By Lyndsie Kiebert
Home gardeners in the Idaho panhandle are starting to see the fruits of their Memorial Day planting labors. After a wet and cloudy start to summer, tomatoes are flowering and potato mounds are producing early tastes of what will hopefully prove to be a bountiful — if slightly delayed — harvest season.
It’s been a good garden year for me, considering. Deer, moles and robins have enjoyed their fair share. I planted the tomatoes and peppers too close together, and unintentionally devoted two out of my three 30-foot rows to potatoes — the lesson being that 14 pounds of seed potatoes is more than you think it is.
Despite my gardening shortfalls, one crop is outdoing all the others this year: my squash. My zucchini plant, in particular, has taken the frequent rains in stride and started producing like crazy.
Luckily, zucchini is a versatile fruit, so anyone finding themself waist deep in aggressive zucchini plants this year has plenty of kitchen creation options if only they think outside the box.
It’s easy to see a zucchini and think, “stir fry.” I won’t deny the magic that can happen when zucchini meets a hot pan full of butter and garlic, but depending on size and shape, zucchini can take many forms.
Gaining popularity in recent years has been making pasta out of zucchini — zoodles, if you will. By using what most retailers call a “spiralizer” tool, zucchini flesh can take on a noodle-like shape and serve as a low-carb alternative to traditional pasta.
Grating is often the best way to utilize those neglected, monstrous squash. Grated zucchini can be used in savory pancakes — breaded, fried and dipped in creamy sauce. Grated zucchini also holds up well in the freezer for future use.
One alternative for the larger of the crop is to create zucchini boats: halve and hollow out the middle, then fill with a desired dinner concoction.
I recently filled zucchini boats with rice, burger, tomato and cheese, and the results were delicious. Be sure to add water to the bottom of the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil before baking so that the moisture softens the zucchini.
Secured beneath a magnet on my freezer is a photocopied recipe for zucchini bread my mom found in an old church recipe book. I love it because it’s simple, moist and tastes like childhood.
Beat three eggs until they’re foamy, then add two cups sugar, three cups flour, one teaspoon salt, one cup oil, three tablespoons vanilla and two cups unpeeled, grated zucchini.
In a separate bowel, mix three teaspoons cinnamon, one teaspoon baking soda and a half teaspoon baking powder.
Combine all well, and pour into pans. Bake time depends upon pan size, so check loaves frequently with a toothpick until it comes out clean.
This recipe also works well in muffin tins. Add chocolate chips for an even sweeter treat.
Pro-tip: Spread butter on a few slices of zucchini bread, pop it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and you have a sweet, semi-nutritious breakfast.
With an open mind and little ingenuity, zucchini works for every meal.
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