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Would you like some zucchinis?

When my children were young we were trying, fairly unsuccessfully, to live an alternative and self-sustaining lifestyle in a dairying and Vegetable-growing area of rural Tasmania. Our farmlet was surrounded by huge vegetable paddocks of growers supplying the big frozen vegetable companies, but thanks to a silted up spring, broken pipes and no money to fix them, we could barely grow anything.

Fortunately, our friends on other small holdings in the district were both productive and generous, and we were frequently offered bounty from their gardens. Tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips, swedes (a small turnip). One offer we came to dread was “Would you like some zucchinis?” “Some”, in this case, generally being an understatement. Zucchinis (courgettes) are very easy to grow, given water and sunshine, and they are very prolific, even a small patch producing a glut rather than moderation. We became very inventive in ways of using them, even attempting deep-fried zucchini chips, and thank goodness our chooks would happily eat any discarded experiment and repay us with eggs.

I was reminded of this time in our lives when a friend and I were offered a bag of cheap zucchinis at the local greengrocers. Not so much offered, as had them pressed on us, with many exclamations of affection, by the Italian greengrocer. Having avoided zucchinis for most of the 20 years since our rural experience, I actually had to look for a recipe to deal with this unexpected bounty!

One of the world's oldest vegetables

People have been eating zucchinis for thousands of years, probably because of their ease of growing and their generous cropping. Apparently they are one of the oldest families of vegetables that humans have domesticated, after their appearance in the Americas. (Zucchinis are botanically a fruit, as evidenced by the seeds insde them, but are generally considered a vegetable.) However, it was when they were taken up by the Italians, Greeks, Turks and Lebanese that zucchinis took off, becoming an important part of many European and Middle Eastern cuisines, as their mild flavour combines well with herbs, spices and other strongly flavoured ingredients.

While zucchinis are not in the top 100 healthy foods, they do provide some useful vitamins and minerals and a tiny amount of protein. As well as similar amounts of Vitamin C as potatoes, they provide some calcium, folate, potassium, manganese and vitamin A, all of which would contribute to a healthy diet if the vegetable was eaten regularly. In fact, they play a part in the healthy Mediterranean Diet. Like most vegetables, they contain no fat, no starch and are low in calories. And if you can’t grow them yourself, they are usually one of the cheapest veggies to buy.

Zucchini recipes

So, to the recipes. There are lots of delicious dishes using zucchinis together with stronger flavours, such as the colourful ratatouille. However, I decided to focus on zucchini’s own delicate flavour, and today being a grey and wintry day, chose to make a quick and easy zucchini soup. I modified the recipe I found to make it a little tangier, but resisted the urge to add any animal protein, so this is a vegetarian and vegan recipe. Omnivores may like to add sausage, bacon, and/or cheese, but the ‘naked’ soup is delicious in its own right.

Zucchini Soup

A big slurp of olive oil (about 2 tablesp)
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 or more garlic cloves, chopped
750 grams (1½ pounds/about 7) zucchini, grated
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
500 ml (2 cups) water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
½ teasp cumin
salt and white pepper to taste

In a large heavy saucepan sauté onion and celery gently in oil for about five minutes, until softening. Add the garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add cumin and fry gently for a minute.

Tip the grated zucchini into the pot and stir to mix with the other ingredients. Add the salt and pepper. Pour in the liquid and bring to the boil. (If using plain water, either add extra salt and pepper, or dissolve 2 stock cubes in the water before adding.) When the soup is boiling, cover, turn down heat and simmer for about 8 minutes.

Take the soup from the heat and blend in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth. It should be a pale green with tiny dark green speckles. Adjust seasonings and reheat for a few minutes before serving. A dollop of sour cream or Greek-style yoghurt can be added to each bowl for extra richness.

Serves 4

If I hadn’t made the soup, I’d have baked some Zucchini Herb Muffins.

1 cup zucchini, grated
1 or more garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup of herbs, chopped fine – basil, parsley, chives, oregano, whatever you have
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten,
2 tablesp oil
1 cup milk or milk and yoghurt mixed
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour and baking powder to make 2 cups SR

Sift flour and baking powder together. In another, larger bowl, combine all other ingredients and mix well together. Stir in flour until just mixed.

Line muffin tray with paper pans and 2/3rds fill with mixture. Bake at 180C (350F) for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 12

Buon Appetito!

This post first appeared on Eat Well Every Day, please read the originial post: here

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Would you like some zucchinis?


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