People living in Central and South America have been eating squash for several thousand years. When European explorers first came to the Americas, they discovered that squash was one of the three major food sources eaten by Native Americans. A Three Sisters Garden is an example of a Native Garden, containing squash, beans and corn grown as planting companions. This type of garden serves as a means to help all the vegetables do their best. Corn gets plenty of sun, beans climb the corn, and both shade the squash.
However, the green squash we know as zucchini is a variety of summer squash first developed near Milan, Italy in the latter part of the 19th century. Zucca is the Italian name for pumpkin or squash. And the name for zucchini comes from the Italian word zucchino, meaning little squash. As we gardeners know, zucchini can be a lot more than a “little” squash. Those of you who’ve had baseball bat sized ones growing and growing, etc., know what I mean.
Remember, ratatouille isn’t the only recipe for using up zucchinis. You can add zucchini to your ground beef taco mixture, to pasta sauce or Sloppy Joes. It’s great in soups and stews.
My favorite uncomplicated way to eat zucchini when it’s small is steamed then dressed in melted butter, freshly grated nutmeg, white pepper and a bit of salt. But the ways of zucchini are endless. It’s also amazing in Wholewheat Zucchini Pancakes, one of my cookbook recipes, recently posted in the Tillamook County Pioneer.
And here are some simple, straightforward ways to use this summer treasure.
Green Chile Calabacitas
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil (or combination of both)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
2 large zucchini or comparable yellow summer squash cut in 1-½ inch cubes (about 4 to 5 cups cubed – large seeds removed)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 ears fresh corn, kernels scraped from cobs into a bowl OR use fresh frozen corn, defrosted
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup roasted green chile (stems removed)
Optional: 1 ½ cups Tillamook sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Heat oil/butter in a large saucepan or large high-sided frying pan. Add the onions and cook about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring often. Add the cubed squash, season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Gently stir a few times while cooking. Don’t overcook the squash or it will be mushy. Add the corn and sliced garlic. Cook another 10 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the green chile and stir again to mix. Turn the heat to low; cover and let cook another 10 minutes to heat through. If using, sprinkle the cheese over all while it’s hot so the cheese melts over the calabacitas. Serve as a side with enchiladas or rice or use as a filling in lieu of meat. Serves 4
Mock Green Pea Soup
This is a must try, and so easy. You’ll be amazed at how tasty this thrifty, nutritious soup can be. It’s perfect for summer days (when we simply don’t know what else to do with all that zucchini) and winter nights when we discover 6 bags of shredded zucchini in the freezer. The zucchini puree gives this soup delicate flavor, and the evaporated milk gives it an ultra-creamy texture reminiscent of either cream of pea soup or asparagus bisque. It’s pure comfort food. Serve it cold in summer and warm in winter. This recipe makes about 3 bowls of soup. So, I always double it, to use up a lot of zucchinis. This soup is perfect for those giant zucchinis as long as the skin is pretty soft and easy to cut. Made my recent soup with a 14” zuke and shredded another huge one for future soups, pancakes, breads, and casseroles.
3-4 cups sliced zucchini (with skin on) *
2 Tablespoons instant (freeze dried) minced onion OR 2 Tablespoons instant minced shallots OR 1 teaspoon onion powder
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley OR 1-2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 cube vegetable bullion OR 1 cube chicken bouillon
½ cup water
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
12 ounces evaporated milk (NOT condensed) OR fat free evaporated milk OR unsweetened plant-based milk OR whole milk
2 Tablespoons butter OR plant butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour OR 2 Tablespoons gluten free flour OR corn starch
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
12 ounces warm water OR vegetable broth
Sour Cream OR plain Greek Yogurt, optional
In an appropriately sized saucepan, combine zucchini, water, onion, parsley, bouillon cube ¼ teaspoon salt and thyme. Cook the zucchini mixture on a stovetop burner, over medium heat, until zucchini is very tender and only a small amount of water is remaining, about 15 minutes Remove the pot from heat and allow mixture to cool for a few minutes. When the zucchini mixture has somewhat cooled, transfer it to a blender**. Blend well. Return the zucchini mixture to the soup pot. Set aside.
Heat a medium saucepan at medium heat on a stovetop burner. Melt the butter for the white sauce. When the butter is melted, whisk in the flour ½ teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper, stirring for a couple of minutes. Slowly add the milk while continuing to whisk. The white sauce will gradually thicken as the evaporated milk heats and absorbs the flour and butter. When the white sauce is smooth and thickened, stir it into in the zucchini puree. Thin the soup by whisking in a little warm water. At this point, warm the soup to eat hot, but don’t allow it to boil. Or chill the soup and eat it cold. If desired, top the soup with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of paprika. Serves 4
*If using frozen zucchini, defrost first.
** If using an immersion blender, blend the zucchini mixture after the white sauce has been added to the soup pot.
To thin the soup further (or stretch it) slowly stir in up to 2 cups additional warmed water, broth, or milk.
Adapted from original: Virg & Jo Lemley/Wilderness House
Mock Green Pea Soup, Wholewheat Zucchini Pancakes and 100 more thrifty, eclectic recipes are compiled in my book “Thrifty Comfort Cooking for Challenging Times” by Kitchen Maven and available for purchase online through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com
All author royalties go directly to the Oregon Food Bank to assist our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. When you purchase this great book as a gift for yourself, you’ll be donating to others.