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THE FRONT BURNER

FLS reporter Katie Thisdell serves up news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.

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Be ready for the attack of the giant zucchini

When she planted zucchini starts in early April, Launarene Morgan wasn’t sure what she’d end up with.

Weeks of unseasonably cold weather left them looking weak, and friends told her not to get her hopes up for cartloads of the green summer squash come warmer weather.

But last week, as she and her husband inspected the garden behind their Stafford County home, Morgan found something unexpected, especially for so early in the season.

Read on for three zucchini recipes.

She reached down and pulled up a zucchini that weighed in at 5 pounds, 9 ounces and measured 17 and a half inches.

As a former nurse in the maternity ward at Mary Washington Hospital, Morgan had seen stats like that before.

“I was like, ‘That is as big as a baby,’” she said.

Indeed, the big squash was her pride and joy for most of the week, as she toted it around town showing it to the folks at her doctor’s office, her neighbors, her pastor, friends and anyone else who wanted to take a gander.

The only problem?

She wasn’t quite sure what to do with it once she got it into her kitchen.

Zucchini plants are notoriously prolific.

Writer Barbara Kingsolver makes light of their overabundance in her bestseller, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.”

After weeks of forcing all of her family’s dinner guests to eat zucchini, then take some home with them, Kingsolver writes, “Our gardening friends knew enough to slam the door if they saw a heavy sack approaching.”

How to put the bounty to use?

The best zucchini for eating raw or sautéing with little processing are the smaller ones. These tend to be more tender and more flavorful. Once zucchini start approaching baseball-bat size, they tend to have a lot of seeds, and perhaps not quite as pleasant a texture.

But they are still great for many kitchen uses.

One of the most common solutions is zucchini bread, a quickbread that is traditionally seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and similar spices. There’s no need to put limits on where you can go with this bread, though. Two of my favorites are a chocolate variety and a savory version.

In her book, Kingsolver writes of her daughter, Camille’s recipe for chocolate-chip zucchini cookies. The vegetable-laden treats were good enough to stand the test of a children’s birthday party.

When we put news of Morgan’s garden find on the Front Burner food blog on Fredericksburg.com, one reader had a different suggestion: thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise and use the slices as you would lasagna noodles in a casserole dish.

After she’d taken her garden prize around to everyone she could think of, Morgan got practical. She took a girlfriend’s advice and shredded the whole squash, bagged it up in measured-out quantities and put it away in the freezer.

That should keep her in zucchini bread through the winter, around the time when she should be perusing seed catalogs to grow next season’s giant squash.

Chocolate-Chip Zucchini cookies

Makes 2 dozen

1 egg, beaten

½ cup butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup finely shredded zucchini

12 ounces chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine egg, butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine both flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend into the liquid mixture.

Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cup shredded raw zucchini

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. coffee liqueur (optional)

3 oz. good quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice together in a bowl. In another bowl, combine oil, sugars, eggs, vanilla and coffee liqueur. Mix vigorously for about 2 minutes until well blended. Mix in zucchini. Mix in flour mixture and stir until combined, but do not overmix. Pour batter into pan and bake 55 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 to 15 minutes and remove from pan. Continue to cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from Eatwell Farm

Savory Zucchini Bread with Feta

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated, squeezed and drained

2 roasted red peppers, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

1. Mix zucchini, roasted red pepper, garlic, feta, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and eggs in a large bowl.

2. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and oregano in a bowl.

3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

4. Pour the batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.

5. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Recipe from closetcooking.com

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/frontburner/2011/06/22/724/

  • Jerkules

    Are there any movie deals in the works? I could easily see this as a rom-com starring Owen Wilson as the zucchini and Jennifer Aniston as the nurse who grows to love him.

  • Robin

    Here a recipe fresh from my zucchini. Slice lengthwise and sautee until brown in olive oil. Use the fried zucchini slices instead of lasagna noodles and layer, meat sauce, zuke,ricotta mix, top with zucchini then drizzle remainder of the meat sauce and a heaping helping of shredded mozarella and parmsean cheese.(just use your favorite lasagna recipe) Nuke 45 mins at level 50 or baked in oven 45 mins at 350, or until cheese is melted and brown. Talk about good!

  • Area Man

    Once again, The Free Lance Star proves its mettle as a hard-hitting, serious news organization! Come on. Would it hurt to actually cover some real stories in Stafford? For instance, why is there a building across the street from the court house that is partially collapsed and covered in graffitti for the past 10 years? Save this vegetable thriller for the food section.

  • Area woman

    Hey, Area Man,
    This IS the food section. It’s a food blog. Why don’t you take your cranky self over to the Stafford County blog to complain?

  • Area Man

    That’s wonderful. Then tell me why this story is listed in the headline section of the main page?! And no need to attack me personally. I am just hoping this paper will some day regain its relevance. I miss the days when it actually reported on viable news stories.

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