Given reports of frost, I joined the ground squirrels’ ranks this weekend and salvaged any likely vegetable specimens from the garden.
While every gardener hopes for just a few more days of favorable weather, I figure you have to know when to cede your efforts to the elements. For me, it’s when some 15 good-sized, still-pink tomatoes sit unsuspectingly on the vine. Why gamble them against the possibility the garden could be spared?
So the tomatoes are now reposing in a newspaper-lined box indoors. The poblano, jalapeno and Anaheim chilies are in the refrigerator, just a brief stop before roasting.
The only veggies I left to chance are zucchini, by virtue of their ability to grow larger with sufficient moisture. And because the reward for cooler days are a bevy of blossoms, discouraged by hot temperatures a few weeks ago.
Best consumed immediately after picking, the flowers are on my harvest and cooking schedules for this evening. They’re delicious simply dredged in flour, egg and bread crumbs and shallow-fried in a skillet. If I find any sizable zucchini in the process, I’ve been waiting to try this recipe for preserving them with minimal effort.
Zucchini, of course, keep nicely in the refrigerator for about a week. If you have any on hand, here are a couple more ways to enjoy them.
3 to 3 1⁄2 pounds zucchinis (7 or 8 zucchinis), trimmed, then cut into planks (not rounds, which seem to cook up wetter) about 1⁄4 inch thick
10 stems flat-leaf parsley, minced (3 tablespoons; optional)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil, to cover (at least 1 cup)
Position an oven rack about 6 inches from broiler element. (If the zucchini are broiled too close to flame, they will burn. As it is, they will blister.) Preheat broiler. Line a large baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Have ready a 9-by-5-inch glass loaf pan/baking dish.
Use nonstick cooking oil spray to lightly grease 2 rimmed baking sheets. Arrange zucchini planks on sheets, spaced fairly close together. Broil one sheet at a time for 5 to 7 minutes or until planks have browned lightly. Then turn planks over and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until browned. (You can also grill zucchini.)
Transfer zucchini as they are done to paper-towel-lined baking sheet. (Some pieces will take longer than others, depending on your stove and thickness of planks.) Planks will release some juice. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
When all zucchini are broiled, use some planks to create a single layer in loaf pan or baking dish. Sprinkle with a little of the parsley, garlic and salt and black pepper to taste. Repeat to fill almost to top using all zucchini (pressing down gently as needed), then pour on enough oil to cover stack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate immediately.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably 1 day, to develop flavors and let oil get sludgy/thick. May be refrigerated for up to 10 days.
Makes 25 slices/planks.
— Recipe adapted by The Washington Post from “Well-Preserved,” by Eugenia Bone (Clarkson Potter, 2009).
1 pound ground lamb
1 red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan or other cheese
Heat oven to 350 F. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out flesh of each to make boats, leaving a 1⁄4-inch rim. Place zucchini flesh and the egg in a blender. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in the lamb, onion, thyme, salt and pepper.
Fill each boat with mixture; top with the cheese. Bake until lamb is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Makes 5 servings.
— Recipe from Vicki Westerhoff of St. Anne, Ill., courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.
Grilled Fall Vegetables With Balsamic Vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 eggplants, sliced 1⁄2 inch thick
3 zucchini, sliced 1⁄2 inch thick
2 green bell peppers, cut into rings
Mix together the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and pepper in a large bowl or food storage bag. Add the vegetables; marinate at least 1 hour.
Prepare a grill or grill pan for medium heat. Grill vegetables, brushing with some marinade, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter; drizzle with any remaining marinade, if desired. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes 8 servings.
— Recipe from the Chicago Tribune.