“WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THIS ZUCCHINI FROM MY GARDEN, OR FROM A FRIEND?”..Have you been asking yourself that? Stop. It’s a very versatile vegetable and lends itself to baking, steaming, braising, sauteeing, frying, stuffing, shredding, etc. etc. I think most people just wind up grating them into all sorts of zucchini breads which are very delicious but for me there’s zero “zucchini” flavor that you taste in those cakes and breads. Nothing works as well for me as the vegetable cooked with some supporting ingredients, take my ZUCCHINI with FRESH MINT and RED ONION for example. What? Mint? You just winced a little? Tastes like candy you think? Yuck? Let this blogpost make you a convert. Mint is strong for sure but used with a little restraint it’s a very Mediterranean and Asian herb that wakes up much of those regions’ cuisines.
Summer is just not summer without a bounty or overload of zucchini. I get a little misty remembering picking all the zucchini in Dad’s Staten Island NYC garden, especially the blossoms in the early morning..bringing the baskets into the house and into my Mom’s talented Italian-American hands. What she did with those long and sometimes short lengthed zucchini was kitchen magic. Nothing overly complicated but she turned them into sautees, stuffed them with meatballs and sausages and cheeses or other vegetables, fried them, stewed them with garlic or onion and tomato sauce (that was a real favorite), parmigiana, even the blossoms which usually were just fried, she would turn those fried blossoms into a Parmigiana as well..the best of the Summer dishes..the zucchini she’d also turn into lots of different types of pasta sauces..a’scapece (fried and marinated in vinegar and oil, peperoncino and garlic), need I go on? Ok, yes she did, she did take out her box of Bisquik and turn out loaves of Zucchini bread, Zucchini muffins, Zucchini fritters…some found their way into Frittatas…I certainly miss my Mom terribly but I’m never far from her especially in the kitchen. This recipe I will share now isn’t earth shattering but it certainly is wonderfully fresh tasting and is totally inspired by my Mom’s expertise with the fresh vegetables we ate from Dad’s garden every day. By the way, those mornings and afternoons harvesting, planting and weeding now that I am being totally honest, were miserable..lol…the mosquitos in Staten Island may have been the most prolific anywhere on the planet. The slugs that found their way onto your hands and arms were nowhere near as horrific as those swarms of mosquitos. I miss Mom and Dad and the garden anyway.
FOR 4 PEOPLE TIME: about 1/2 hour
4 rinsed and patted dry ZUCCHINI, chopped into a medium dice
1 diced RED ONION
3 tbs. OLIVE OIL
2 stalks of FRESH MINT, leaves removed from stems
FRESH GROUND PEPPER
In a wide pan, skillet or even a dutch oven, heat the olive oil gently, then add the red onion and toss well with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt. Let this saute’ for about 8 minutes careful not to let the onions brown. Now add the zucchini and toss with the onions and olive oil, raising the heat slightly. Add a pinch of salt. Let this cook for 15 minutes, shaking up the pan from time to time. The zucchini is done when a fork easily goes through it and it’s tender, so feel free to take a little more time to get it to that point. Season to taste with a little more salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Then add the mint leaves which you chop right before you toss into the zucchini. WOW..the aroma will capture your tastebuds immediately.
Serve. This mix is also wonderful when tossed together with a short tubed pasta like Zitini, Pennine, Mezze Penne, Tubettini, etc. Simply cook the pasta according to the package directions till AL DENTE, then drain, drizzle with extra virgin OLIVE OIL, a little salt, black pepper, and a good amount of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano or Caciocavallo or Ricotta Salata…mix, then toss in the zucchini mixture till it’s nicely (but gently) blended. Top with more grated cheese. Phenomenal.
Mom and Dad are smiling!