IS IT POSSIBLE to plant the right amount of zucchini? I planted 3 plants. THREE. I skipped any other summer squash altogether. I congratulated myself on my behavior: sober, sensible, even restrained. I had learned, I thought, from my elders, from my own past experiences…
I have eight million zucchinis, give or take, all over the kitchen. Some, the ones I forgot to pick and left on the plant for, you know, an extra day, are as big as my arm. (My arms are not small.) What the hell is a waste-phobic cook and would-be gardener to do? I am trying not to be crabby; after all, this is an experience of bounty, not deprivation (even if it is, occasionally, one of aggravation.) My cache of ladies’ auxiliary cookbooks wasn’t much help: unlike Mae Reed Porter of Kansas City, MO, I do not feel the need to resort to name-calling; I do not find cooked zucchini “flabby” (at least not the way I cook it, ahem) though I do on occasion, grow weary of the same-old, same-old rotation of sautéed, grilled, sautéed some more. Also unlike Mrs. Porter, I am not sure my personal solution lies in curry-flavored mayo.
But a girl (and her family) have to eat while busy doing all that alchemy.
This is a delicious, flexible vegetarian (sorry, neither vegan nor gluten free) recipe that is a great way to use up a bunch of squash, fast.
It uses a technique that I rely on for cooking summer squash and zucchini: julienning, salting, rinsing and draining. I prefer both the flavor and texture of squash prepared this way; I eat it often as a pasta substitute: sautéed quickly in a tiny bit of olive oil, then tossed with a bit of any kind of pesto. Heaven.
But for something more substantial, this savory bread pudding is perfect: a little decadent, thanks to the cheesy-dairyness, comforting thanks to the custard. And the recipe is adaptable, forgiving. The amounts below work, but you can meddle with it: use more or less squash and bread, for example.
You can even make a squash and rice gratin (Ta da! Gluten free!) Just make sure you have enough liquid to soak into the bread (or rice) and that the liquid is eggy enough (not too milky) to bind and set instead of just turning soggy. (In other words–if you up your quantities a lot, you may need to add another egg or two–use your judgment.)
Summer Squash Bread Pudding
8 cups zucchini or other summer squash, grated on the large holes of a box grater or food processor, or (my preference) julienned (on a mandoline) (about 4 medium squash)
2 T kosher salt
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup milk or cream
4 oz ricotta or farmer’s cheese (I like to use wonderful local-to-me farmer’s cheese from the Amazing Real Live Food Co.)
1 cup grated gruyere, cheddar or other firm cheese (I like to use the local-to-me Alpine cheese from Hawthorne Valley Farm)
freshly ground black pepper
dried or fresh herbs (optional)
Put half the julienned squash in a colander in the sink, and sprinkle with half the salt. Put the rest of the squash in the colander, and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Leave to drain in the sink for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile–preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Combine eggs, milk or cream and cheeses in a large bowl. Add a grind or two of freshly ground pepper, and, if you like, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme or a tablespoon of fresh herbs of your choice (basil is lovely.) Stir gently to combine, fold in the bread cubes, and leave to soak all together.
Return to the squash. Rinse it thoroughly under running water and then squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Squeeze some more. You won’t get it dry, but you want it as firm and un-soaking-wet as possible. Sometimes I give it a whirl in a salad spinner for good measure. Squeeze one last time with paper or clean cloth towels to get the last of the possible-to-remove moisture out.
Stir the squash into the egg mixture, gently, and turn all into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve hot, warm or cold for dinner, lunch or brunch.
But wait, you say! I thought this week’s Fest was cukes and zukes? Indeed, you’re right. My current cuke-y faves: Arthur Schwarz’s fermented dill pickles, courtesy of David Lebovitz, and a crowd-pleaser, never-fail recipe for amazing Vietnamese-influenced summer rolls. Dive in!
HOW YOU CAN JOIN IN SUMMER FEST:
So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting today, for the next five Wednesdays, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.
Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.
Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites).
THE 2010 SCHEDULE:
• Wednesday, July 28: That’s today. CUKES ‘N ZUKES, baby.
• Wednesday, August 4: CORN. Not corny. Sweet…
• Wednesday, August 11: HERBS, GREENS & GREEN BEANS. That’s a whole lot of chlorophyll to play with.
• Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT. I said “stone”, not “stoned”.
• Wednesday, August 25: TOMATOES. Assuming, unlike last summer, we are blight-free. Fingers and toes all crossed.
And in case I forget what week it is, won’t somebody remind me on Twitter? Thanks. We’ll be talking it up there, too.
That’s how a Summer Fest works.
Who’s coming to this party?
Glad you asked. An incredible line up of bloggers-extraordinaire:
- Cooking Channel TV delves into zucchini’s versatility.
- The Food2 blog looks at zucchini appetizers.
- Food Network Dish is all about Paula Deen’s zucchini bread.
- Food Network’s HealthyEats talks cuke salad and lighter cuke/zuke ideas.
- Diane and Todd/ of White on Rice Couple are all over stuffed cucumbers with prosciutto and feta.
- Cate at Sweetnicks is obsessed with cucumber wraps.
- Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste says it’s nonstop cucumber and sesame salad.
- Gilded Fork is all about zukes and cukes, and Chef Mark Tafoya features cucumber mint soup.
- Caroline at The Wright Recipes has cucumber salad galore ready, with lemon and poppy seeds. Oh, and marinated summer squash salad, too.
- In San Diego, Caron is making cucumber and radish confetti soup.
- Tigress in a Jam is all about putting things up, or as she says: 50 Ways With Cucurbits.
- Alana will feature cucumber mint sorbet on Eating From the Ground Up.
- Expecting great, late-breaking news from Nicole at PinchMySalt and Tara at Tea and Cookies and Shauna at Gluten Free Girl and Alice Q Foodie.
More coming soon as everybody files their Week 1 posts! Now get cooking!