September 2, 2015

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Dear friends,

I apologize to every zucchini muffin maker I’ve ever dissed. I used to think zucchini breads, cakes and cookies were pointless because zucchini has zero flavor, few calories and little or no vitamins. Why bother?

Wrong.

I looked up the nutrition profile of summer squash Monday as I was writing this and found that, although low in calories (about 35 calories per cup, sliced and cooked), summer squash has a fair amount of vitamins C and A, is a good source of potassium,  is low-glycemic and is a great source of antioxidants. So yes, it’s worth the trouble of grating into dessert batters.

The nutrient content of zucchini and other summer squash (yellow, pattypan) vary slightly, but are comparable. They also taste very similar and react the same in recipes, so feel free to substitute whatever kind you grow or buy.

This is all good news to me because my two plants are producing a lot of yellow squash.  I usually control the summer squash onslaught by picking them small, but lately the harvest has overwhelmed me.

So far I have mostly diced and stir-fried the squash with a splash of my homemade stir-fry sauce.  I’ve also made one batch of ratatouille and one side dish of lightly steamed zucchini ribbons with butter and chopped tarragon. Now I need to step up the creativity.

This week I’ll make the yummy grape tomato, mushroom and zucchini salad I devised once for a Beacon Magazine column. I’ll substitute my home-grown little SunGold tomatoes for store-bought grape tomatoes. Regular white mushrooms may be used instead of Portobello.

For another idea, I checked out the from Seville Farm Market’s annual Zucchini Smackdown, held this year on Aug. 15. There at the top of the list of winners was my friend and former coworker, Olga Reswow of Wadsworth. She won the sweets category with a decadent-sounding chocolate zucchini bread. Other entrant’s recipes can be found at http://www.sevillefarmmarket.blogspot.com/. You’ll have click on a link under one of the photos.

Finally, I found my third interesting  recipe in an old issue of Our Ohio magazine. The fluffy casserole is made with zucchini, Cheddar cheese and cornbread mix. While it’s not Emeril’s andouille spoon bread, I’d eat it.

veggies

TOMATO-ZUCCHINI SALADOW COUNTRY BOIL

•    1 package (6 oz.) whole portobello mushroom caps
•    1 small zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
•    1 small yellow squash, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
•    3 tbsp. olive oil
•    1 pint grape (or small cherry) tomatoes
•    2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
•    2 tsp. Parmesan cheese
•    1 tsp. finely minced garlic
•    Coarse salt to taste

Wash and dry mushroom caps and place in a bowl. Place zucchini and yellow squash (you should have 2 cups total) in another bowl. Drizzle mushroom caps with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub to coat. Drizzle squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat.

Thread squash on skewers. Grill squash and mushroom caps over a medium charcoal or gas-grill fire, turning occasionally, until golden and tender but not mushy. Cool. Cut mushrooms into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place squash and mushrooms in a medium bowl. Cut grape tomatoes in halves and add to vegetables. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss well. Add basil, Parmesan, garlic and salt. Toss again. Serve at room temperature.

SACHA’S CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
•    3 eggs
•    1 1/3 cups oil
•    2 cups sugar
•    1 tbsp. vanilla
•    9 tbsp. cocoa powder
•    2 cups flour
•    1/2 tsp. baking soda
•    1/2 tsp. baking powder
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, plus extra for sprinkling
•    2 cups packed grated zucchini

Combine eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and cocoa powder and in a bowl, whisking until smooth. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat with a mixer or by hand. Fold in nuts and zucchini.

Spray two loaf pans with vegetable-oil spray. Divide batter between pans (it will be thick). Sprinkle a few chopped nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before removing from pan. Makes 2 loaves.

ZUCCHINI CASSEROLE
•    4 cups unpeeled, chopped zucchini
•    1/4 cup chopped onion
•    1 small box cornbread mix (Jiffy)
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 egg
•    1 cup grated Cheddar cheese, set aside 1/2 cup

Combine all ingredients (less 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese) and stir well. Pour into a greased 8-inch-square baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From Anne McMillan, Akron:
Ok since you insist on email, and I think of you often in connection to local food….

Last week was my first time at the Countryside Conservancy’s monthly food swap. Have you been? You have to sign up ahead of time. I took the very ordinary strawberry freezer jam, and the elegant peach rosemary jam to trade with other foodies. My haul from the swap was impressive, including granola, fresh Hungarian peppers, crabapple cinnamon sorbet, peach buckle, red onion jam and refrigerator sweet horseradish pickles. There were fresh eggs, homemade lavender shortbread, jams, pickles, baked goods and sauces. Everything is home sourced.  The Countryside Conservancy website (http://countrysideconservancy.businesscatalyst.com/learn-countryside-local-food-swaps.htm) has further info. It’s a great opportunity to taste regional Akron’s products. And a darn nice bunch of folks who welcomed us newbies.

I’m already plotting my next swap and made 3 batches of dilly beans (great with a Bloody Mary), 2 batches of red plum rhubarb jam and freezer lemon cucumbers. I have kilos of sea salt and I was thinking about making rosemary lemon flavored salt.

I went to The Rail when it first opened and I was very disappointed, but maybe just an off day. Louie’s is the bomb, I agree. Will check out Wolf Creek as we are always on the hunt for a good burger. I heard Burger-Fi was good, albeit expensive. One of the draws for me there is that you can get a combo fries and onion ring side order.

Dear Anne: Such an interesting, newsy email – thank you! I know about the monthly food swap and keep promising myself I’ll go. Your description may be just the impetus I need. Your rosemary-lemon salt sounds like the bomb.

From Sue Murphy, Hilton Head, S.C.:
Wasn’t sure if you were writing about the Mitch Allen I worked with at the Beacon Journal, but if he’s from Georgia he’s the one. Please tell him I still use his family’s cookbook he gifted to me and always refer to it when I’m not sure of my southern dishes. I so enjoy your blog. We’re in Ohio this week and finally getting some good corn along with Belgrade and Swensons. I’ll be 20 pounds heavier going home to Hilton Head!

Dear Sue: Yes, THAT Mitch. I wish he would adopt me so I could go to the family dinners. He is an elegant writer, too. Check out his Mimi columns at http://directory.mimivanderhaven.com/article/results.php?module=article&keyword=mitch%2Ballen&advsearch=&screen=2.

From Bill Bowen:
Sending you an email because you are so lonely. Just got back from a week on Cape Cod. I stuffed myself silly with seafood, mostly lobster rolls. Rumor had it that McDonald’s was putting them back on the menu but no such luck. I also had scallops, clams and of course fish and chips.

We stopped in Scranton, Pa. and went to (the suburb of) Old Forge for pizza on the way home. On the Mass.  pike they allow local farmers to set up produce stands (for free) if they are selling Massachusetts-grown produce. I bought a bunch of really deliciously good white peaches to munch on in the car. Your Low Country boil looked really good.

Dear Bill: Your vacation sounds great. I love Cape Cod and hope to get back there when Tony retires.
Interesting idea to allow local farmers to sell their home-grown produce to travelers on the turnpike. Ohio should do that at rest areas.

Your mention of Old Forge pizza piqued my interest, so I Googled and read about the town’s unusual (but fabulous-looking) pizza on Serious Eats (http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2013/08/old-forge-pennsylvania-pizza.html.) The pizza is definitely unique and worth a detour in the future.  Thanks for rescuing me from my email wasteland.
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