Zucchini and Summer Squash

Summer squash I found in my car upon arriving home from the CSA
Summer squash I found in my car upon arriving home from the CSA

Are they coming in like crazy, those zucchini and summer squash?  The farm manager at the CSA was sneaking extra squash into people’s bags.  I got home and found a Lil’ Slugger in my bag as well.  I don’t remember him putting it in there, so he must have had one of the apprentices distracting me!  Even the CSA manager has to revert to subversive measures to unload the zucchini!

The bottom line is that there is only so much zucchini bread we can eat, right?  And if we have grilled zucchini planks with dinner every night, what about all of the other great veggies (like the green beans!!)?

Here’s an easy preservation method for zucchini and summer squash:

I break out the food processor for this one, because I am generally talking about large quantities of summer squash!  If they are large, cut them lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  I usually use a grapefruit spoon for this.  (I feed the seeds to the chickens, so I don’t end up with zucchini growing in my compost pile!) Cut the zucchini so it will fit in the processor’s feed tube and grate the squash.

Summer squash cut lengthwise
Summer squash cut lengthwise

Line a cookie sheet with a flour-sack towel, or a piece of old cotton sheet (I have cut several to fit for this purpose).  Spread the shredded zucchini onto the lined cookie sheet.  Lightly salt the squash and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.  Roll it up in the cloth and squeeze out the excess water. Pack in zipper freezer bags, by 2 cups worth (Most of my recipes call for 2 C of grated zucchini).  Press the bags flat and lay flat in the freezer until they are frozen. When you want to make a delicious meal, like Faux Crab Cakes (below), just take out a bag of frozen zucchini shreds, and defrost them.

Faux Crab Cakes

  • 2 C shredded zucchini or summer squash
  • 2 C Bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T mayonnaise
  • 1 T of Seafood Seasoning Mix (see below)

Mix everything together and form into patties.  Fry in a pan, about 5 minutes a side, until golden.  Serve hot.  If you have any left, they are really great under a poached egg and covered in hollandaise sauce, or much simpler, on a bun with a lettuce leaf!

“Aged Inlet” Seafood Seasoning Mix

In a spice grinder (we have a dedicated old coffee grinder for this purpose), place the following:

  • 3 crushed bay leaves
  • 1 T celery seeds
  • 1 T dry mustard
  • 2 t ginger
  • 2 t smoked paprika (use regular if you don’t have smoked)
  • 10-15 scrapes of nutmeg (or 1/4 t ground)
  • 1 1/2 t whole allspice
  • 1 1/2 t whole cloves
  • 1/2 t mace
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 t black pappercorns
  • 1 t white peppercorns

Grind it all up until it is a powder.  This may take a little tapping and stirring between grinds.  Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Pesto: Home Made is Best-o

The past few weeks have been crazy.  Therefore sitting and “doing nothing,” as I was instructed to do on Mother’s Day morning, was a lovely indulgence.  I used to lie in bed and wait for breakfast to be brought on a tray, but to be honest it drove me crazy.  I am accustomed to getting up at 4:30 am during the week and find it difficult to sleep past 6 on the weekends.  Lying in bed until 8:30 was torture.

This year, I watched the film Fresh, and am considering it as an introductory film for the Politics of Food unit that I teach to my Contemporary Studies class.  If you are just starting on a Journey of Awareness, as Joel Salatin likes to call it, Fresh is a great place to start.  Afterwards, while eating a lovely breakfast cooked by the family I love, we watched cooking shows.

I find the popularity of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel very heartening.  Growing up, I watched the French Chef and the Galloping Gourmet (both on PBS) with my siblings and mother.  And I can remember playing French Chef with my sister.  My husband and I bonded over Ciao Italia, Julia and Jaques Cooking at Home, and America’s Test Kitchen.  To see the popularity of cooking shows grow to the point where they are no longer a PBS thing, but a two-network thing, makes me glad.  It means that people are interested in cooking, even if I don’t have much time to sit and watch these shows anymore.

One of the shows, however, gave me pause.  The challenge was to fix a day’s worth of meals based on what was in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.  OK.  I like that idea, since many of us find ourselves staring onto the refrigerator thinking “Hmmm…how am I going to feed everyone today with ketchup, mustard, relish and a half gallon of milk?”  But I found myself immediately removed.  It is a set-up of course, like Bear Grylls – he isn’t really alone in the wilderness, there is a film crew there.  So whatever this woman planned to make for her show, the ingredients would be in her pantry.  But I suspended my disbelief and tried to buy into the fiction.

She got a basket and started taking things off of the shelves in her pantry.  Really?  A basket?  And what was she putting in the basket?  All pre-made, jarred up industrial food.  When she snuggled in the jar of pesto I was disheartened.  All of her talk about making things at home, and preparing healthy meals for her family kind of flew out the window.

The whole show felt like such a sham!  It felt as if it was doing more to support dependence upon the industrial food system, than encouraging people to make things themselves.  Do I grow my own garlic? Well, no, but I use cloves of garlic and leaves from homegrown basil and put it in the blender and make my own pesto.  It really isn’t very challenging.  And it freezes quite nicely in ice-cube trays, which measure out to be 2 tablespoons of pesto.  I would have been much more impressed with this program if the hostess would have pulled the pesto out of her freezer.

In this way, even these cooking shows that nominally claim to promote kitchen survival skills, slinging the “make it yourself” mantra, are modeling industrial food dependence, using ingredients like pancake mix, canned or powdered soup mixes, and commercially prepared jars of pesto.  The media has the public caught in an interesting conundrum: On the one hand, viewers see whole-foods being promoted by the “Health Industry,” and on the other hand, Industrial Food is showing us pre-packaged, pre-made foods that if used to prepare a meal at home have become synonymous with “home-made.” Which they aren’t.  Home-cooked, yes.  Homemade, no.

Another interesting aspect of this show was that as the woman was putting her pantry ingredients in her basket, she was turning everything so the brand name was away from the camera.  That’s normal.  However, this exposed the back of the jars and bags, which exposed the ingredients lists, most of which were rather long.

Making pesto isn’t exactly rocket-science.  Why pay $6.95 for a six-ounce jar of pesto when you can make a gallon of it for the same price?  I know the reasons: I don’t know how; I don’t have time; It’s just easier to pop open a jar.

I can’t really argue with the last reason.  It is easier to pop open a jar.  But not knowing how?  Not with the internet at your disposal!  You can find a recipe for anything!  And not having time?  Pesto takes about 10 or 15 minutes.  Spend a little less time on Facebook and make some pesto to have in your freezer.

You can do this.  One small step for you; one giant step away from Industrial Food.

Pesto

  • one small head of garlic, separated, peeled and chopped
  • one large bunch fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (or almonds)
  • Olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • salt and papper to taste
  1. In a blender or food processor, add all of the ingredients except the olive oil.
  2. Pulse the blender a few times.
  3. Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse a few more times.  If the ingredients are starting to grind, let the processor run until the ingredients are a paste. If the ingredients are NOT starting to grind, add a little more olive oil.  Keep adding the olive oil a little at a time until the ingredients are grinding.
  4. When it has all become a nice paste, mix in salt and pepper.
  5. Use some now and freeze some for later:  Put unused pesto in ice-cube trays and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 24 hours.  Pop the pesto out of the trays and store in the freezer in a plastic freezer bag.  Each pesto cube equals 2 Tablespoons of pesto (2 cubes is a 1/4 cup).

We love this to dress sauteed potatoes and green beans.