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Zucchini season is here

Cat Campbell/For The Madera Tribune

Zucchini shares the stage with smoked salmon and corn in this casserole.


This column’s inspiration came from stopping at a restaurant’s drive-thru in Oakhurst for a large order of fried zucchini sticks. We don’t live in Oakhurst, so we had to drive home for a half hour with the to-go bag on the car floor, which meant we also had to smell the tantalizing aroma of the zucchini sticks.

Not an easy thing to do when you’re hungry, but we know better than to try and eat while the car is moving along winding mountain curves. One time I tried doing that while driving, with an order of greasy hot wings on the seat beside me. I do not recommend doing that. for various reasons. You can imagine the mess and also the danger of driving with one hand. But back to zucchini.

I have never reached the point where I think I have too much of it. There are so many ways to fix it that it was hard to choose just a few for this writing. Here are the chosen ones.

Zucchini casserole

I have had this recipe for decades. At first, I thought it sounded a bit weird, but I liked it a lot.

1 1/2 pounds zucchini

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 cup instant rice *

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cups small curd cottage cheese

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

* I use 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked rice, as I don’t care for instant rice

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut zucchini into large slices about 3/4-inch thick. Cook zucchini in boiling water until barely tender (I use a collapsible steam basket and it works better than boiling.); set aside.

2. Cook ground beef with onion until meat is lightly browned. Add rice and seasonings. (If using dry instant rice, add 1 cup water to the mixture and let it sit for about 7 to 10 minutes.)

3. Place half the sliced zucchini in a greased 2 1/2-quart casserole dish. Cover with meat mixture, then cover meat with cottage cheese. Add remaining zucchini, then spread undiluted soup over all. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

4. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for about 40 minutes.

Turkey and zucchini meat loaf

This recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law years ago.

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey

1 cup coarsely grated zucchini

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup peach preserves (or apricot)

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, zucchini, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, egg, salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix well.

2. Pack mixture into a loaf pan or shape on a rimmed baking sheet into an 8-by-4-by-2-inch loaf.

3. Bake meat loaf in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. In a small bowl, stir preserves and mustard to blend. Spread glaze over top of meat loaf.

4. Return to oven and bake until thermometer inserted into center reaches 165 degrees, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer meat loaf to a platter. Cut crosswise into slices and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Aunt Rosemary’s stuffed zucchini

This was given to me by my dad’s sister and she got it from their mother (my Nana). I always used to parboil the zucchini before scooping out the centers, but it worked just fine leaving them raw.

For the sauce:

2 small cans tomato sauce

1 or more cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped basil leaves

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Small amount water

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In saucepan, allow all ingredients to simmer while you prepare the zucchini.

6 medium to large zucchini

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 beaten eggs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or more

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound ground meat (beef or a meat-loaf mixture)

1 teaspoon chopped parsley (I use more)

1 large clove garlic, or more, to taste

Fresh chopped pulp from zucchini

1. Cut the zucchini lengthwise in halves. Remove pulp (where the seeds are). leaving a shell about half an inch thick. Chop the pulp and save to add to the remaining ingredients.

2. Mix remaining ingredients and add the chopped pulp, mixing well again. Fill the zucchini halves.

3. Spoon some of the sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish, then add the stuffed zucchini. Spoon more sauce over the top of each one. If you have leftover sauce, save it to spread over zucchini while they are cooking, if needed.

4. Cover with foil and cook in oven at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the zucchini slices are tender and meat is done.

Cat’s smoked salmon, zucchini and corn casserole

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

6 cups frozen corn

2 small zucchini, diced

1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 cup butter

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound smoked salmon, in bite-sized pieces

1. In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the corn, zucchini, bell pepper and onion in the olive oil, just until vegetables begin to brown and are tender.

2. In large saucepan, mix butter and sugar. Heat until melted. Stir in the flour. Remove from heat and slowly stir in milk, eggs, baking powder and salt. Fold in vegetables. Carefully add smoked salmon pieces, blending well.

3. Pour into greased casserole dish (about 7-by-11 inches). Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and mixture is set.

Zucchini patties

2 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), well drained (squeezed with hands)

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 dashes black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients except for the olive oil.

2. In a medium to large frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Drop a heaping large spoonful of the zucchini mixture, cook until browned on both sides.

3. Drain on a paper towel lined plate for a couple of seconds then serve immediately. Makes 5 patties.



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