Dad spent the first decade of his life on a farm north of Toronto. When he reignited his passion for growing food in a large garden in the backyard of our family home in the early 1980s, he wasn’t content to grow just any produce. He grew varieties that few had heard of at the time including Swiss chard, kale and super-size zucchini.
Mom contributed to my culinary development by letting me experiment in the kitchen. Armed with vintage cookbooks written by church groups and community organizations as fundraisers, I discovered oven-baked zucchini casseroles, zucchini cake and zucchini bread.
After many zucchini-free summers, I planted some in my own garden for the first time last year. This year, a single zucchini plant has taken over. So far, we have picked 16 of them. I prefer to pick when they are smaller and sweeter though they can grow to a megasize with large seeds and pulpy fibre.
Given the bumper crop, I decided I best get back into the kitchen. In one week, I made grilled zucchini, butter chicken with zucchini, two zucchini soups and four zucchini loaves. In addition to online recipes, I still have those vintage cookbooks. Here are my current favourite savory and sweet z concoctions.
Cream of Zucchini Soup
If you are experimenting yourself, keep in mind that zucchini has a delicate flavour. It takes on the flavours with which it is combined. For savory dishes think lemon, herbs and chives. For soup, I started with a recipe for cream of zucchini soup I found online. Disappointingly, it was rather watery. I found adding a medium peeled and chopped potato with the zucchini helped boost texture and consistency. I like this recipe best. Onions have been recalled here so I substituted chives and added a bit of thyme.
Zucchini means little pumpkins in Italian. I like the pumpkin spice route. I started with a recipe from 1984 that calls for white sugar, a meager amount of cinnamon and 1 tsp grated lemon rind. I liked the hint of lemon but otherwise, it was pretty bland. This remake includes pumpkin spices and brown sugar. If you really like spices, you can add a bit more cinnamon and cloves.
- 1 cup canola oil
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 2 cups raw grated zucchini
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- ¼ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Combine oil, eggs, zucchini, brown sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine flour, soda, baking power, spices and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Add walnuts and/or coconut if desired. Spoon mixture into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
I hope that your garden is productive this year or that you can enjoy some wonderful local produce in new and interesting ways. If you don’t have time to experiment now, keep in mind that grated zucchini freezes well (strain before use) as does zucchini bread.