The first blooms to open on the zucchini plants signal the arrival of summer. They are there to greet us every morning with a new profusion of sunny orange blossoms. These flowers we gather for frying, or for risotto or frittata. They have an essence all their own: the perfume of the squash plant; not floral, but richly vegetal.
By midsummer, zucchini elicits rolled eyes and ironic chuckles because of its relentless generosity. But those first fruits, plucked just at the point of perfect tenderness, before they swell with seeds and moisture, are truly among the highlights of the entire garden year. In our kitchen, it is a June ritual to combine them with the first basil in a creamy sauce for fusilli pasta.
We grow four varities of these summertime squashes. 1) Classic Italian zucchini with its lightly speckled and striped green skin. 2) Cousa squash, a pale green, teardrop shaped middle eastern type that is among the best tasting varieties and perfect for grilling. 3) Zephyr, a two-toned alternative to yellow squash with a green tip and nutty flavor. 4) Sunburst, a cheerful patty pan perfect for stuffing as canapes.
Summer squash can be kept in a plastic bag or container lined with a dry paper towel in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
- 1 pound zucchini (with blossoms, if possible)
- vegetable oil to come ½ inch up the side of a skillet
- 1 pound fusilli (or any short, stubby pasta)
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp flour, dissolved in 1/3 cup milk
- 2/3 cup roughly chopped basil
- 1 egg yolk, beaten lightly with a fork
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
First, put a large pot of water up to boil. Slice zucchini and blossoms into pieces 3 inches long and 1/8 inch thick. Heat the oil and fry the zucchini sticks in batches, without crowding the pan, until they are light brown, turning occasionally. As each batch is done, transfer to paper towels to drain. When the pasta water comes to a boil, add 2 Tbsp salt and stir in the pasta and allow to cook while you prepare the sauce. Melt half the butter and all the oil in a skillet. When the butter foams, turn the heat down and stir in the flour-and-milk mixture, a little at a time, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add the fried zucchini sticks, ¼ tsp salt and the basil and stir gently. Off the heat, swirl in the remaining butter, egg yolk and grated cheese. Strain the pasta when it is al dente and toss it with the sauce in a large serving bowl and serve immediately.
- 2 lbs small zucchini
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup of flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Pepper to taste
- Olive oil
Dice very young zucchini into small ¼ inch cubes. In a mixing bowl combine zucchini, egg, flour, salt & pepper. The pieces should be coated but no excess batter should collect at the bottom of the bowl. Pour a generous layer of olive oil into a cake pan or cookie sheet. Add the zucchini mixture and top with another generous drizzle of oil. Bake at 400 degrees until thoroughly golden brown and crispy.
The pizza dough for this recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan St. Bakery in New York City, who brought us the infamous No-Knead Bread recipe published in The New York Times in 2006. This recipe makes 2-4 pizza crusts, depending on the size, and we always do several different pizza toppings while we’ve got the oven hot.
- Pizza Dough
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp yeast
- 1 ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- olive oil
Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir in water with a wooden spoon until shaggy and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment in a warm spot (70 degrees) for at least 12 hours.
Turn out the dough on a generously floured surface and fold in thirds like a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold in thirds again.
Divide the dough in 4 pieces and place each in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic, to rise for 2 more hours. (You can also set the 4 balls to rise on a large, oiled cookie sheet and cover the whole tray with plastic or a floured towel.)
- 1 lb. small, firm zucchini
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup basil leaves (or pesto)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
- salt & pepper
Heat the oven to 500. Oil a baking sheet or pizza pan and press the dough into your desired shape, as thin as you can. Pour half the oil on the dough and spread around with your fingers.
Slice the zucchini lengthwise 1/8 inch thick and arrange on the oiled dough. Sprinkle the garlic, pine nuts and basil as evenly as possible. Drizzle with the rest of the oil, grated cheese and salt & pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until blistered and crusty.
Note: This simply doesn’t work with mature squashes that have a high water content.
- summer squash, cut into the shape of french fries
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup sparkling water or beer
- 1 tsp salt
- olive or canola oil for frying
Mix the flour, water, and salt together to form a thin batter. Heat about ¼ inch of oil in your favorite skillet. Coat the squash sticks in batter and add to the oil in batches, flipping as necessary to crisp all sides. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Serve as an appetizer with drinks.