Fall is upon us - the season known for longer nights, cooler mornings, and garden bounty. This time of year, if the motion light goes off in the wee hours it is more likely my neighbor, Peter, than a would be prowler. He dashes around at dawn in his striped bathrobe, leaving grocery bags of zucchini at the door, like May baskets. Our own garden history with zucchini is decidedly mixed. This year, we seem to have just about the right amount though I am reluctant to publish that information, because, well if the word gets out to Peter and he shows up in his bathrobe, I will have more than enough.
With the advent of my new planter boxes that run the along the back of the deck next to the house, I turned the raised bed over to Fred to grow dahlias, with the request that he plant squash around the perimeter. Winter squash seems to benefit from running out along the warm river rocks between the raised bed and the deck. Fred and I are not of one mind when it comes to squash – I love it, especially winter varieties, like Butternut and Delicata. He tolerates it but prefers the summer types, like spaghetti squash, which in past years has been the dominant crop. I have little patience with spaghetti squash, so most of it ends up in the compost pile.
This summer, only four squash plants made it into production mode – all of them zucchini. One produces the slim green variety routinely sold in the grocery store and the others are bulbous and variegated. They are extremely fast growers; what at first light is about the size of my fist morphs into garden clogs by dinner time.
I didn’t grow up with zucchini. My parents, particularly my father who was in charge of planting, didn’t believe in growing something that had to be “doctored up” in order to be “gotten down.” In later years, once they no longer had a garden of their own but relied on the bounty of their neighbors, they discovered that zucchini could be used to make “watermelon pickles,” and they preserved great quantities of the stuff despite the fact that the only time a jar made it off the shelf was at Thanksgiving.
I suspect that there are more recipes for what to do with zucchini than just about any other vegetable. For one thing, if you have any you generally have a lot. Further, no matter how dedicated one might be to eating their veggies, there is a limit to how much a family can consume in one sitting, raw or otherwise. A favorite recipe of mine, Pasticcio di Zucchini, was given to me by my friend, Diane, who is equally gifted in the kitchen and the garden. Thinly sliced squash and tomato are layered in a dish with mozzarella cheese, fresh herbs, and bread crumbs and then bound together with a few beaten eggs. One week in August, I prepared this a half a dozen times, for home consumption as well as sharing at neighborhood potlucks. It is versatile; equally good hot or cold, it can be served as the entry or as an hors’doeuvre.
Rainy days are often baking days for me and since we have had quite a bit of rain lately, the bread pans and muffin tins have been in constant use. In the past couple of weeks, I have produced several loaves of zucchini/carrot bread with whole wheat flour and bran, at least four dozen zucchini/pineapple muffins, and three loaves of zucchini/chocolate bread. I confess that I had to overcome some bias no doubt acquired in my childhood to try out that recipe. Chocolate is something to be found in cookies, pudding and cake but not in bread! Well, I am glad that I finally loosened up on this as the results are great. I confess that I am not all the way cured of my bias as the other day I served some to my neighbor and called it ‘cake.’
My all time favorite zucchini recipe, however, is for zucchini patties, found in Volume II of Joan Moody’s cookbook, Pantry Patter, published in 1978. For many years, Joan wrote a weekly column in the Daily Olympian called “Joan’s Pantry Patter.” The hallmark of most of her recipes is that they are easy to follow and rely upon ingredients that are readily available. If she did include something exotic, like “slivered almonds” she always suggested a low cost substitute or gave permission to leave it out entirely. Her cookie recipes routinely produce 8 – 10 dozen while her casseroles are hearty and flavorful, and come with an admonition to make two - one to bake now and one to freeze for later.
Joan died a few years ago, after what is often referred to in the obituaries to as a valiant battle with cancer. Certainly if cancer could be driven off by sheer force of will, Joan would be here today. As it was, she experienced many periods of remission during which time she seemingly bounced back to her characteristic high level of performance. When I contemplate the legacies that a person might leave for family and friends, a series of great recipes is pretty hard to beat.
The following proportions make four patties about three inches in diameter. I generally cook these in a small electric frying pan, but any frying pan would work equally well.
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup coarsely crumbled crackers. (Use crumbled saltines, not prepared bread or cracker crumbs.)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 beaten egg
½ teas salt
Garlic to taste
½ cup parmesan cheese
Oil for skillet (2 tablespoons)
Directions: Heat skillet with oil on medium heat. Combine all ingredients in bowl. Spoon into the hot oil and pat out flat. After 2 -3 minutes, check to see if underside is brown. If so, turn patties and cook until brown. Sometimes I turn these a couple of times, particularly if I have the skillet at a lower temperature. We think these go well with just about anything. Last night I served them with pork medallions and mushrooms to rave reviews.
There you have it. Next time the motion light goes off, just relax and go back to sleep, knowing that you can fix Zucchini patties for supper!