One moment they’re still looking like little runt wieners in ruffled yellow skirts,
yet as soon as the clouds give way to the sun, the fields are suddenly littered as if it rained baseball bats.
This is my second year of signing up for a local CSA share, if you’re still new around here, hop on over to this post either now or later to find out why I started in the first place. Last year, zucchini season crushed me. I did okay with tomatoes, because they’re so damn versatile and especially the ones from ReRoot Farm since they’re so jam-packed with flavour they barely need any help. But zukes are different.
Some people like raw zucchini (zoodles, anyone?). But I think they’re really just trying to convince themselves that it tastes enough like nothingness to the point that it tastes like something else. Something about their spongy-cucumber-esque texture just really makes me miss the unabashed crunch of a real cucumber.
Yet if you will allow it, and if you’re willing to put in a tiny bit of effort, you’d find that they’re one of the unsung heroes of summer.
Here are some of the best traits of zucchini:
They caramelize very well.
Zucchinis, unlike cucumber, have quite a bit of sugar in them, similar to cauliflower and broccoli (which I also loathe when raw). However, in order to properly caramelize them, you’ll need to get the cut surface hot enough that the sugars caramelize before the heat breaks down its cellular structure and releases all the water stored up in each of the cells. In Layman’s terms, this means you want a rippin’ hot pan, so be sure to preheat your cast-iron.
They’re a sponge for salt and olive oil.
If you’re looking for some low-key luxury, literally need only a pound of small zucchini, good extra-virgin olive oil, and some sea salt. Bring a pot of well-salted water to the boil, add the zucchini whole, boil until tender (but not mushy). Fish them out onto a platter and douse immediately with the olive oil. Turn each zucchini so that all sides are coated and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Wait for 5 minutes for the olive oil to soak in, and eat as is, with some crusty bread to mop up any excess oil.
They’re silky, really silky if you do it right.
Yup, like chawan-mushi level. Which is crazy because it is a vegetable. But note the clause, so read on.
For everything comes from him
by his power and
is intended for
This flapjack/pancake/giant fritter/fritatta thing uses zucchini as the basis for most of its body. By grating the zucchini, you’ve already crushed many of the cells in its structure and greatly increased its surface area. This speeds up the salting, whose purpose is mainly to remove the water from the zucchini, but also to add flavour. Last but not least, by incorporating it into the batter the steam generated from the zucchini as the pancake cooks helps the pancake rise, sort of like a souffle, which makes the final product custardy and light if served immediately when piping hot. Leftovers, however, are delicious pan-fried in a small skillet until crispy and heated through.
Zucchini Bacon Flapjack
- 2 large zucchini, coarsely grated
- 1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 c all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 c buttermilk
- 4 thick slices of dry-cured bacon
- In a large bowl, stir together the zucchini and 1 tbsp salt until the juices start to collect at the bottom.
- Pour the zucchini into another bowl lined with a kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth (if you have a bag you use for straining nut milk, use that). Twist to squeeze out much of the water. No need to stress about getting it super dry, just do it until you’re left with about 2 cups of zucchini.
- Meanwhile, preheat your cast iron pan or a 9-inch non-stick skillet on medium low heat. Once hot, add the bacon and tease them to follow the shape of the pan. Flip the bacon a couple of times to lightly crisp them up, but mostly to render out the fat. You want them to be still pliable, as they will cook further later. Take them out of the pan as needed to keep them from becoming too crisp. Keep all the bacon fat in the pan.
- When the bacon is almost done, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and buttermilk until it forms a thick batter, then fold in the zucchini.
- Increase the heat to medium so that the oil is lively and lightly sputtering. Scrape the zucchini batter into the pan over the bacon. Smooth out the top and let it cook for 2 minutes before reducing the heat back down to medium-low. Cover the pan with a lid to trap in the steam.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Once the oven is hot, remove the lid and tuck in the edges of the pancake so that you have a neat disc. Place the whole pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Take out the pan and tip the grease into a small bowl. Flip the pancake over (by inverting it onto a large plate, and be sure to wear gloves as the pan will be hot). Pour the grease back into the pan and slide the pancake back in as well (the bacon should now be at the top). Don’t worry if it rips, just piece it back together.
- Bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until golden, the edges and bacon are crisp, and the pancake is puffed up.
- Serve immediately, just don’t burn yourself too badly because I definitely didn’t.