Hey, zucchini, will you forgive me? I picked on you recently for being so pushy and productive. I was, quite frankly, a little sick of you and your ubiquitous saffron yellow blossoms blanketing my entire garden.
But now that our summer of endless rain has turned my vegetable beds into a sea of soggy, slug-infested stalks and leaves, I’m rethinking our relationship. My orange cauliflower, red bok choi, and purple mustard greens have all melted into one big brown blob.
Yet my Raven zucchini vines soldier on, yielding greenish-black fruits that get their deep dark skin from their super-high antioxidant content. Raven is especially rich in lutein, a potent antioxidant believed to help preserve eyesight, and who knows? Maybe it’s helped open my eyes to the virtues of this overbearing, underappreciated vegetable.
I’ve incorporated my zucchinis into everything from soups to cakes this summer, with much success–my vegan chocolate zucchini cake was a particular hit (if only I can remember how I made it, I will gladly share the recipe.)
In fact, I was doing pretty well staying on top of the squash surplus. And then my friend Severine dropped by with an armload of squash from her farm, as a thank you to my tech genius husband who’d agreed to take a look at a couple of malingering Macs. Having more or less exhausted my arsenal of summer squash recipes, I emailed our friend and mentor Joan Gussow:
“Severine dropped by our house yesterday with two ailing laptops for Matt to fix, and an armful of squashthe one thing my garden already has plenty of. I wish I could think of something clever to do with it all. Any ideas?”
Joan graciously obliged by promptly sending me a recipe from a friend of hers who’s better known for her fiction than her recipes (and whose privacy must be respected, so I can only give her initials). Joan also threw in a terrific tip on how to freeze all your extra zucchini so that you can make this recipe throughout the winter:
“I have a fabulous recipe from BK which uses shredded zucchini, orzo and pesto. And in summer, when I’m up the kazoo with zucchini, I shred it, very briefly saute it in butter, then spread it out on a tray and freeze it. When frozen, I break it into pieces and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. That way, anytime you want B’s zucchini, you can just take it out, thaw it and drain and make the summer dish with your frozen pesto cubes and hot orzo.”
The recipe couldn’t be faster or easier, because you use the zucchini raw. The only cooking you have to do is to boil the water for the orzoa perfect dish for a hot summer day in a calamitous season that’s spared the zucchini and basil while the tomatoes have succumbed to blight and the greens have all gone brown.
Here’s my version of the recipe (I took the liberty of adding nuts to the pesto, because I just can’t bring myself to call it a pesto without them, and because I never get tired of nutsat least in my meals):
Kerry’s Variation on Joan Gussow’s Friend B’s Invisible Zucchini Recipe
Coarsely grate 4 zucchini (or one very large one!)
Salt and let sit 20 minutes to drain. Squeeze dry.
While you’re draining the zucchini, cook up 3/4 cup orzo till done but not overcooked&mash;about 6 or 7 minutes.
Combine in food processor:
2 big handfuls basil
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
Toss the zucchini, the orzo and the pesto together and add a half cup of grated parmesan cheese. Serve warm or room temperature.