A modern heritage foodstead
An everlasting post-traumatic stress symptom of my early jobs in bustling restaurants is this recurring dream:
I am the only server on duty in a restaurant with many rooms on many levels. The hostess seats a party and I take their drink order. Then she seats another party and I take their drink order, then another, and another and another….
I’m rushing to greet each table as they are seated, up and down and all over this gi-normous, ever-expanding restaurant and I can only collect the drink orders, never fill them and get back to the tables to get the food orders…
What’s my dream got to do with anything? Zucchini, that’s what.
The zucchini keeps coming, and coming and coming! Those fertile plants just keep popping out beautiful, shiny, perfectly formed fruit and I just can’t do them justice. I go out, greet them, take their drink order and leave them to pile up on the table, neglected and thirsty.
I’ve already frozen tons to use in the winter (bulky in the freezer), I’ve made ratatouille for now and later, I’ve eaten them fresh a bunch of ways, made zucchini bread and still it just piles up.
Note to self: next year two zucchini plants is plenty! Don’t let me sound ungrateful or anything, zucchini was my first reassuring gardening success this year, so it’s earned a special place in my heart.
I’ve been seeking ways that excite me to put up the rest of this harvest, and everything’s just been leaving me kind of uninspired. I don’t really enjoy zucchini pickles, relish or chutney, so to go through the steamy hassle of putting them up just so they can hang out in my basement doesn’t do much to motivate me.
One thing I’m learning is to pace myself for the keystone projects that keep my kitchen running. I don’t want to waste energy, ingredients and jar space on stuff I don’t eat and am not excited to gift.
Then I remembered Eugenia Bone. Why don’t I have a cool name like Eugenia Bone I ask? Oh well, I’ll get over it. Eugenia’s book Well Preserved is a good one. I originally bought it for the home canned tuna recipe that I still have not tried but get excited about every time I read it. I love canned tuna. Meow.
Somehow when I first read the book, this unassuming recipe for zucchini slipped my memory. But today, this elegant recipe gave me my desperately needed eureka moment.
As things happen, I am also buried in banana peppers and planned to make Pam Corbin’s recipe for peppers in oil that was such a hit two years ago. If you’ve been following this blog for any time, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. Yes, Pam Corbin. Again. She really should be paying me or something…
See how ideas germinate in serendipitous ways? Eugenia’s recipe is good, but marry it to Pam’s? Even better. Pam’s has the added step of resting the grilled veggies in a diluted vinegar bath before preserving in oil & lemon juice that gives it just a perfect bite of extra acid and tang.
And while the veggies are good, the oil is valuable in its own right – as the veggies, garlic & peppercorns age, their oil bath not only preserves the veggies, it develops a delicate, smoky flavor and is delicious on pasta, bread, salad dressings and drizzled over grains.
That I am a kitchen gambler I don’t deny: here’s the disclaimer. This recipe is my own hybrid – click here to check it out. I made it yesterday and since it’s a recipe with a goal of aging, I don’t know for certain how the zucchini will hold up to the test of time.
The peppers I made this way kept beautifully, way beyond the time the National Center for Food Preservation would advise you is safe. I tend to be a bit bold that way. Since the recipe is an adaptation from one intended for asparagus, zucchini isn’t a far stretch, is it?
Zucchini is more tender and succulent than either peppers or asparagus, but I believe that by slicing the planks thick enough to stay firm yet not too thick to soften they will retain their limp shape for several months. A little under ¼” feels just about right. Only time will tell.
Eugenia Bone claims the oil preserved zucchini is good for 10 days in the refrigerator, Pam Corbin puts hers in sterilized jars and keeps the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 4 months. Once opened, Pam recommends the jars be kept in the fridge, making sure the vegetables are completely covered with oil and used within 6 weeks.
You can be sure I’ll be pushing the envelope. That being said, I’m keeping mine in the fridge.
And what will I make with my soft, oily, delicately flavored zucchini planks? This is where Eugenia really grabbed me. Pasta with preserved zucchini and tomatoes anyone? How about some shrimp and preserved zucchini salad? Wow. Maybe a bruschetta of chopped preserved zucchini spooned onto toasted baguette?
But for me? This is the one that got my full attention: Mozzarella chunks wrapped with preserved zucchini and sprinkled with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Fresh basil leaves optional.
Pass the crusty bread please….
What awesome things did you make with your zucchini bounty this year?