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Stirring the Pot: Consider the Zucchini

Consider the zucchini. Hidden in breads and muffins or straining under the weight of a heavy tomato sauce. A supporting player at best. Never a star. Well, the time has come for this lowly squash to take center stage.

Intentionally or accidentally, the minutiae in our lives get marginalized. Much like we treat that taken-for-granted zucchini, we trod along the same roads, fall into our routines, and our sense of wonder diminishes.

And yet. The surprise of rediscovery can be sweet and surprising. Picture yourself biting into a ripe white peach. How often have you done this? Yet now you are overcome by the sensuality of it all — soft fuzzy skin, tender flesh yielding to your teeth, syrupy juices running down your chin.

Several Knock Out rose bushes grow in my garden. I would casually note their pretty pink petals as I hurried on my way. Until one morning, when the sky was a hazy blue and a mist filled the air, the rose bushes stood up and stared right at me! I froze. I was seeing them for the first time.   

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And what of people? We walk past them, missing the sparkling eyes, the furrowed brow, the crooked smile. That’s the stuff of life. In our haste, we forget that the detour is the destination.

So make frequent stops, I say. Check in with the familiar places and faces and reignite your senses and your heart. 

And bring on that bumper crop! Zucchini is a side attraction no more!

Rosemary-Scented Zucchini Soup

The creamy taste of this luxurious purée comes from a potato!

4 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs rosemary (or 1 teaspoon ground rosemary)
3 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

Optional garnish:
A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt
Sprigs of rosemary

Melt butter in a large pot. Add garlic and rosemary, keeping the sprigs intact. (If using ground rosemary, add after garlic has sautéed.) Reduce to low heat and sauté until garlic is softened but not browned, about two minutes. Add zucchini, potato, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Remove rosemary sprigs. Add salt and cayenne pepper.

Using an immersion blender, purée soup in the pot. Alternatively, working in batches, purée soup in a blender.

Serve hot. Garnish with sour cream or Greek yogurt and fresh rosemary sprigs.

Zucchini and Sweet Potato Hash with Eggs and a Middle Eastern Spin

This mound of deliciousness, with a quivering poached egg on top, is a meal fit for a sultan!

1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon hot or mild curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet potato, cubed into small pieces
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1-inch rounds and quartered
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Poached egg:
2 cups water
2 eggs

Combine salt, cumin, cinnamon, curry powder, and cloves. Set aside. (You will not need this entire amount for the hash. Save it for other culinary flights of fancy.)

Heat oil in a large, high-rimmed sauté pan. Add sweet potatoes and stir to coat with the oil. Cover and lower the heat. Allow potatoes to begin to soften, which will take about five minutes. (The smaller the dice, the quicker they will cook.) Remove lid and add zucchini and tomatoes. If the potatoes look dry, add a bit more oil. Stir to combine. Cover and allow all of the vegetables to soften, around seven minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until potatoes caramelize a bit.  Add spice mix to taste. Cover and keep warm while you prepare the eggs.

Bring water to a vigorous boil in a small pot. Crack the eggs into the boiling water, lower the heat, and cover for two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place each gently on a plate of hash. For a firmer yolk, boil for an additional minute.

Zucchini Bread

2 cups zucchini, grated
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 1/4 cups flour
2 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Handful of sunflower seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two loaf pans or five mini-loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix grated zucchini and lemon juice. Add oil and eggs. Set aside.

In another large bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (except for seeds). Stir the dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture until fully incorporated.

Pour into prepared pans. Top with seeds, if desired. Bake for 55 minutes in loaf pans or 45 minutes in the mini-loaf pans.

Insert a toothpick to test for doneness. If batter is still moist, keep the bread in the oven for a few more minutes. Remove and place on wire rack. Let bread loaves cool for ten minutes before removing from the pans.

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Ruthie Cohen
Ruthie Cohen moved from New Jersey to Bloomington in November 2011. Every day she marvels at her good fortune to be living in this gem of a town. When she is not devising recipes in her kitchen and feeding her friends, Ruthie practices and teaches yoga at Ekah and Vibe Studios.
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