Tag Archives: zucchini

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

So the school year is wrapping up  and I am firmly planting my head in the sand related to how I am going to a) keep everyone entertained all summer, b) get my paid work done and deliver a large project at the end of August, c) maintain some sanity amidst the fighting siblings and wet bathing suits and towels on the floor, d) have a house that doesn’t look like it needs an intervention, e) keep the plants thriving outside given that hoses are quite possibly the most annoying thing to use ever, and f) do grocery shopping with an entourage who likes to find every possible piece of crap and put it in my cart.

And this all with cocktail time not starting until 5:00 PM?  Can’t we push that up a little?

Oh, but I kid.  I complain a good game, but I am actually looking forward to summer.  Just the idea of relaxing mornings where we aren’t rushing around to get out the door … or the idea of making a pot of coffee and actually being able to drink a few leisurely cups… and not having to think about getting homework done every night… or throwing dinner together at a seriously uncivilized time just to get to soccer practice.  We are all ready for a little vacation.

This dinner was put together on one of those rushed evenings where we were hurrying to get to an end of the school year concert, but I think it would also be a great aprés swimming dinner when you have to divide your energy between hanging up that wet stuff, making a meal, and unpacking the pool bag. To non-parents I know this sounds like a pathetically small task — but you are wrong. Unpacking the pool bag is a terrible task filled with wet stuff, soggy snacks, water bottles, leaky sunscreen, loose change, hats, visors, goggles, Spiderman diving toys, wallets, cell phones, floaties, allergy medicine, and reading material that rarely gets read.

Ahh.  Summer.

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6

2-3 cups of spinach, stemmed and chopped
1 small zucchini, trimmed and diced
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1-2 large green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
4-5 sprigs of oregano (remove leaves from stem and chop)

Dressing:
2/3 cup canola or olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

1.  In a large sauté pan, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil with chopped (1 clove) garlic.  Sauté spinach until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

2.  In same pan, heat a bit more oil and sauté diced zucchini until lightly browned and softened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

3.  In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Add cous cous, stir, and cover pan.  Immediately remove from heat and let stand for about five minutes.  Stir to fluff the cous cous and allow to cool a bit.

4.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.

5.  In a large bowl, combine cooked spinach and zucchini, cooked cous cous, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped green onions, and chopped oregano.  Re-whisk dressing and pour about 2/3 of it over cous cous mixture, tossing well to combine all ingredients.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Salad can be served at room temperature or chilled.  Reserve remaining dressing and add to the salad before serving if necessary (if the cous cous sits in the fridge for a while it will soak up the dressing and may need more.)

Corn and Zucchini Bisque

Making soup is one of my greatest pleasures.  After you know the basic models and processes, you can do just about anything and use up just about anything.  It is a tremendous stress reliever for me too — before every presidential debate (I get a little worked up over politics), I have to make soup to focus my attention elsewhere.  Plus, it is obviously about the best comfort food you can find.

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And summer time makes me miss soup a lot.  As much as I like the idea of chilled soups (and love the flavors, to an extent), they are just not the same.  Somehow, I just feel like I am eating a giant bowl of salsa or leftover sauce from the refrigerator.  It just doesn’t seem … finished.

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So, the rainy weather (combined with everyone feeling a little run down) gave me the urge to make a summer soup.  Of course, I had zucchini to use.  And leftover corn.  And some beautiful fresh garlic and onions.  I added smoked paprika because I wanted the smoky quality to add depth and contrast to the sweetness of the corn.  From there though, I went in a slightly Italian direction with lots of basil and a parmesan crisp garnish.  But I am actually going to change this recipe up next time and make a Cuban Corn Bisque (with smoky chipotle, garlic, cilantro, lime zest, and a little queso fresco to garnish).

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See what I mean?   You can do anything with soup.  The only rule is that you cook it until it tastes good.  There is no excuse for a bad soup because you can keep tasting and adding to it (very much unlike other dishes).  You cook soup until it tastes good.  Period.

Corn and Zucchini Bisque

Serves 4

1 large zucchini, cubed (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups of corn
2-3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
3/4 t smoked paprika
Small bunch of basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
Parmesan Cheese

1.  In a large sauce pan or stock pot, heat about 1 T of olive oil.  Saute the zucchini, onion, and garlic until soft (about ten minutes).  Season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

2.  Add 3 cups of corn and a nice handful of chopped basil.  Saute for 1-2 additional minutes.

3.  Add water and white wine, cover with lid, and cook 5-10 minutes more until very soft.

4.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth.  (You can also use a regular blender, however be VERY careful with blending hot liquids.  They expand and can make a huge mess or burn you.  You must do it in small batches and keep the lid slightly off, while covering with a towel, to allow the steam to escape without having the soup splashing out and burning you.  I would strongly suggest an immersion blender … they are great for all sorts of tasks and are not expensive at all.)

5.  Stir in heavy cream and remaining 1 cup of corn.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional smoked paprika.

6.  Garnish with parmesan crisp, additional chopped basil, and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

For the Parmesan Crisp: Preheat oven to 400 F.  On a parchment lined baking sheet, thinly slice or grate some parmesan cheese in square shapes.  Bake for 7-8 minutes until very bubbly and golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool (they will crisp up as they cool).

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

We have entered into the time of the summer where zucchini is plentiful.  And by plentiful, I mean like a crazy band of procreating feral cats.  The first two or three kittens are so damn cute — but then they just become a nuisance that not even your neighbors or co-workers want.  You know the scene in the office kitchen … right next to the tupperware container that has random packets of soy sauce, non-dairy creamer, and ketchup in it, there is a nice big basket of zucchini free for the taking.  If you cook at all, you might take one or two because they are free. But after you’ve sauteed a few and made some zucchini bread, you pretty much walk by that nice basket wishing that someone had planted way too much corn.

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And if you are the person who actually has the zucchini surplus, you basically turn into a mildly insane person willing to try anything to use up the four or five you are plucking from the garden everyday.  Mock crabcakes?  Sure.  Mock apple pie?  Hell yes.  Zucchini pickles? Absolutely.  It’s just too bad that someone hasn’t figured out how to distill vodka from zucchini.  I am sure it’s not from a lack of trying.

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I know this all because I have been receiving somewhat crazed emails from people asking for zucchini recipes.  And the first one that came to mind was a chocolate zucchini cake that I made a few years ago from our CSA recipe files.  I decided to pull it back out and modify it so that it was actually healthy — beyond just the hidden veggies.  So, my version is made with whole wheat pastry flour and has much less sugar.  The original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups — I have cut it back to 1/2 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of sugar.  I also used half butter and half coconut oil.

Shredding the zucchini is quick work in the food processor, but it can certainly be done by hand too.  I don’t even bother peeling them.  And if you have any shredded zucchini left over (and I know you will), freeze it in containers — I mix it into soups and chilis all year long and it is a veggie booster that you hardly know is there.

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The resulting cake is really great though — very moist and delicate.  It reminds you a bit of the old Texas Sheet Cake or a chocolate snack cake.  And given the modifications, it can actually be a decent snack for the kids that they will like way more than mock crabcakes.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Makes one 9×13 cake

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup of coconut oil (brought to liquid state, can also use canola oil in place of it)
1/2 cup of honey
1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup of milk (at least 2%)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
5 T cocoa
2 t baking soda
2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (unpeeled, tightly packed)
6-8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely

1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.  Butter a 9×13 inch glass pan and set aside.

2.  Prepare wet and dry ingredients:  In a small bowl, combine milk and lemon juice.  Whisk in egg and vanilla.  In another separate small bowl, combine whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa, and baking soda.

3.  In a large bowl, cream together butter, coconut oil, honey, and sugar with an electric mixer. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture in about three separate additions.  Mix until just combined and then switch to a wooden spoon or spatula.

4.  Stir in shredded zucchini and pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 325 F for about 40 minutes.

5.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chopped chocolate over surface of hot cake.  As the chocolate melts, spread evenly and let cool completely before slicing.  (You may want to throw it in the fridge for a bit to harden the chocolate.)

(Possible variations:  add some espresso powder, replace vanilla extract with almond extract, or stir some extra chocolate chunks/chips or nuts into batter.)

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