Summer’s slower pace welcomed the opportunity for me to reenergize and bring new produce ideas into my business.
Last year, I spent the day at the farmers market in Union Square, New York City. Coming from the suburban neighborhood of Far Rockaway, the energy of Manhattan always fuels my enthusiasm to innovate. That day in August was no different. The rainbow of peppers, from mild to fire alarm hot, the rich hues of different stone fruits, like peaches, plums, and cherries, and the unbelievable assortment of summer tomatoes invigorated me.
I kept my eyes open to new trends and fruits and vegetables that might have been hybrid. (My eyes were equally open to the swarms of bees by the fresh honey stalls, a scary sight indeed.)
Near the booth selling ostrich eggs, (I told you the city has it all,) I strayed into a stand almost hidden from view. This middle-aged couple was selling a variety of summer squash.
To clarify, butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and the like all belong to the squash family, but are classified as winter squash. This husband and wife claimed to offer an array of summer squashes that no one in the market could compete with.
They were right. There must have been fifteen different types. The basic: yellow, green, and grey to be sure. But included in the cornucopia were cucuzza, crookneck, bitter Indian and warty (use your imagination to picture how that looked.) The adorable minis were there too: soft-yellow patty pans and mini courgettes that resemble tiny green zucchinis. There were some funny looking ones like eight ball, flying saucer, and tiger squash.
Sadly, I took the Long Island railroad and two subway transfers to get to the city. So I had a weight limit to carry home spoils of the day. I did make sure to buy at least one of each to sample to take home.
In my kitchen I experimented: Sautéed some, baked others, and stuffed some stunning squash blossoms. It was fun, yet I felt strangely unsatisfied.
The next day I took a short stroll to my backyard vegetable garden to pick of few home grown, tried and true green squash. Besides the pride they gave me in having a partial hand in raising them from plant to vegetable, there is nothing like the taste of familiarity. As I looked at the eggplant in the next row, I got to thinking.
If eggplant parmigiana is such a hit in my house, how would zucchini taste, prepared in the same way?
The results were terrific. I always found the taste of eggplant a bit overpowering for the kids, so this was a nice, milder flavor. It definitely was more work because zucchinis are smaller and I had more slices to fry as I assembled my dish. It took a trip to Manhattan to make me realize, that all the innovation I was looking for was sitting in my backyard the whole time!
3-4 large green zucchini (or equivalent)
1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg beaten
Oil for frying
One jar of marinara sauce
16 oz. tub of cottage cheese
12 slices American cheese
16 oz bag of mixed cheddar and mozzarella cheese shredded
1. Cut off tops of zucchini and slice them lengthwise into 1 /2 inch slices. You should have enough slices to cover the area of a 9 b 13 inch pan 3 times. Lay zucchini on a sheet and sprinkle salt on them. Let sit till zucchini sweats. Pat dry.
2. Dip zucchini in egg and then bread crumbs. Repeat with remaining zucchini. Heat oil in frying pan and fry in batches. Zucchini should be slightly tender when done frying. About 2 minutes on each side. Don’t crowd the pan and change the oil midway.
3. Preheat oven 350. Pour 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan. Line pan with fried zucchini strips. Mix egg with cottage cheese. Pour mixture on top of zucchini lined pan. Line another layer of zucchini. Layer American cheese over zucchini. Line with another layer of zucchini. Pour another cup of marinara sauce on layer of zucchini. Sprinkle bag of mixed shredded cheese.
4. Bake covered for 45 minutes and uncovered till cheese on top is firm and not loose. Let pan sit for a few minutes till firm. Slice and enjoy!
For more delicious recipes using Zucchini in season try:
Eliahu and Chaia Frishman live in Far Rockaway, New York and run Fruit Platters and More, a home-based fruit preparation business where they make stunning fruit platters, heavenly sorbets, and delicious soups, dips, salads, and juices serving the Five Towns and Far Rockaway. Visit www.fruitplattersandmore.com