Saturday, December 7, 2013
By ANNE MAHLE
If there ever was a time when getting dinner on the table in 10 minutes or less without picking up the phone, spinning through a drive-thru or cracking open a jar, the end of summer would be it.
The vegetables of summer are at their peak, and those of fall are just emerging. The grill is steps away, and even if it's less appealing than it was at the beginning of the summer, the really hot days are behind us, so turning on the stove top doesn't immediately turn the kitchen into a sauna.
Until that first frost, the zucchini and summer squash will be plentiful. If you can catch the plants early by walking out every or every other day to harvest, then you may not be overrun with bat-sized vegetables that you can't begin to use up. And if you are overrun, no worries; there are a number of uses for grated zucchini that can make a quick meal as well.
Because everything is so fresh right now, following a recipe is, while I know needful for some, not as necessary as it is in winter, when soups and stews and sauces abound.
Furthermore, if you are moving toward two vegetables, rather than just one, on your plate, this is the perfect time of year for that.
Here are a few suggestions for using up the plenty from our gardens, farmers markets and CSA's, and for getting one more vegetable on the plate.
Forgo the starch and use greens instead. Typically we would have beans and, say, rice, or grilled veggies over pasta. Instead, why not try these combinations:
• Black beans with all of the accompaniments -- salsa, avocado slices, cilantro, cheese, etc. -- over a bed of spinach, either cooked or not. Use canned black beans for a quick meal. Saute onions and peppers in oil. Add chipotle flakes or chili powder and cumin, and then add the beans. Saute until the beans are heated through.
• Grilled veggies and sausage over sauteed garlic kale. Toss large-cut veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill with sausage. Meantime, saute garlic in oil. Add kale, salt and pepper and saute. Remove while still bright green.
• Pan-seared chicken slices with tamari and sesame oil on a bed of mustard greens with cilantro and coriander. Sear chicken in olive oil. Add tamari, sesame oil and sriaccha or other hot sauce. For the greens add oil and coriander to the pan for 30 seconds, add the greens, salt and pepper and then cilantro at the end.
• Ginger and scallion grilled pork over soy, sesame cabbage slaw. Marinate pork tenderloin with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey and minced scallions. Grill, rest and slice. Toss thinly sliced red and/or green cabbage with tamari, sesame oil, lime juice and sesame seeds.
• Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini, if, as you read, they're bursting out of the garden, or a well-meaning neighbor has, while you weren't looking, left a bag on your stoop. Once the seeds become big and loose on the inside of the squash and the skin is tough, it's time to get out the grater. There are still lots of uses before it either becomes compost or chicken food. Here are a few suggestions:
• Rice cakes. Combine cooked rice, grated zucchini, salt and pepper and enough flour and egg so it binds well together to form a ball. Press into balls with your hands and then press flat in a hot, well-oiled skillet. Serve with salsa or aioli. Variations on this could include adding salmon, chicken, herbs and spices.
• Zucchini cakes. Omit the rice in the above recipe and add a little more flour or bread crumbs to bind the mix. Same variations apply.
• Zucchini pancakes. To a pancake recipe or waffle recipe, add grated zucchini, nutmeg and cinnamon. Maybe lemon or citrus zest, pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips if you are feeling adventurous.
• Zucchini bread/cake. To your favorite recipe, add chocolate chips, pistachios, almonds and almond extract, citrus zest or black pepper. Replacing carrots in your favorite carrot cake recipe with grated zucchini is another option.
• Zucchini crust for pizza or frittata. Same rules apply as for making zucchini cakes -- add enough flour and egg to get the mix to bind together. Add fresh herbs to the pizza crust or grated cheddar or goat cheese to the frittata.
However an extra vegetable makes it to your table, savor the freshness of every bite. It won't be very long before we are yearning for those irreplaceable tastes of things just picked from the garden. Happy creating and eating to you all.
Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of "At Home, At Sea." She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org