What to do with all that zucchini
This is the time of year when your garden or shopping bags from the local farm stand are bulging with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Don't be discouraged by the heaps of produce in your kitchen. There are plenty of ways to use what you're harvesting.
Few vegetables grow as abundantly as the zucchini, that slender, long, green finger, which is vastly underrated.
Too often dismissed as mild, the zucchini, when raw, has a great crunch that lends itself well to a salad topping. When cooked, it's adaptable enough to play a supporting role in chilis, pasta sauces or stir fries, or become an indulgent side when sauteed in olive oil and garlic.
"There always seems to be excitement when the first ones come in because there's nothing like eating it when it's picked that day the flavor's better and fresher," said Dick Kelly, owner of Kelly's Farm in Upton, one place of many where the baskets of zucchini are now filled.
These two recipes let the vegetable's flavors do the talking. Both rely on zucchini's and complementary vegetables' tastiness to carry the day, and they certainly do. Even better, both are easy to cook and quick enough for a summer weeknight meal, but also impressive enough for entertaining.
The first is a corn, tomato and zucchini soup that is little more than great fresh produce (and these days, there is certainly plenty of corn and tomato around, too). The only spices to add are salt and pepper.
The key to the dish is reserving the corn cobs after scraping the kernels, and simmering the cobs in vegetable broth as you saute the vegetables. Too many people don't realize the cobs have a lot of flavor waiting to be released.
The second recipe is a salad with zucchini serving as the foundation. Tomatoes add juiciness, red spring onions a zesty bite, and the feta cheese unexpected tang.
Combined, the two shouldn't take more than 45 minutes to prepare.
And, it's always worth noting, another option for your abundant produce, zucchini and otherwise, is a donation to area food pantries.
They are often happy and willing to accept the contribution. It's recommended you call ahead to let them know what you want to give. Some, such as the MetroWest Harvest in Framingham, can come pick it up at your house.
"It's something that's expensive to purchase, and when we can give it to our clients, they're very appreciative," said Joanne Barry, director of A Place to Turn in Natick.
To find a food pantry near you, call the Project Bread FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333, or visit the Greater Boston Food Bank's Web site at www.gbfb.org where there is a full list in its Frequently Asked Questions section.
Easy soup and salad with summer veggies
CORN, TOMATO AND ZUCCHINI SOUP WITH BASIL
Cooking time: About 30 minutes. Recipe from "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman (Wiley Publishing Inc., 1998).
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 ears fresh corn
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cups cored, seeded and chopped tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, about 1/2 pound, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup minced basil leaves
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Heat the stock in a large, deep saucepan. Strip the kernels from the corn and add the cobs to the stock; let them simmer there while you prepare the other vegetables.
Place the butter or oil in a large, deep saucepan or casserole and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
Remove the corn cobs from the stock and add the stock to the vegetables. Cook until the zucchini is tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn kernels and most of the basil. Add the vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve, garnishing with remaining basil.
Makes 4 servings.
RAW ZUCCHINI AND SUMMER SQUASH SALAD WITH TOMATOES
Cooking time: About 20 minutes. Adapted from "Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes" by Lois M. Burrows and Laura G. Myers (Harper & Row Publishers, 1976).
2 summer squash or zucchini
Bunch of red spring onion or scallions
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 leaves of minced fresh basil
Cut the zucchini and squash into thin slices; chop tomatoes and red spring onion, using some of the greens. Combine into one bowl.
Add olive oil, salt and pepper, and lemon juice into separate bowl, and whisk together. Add basil.
Drizzle dressing over vegetables. Sprinkle feta cheese on top to taste.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Aaron Wasserman may be reached at 508-634-7546 or email@example.com
MetroWest Daily News