Monday, August 8, 2011


Zucchini are like weeds.

Everyone whom I have ever known that wanted to start a vegetable patch of some kind always began with Zucchini. "Everybody" said that Zucchini were easy to grow and so hearty that even those with "black thumbs" could do it. What "everybody" didn't tell them was that Zucchini take over a garden like a Latin American Junta.

"The peppers never made it because they were choked by the Zucchini, the carrots, I think we had three, and don't even start with me about the tomatoes."
-your clueless 'Gentleman Farmer' best-friend

After a few short weeks, the novelty of a few fresh vegetables from their own garden grew stale when bushel after bushel of the prolific Zucchini were brought to the kitchen.

"What's for dinner, Honey??"

Zucchini flowers, sautéed Zucchini, baked Zucchini, Zucchini bread, Zucchini "pasta", Zucchini spread, stuffed Zucchini, Zucchini soup, Zucchini ice cream, Zucchini casserole Zucchini omelets, Zucchini ratatouille, Zucchini flambé, Zucchini fritters, Zucchini en croûte, Zucchini crudité, sweet Zucchini pie, little orphan Zucchini, grilled Zucchini, Zucchini "surprise" ..............

All of this from a vegetable that was practically unheard of here in the good 'ole U. S. of A. thirty years ago. The inhabitants of Central and South America have been eating Zucchini for several thousand years, but the Zucchini, as we know it today, is actually a variety of summer squash that was developed in Italy. So, I guess we can blame the Italians for having nothing but squash all summer long.

Personally, my summertime favorite way to use up all of this Zucchini is a slow cooked Zucchini "stew". I know it doesn't sound like much, but the slow cooking allows the natural sweetness and explosive Zucchini flavour to come out.

There are lots of uses for this dish beyond a simple side. It freezes so well that you can have Zucchini all winter long too!

Try it.....

Zucchini de Olla

This is one of those recipes where there are very few ingredients, so the quality and the time you spend making it are the keys. This is a very slow cooked dish which means it takes a lot of time, but it doesn't really require a whole lot of tending to, so you can be doing other things while this cooks.

A large (10 inch or 25 cm.) heavy bottomed Sauté Pan with high sides
A trusty Wooden Spoon
A sharp Knife
A Cutting Board
Your trusty Coffee Mug

Six (6) medium sized Zucchini
  • You can use either all green, all yellow, or a combination of both. It's entirely up to you, just go with whatever looks good, whatever's ripe, and whatever you need to get rid of.
One (1) large Vidalia Onion
  • If you can't find Vidalia Onions, Maui or Walla Walla Onions all work fabulously. What you want is a sweet onion. If you can't find any sweet onions, two (2) small Red "Bermuda" Onions will work, but with a loss of flavor intensity.
Four (4) or (5) cloves of fresh Garlic
  • This all depends on how big your Garlic cloves are and how much that you like Garlic. Go with what you like.
Xtra Virgin Olive Oyl
  • This seemed to work for Popeye.
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Some Soothing Music

Gee, small ingredient list. I warned you that this wasn't complicated.

First, turn on the Soothing Music. Relax for a moment.

Place the Sauté Pan on a stovetop burner on low heat to warm up.

Fill your Coffee Mug with some Cold Water and place it by the stove. While the water is running, wash the Zucchini and place them off to the side.

Using your Sharp Knife, peel, but do not smash, the four (4) cloves of Garlic. Place them off to the side to police the Zucchini.

Peel and cut in half the Vidalia Onion. Slice the Onion halves into very thin half-moon shapes and leave them on your Cutting Board.

By now the Sauté Pan should be hot. Add about three good glugs (about three (3) tablespoons, don't be so fussy) of Xtra Virgin Olive Oyl to the pan. Swirl the pan around to coat the bottom with the Oyl.

Slide the sliced Onion off of your Cutting Board into the pan. Sprinkle the Onions with a pinch of Kosher Salt and a few grinds of fresh Black Pepper. Give everything a good stir with your trusty Wooden Spoon. Let the Onions slowly sauté for about five (5) to ten (10) minutes.

While the Onions are doing their thing, go and retrieve the peeled Garlic, the Zucchini were having a bad influence on them. Place the Garlic onto your Cutting Board and, using the side of your very Sharp Knife, smash the Garlic to smithereens. Very finely mince the Garlic.

After about five (5) minutes, give the Onions a good stir with your Wooden Spoon. Using the back of your Sharp Knife, scrape the pulverized Garlic off of your Cutting Board into the pan with the Onions. Do not stir!

Time to attack the Zucchini, they were planning a coup anyway. Trim the ends off the Zucchini and discard. Cut the Zucchini in half, lengthwise, and cut them into half-moon shapes about the thickness of the first digit of your thumb.

When you're done with the Zucchini, go check on the Onions. Remember the Garlic that was sitting on top? Time for them to join the mix. Give everything a good stir with your Wooden Spoon. Let everything slowly sauté until the Onions and Garlic become translucent, about five (5) minutes.

When the Onions are translucent add the Zucchini, a pinch of Kosher Salt, and a few grinds of Black Pepper. Give everything a good stir with your Wooden Spoon.

Go clean up your Knife and Cutting Board.

Come back in about fifteen (15) minutes, go fold the laundry.

After about fifteen (15) minutes, give the Zucchini a good stir. They should be beginning to release some of their natural juices into the pan.

Come back in another fifteen (15) minutes, go pay your bills.

After another fifteen (15) minutes, give the Zucchini a good stir. Come back in yet another fifteen (15) minutes.

As you can see, this is getting pretty monotonous. But, that's the trick. Basically, stir the Zucchini every fifteen (15) minutes or so for the first hour. After that, stir every ten (10) minutes for about thirty (30) minutes; and, yes, it really does take that long.

As the Zucchini cook down and begin to fall apart, they will release more and more juice which will evaporate off. At some point during the first hour, your Zucchini may begin to carmelize and stick to the bottom of the pan, do not fear. Remember your trusty Coffee Mug full of Water right next to the stove??

If your pan becomes too dry and things begin to stick, just splash about half a cup of the water from your handy Coffee Mug into the pan and give everything a stir. Every time you come back to stir the pan, you may need to add a splash of water from the Coffee Mug to keep things from sticking. Depending on how juicy and how old your Zucchini are, you may need to add as much as three (3) Coffee Mugs full of water throughout the cooking process. In general, about one (1) cup of water is about all you'll need, but this is not an exact amount. If you add too much, it just means that you have to keep simmering it longer, that's all.

After about an hour and a quarter, you should have a this lovely aromatic very pale green, slightly chunky, very mushy stew. Run your trusty Wooden Spoon down the centre of the pan and make a furrow down to the bottom of the pan. If the furrow fills in with liquid quickly keep simmering until things thicken up to your liking; somewhere around fifteen (15) more minutes. If you can see the bottom of the pan and only a little bit of liquid seeps into the furrow, then your stew is done. Turn off the heat and let the stew rest in the pan for fifteen (15) minutes while you go hunt up a bowl to put it in.

Now, all of the above timings are approximate, as every stove and pan are different. If your stew takes more than an hour and a half, so be it. Don't worry so much.

This can be served either warm or cold, it really doesn't matter.

As I mentioned before, this "stew" is no mere side dish. I love it on top of Cous Cous or Brown Rice with some chopped Pine Nuts and some grilled Chicken or Fish. This is also a great filling for any kind of Omelet or Quiche. And, as a Pizza topping, this can't be beat.

Personally, my favorite way to serve this is as a spread on garlic crostini (toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic, y'all) as a passed appetizer, but it also works well as a light lunch on top of toasted tuscan bread with a fagioli salad.

Depending on how much Zucchini you have on hand, this recipe can be doubled and even tripled at will. With a "double batch", the cooking time will be closer to two (2) hours. 

Regardless, after the stew has cooled, you can store it in airtight containers in the freezer for up to six months.

For those wanting a more zesty dish, add sprinkle of Pepperoncino, red pepper flakes, y'all, after you add the Zucchini. How much is up to you.

©2011 Wait At The Bar

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