It's funny how sometimes life throws these head-shaking curve balls at you that don't really make any kind of lasting impact, but can be annoying as all get out.
Last year, we spent a lot of time prepping an overgrown area to become a 50' x 100' vegetable garden. We overturned ground, pulled weeds, added bagged compost, and struggled to maintain water distribution (with a well) and proper harvesting.
We successfully grew sugar snap peas, tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, pumpkins, and butternut squash. We were less than successful growing peppers and corn - so it became a mission to address the sandy soil which we thought was a corn-growing hindrance.
We hedged our corny bets for this year by creating our own kitchen/yard waste compost area, so that we could reuse our own organic material as fertilizer for the garden and then meticulously maintained and turned that material so that it became rich black gold for the soil. (The addition of chicken poop from the barn also assisted with the compost's nutrient capabilities!) Last Fall we purchased bags of cow shit from a local farmer in our town to enrich our soil even more as we turned over the ground one last time at the end of the growing season. The soil looked (and smelled) like real farm dirt - not sand, or clay which really does have a different aroma.
We planted with one notation...DO NOT PLANT TOO MANY ZUCCHINI AND SQUASH. Even by only planting a few seeds, we still over-planted.
Every home gardener I know jokes about the productivity of zucchini and summer squash in their gardens on good years, without disease or bugs ravaging your plants. I'm not the first to use "Zucchini Apocalypse" by any means, but I do enjoy conjuring up the images of zombie zucchini, en masse, marching their way into our kitchens, multiplying as they slink along.
I imagine it looks kind of like this:
Fuck. And you should see what is *still* waiting for us in the garden. We just started harvesting, and there are still flowers budding.
I was NOT happy when my husband (yes, husband - as of 7/16/22!) came in loaded to the gills, with vegetables twice the size of my forearms! I knew right there that I was going to have to get creative with the cooking, so that none of this produce goes to waste. Zucchini Bread, which I think is gross, was NOT going to be the end-all to use all of this up. In fact, two cups of grated zucchini was a 1/3 of one of these monsters, and that was after seeding it.
I've been scouring the internets searching for recipes to rid us of the onslaught of zucchini and summer squash.
Last year I discovered the beauty of Zucchini Relish - it's a simple substitution from your regular cucumber/pickle relish, but with more color. I can pints and half pints using a water bath, and it is delicious. Better yet, no one knows it's not traditional pickled relish until we tell them. Same crunch and bite.
I also make Zucchini and Summer Squash pickles, which are amazing on grilled chicken and burgers. Freezing cubes, rounds, and grated veg is also a go-to, but honestly we are still trying to knock off last year's harvest, so I don't want to go too far in that direction.
So, as we delve further into the Zucchini Apocalypse, I'll be testing more zucchini and squash recipes and sharing them here. Starting....now.
Cheesy Zucchini Smash Cakes
Baked zucchini pancakes.
Additions: Substitute summer squash for zucchini; add fresh herbs of your choosing; add crumbled bacon; substitute shallot/garlic for onion and/or garlic powder.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grate zucchini, and place in the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the towel, and squeeze out the liquid from the zucchini. (I use this technique with frozen spinach dishes, as well as some jam preparations that I want to reduce liquid for before cooking.)
You want a semi-dry ball of zucchini to add to your bowl. In the same bowl, add all ingredients and mix with your hands to incorporate thoroughly.
Once fully incorporated, take 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape it into a mini pancake, pressing hard. Gently place on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve any way you'd like, but I used them as the English Muffin base for an eggs benedict'like dish that blew us away. (And yes, that is indeed a broken Hollandaise! I froze the last batch I made to see if it would stand up...it doesn't, but it still had all the flavor.) The Zucchini Smash Cakes can also be used as an appetizer with a little sour cream and chive, or crème fraîche and smoked salmon if you want to be fancy. I'm sure a topping of caviar would be lovely for people who like that.
This is most definitely a recipe I am keeping in my zucchini arsenal for the rest of the summer!
Now I am off to find a zucchini ice cream recipe because if I have to eat the stuff, I might as well find interesting ways to incorporate it.