Thursday, November 3, 2016

When Mediocre Produce Happens to Good People - Zucchini

Who knew that Rob Zombie  and his wife Sherri Moon were vegans?

Once I absorbed that information, I was stuck by another odd tidbit from an interview the Zombies gave to Vegan Health & Fitness magazine. When asked for a favorite vegan dish, Sherri suggested grilled zucchini.

Zucchini? Really? This is your vegan proselytizing food? 

Well, perhaps some tender young zucchini, fresh from the market, might win some converts. 

But what about the oversize, bloated, woody and seedy zucchini baseball bats that you find this time of year?

For those less prepossessing specimens, simple grilling is not enough. You'll need a cooking method that prevents rubbery texture and waterlogged flavor. 

I recommend this one: grating the zucchini then sauteing it with mint and a representative of the garlic/onion family.

First, the grating & sauteing. This is the best way to deal with the soggy mess that autumn zucchinis can become. Break down those cell walls! Liberate that liquid (to destroy it). The one-two punch of grating and sauteing really concentrates the zucchini's flavor.

Next, the seasoning. Any kind of allium could work - finely chopped onions, garlic, scallions, red onion, chives, garlic scapes, etc. 

Just make sure it's very finely diced. And I finally found something worthwhile to do with the fresh mint I've been growing in my garden, much more dignified work than serving as a soon-to-be-discarded garnish. You'll need a handful of mint, coarsely chopped. Also key, and omitted at your own peril: a pinch or two of salt.

The recipe is simple, with just a few ingredients, but omit any and you will be denied the glory of the dish. The recipe is also very forgiving. The zucchini can be limp and none too fresh. Spare only the rotten and moldy. The allium can be a stray clove or two of garlic, or the leftover quarter of an onion you used for sandwiches. We should all be so tolerant!

Zucchini with Some-Kind-of-Allium & Mint:


2 or 3 zucchini or summer squash, blossom and stem ends removed, grated

Garlic cloves, garlic scape blossoms, onion, chives, shallot or other member of the allium family, very finely diced to yield 1 Tablespoon (garlic family) - 2 Tablespoons (onion family), or more to taste 

Handful of fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon salt


Spray a cast iron skillet or other frying pan with a film of oil, or more oil if desired. Saute onions or garlic for 30-50 seconds over medium heat, then add the grated zucchini and salt. Mix thoroughly to avoid scorching, adding a small amount of water if necessary.

Continue stirring, pressing down on zucchini mixture to release liquid. If using dried mint, add it now.

After a few minutes, zucchini will extrude liquid. If using fresh mint, add it now. Raise the flame under the pan to encourage the released liquid to evaporate. (You may be astonished by just how much liquid escapes - I know I was - but you'll be glad you let that flavor-dilutor go.) The whole cooking time should take you around 5 minutes.

Once the zucchini mixture appears dry, give it a final stir and serve.

Use the zucchini as a side dish or as a topping for bruschetta. I also find that the combination of flavorful zucchini and crunchy radish, sliced thin, brings out the best in both components. 

I've become fond enough of this dish to think of it as the best way to serve zucchini -- even when it isn't mediocre.

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