Zucchini originates from Mexico and still is an integral part of the milpah, the indigenous American  garden of maize, beans and squash. Somehow, centuries after the Spaniards brought it to Europe, it was adopted by the Italians; we all assume zucchini is Italian.

Essentially, the zucchini we cook with are the immature fruit of the plant. When picked small and tender, zucchini has a subtle, sweet flavor, soft skins, crisp flesh and an exquisite pale green color. If left to mature, the fruit becomes marrow with tough skin and bland, watery taste.  Pick your zucchini right before preparing as the soft, delicate fruit does not store well for more than a couple days.

The New York Times issued a series of excellent zucchini recipes this month, “recipes for health”. The frittata is superb. I reduced the fresh dill (from my kitchen garden, of course) by half and substituted fresh mint (also from my garden). The chilled zucchini-yogurt soup was refreshing in last week’s heat wave.

Frittatta with grated zucchini, goat cheese and dill
Rice noodles with zucchini, tomatoes and fresh mint
Greek zucchini fritters
Chilled zucchini-yogurt soup with fresh mint

And what’s a summer without zucchini bread? Here’s my recipe which uses honey instead of sugar.

1/4 c oil
1/2 c honey
2 eggs
1 1/4 c grated zucchini or summer squash
1/2 c instant milk powder (6 T non-instant)
1/2 c sunflower seeds
2 c flour (whole wheat optional)
1 t ground cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 t baking powder

1. Cream the oil and honey together. Beat in the eggs and grated squash.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, flour and baking powder.
Stir the flour mixture into the squash mixture. Add the remaining ingredients.
3. Bake in a loft pan in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until tests done with a toothpick. If necessary, reduce the oven heat to 325 near the end of the baking time if the top of the loaf gets too brown before the loaf is done inside.

From The Apartment Vegetarian Cookbook by Lindsay Miller (Peace Press, 1978)

What are your traditions and recipes for using zucchini in the summer?

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