For many there comes a time at the height of summer when zucchini becomes a dirty word. I get it! Every gardener and his brother grows this prolific summer squash and the surpluses are not inconsequential. The zucchini bulb that is eaten is actually a swollen ovary of the blossom! There are both male and female (golden) blossoms on the plant, the male flower grows directly on the stem and slightly smaller, and the female has the zucchini that sports the vibrant gold blossom. Now that’s quite a state of mind to be in, but summer is a state of mind.

We can and have learned to cook it every way imaginable, fried, stuffed, sauteed, baked, steamed, grilled. More than just a crop, it is sweet, tasty, cooks quickly and it doesn’t take center stage but delivers the moisture you’d come to expect and a flavor you didn’t realize you were missing. It’s good for the heart, bones and eyes. You can also freeze it and can be given it away to anyone who’s willing to take it, and still, there’s more. Perhaps worst of all, it has a reputation for being bland, due in part to unfortunate belief by some that bigger is better if left to grow. In all actuality it is best when very young and smaller in size as they are more flavorful and contain less water than their large counterparts.

Zucchini, the young fruit of “Cucurbita pepo” are a common, high value fruit vegetable. The Zucchini as we know it today, has an international pedigree, it’s name derived from the Italian word “Zucchino or Zucca”, where it’s thought to have been brought back by Italian immigrants in the second half of the 19th Century. In the early 1920’s, Columbus brought the seeds to Europe in his explorations. They can produce a significant yield and is thought to be overwhelming, because the farmer harvest the flowers and sells them for high prices as they are considered a delicatessen.

Stephanie Chu-O’Neil

It can easily reach lengths of 18 inches or more. Not so little! But while it’s fun to see how big it can grow, these mammoth zucchini are well passed their prime becoming tough and flavorless. Picking is done early when it is about 6-10 inches or less, and often-not only will there be more, being encouraged to reproduce, it is best when it’s tender and flavorful. Thin skinned it can be dark or light green, it’s cousins range from light orange to deep yellow. A botanical berry, it’s a fruit, but it is treated as a vegetable and is cooked and prepared into really savory meals or meal sides. As someone who has spent years harvesting zucchini like Frank Cerminara, he says they do manage to get away from him and get thrown outback for feeding the critters.

Being strictly a summer crop, it deserves to shine year round. Many countries developed their own palate and embraced it’s versatility. I went on a mission to find a way to incorporate the zucchini to fill the freezer for winter after I was privileged to taste Patty Cerminara’s Zucchini Fritters made with their harvest…A guided tour in the Cerminara garden, we had the pleasure of seeing the freshness on the vines…Bright and summery flavors that awakens your taste buds growing right in the front of you. You’d go crazy trying to figure out what to do with 50# of it on the counter, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll want to repeat to perfect the great options at both ends of your gardens.

The recipe for the Fritters changed my whole outlook on Zucchini. Miss Patty and I compared the recipe on my attempts, failures and taste and after many trials, I think I might have gotten it right. The Cerminara italian flair has stirred me. The simplicity and perplexity, culture and history, the use of their fresh garden vegetables and the amazing taste behind them. I hope to be able to learn more from them and have fun trying to get it right like her and Mr. Frank. These are not only entertaining to make, these are real easy and quickly put together and unquestionably very tasty. They can be used for appetizer, snack or side for your dinner.

The Recipes…………………………………………………………………

I made these in mini loaf pans, to pass out for taste testing. There is only so much Mama and I can eat. I got stopped in the grocery store with compliments and Mr. Auger just loved it enough not to share it with anyone.

Zucchini Bread 1 Loaf or 12 Muffins

1 1/2 Cup of AP Flour

1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp. Salt

2 Tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp. Nutmeg

1 Cup Semi Sweet Choc. Chips

1/2 Cup Canola Oil

1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Lg. Egg at room temp.

2. Tsp. Pure vanilla

1 3/4 C. Grated Zucchini

Preheat boxen at 350* Grease Loaf Pan or place in paper muffins. Prepare the zucchini, use a mandolin, or grater, grate one to two medium sized zucchini, add 1 Tbsp of salt to zucchini and mix together and place in a large colander to drain the water out of the zucchini. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chips together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl-mix oil, brown sugar, white sugar, egg, vanilla and zucchini and combine together. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and gently mixed together just until it’s mixed. Do not over mix/batter will be semi-thick. Spread into the loaf pan or drop into muffin cups. Bake 40-45 minutes, check with toothpick, should come out clean. set on a rack to cool. If your oven runs hot, cover with aluminum foil or keep an eye on your creation as not to let it get too dark. Store in refrigerator tightly wrapped.

Zucchini Cookies yields 3 dozen

A cookie with a crispy crust, gooey center and high in nutrition? A hidden nutritional agenda.

2 1/2 Cup of AP flour

3/4 Cup Cocoa powder

1 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. Salt

2 Sticks of Butter, at room temperature

2 Cups Sugar

2 Eggs

1 1/2 Cup Shredded Zucchini

2 Tsp. Vanilla

1 Cup Chocolate Chips (optional), but who would not add any type of chocolate to anything.

1. Combine your flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt

2. Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and stir in drained, shredded zucchini (preparation, remember from the first recipe).

3. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix to combine.

4. Fold in Chocolate Chips.

5. Drop spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350* for 16 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes and transfer to rack to cool.

The Fritters

Zucchini Fritters Makes 30-36

Vegetable oil for frying

1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1 Lg. Egg, at room temp, slightly beaten

1 Cup AP (All Purpose) Flour

1 1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder

1/4 Parmesan-Reggiano Grated Cheese

2 Cups Shredded, drained Zucchini (prepared as above)

1 Garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 Cup chopped Chives

1/4 Tsp. Italian Seasoning

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a deep cast-iron skillet or fryer, heat (2-3 inches of oil) to 375*. Combine milk and eggs in a bowl. Stir together dry ingredients and add to milk and egg mixture. Blend well. Fold in Zucchini. Drop by rounded Tsp. into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, turning only once. Drain thoroughly on paper towels. If desired, serve with Ranch dressing or Marinara.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. What a fun way to use up nature’s bounty. I extend most gratefulness to Frank and Patty Cerminara from the feed store across the IGA. They led Mama and I on a tour of their beautiful gardens where I was able to get the rundown on all their vegetables and take pictures of the greenery and we talked, probed the vegetables in every stages of growth. I found Frank and Patty to be well versed in all their specially picked “to plant and grow” produce. The luscious greens and vines and rows laden with growths were extremely beautiful. We even went home with a box of freshly picked goodness, from the fresh zucchini, red potatoes, escarole, chives and so much more and also got to meet a new member of their family, a very quiet and happy little black cow, who turning to Mama, I proudly named Pinot as in Pinot Noir, it seemed so fitting as she stood there tiny, unassuming, quiet and so happy. Thank You Miss Patty and Mr. Frank humoring and pampering us with the wonderful flavors and colors. I was giddy with excitement for days and elevated our meal with the bounty of our freshly picked produce.

August is like the Sunday of summer! and since we had so much of winter last year, I actually feel summer should get a speeding ticket! I keep thinking there’s no way to the end of summer when cocktails flowed with the tides and people came and went like mosquitoes and as the warmest days of the year are winding down, there’s only good news on the horizon, that autumn is approaching us and we’ll start daydreaming about the changing of the fall leaves and comfy sweaters as we allow ourselves to say goodbye to summer, as a fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave goodbye.

As always, you can reach me with comments, ideas and story ideas: [email protected] and the last words belong to…~Alice May Brock~”Tomatoes and Oregano make it Italian; Wine and Tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; Lemon and Cinnamon makes it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; Garlic makes it good.”~

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