En español | This time of year I'm reminded of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone tale. There's so much late-summer zucchini in this small town that, under cover of night, people are surreptitiously leaving big paper bags of it on people's porches. You walk out to get the paper in the morning — and you've been zucchini-ed.
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Sometimes I get the feeling this must be happening to me; there's just too much of the stuff lying around. Last week someone wrote on our Three Many Cooks Facebook wall, "Got any ideas of what to do with zucchini besides zucchini bread?" I get it. You've got this wonderfully healthy vegetable and all you can think to do is to turn it into cake. Well, think again. I've got a couple of recipes that will make you glad you've got all that zucchini.
One of my favorite zucchini suggestions is utterly simple and brilliant. Vegetable peel long ribbons of zucchini into a heap. Toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then drizzle lightly with vinegar for a wonderfully refreshing and different salad. I can't take total credit for this recipe. I got the idea from my daughter Sharon, who ran a similar salad on our blog, threemanycooks.com, a few weeks ago. I've taught her a lot over the years, so it's nice now to be learning from her.
You can keep the zucchini salad uber-simple as I have, or use it as a base to which you can add all sorts of extras such as torn basil leaves, a sprinkling of dried oregano, little slivers of red onion, toasted pine nuts, a little chopped fresh tomato or piquant black olives. Or follow Sharon's lead and make the salad half zucchini, half yellow squash.
I got the idea for Grilled Zucchini-Eggplant Napoleons With Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella from my good friend Terrie Brown. These gorgeous little stacks are a stunning summer starter. An added bonus: they store beautifully in the refrigerator, so enjoy them for dinner one night and again the next day for a lovely vegetarian lunch.
This time of year grilled pasta sauce is another favorite of mine. While the pasta water heats, grill tomato halves, a head of garlic, and sliced zucchini and red onion. After slipping the garlic from the cloves, transfer them, along with the grilled tomatoes, to a food processor and whir for an instant cooked sauce. Toss some of the sauce with the grilled zucchini and onion, the remaining sauce with the pasta. Although you could sprinkle with the usual Parmesan, I prefer topping this robust pasta with more assertive crumbled feta.
Between the farmer's markets, our gardens, grocery store sales and what our gardening friends pass on, it's easy to end up with zucchini by the bushel. There's always zucchini bread, but now you've got a simple salad, a substantial first course or lunch, and a main-course vegetarian pasta to add to your repertoire. With dishes like these, you might want to leave a sign at the front door, "Accepting all stray zucchini."
Simple Zucchini Ribbon Salad
1 medium-large zucchini, stem and blossom end removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus a little extra if needed
Using a vegetable peeler, slice zucchini lengthwise into thin ribbons. (If zucchini is too large for vegetable peeler, halve the zucchini lengthwise and continue slicing.)
Place zucchini ribbons in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the vinegar; toss to coat again. Taste and adjust seasonings, including more vinegar if necessary. Mound onto 2 plates, sprinkle with a little feta cheese and serve.
Zucchini-Eggplant Napoleons With Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella
1 medium eggplant, cut into 12 rounds
2 medium-large zucchini, sliced medium thick on the diagonal
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and ground black pepper
1 large tomato, cut into 6 slices and lightly salted
1 ball fresh mozzarella (8 ounces) cut into 6 slices (you will only need about 6 ounces)
Small handful basil leaves
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Heat a gas grill igniting all burners on high for at least 10 minutes or build a hot charcoal fire. Clean grate with a wire brush and then lubricate with an oil-soaked rag. Toss eggplant and zucchini slices with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Place eggplant and zucchini on hot grate and grill, covered until spotty brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn vegetables and continue to grill, covered, until vegetables are spotty brown on remaining side, 4 to 5 minutes longer.
As soon as vegetables come off the grill, assemble napoleons in the following order: 1 slice eggplant, 2 to 3 slices of zucchini, 1 slice mozzarella, a few basil leaves, a tomato slice, another eggplant slice and a few more zucchini slices. Lightly drizzle napoleans with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Serve.
Spaghetti With Grilled Ratatouille Sauce
12 ounces thin spaghetti
8 Italian plum tomatoes, halved
2 medium-large zucchini, cut into rounds on a slight diagonal
1 large red onion, cut into thick slabs
1 small whole garlic head
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
Heat all burners of a gas grill on high. Bring 2 quarts of generously salted water to boil in a large soup kettle. Add pasta; using back-of-the-box times as a guide cook, partially covered and stirring frequently at first to prevent sticking, until just tender. Reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain pasta and return it to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss tomatoes, zucchini, onion and garlic with 3 tablespoons of the oil, oregano, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Place tomatoes (cut side up), zucchini, onion and garlic in a single layer on a hot rack; cover and grill tomatoes without turning until skins have darkened and flesh is soft. Grill zucchini, onion, and garlic, turning only once, until grilled marked, about 10 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to the workbowl of a food processor. When cool enough to handle, slip garlic cloves out of skin and into food processor, along with olives and remaining tablespoon of oil; process until smooth. Transfer zucchini and onion to a medium bowl. When cool enough to handle, separate onion rounds into rings and toss 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over warm vegetables. Toss remaining sauce along with 1/4 cup of the feta cheese and as much of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to make a moist pasta.
Arrange pasta on each of 4 pasta plates, top with vegetables, sprinkle with remaining feta, and serve.