Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zucchini and Summer Squash Experiments

We've started to receive summer squash and zucchini in our CSA basket and I've been trying to find something to do with it besides zucchini bread (recipe to be posted). Generally speaking, I'm pretty bored by savory zucchini and summer squash dishes. The best preparation so far has been grilling, but even then I wouldn't say that I look forward to eating it.

However, the newsletter that comes with our CSA basket had a recipe for Oven-Baked Zucchini Spears, which sounded intriguing. It's a take on fried mozzarella sticks, substituting zucchini for the mozzarella and cooking in the oven instead of the deep fryer. I thought, well, what the hell. It called for dipping the zucchini in water (this seemed a bad idea to me) and then coating it with an herbed bread crumb and Parmesan mixture. Of course, I planned to omit the Parmesan, and also I was going to use egg white instead of water. The spears were then to be served with marinara sauce.

Stuck in my memory was also this post from the Chowhound Home Cooking Board outlining how one could use the waffle iron, originally for eggplant, but also for zucchini and summer squash. I decided to merge the two ideas together and do an egged breadcrumb-coated zucchini on the waffle iron. The idea is that the squash is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside without having to use gobs of oil. I planned to serve it with My Favorite Pizza Sauce.

Well, it was a complete failure, at least from my perspective. Evan and Elspeth seemed to enjoy it somewhat, even if it was not the most raved-about meal of the year. I tried versions with squash I had pre-salted (to leech out some of the water) and squash I had not. I tried a version with some grated Parmesan, hoping to make something tastier for the two Es.

I originally cut the squash too thick, but even when I cut it thinner, I still wasn't happy with the result. In addition, I had sticking problems even when I greased the (non-stick) waffle iron. I didn't really like my coating either, truth be told. I had gone to our co-op (largely so Elspeth could get the free 'kid-pick' fruit she adores so much) so ended up with hippie panko which may well not be very good. I added dried thyme, oregano and rosemary as well as a bit of garlic powder and salt and pepper. It didn't quite mesh, even when I dramatically upped the salt (since it was bland, bland, bland in addition to being slightly bitter).

My dreams have been dashed! I had in my mind that somehow the squash/zucchini would be fluffy and light and crispy all at the same time. Or at least yummy in some way. I am not sure I have the energy to keep plugging away. If any dear readers (all five or maybe ten of you, for whom I'm very grateful) figure out a worthwhile recipe, do let me know.

We did have an edible meal, since we had 6 ears of corn to gobble up and the pizza sauce is tasty. We did consume all the squash, too, it just wasn't worth the effort of making it.

I got discouraged (and sugar crash-y) before waffling up all the squash I had prepared, so I have some slices left to use up. Tomorrow's meal will be much simpler, as well as a much safer bet. Call me trashy for liking French bread pizza, but I have always had a soft spot for it since the Stouffer frozen variety entered my life in my teens. (God, that stuff tastes nasty now, though, so I would only eat homemade). I'm going to grill or broil the remaining squash and use it as one of our pizza toppings along with some spinach and probably chorizo. We have an Essential Bakery focaccia onhand that is pretty tasty, so that will be our base. I am confident that it will be a tastier meal than what we had tonight, with no waffle iron to clean afterwards!

FRENCH BREAD PIZZA
1 loaf 'French', focaccia or other bread (we use baguette a lot) either homemade or storebought
1 recipe pizza sauce (it's great to keep some of this around in the freezer)
Grated mozzarella cheese to taste (we use the pre-grated low moisture stuff--nothing highbrow for a French bread pizza! You could use fresh if you like)

TOPPING OPTIONS:
Spanish chorizo pieces that you've pre-frizzled in a pan to get rid of some of the oil
OR for a veggie pizza, just sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top
Lightly pre-steamed greens (I'm going to process ours since it can be hard to bite off if you use large leaves)
Thinly-sliced zucchini or summer squash that you've pre-broiled or grilled lightly
Chopped kalamata olives
Gently-toasted pine nuts

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 350 (or so)
  2. Slice your desired amount of bread horizontally and place both cut sides up onto a baking tray
  3. Spoon sauce on the pieces of bread
  4. Add toppings and cheese
  5. Bake for 10 minutes (or so--really depends on oven size, temp and kind of bread and cheese) until cheese is melted and bubbling

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