Farmers’ Market Ingredient of the Week: Zucchini
Posted August 12th, 2009 by Lindsey
Filed under: Farmers' Market, French Herb, Garlic Shallot, recipe, zucchini
One of my culinary obsessions (besides salt!) is the Farmers’ Market. The bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats inspires me to get in the kitchen and experiment with new ingredients. Vegetables that I ordinarily find less than appealing call out to me as they sit in large piles, overflowing the folding tables at our local Farmer’s Market. One of the vegetables that I ordinarily eschew on my plate is zucchini. Typically, zucchini is part of some mixed vegetable medley served by a restaurant that doesn’t particularly care about its vegetable side dish. This zucchini sits limply and blandly next to a delicious protein that has been lovingly crafted by a caring kitchen staff. Then the vegetables, as an afterthought, are steamed, seasoned with a few dried flakes of thyme and shipped off to my plate, to be pushed aside for the food I actually want to eat. The lack of seasoning combined with a mushy, watery texture…ugh, zucchini.
Yet somehow I forget all of this when I see the beautiful, green zucchini recently harvested by a favorite local farmer. Suddenly zucchini looks appetizing and enticing, and I must buy several of them because how can I live without zucchini?!?! Then I get home, unload my bags and survey the results. Wait, zucchini? I don’t even like zucchini. What was I thinking? Okay, deep breath. Time for a pep talk: you are a fairly competent home cook…it’s just a vegetable..you know how to make it delicious. Just because some restaurant steams it to death doesn’t mean I have to treat it with such disrespect.
With trepidation, I slice the zucchini into rounds and cut it into quarters. Tasting it raw, I realize this is a delicious, crunchy, slightly sweet vegetable that has suffered an injustice at the hands of the ubiquitous vegetable medley. Now, it is up to me to remedy this travesty and treat this lovely green squash with respect and admiration. I heat some olive oil with fresh, minced garlic and added about two teaspoons of Garlic Shallot Salt. I let a little of the salt dissolve in the oil, but there were still plenty of salt crystals remaining to add the crunch I desired. Once the oil reaches a nice temperature where the garlic was sautéing, but not burning, I add the zucchini and sautée it for about five minutes. I wanted to retain the crunchy texture, but still infuse it with the garlic, salty goodness. During the last minute of cooking, I added about two teaspoons of butter, a little more Garlic Shallot Salt for good measure and a few sprinkles of fresh thyme from my garden. The result? A glorious vegetable side dish with little resemblance to the mushy abomindation I knew as zucchini.
This zucchini tasted fresh and firm, with a little extra crunch from the Garlic Shallot Salt and a smooth, succulent mouth feel from the butter. I am converted. Bring on the zucchini! Since that first experiment, I have followed the same cooking method described above with French Herb Garden instead of Garlic Shallot Salt. Reserve all of the salt for finishing the dish rather than adding some at the beginning of the cooking process. The thyme, lavender, rosemary and black truffle add a tremendous earthiness to the zucchini. This side dish is delicious with simple broiled fish or grill pork chops. This cooking method has served me well during a summer of zucchini. I’m so happy there is still time left in the zucchini season; I have more salts to try!