Post 263

Zucchini Cuisini: A Recipe for August

Mary was the one who told me about zucchini pizzas. It’s a casual recipe that can serve as a solution for the garden zucchinis that grew too big while you had your back turned, conscientiously coiling up the hose.

Big zucchinis aren’t something that gardeners boast about. You see, the best zucchinis are small. They are tender and cooperative.

Big zucchinis have an attitude.

You haul them in and they land on your countertop with a bowling-ball thud. They say, “Heh.”

I’ll admit that I did have one of those. That big guy was the first one I brought in. Sliced lengthwise, he was salted and put into the oven for a good long while. Then I took him out, added a meat and tomato sauce and lots of cheese. Cheese covers a multitude of sins, especially when melted.

So I subdued him and it was good.

I could have made zucchini pizzas. That’s where you slice the raw zucchini and treat each disc like a pizza crust, decorating it with pasta sauce, pepperoni and/or mushrooms. You always add cheese. Put it in the oven for a few minutes to soften the zucchini and melt the cheese and you’ve got a pretty tasty snack (or meal, depending on how many you have).

I didn’t make them because I wanted to make a few other things instead. After I had the gigantic zucchini out of the way, I went back to the garden to collect some more and made a Korean recipe called “Ehoba Pak Jon” (or “Hobak Jeon” or “Jun”), as well as zucchini bread and a Turkish recipe. I knew that my August recipe would involve zucchini, but I wasn’t sure which one to pick. (Does that count as a pun?) At one point, I toyed with giving you all three recipes, but things are always more interesting when you’re forced to choose.

Life is about choices, of course. Limits, of course.

So today I made “Peynirli Kabak” and that’s what I offer for August. The cookbook is called Mediterranean Cooking and it’s written by Paula Wolfert. It’s easy, but you need to be intentional about it, because doing it right means stopping at the grocery store to get the two cheeses involved: feta and Gruyère. The cheeses, tangy and flavourful, are the star in this recipe. The zucchini, if tender and appropriately small, will be soft and a pleasant background. I didn’t make the paprika butter, but if you want to give it a try, then I won’t stop you.

As for the amount of time needed under the broiler, I kept opening the oven door to check on it, and I think it worked out to about 6 minutes in total under the broiler.

Peynirli Kabak
Zucchini stuffed with cheese (Turkey)

You can prepare parts of this refined first course the day before, but don’t fill the shells until ready to set under the broiler to brown.

Serves 8 as a first course

4 zucchini, each about 4 1/2 inches long
1 cup feta cheese, rinsed, drained and crumbled
1/3 cup of Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
Bread crumbs
1 tablespoon paprika butter (see note)

1.Wash the zucchini. Drop into boiling salted water and cook at the simmer for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and allow to cool.

2.Mix the cheeses with the flour, dill, garlic, pepper, and very little salt. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Arrange cut side up in a buttered, 9 by 12-inch ovenproof serving dish. Sprinkle the shells with pepper and very little salt. Fill with the cheese mixture. Dust lightly with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Glaze under a hot broiler until the cheese is sizzling. Dribble a tablespoon of paprika butter on top. Serve hot.

Note: To make paprika butter, melt 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon sharp paprika. Spoon off the clear red-hued butter and discard the butter sediment and the paprika.

Oh, it’s so good.

“Serves 8,” it says.

Ha ha ha.

. . . not if I get there first.