Stop Whining — You Know You'll Miss It When It's Gone
Why not have zucchini for lunch and — I’m serious here — more for dinner?
Not only do I crave zucchini, not only do I celebrate when it first appears – a couple of weeks ago, where we live – but I miss it so much in the winter that I sometimes “cheat” and buy it in the supermarket. This is our time of year, folks.
The natural comparison is to eggplant — although they’re not from the same family; zucchini is a squash, and eggplant a nightshade, more closely related to tomatoes and potatoes, for what it’s worth — and we often treat them similarly.
But because zucchini (let’s just say “summer squash,” since it can all be treated about the same) is about twenty times as prolific as eggplant and also has a far longer season (that’s not science, just my experience), people sometimes treat it as a nuisance, as in “I had so much freaking zucchini I had to make zucchini bread,” which, admittedly, is a last resort. But I personally think that if you take good zucchini (small-to-medium, without any of that cottony, seedy stuff inside) and cut it into pieces, you can treat it like cucumber, which means that eating one or two a day is hardly a challenge, especially if you have some hummus or labne or, for that matter, good olive oil lying around.
I’m won’t list zucchini recipes here (we’ve already done that, to some extent), but will discuss two in a little detail. And — I’m not lying here — I ate the first of these yesterday for lunch and the second for dinner.
Zucchini and Garlic Confit
a/k/a (Not) Grilled (Not) Eggplant
This derives from my friend Pamela’s “grilled eggplant” recipe. Of course this variation is neither grilled nor eggplant, but still, the concept and seasoning are Pamela’s, or at least let’s say she taught them to me.
Take enough zucchini so that, sliced about 1/4-inch thick (or maybe 3/16, if you want to be precise), it fills a foil-lined (or, even better, nonstick) baking sheet. (Consider doing two.) Sprinkle it lightly with salt and olive oil, and throw a few cloves of garlic, unpeeled, on the top. Bake for about an hour at 300 degrees, or until perfectly tender. (You could do this on the grill, of course, but slowly, slowly.)
When it’s cool, remove the slices and layer them in a steep-sided dish along with some of that automatic garlic confit you just made (like a miracle, right?); more salt if necessary; some red pepper flakes or ground chiles; oil (Pamela prefers seed oil to olive here because, she says, it liquifies faster when you remove the final product from the refrigerator; I use olive); good vinegar of your choice; and parsley (preferred) or basil (not bad). A sheet pan of zucchini will make about three layers in a small container. Refrigerate until ready to eat. This does make an excellent sandwich, or you can just eat the whole thing with a fork in about five minutes. It’s also nice to pick at with crackers or bread, as an appetizer with others, or as a snack alone.