So what's on just about every gardener's mind at this point in the summer? I don't know about you, but one of my biggest dilemmas is what to do with all the zucchini I'm harvesting! It's a good thing they are such a versatile veggie- we eat them steamed and stir-fried, in soup and bread, in casseroles and cakes.
But then there are the ones that got away. Try as I may to pick the developing fruits when they're small and tender, there are always a few that I overlook, ripening into giant clubs lurking beneath broad leaves in the garden. Now leaving a behemoth on a zucchini plant will make it think its work is done, so to keep plants bearing well I pick these monsters as soon as I discover them and add most of them to the compost pile. Not all however…
My daughter and I discovered a much better use for these oversize zucchinis when she was 7 or 8 years old. As I looked at a "Shmoo"-shaped squash (remember them from L'il Abner?) one day, I was inspired to draw a face on the narrow end and tuck it into my daughter's bed with its smiling "face" resting on her pillow. The next day "Shmoo" was in my bed! Throughout the rest of the summer, club-shaped zucchini kept popping in up in more and more unlikely places as we tried to outdo each other. I declared her the winner when, one Saturday, I spent the morning driving around doing errands. My son, still young enough to need a car seat, was home with Dad. It wasn't until I was making my last stop that I happened to glance in the backseat. It was only then that I realized I'd been carrying a passenger the entire time, for there, carefully strapped in the car seat, was a smiling zucchini, quietly enjoying the ride!
But, yes, as I mentioned we do eat them too- it's not all squash silliness! Perhaps my favorite way to enjoy these summer squashes is in zucchini casserole, a recipe passed down to me by my mother. In all the years I've been making this dish, I have yet to encounter anyone who didn't love it. It's perfect for a summer barbecue or potluck dinner. I've lightened the recipe some over the years, but it's still delicious!
- 2 pounds zucchini, chopped into chunks (or use a mix of zucchini and yellow squash)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (I use a lower fat and salt selection; use cream of celery soup for a vegetarian version)
- 1 cup sour cream (I use low fat)
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 8-oz package herb-seasoned stuffing mix (I use Pepperidge Farm)
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- Combine the chopped zucchini and onion in a steamer basket set over boiling water. Steam until just tender, about 5 minutes.
- Combine condensed soup, sour cream and grated carrot in a large bowl. Add the steamed zucchini and onion and stir gently to combine.
- In a separate bowl, combine the stuffing mix and melted butter. Spread half of the buttered stuffing mixture in the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking pan. Top with the squash mixture, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the remaining stuffing mixture on top.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
Photo of adorable kid provided by: Nichole Rothaupt