then, a couple of weeks later, you’re scrounging in the produce drawers to find the perfect zucchini or scallions you bought just a few days ago and all you find are nasty, wilted blobs that are in no way appetizing or appealing or anything like the veggies you bought and admired.
Seriously, it’s a problem. And I am a repeat offender. It’s wrong. So wrong. It’s abuse of perfectly good veggies. Considering the fact that my real-world job is all about helping end child hunger, it’s also more than just a little embarrassing for me.
In recent weeks, I have been less abusive toward fruit. I’ve been buying less of it and – most importantly – shortly after I get it home, I’ve sorted it into to-go portions that I can snack on at work. This hasn’t been a perfect solution, but it’s a heck of a lot better than before.
But what to do about the veggies? They aren’t on my list of items I like snacking on at the office. Not really. They require dip or hummus or they leave stuff behind in your teeth. So yeah. Not the best choice in my books.
So I’m on the quest to find some recipes that put all my veggies to work for me. Last summer, I found Virginia Willis’ corn chowder with a tomato topping. Those will be returning to the summer rotation just as soon as tomatoes in Nebraska don’t taste like cardboard more often than not. I’ll also be perfecting my gazpacho-making skills.
I’ll also be adding what I will be calling Zucchini “Bruschetta” to the short list.
I found the recipe in Holly Herrick’s Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. The zucchini part of the recipe is simple. The toast part had more directions than I care to follow. So I made that part more simple.
On the first pass through with this recipe, I made the zucchini according to Holly’s directions; combining shredded zucchini, finely chopped basil, finely minced garlic and finely minced shallot together and seasoning it all with some salt and pepper.
My reaction? I ate half of it right out of the bowl. Screw the toast part. That’s how much I liked it.
I did get my act together though and try the zucchini on toasted slices of a mini-baguette and sprinkled with some pecorino cheese. Still really good. Actually, it was really, really good.
I liked this well enough that I made it again recently but with Vidalia onions instead of garlic and shallots. And that’s what I like about a recipe like this — it’s flexibility. Well, that and the fact that it’s healthy and I don’t have to feel too guilty if I eat an entire batch in no time at all.
Even better? The leftovers don’t have to go on toast again the next day. Instead, I recommend adding a heaping tablespoon of them to a couple of scrambled eggs. I heated up some olive oil in a skillet, sautéed the zucchini mixture for a couple of minutes to make sure it was warm all the way through and then poured the egg mixture into the pan. The end result was a light, filling breakfast, especially when paired with a piece of toast slathered in butter and Confituras jam.
Adapted from “Southern Farmers Market Cookbook“
1/4 to 1/3 of a Vidalia onion
8 basil leaves
salt & pepper
Thinly sliced baguette or Italian bread
2 or 3 tablespoons of finely grated pecorino, parmesan or similar cheese
Wash the zucchini then peel the skin and trim the ends off. Grate both zucchinis. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of salt (kosher salt is best). Mix and let stand for about 10 minutes. The point of this is to draw out the excess moisture in the zucchini. If you skip this step, you’ll regret it because the finished product will be watery and blah.
Meanwhile, finely chop the basil leaves and mince the Vidalia onion.
Transfer the grated zucchini to a colander of your choice (preferably one that has small holes that won’t let the zucchini slide through) and rinse it really well to remove the excess salt. Now comes the fun part. Scoop up about a golf-ball sized amount of zucchini and squeeze out as much of the water as you can. When you think you’ve squeezed it all out, try again and get that last bit of water out. Put the squished zucchini in a bowl with the basil and Vidalia onion. Repeat this process until you’ve squeezed the water out of all of the zucchini.
Now stir the zucchini, basil and Vidalia onion together with some salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Okay. Now for the bread. I have a toaster oven and prefer to simply drizzle a little bit of olive oil over thin slices of baguette or Italian bread and to toast them a bit. Don’t forget to put the slices of bread on a piece of foil or a baking sheet or else the olive oil will drip on the heating element and make a mess.
Remove the bread from the toaster oven, heap the zucchini “bruschetta” on top. Sprinkle some shredded pecorino over the slices. Return to the toaster over until the cheese melts a bit over the top.
You could use your oven’s broiler for all of this, but that’s the last thing I want to do when it’s 80+ degrees out is turn on the oven. Yuck.
If you’re feeling lazy (a frequent occurrence in my kitchen), then skip the part where you pre-toast the bread and skip straight to heaping the zucchini on slices of bread, sprinkling cheese on them and toasting it all together at one time. This works just fine too.
And for the super lazy, just eat the zucchini mixture straight out of the bowl and call it a salad.