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Zucchini Season 

Seeing freshly picked zucchini at the Farmers' Market gets me into a celebratory mood. I admit that I get excited about many kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables, each one for a different reason. With zucchini, it is a desire to make amends. I did not get along with zucchini during the first part of my life, so now I compensate for years of hostility by making them welcome in my kitchen and on my plate. Zucchini appeal to my aesthetic sense, especially those with the blossom still attached. They inspire me to prepare them into a variety of dishes.

All summer long, I buy zucchini by default every time I go to the Farmers' Market. I use them in some trusted recipes (like zucchini frittata), and when I get a new idea that involves them (like a zucchini and broccoli soup), I always have material at hand to realize it. So, here is my suggestion: this summer, let yourself be inspired by zucchini.

My favorite way of eating zucchini is al pomodoro (with tomatoes). Once my reconciliation with zucchini had occurred, I would ask my mother to prepare them for me this way. What I describe here is not exactly her recipe, but the three main ingredients: zucchini, tomatoes and onion are the same. Later on in the season, when locally grown tomatoes become available, I will use them in this dish: In the meantime, I am reaching out for canned organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes.

Zucchini frittata has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Up until recently, I had been making it the same way my mother did, with sliced zucchini. Then, one day, temporarily bored by the idea of slicing zucchini for a frittata, I tried grating the vegetable. The household liked the result, so that became my preferred way of preparing zucchini frittata.

Leftover frittata makes a nice stuffing for a panino, a simple combination of bread and one or two things to go with it. So my panino con la frittata is just that: two slices cut from a loaf (or a roll, like a ciabatta roll) with some frittata between them. If bread and frittata are good, nothing else is required -- just some excuse to take a panino break.

 

Zucchini and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 oz. onion, thinly sliced (with a mandolin or other tool)

several sprigs of fresh thyme

one 14.5 oz. can of organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 lb zucchini, sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch thick rounds (with a mandoline or other tool)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

 

Warm up the olive oil in a skillet or deep sauté pan.

Add onion and stir to coat.

Add thyme leaves (a teaspoon or so), cover, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring a few times.

Add tomatoes. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of water into empty can and swirl to get last bits.

Stir, cover, and cook on low for 5 minutes.

Add zucchini to pan, stir well, cover and cook until soft to your liking (20-25 minutes).

Stir a few times while cooking and add a bit of water if pan gets dry.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional).

 

Zucchini Frittata

Ingredients:

olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallot, or fresh onion

3/4 lb zucchini, grated using the extra-coarse side of grater

5 eggs

2 1/2 tablespoons water

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon mixed minced fresh herbs, for example marjoram and basil

 2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

Lightly oil a 9 1/2-inch skillet and warm up.

Add shallot and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Add zucchini and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring several times.

Cover and cook until soft (about 10 minutes).

If some zucchini have the blossom still attached:

Detach blossoms. Rinse one at a time delicately, removing the pistil, then slice lengthwise into strips.

Add to skillet 3 minutes after zucchini, stir and proceed.

(It's best to use blossoms the same day you buy them, as they are quite perishable.)

Break eggs in a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork until just blended.

Add water, salt and pepper, and whisk briefly.

Add cheese and herbs and again whisk briefly.

When zucchini is ready, pour eggs into skillet slowly.

Gently arrange zucchini with a fork, so it is evenly distributed.

Cook over low heat until eggs are set.

When edge is set, run a narrow spatula underneath and shake the frittata gently to ensure the bottom does not stick to the pan.

Place the skillet in heated oven for a couple of minutes, leaving door ajar.

Take skillet out of the oven (don't forget that the handle is hot), let rest for a couple of minutes, then slide frittata onto serving plate.

Cut into wedges and serve.

(A mixed green salad goes well with frittata.)

 

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Simona Carini

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