Overgrown Zucchini

by Elizabeth Skipper | July 14th, 2015 | Ask the Chef

zucchini for grilling (400x400)It hasn’t happened yet, but at some point this summer I will discover an oversized zucchini in my garden. What can I do with it when the seeds are so big and the skin is thicker? I’m open to any ideas so I don’t have to turn it into compost!

Ah, yes, that’s what my sister-in-law calls a “beachmaster.” That is, while you’re away for the weekend on the boat, that zucchini hiding under a leaf in your garden will morph from a lovely, tender green vegetable into a baseball-like object you could use for self-defense.

But you hate to toss it; there’s so much… food… there. What to do?

One way to deal with an overgrown zucchini is to stuff it. Slice a giant zucchini in half lengthwise, take out the seeds and discard them, and parbake it cut-side down for 15 minutes with a little water in a 350ºF oven. You can either fill it with a mix of vegetables (some of the interior flesh mixed with onions and tomatoes is good, just be sure to add something like breadcrumbs to soak up excess moisture), bread or cooked grain stuffing, or a meatloaf/meatball mixture. Some cheddar or feta cheese is delicious, either in the stuffing or added about five minutes before everything completes baking.

For a simple, keep it in the refrigerator idea, make quick pickled zucchini. It makes for a refreshing snack on a hot afternoon.

You can also peel it, remove the seeds, and grate the flesh. Salt it and allow to drain for 15-30 minutes to remove excess water (this is a good idea even for smaller zucchini.) Then it’s ready to sauté in some olive oil and toss with herbs – basil’s classic, but tarragon’s good too, as is a parsley and minced garlic blend.

Use the grated flesh in soups, savory pancakes, stews, curries, and casseroles. Baked goods can use up a lot of the excess. Cornbread, zucchini bread, spice cake or even chocolate cake can hide a lot of zucchini or summer squash. Just follow any recipe carefully to either remove or retain excess moisture as needed, or the result may be soggy or dry. This week’s recipe for a mock apple pie is the most unusual way I’ve found to deal with a “beachmaster.” Do give it a try – it’s very good!

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