Zucchini Pizza Pie

Since our summer months are usually inundated with zucchini, I try to prepare it in a wide variety of ways.  Most of my family agreed that this recipe is a keeper.  Once the crust in established, the rest of the dish is very flexible, so it’s a great option when trying to use what you already have on-hand.

4 c. grated zucchini
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
2 c. grated mozzarella or provolone
1 c. grated cheddar
1 lb. ground beef or pork sausage or chorizo, or whatever
1 onion, chopped
2 c. marinara sauce of your choice
1 c. bell pepper, chopped (or mushrooms, black olives, more zucchini, tomatoes, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Put grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand 10 minutes, then squeeze out moisture.

Combine zucchini with eggs, Parmesan and half of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.  Press into greased 3-qt. baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes.

In large saucepan, cook ground meat and onion over medium heat until done.  Add marinara sauce.

Spoon sauce/meat mixture over baked zucchini crust.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with veggies of your choice.  Bake another 20 or so minutes, or until heated through.

NOTE:  This casserole freezes really well.

Putting Up Pie Pumpkins

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Pie pumpkins are those cute little pumpkins you often see piled up in baskets at Farmers’ Markets.  They are usually fairly dark orange and have thick stems.  This variety is very thick-walled and slightly sweet in flavor, which makes them perfect for using in soups, breads and pies.

I like to wash, seed and cut up my pie pumpkins, placing them in a 22-quart roaster for cooking.  You can certainly just cook one at a time, though, either in the oven or in a pot on the stove.  Pumpkins are a winter squash, so you cook them just as you would butternut or acorn–cut side down in a baking dish with about 1/2″ of water, tightly covered with foil at 400 degrees or so for about thirty minutes until soft.  The whole idea is to be able to scrape the pulp from the outer skin.  Sometimes, I will puree the pumpkin pulp with my KitchenAid attachment or even a blender to make it super smooth.  It’s totally up to you.  I don’t mind the added texture in breads and muffins, but I think the smoothness that the pureeing accomplishes is nice for pies and soups.  Once you have the pulp ready, you measure it into amounts that you would like to use for your favorite pumpkin recipes and put it in freezer bags, double-bagging against freezer burn.  Pumpkin is very easy to preserve in this manner.  My only caution is that you do not cook it in a whole lot of water; the pulp can become soggy and lose its thick texture that makes it so nice for cooking and baking.

I was somewhat shocked the first time I did this, because my pumpkin puree was not dark orange like canned pumpkin.  However, the flavor and texture is greatly improved over the store-bought options–even though my breads and pies looked a bit “anemic” to me.

On a side note, if you have no interest in cooking with these early pumpkins, you can always wash the outsides with a diluted bleach solution and cure them in the sun with the hope that they will last for your fall decorations.

Zucchini, Tomato and Basil Gratin

This is sooooooo yummy!  Dave and I thought it would be even better on crusty bread or even on pizza crust.  The recipe comes from “Squash:  A Country Garden Cookbook” by Regina Schrambling.

2 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/4″ slices
6 ripe plum tomatoes, sliced in 1/4″ slices
6 large fresh basil leaves, stacked and cut into thin ribbons
1 large clove of garlic, halved
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  (NOTE:  I did this all on the stovetop in a covered skillet because I thought it was too hot to turn on the oven.)

Rub the cut side of the garlic clove over the bottom of a shallow 10″ glass or ceramic baking dish (a pie plate would work).  Grease with 1 tsp. of the oil.  Arrange the zucchini and tomato slices in a single layer in the dish, overlappying them slightly.  Season well with salt and peper.  Scattered the basil strips evenly over the top, then drizzle with the remaining 2 tsp. oil.  Finally, sprinkle parmesan over the top.  Bake 20 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

Using Summer Squash

Zucchini is a summer squash, just as yellow squash, patty pan squash and crookneck are all summer squash.  In our house, we cook them all the same.

They are yummy when grilled, roasted or sauteed.  You can stuff them, grate them or use them fresh in salads.

They are good when tossed with cooking oil and sprinkled with a variety of seasonings–cajun, Italian, Jamaican Jerk or even just a little bit of salt and pepper.

They can be grated and frozen for winter use in breads, fritters, casseroles, meatloaves and whatever else sounds good.

If the skin is tough, feel free to peel. it.  If the seeds are big, scoop them out and feed them to your chickens or put them in your compost pile.

Summer squash, in all of its varieties, is a fun, easy way to work healthy veggies into your summer diet.

Oven-Roasted Root Veggies, etc.

This is a wonderful way to use up odds and ends in your crisper drawer.roastedbirthdayveggies

Any combination of the following, washed and peeled (if necessary), then cut into similar-sized chunks:

beets
turnips
onions
sweet potatoes
potatoes
carrots
parsnips
winter squash (acorn, butternut, Hubbard, buttercup, etc.)

Toss vegetables with olive oil and seasoning of choice (herbal, lemon pepper, Cajun, whatever), then spread out onto a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, or until tender.

Butternut Bisque

I wish you could see the look on my face as I contemplate the delightfulness of this recipe.  (Sigh.)  I hope you enjoy it as much as four-fifths of our family does.

1 medium(ish) butternut squash (You can also use turban or hubbard.), baked and scooped from the pulp

4 T. butter

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 bell pepper (any color), coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 – 1 tsp. ground ginger

4 c. chicken or turkey stock

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 c. cream, half-and-half or even whole milk

toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, toasted pecans or green onions for garnish

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, peppers, celery, carrots and ginger; saute for about 15 minutes or until onion is transparent.  Stir in the squash and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about half an hour until all of the veggies are very soft.

Let the soup cool until it can be put into a blender. Dividing if necessary, puree soup until smooth.  Return the mixture to the soup pot and stir in the cream.  Heat through, but do NOT boil.  Serve and enjoy!

Some fresh veggies and homemade bread round out our soup supper very nicely.

Some fresh veggies and homemade bread round out our soup supper very nicely.

NOTE:  If you put really hot stuff into a plastic blender/food processor, it very well may crack.  Don’t ask me how I know this to be true.