Fresh-from-the-garden zucchini

{Juicy, sweet, tasting of the earth in a delicious way}

I never tire of finding creative and memorable ways to prepare the bumper crup of zucchini that issues from my garden in summer. Most gardeners cannot get rid of the bounty, but where I live, the marine layer that rolls in to cool things off at dusk tends to create just enough moisture in the garden for the vines to develop a powdery mildew that does them in about a month and a half into the peak growing season. But while they’re flourishing, here are some roughed-out ideas that appeal to me, and which take advantage of the sweet, juicy and meltingly tender zucchini that seem to materialize overnight hidden under a canopy of large green leaves. Beyond using the vegetable itself, I also like to pluck the orangey-yellow blossoms from the garden in the morning (they’re less buggy when closed or barely opened) and quick saute those in a fruity olive oil or even just eat them raw with some fresh mozzarella or homemade ricotta, accentely merely with a coarse grinding of black pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt.

**Thick rounds or spears, lightly salted, coated with a drizzle of good olive oil and then oven roasted in a 450 degree F. oven, until browned, shaking the pan every once in a while to assure even browning. Once out of the oven, these browned beauties are dowsed in a light shower of good balsamic or other vinegar of your choice and topped with oven or pan roasted pine nuts and fresh basil

**Shredded and baked into a chocolate muffin chockablock with bittersweet chocolate chips

**Stuffed with a cooked mixture of what was scooped out and with crumbled sausage or ground chicken or turkey of your choice, caramelized onions, and pitted green Cerignola olives; toss in a few currants or raisins if you like, and then served with a fresh tomato sauce

**Slow cooked in a bit of olive oil with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs such as oregano or thyme; Cooked over very low heat, until almost disintegrating, this vegetable compote can be used as the base for a soft poached egg, topped with thin shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and served with slices of rustic bread, lightly brushed with olive oil and toasted

**Leeks slowly cooked in butter are the basis for a zucchini vichyssoise (either served hot or iced cold); add two times as much zucchini as leeks and then shred them, saute in a slick of olive oil until tender but not browned, then add some stock or water and salt and pepper to taste and cook for about 30 minutes before pureeing. You may add a bit of cream if you’d like to enrich the soup. Serve hot immediately, or cool it down and chill for a couple of hours for a summertime treat. Cubes of toasted pumpernickel or whole grain bread floated on top of the soup add the perfect crunchy element.

**Shredded, salted lightly and then squeezed dry, zucchini is the perfectly textured addition to a frittata (eggs, a bit of milk or cream, salt and freshly ground pepper, whisked together and then poured into a hot olive oil-coated cast iron skillet; Bake in a 350 degree F. oven until set and puffed but not overly browned, then top it all off with a roasted red pepper and tomato sauce. If you prefer, you might wish to serve wedges of this cold with an intensely garlicky aioli (basically a mayonnaise with soft cooked and pureed garlic). A bit of fresh crusty bread, cool rose wine and you have the makings of a pique nique extraordinaire!

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