Sunday, August 05, 2007

zucchini: fried and baked, hold the steam

We've entered that time of year when the garden is a jungle. Even here in foggy ol' oakland, in a yard with southern exposure and nicely amended soil, you too can enjoy the sensation of summer squash coming out your ears. And if you have corn currently doing the tassel and silk dance, it can be coming out both of your ears. This is great and all, but about now is the time when you've had it steamed so many times that you need a new preparation or you just might hurl. Childhood memories, formed by a full stomach at my italian grandma's house are recalled and I find myself reaching for the fry and bake method. One that is very near my heart in the kitchen.

We browsed in the yard, wondering what the take would be today. A bowl full of squash and tomato. Hmmmm. What to do now? I brought the loot in the house, then decided we needed some fresh mozzarella. This meal would become a one-two garden variety punch. One I was craving. One simple, with bright flavors.

With my ingredients assembled, I gave the squash a cursory wash and began cutting it into 1/4 inch slices. I halved our cherry tomatoes. With a dip in a simple egg and milk wash, then finished with a lightly seasoned whole wheat and corn meal dusting, the disks were placed into a large pan with a nice layer of hot olive oil. A quick fry, turning once, followed by a quick rest on a rack to drip, and our bases were nearing completion.

Arranged on a cookie sheet, with the oven warming, I placed a cherry tomato atop each disk and then sprinkled it with a healthy pile of finely grated dry jack cheese. It was a little hard to not eat them at this point. (Well, a few disappeared, but really, they wouldn't fit on the pan without ruining the symmetry so I had to do something.) With our assembly complete, I put it in the oven and turned my attention to part two.

This next one was really easy. You probabaly all know the drill: Drain the mozzarella ball and slice. Slice the rest of the tomatoes, Go pick some basil, maybe give it a chop or tear and get out a bit of olive oil, and you're done.

Plated, I was in heaven. We we're having squash. Again. But this time the steaming basket was nowhere near. It was a celebration of summer, with all ingredients from the yard or the farmers' market. Well, wait, I used black pepper, and that came from a distant land. Whatever. I've been over that one before. Besides, grandma would probably not approve of me flouring squash without it. With a picture of her on my kitchen wall, it's a nice reminder of where dishes like this that fall out of my head really come from. They emanate in my heart, travel up through the memory bank up top, where through my hands it gets expressed as dinner. Which with some thoughtful chewing resides again in my stomach, next to my heart.

I wish you were still here to share this with me grandma. You'd be proud.


K & S said...

loved this post! nice memories of your grandma, fresh veggies baked with cheese and herbs :)

Aileen said...

I must delurk to say, from a distant land, that looks absolutely wonderful. I'm actually about to fly many thousands of miles for a wedding...That's the official and primary reason, though I suspect I'll be stopping first and every 4 minutes thereafter for fresh mozzarella, and sun-ripe tomatoes, and all such other wonderful summer feasting opportunities. Perhaps my double-excuse renders more acceptable the miles I'd go for what you ate from your backyard!
p.s. My grandmother wasn't much of a gardner or a cook, but I still love doing a jig of joy every now and then when I accomplish things that I know she'd be proud of. I have to imagine that somewhere, somehow she's doing a jig of joy at the ways her family lives along her memory.

cookiecrumb said...

Nice, and nice!! Tummy rumble.
(I'm calling the Roma plant you propagated for me my "Man Plant." You know why.)

Joanna said...


Here's what I've been doing with summer squash (that does not involve steaming):

-squash and corn pancakes. grate the squash, cut the kernels off the corn, grate in some tasty cheese, add egg and flour to the right batter consistency, ladle into pan. Very good stuff.

-slow cooked squash with herbs and sometimes a little goat cheese at the end, a la Deborah Madison, but can't remember which book of hers has the recipe.

-grate the squash and saute with any other flavor or ingredient that suits your fancy, my current favorite is curry powder.

Alas, Monkey Wrangler, I intended on meeting you in Berkland/Oaktown at the Farmers' Market a few weeks ago, but somehow didn't get to it before moving! I'm now in west Sonoma County, closer to the farms, and thinking about starting my own blog to chronicle my adventures in eating, cooking, farming, and of course, monkey wrangling. Thanks for the inspiration. I'm reading from afar!

Callipygia said...

We were just contemplating zucchini exuberance this very morning & my friend told me that her husband cooks zucchini discs similar to yours (minus the flouring and fresh mozarella). These look delish.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

This is a wonderful post! Delicious food and beautiful sentiments! Your Grandmother I am sure would be proud!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Thanks! I know you are one who can really appreciate a connection with the previous generations. (And thanks for saying something on the baguette post, I meant to say something earlier.)

Aileen: Thank you for de-lurking. Honestly, I've gone and found your site before, but haven't commented yet either. No wonder you're coming so far for tomatoes! I mean, a wedding.

And it is very comforting to know that you too derive pleasure from doing things that deceased relatives would have approved of. It is very important to honor those memories. Thanks for encouranging me to keep it up.

Cookie: A rumbly in your tumbly? Have you been reading A. A. Milne again? Give the "man" a squeeze for me huh?

Joanna: Thanks for all of those incredible sounding suggestions. I'm sure I'll get to at least one before the month is out.

You moved to where I'm from? (I'm an apple boy from Sebastopol.) And you'll be farming? You know, I make trips up that way to see family and would love to swap produce or grub sometime in the future. Let me know.

Callipygia: Psst! I guess I didn't point it out in the post, but that's actually some homemade baguette slices below the mozz. I was hoping to hear someone else out there prepares squash something like this because it is damn good.

Hey Queen: Hello! Thanks for coming by and for inviting me to join the blogroll. (Well, and for enjoying the post.) I look forward to more linky goodness and the traffic it encourages. Now if only it would translate into more comments......

Catch you soon.

HipWriterMama said...

That looks so good. This totally would be comfort food for me. Your grandma would be proud.

Rev. Biggles said...

Hmmm, yeah. But where's the bacon?


Leena! said...

Man, you're making me hungry!
Darn you and your summer produce.

Stacie said...

yum! i am on the verge of a zucchini overload! this might be a fresh new way!

Lis said...

WOO HOO! You've hit upon my most favorite of all ways to prepare zucchini.. AND the only way my husband will eat it without complaining.. go figger. Silly man that he is.

Anyhooo.. yes I'm almost a full month late and I feel awful.. explanation and begging for forgiveness are coming your way via email.

But for right now.. thank you SO MUCH for joining us in the Festa.. you'll find me sitting pretty darned close to your fried zucchini!