Dangerous precedent


Summer has truly arrived in New England which means, if you take off at a dead sprint, somewhere between noon and 5 PM and keep running for at least five minutes, you might just break a sweat. It also means you have too much zucchini. The fact is, even if you planted just one zucchini,  you will reap far more than a family of five can reasonably consume.

New Englanders have come up with strategies for getting rid of that excess zucchini. You can leave a paper bag filled with zucchini on a neighbor’s front porch and ring the doorbell before running away. Since no New Englander uses their front door, even for company, it will take them a good minute to get over the confusion and answer the door finding you long gone and now stuck with a bag of zucchini.

If you left your car window down while running an errand – not unheard of bin the relative safety of the Pioneer Valley – you risked returning to find a bag of zucchini on your front seat.

Two years ago I had the great pleasure of doing a radio interview with the ebullient and jocular Bill Newman of WHMP in Northampton, MA. We were talking about zucchini and he confirmed my stories.

“That happened to me when I first moved here,” he said. “Someone brought me some zucchini and I thought that’s so nice, that’s so kind, and I thanked them effusively.”

I winced knowing where this was headed.

“Four days later another bag showed up. Then another bag showed up.” The moral of the story? “Never over thank for zucchini,” Bill said.

Accepting zucchini, like feigning interest in a friend’s pet photos (“and here she is the next day!”), sets a dangerous precedent. Don’t do it. But if you happen to have too much zucchini this summer, try this:

Zucchini Pizza

Serves 4-6

In the interest of full transparency, the zucchini in no way resembles any kind of pizza crust, thin or thick and bubbled, but it’s delicious so quit your complaining. NOTE: There aren’t really a lot of ingredients here. Many repeat between the topping and the crust but it’s easier to see them listed separately. It reheats well so make extra!

Photography by Matt Hocking

Zucchini crust:

  • 2 medium zucchini, coarsely grated, about 4 cups
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 2 tbs chopped oregano
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup corn or potato starch
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Tomato and beef topping:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb ground beef, preferably 80/20
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 2 tbs chopped oregano
  • Red wine vinegar

To finish:

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Make crust: place grated zucchini in a tea towel (a kitchen towel) and twist it to squeeze out as much water as possible. Add the zucchini to a large bowl and stir together with garlic, basil, oregano, cheeses, eggs and potato starch. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
  • Warm olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini crust mixture and spread evenly in pan, pressing down to compress. Sauté for 5-6 minutes until beginning to brown around edges. Move skillet to oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • While crust bakes make the topping: in a 10″ skillet warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and cook until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
  • Drain all but 1 tbs fat from the skillet and return to medium heat with remaining 1 tbs olive oil. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds longer. Add tomatoes and cook until soft and beginning to thicken, about 7 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano and reserved beef. Season to taste with a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • When the zucchini crust is beginning to brown on top, after about 30 minutes in the oven, remove and spread with beef and tomato topping. Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for 20 minutes longer.
  • Turn oven to broil and cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, 3-5 minutes. Remove, let cool for 10 minutes, and serve in wedges.

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