Got Zucchini?

(Originally published in The News Review on August 4, 2015)

Recipe Links:  Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread, Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread, Zucchini "Noodles", and Summer Squash Salad

Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread
I was sixteen when my parents decided to move from our suburban San Diego home to a 27-acre “hobby farm” in southern Oregon. My dad, retired from the Navy, was excited to finally have room for two cows, two pigs, a dog and a big garden. My mom, always glamorous and sophisticated, traded a successful career in real estate for the country life. We joked that it was a bit like the television show Green Acres, though my mother is much more competent than Eva Gabor's character. Mom set to work learning to make featherlight dinner rolls and canning strawberry jam. Dad got busy building a house and rototilling.

As I recall it, Dad put in two rows of zucchini. (You gardeners out there can see where this is heading.) Two rows produce a boatload of squash! A neighbor later suggested he take one zucchini seed, cut it in half before planting, and he'd still have a bountiful harvest. Needless to say, we ate a lot of zucchini bread and cheesy zucchini pie that year.

Zucchini is nutritious and inexpensive (or free from your friends who grew too much). It's adaptable to both sweet and savory preparations. Zucchini bread must be the original sneaky chef method for getting kids to eat their vegetables. It freezes well, so you can always have a loaf on hand for breakfast, tea or dessert. I've included two recipes I created for an OSU Extension/Master Food Preserver class a few years back. First, a lemon-ginger version, studded with pieces of candied ginger and flecked with lemon zest. If you like ginger, you'll love this. The second recipe incorporates two local superfoods: blueberries and walnuts. I have a freezer full of both and I'm always looking for new ways to use them.

Zucchini “noodles” may sound odd, but they're actually quite good. I have no problem with gluten or carbs and I love a good plate of pasta, but I'll happily eat my spaghetti sauce over these veggie noodles on occasion. They cook up in just a few minutes.

Whether grilling, stir-frying, or baking, about the only way to ruin zucchini is to overcook it. It can go from deliciously fork-tender to translucent and mushy in a matter of minutes. If family members turn up their noses at cooked zucchini, why not try it raw? Diced and tossed with a light, lemony dressing, a combination of zucchini and yellow summer squash makes a cool and refreshing salad.

I always thought, after a year in the country, I'd head back to California to go to college. But here I am, an Oregonian by choice, if not by birth. As I bake bread, pick berries, make jam and water my own small garden, I'm thankful for parents with a sense of adventure.

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