Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No Dearth of Zucchini

The trouble is, you cannot grow just one zucchini. Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables. At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more zucchinis erupt.
~Dave Barry

For my European readers, we’re talking about courgettes today. Doesn’t everyone have a neighbor who’s desperately trying to give away extra zucchini just about now? Have you ever been zucchini’d? You come home to find a mondo bag of zucchini left at your door by some desperate, cagey gardener? I’ve never resorted to that, thankfully my friend Kathy will take all the extra I can grow for her yummy zucchini relish.

Zucchini is a healthful vegetable for your table. It contains Calcium, Iron, and Vitamins A, B-1, B-2 Niacin and C. Growing it is so easy, it practically grows by itself. After the seed sprouts, there is no effort aside from watering it. I also happen to think it is a beautiful plant in the garden. The huge dark green leaves are often marbled with lighter veining. Depending on your locale, look for a seed variety that will fit into the full sun garden space you’ve allocated for it. In my small urban garden I grow ‘Sungreen’, which is a smallish, compact plant that is open, meaning it’s easy to reach in there to find the vegetables. It doesn’t get any more than 4 feet high or wide. In the fall when I pull it out of the ground it doesn’t seem to have a huge root ball either so I think it’s a good candidate for pot gardening too.

For our family of two, one plant yields more than enough. According to the seed package directions, before you plant your seedling, mix an organic complete fertilizer into the hole. I’ve been lazier than that and simply mixed a good shovelful of aged composted manure or compost in first. You should probably do as the seed packet directs. Little known fact: alfalfa meal is a complete organic fertilizer, is inexpensive and can be used throughout your whole garden, but it must be mixed in so the soil’s microorganisms can break it down. If your zucchini plant’s leaves get a whitish film on them toward the end of the season it’s probably just powdery mildew. Mine gets it every year as the late summer night temps begin to drop lower and lower. While the plant looks nasty, the vegetable is still good and healthy to eat.

All summer I pick my zucchini when they are still small, 4-6 inches long (10-15 cm), and after the flowers have closed but are still firm and attached. The flowers are often used in culinary dishes, but I’ve never tried them. Do you cook with zucchini flowers? I’d love to hear your experiences and recipes.

For today’s post I include a recipe. I tweak nearly every recipe that comes my way, and this recipe is great for using whatever veggies you have on hand. It is very much like stew, so you can serve it with your favorite loaf of bread, a fresh salad, or over a bed of lettuce or rice.

Zucchini Vindaloo

In typical Indian fashion you want to dry roast your spices in the pan first over low heat for a minute or so, till they become aromatic, but not too hot or too long, they can burn easily.

To a dry skillet heated on low, add and stir constantly till aromatic:

½ t ground Cinnamon
½ t ground Cumin
½ t ground Cardamom
½ t ground Coriander
½ t ground Paprika
½ t ground cloves
1 t ground Ginger
1 t ground Tumeric
¼ t ground Cayenne pepper (more of you like it spicy hot)

Add and stir till softened:
2-3 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
onion or leek minced (I used one small leek)

Stir in:
mushrooms, celery, carrots, leeks, asparagus, zucchini - all chopped
1 14.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes (I puree them more with a blender first)
1 ½ C chicken broth (I use vegetarian “chicken flavored” powder with 1 ½ C water)
2 Tb red wine or wine vinegar
Tofu, drained and squeezed, cut into squares
1 Tb tomato paste
1 bay leaf

Simmer 30 minutes more or less till all veggies are cooked to your liking.

Salt and pepper to taste, add more cayenne if you want it hotter.

Yield 4 large bowls

The original recipe calls for chicken but I prefer tofu or poached eggs in my Vindaloo. If I have tofu I add it (drained, squeezed and cut into squares) early on to absorb the liquid and spices. If I want poached eggs, I add them to the simmering sauce at the last minutes, Cindy style.

Prepare your veggies beforehand. Use what ever you have on hand. This time I used zucchini, mushrooms, celery, carrots, and leeks. I saut√©ed the leeks, mushrooms, celery and carrots with the spices till they were beginning to soften, then added tofu chunks and zucchini, asparagus, tomato sauce etc. Chopped potatoes or lentils are also nice in this dish but take longer to cook if adding them raw. You can double the canned tomato and skip the ‘broth’ as I did this time.

This is a very forgiving recipe…I usually forget something (like broth, vinegar and tomato paste this time) and it always tastes great! It is also very versatile! For another great way to make this dish, hop over to Shari’s blog and find her crockpot version of Vindaloo.

In Bloom In My Garden Today: green beans, tomato, basil, oregano, zucchini, cucumber, thyme, black mondo grass, lavender, borage, veronica, fushia, rose, nepeta, salvia, russian sage, daphne, echinacea, liatris, coryopsis, caryopteris, begonia, alyssum, lobelia, heather, hosta, gallardia, Star Jasmine,

Author’s photo


Cindy said...

I have co-workers who grow zucchini, only they let thiers get BIG...I take the smallest and feeds us for a week..(haha)

kidding aside, we live off zucchini, it's like my second "meat" from veggies..and doesn't it just go with anything?

I too thought of Shari when you said vindaloo. I'm gonna have to make it becasue I have been needing to give my crock pot a dusting off .

I have never loved anything more than that cagey gardener who gives us a bag of fresh home grown anything. we just got a bag of oranges and they are the BEST.

Joan said...

Hi Cindy!
Yes zucchini does go with everything, I agree. Such a mild flavor and quick to cook, if you cook it. I don't know why people let them get so big, maybe because they can, but I like them small. They seem firmer and no seeds to speak of.

A bag of oranges!! wow, that is unheard of in the cold north. I'd think I died and was in heaven if someone gave me a bag of avocados!! Ahh for the tropics!

Thanks for writing

SHari B. (FitFeat) said...

OK... ONE: I MUST plant zucchini next year. You have to hold me to it. Because I actually asked MSP to go beg for some from his coworkers. All the ones I was buying at the store kept shrivelling before I got to eat them. TWO: I had NO idea I should roast my spices first! I learn something new every time I read your blog! LOVE that! We start the Ethnic Cuisine segment at the culinary school on Nov 10, just before midterms, so hopefully by then I'll know these sorts of things about roasting spices! :)

Joan said...

Hi Shari!
If you love zucchini as much as I think you do, yes...you must grow it! Put it on your 2011 calendar as soon as you buy one to start seed in spring or get organic starts if you can find them. But beware, they are prolific! I like some pickled when I can't keep up with them for dishes and salads. But being in a culinary school no doubt you'll use them up in no time! Congrats on the new adventure! I can't wait to read all about your newly learned skills. Ethnic cuisine... how cool is that?! Can't wait for your blog posts on that too!