Recipes for summer’s bounty

By on July 24, 2012

As I write this column on the first day of Summer, 2012, I’m looking forward to the zucchini and squash from my garden I’ll soon be eating.

Usually by now, I’m inundated with these versatile vegetables, but my garden is off to a late start this year since the Hawthornes were on the road for about two months and have only recently returned home.

Luckily for us, friends brought us a slew of vegetables from their garden. I have some recipes for you that range from traditional uses of zucchini — Mama Hawthorne’s Zucchini Bread — to some non-traditional uses — Zucchini Lasagna.

First a note on picking squash. You want the smaller, tender, sweeter squash. If you let the squash get too large, they become tough, fibrous, and seedy. With the larger squash, I always peel and scrape out the seeds.

As any gardener can tell you, no matter how diligent you are in harvesting your zucchini, there’s always one morning when you walk out to your garden and encounter a baseball bat-sized zuke that’s been hiding from you. This recipe is excellent for utilizing those occasional zukezillas.

No column about zucchini should be without a recipe for one of the most delicious zucchini incarnations, and I have one of the best — Mama Hawthorne’s Zucchini Bread. My children are quite the fans of this bread and I will always remember my son asking me, “Mama, will you make me some Bikini Bread?”

Mama Hawthorne’s Zucchini Bread
2 cups zucchini, grated, drained, and squeezed to get the moisture out
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TB vanilla
½ cup pecans or walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Butter 2 9-inch bread pans.
Shred zucchini and set in colander to drain.
Mix eggs, sugar, and oil.
Sift dry ingredients and add to egg mixture.
Stir in vanilla, nuts, and drained zucchini.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake at 325 for about 1 hour 15 minutes.
If you insert a tester, you want a little crumb on it. This makes for a moister loaf.

If you want to nip that zucchini or squash in the bud, I would suggest stuffed and fried blossoms — exquisite little gems with a barely-there batter, cheese, herbs, and a flower. When picking the blossoms, pick early in the morning and keep in a damp towel in a plastic bag. Refrigerate until ready to use, preferably by lunch time but no later than dinner.

When ready to stuff, carefully open up the blossom and remove the stamen. Add in just enough filling so that you can wrap and seal the petals around it. Don’t over-fill.

Ingredients for filling:
Ricotta cheese
Greek yogurt
Goat cheese
Fresh basil, parsley, and dill, chopped
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Combine equal amounts of the cheeses and yogurt.
If you want to substitute cream cheese for the ricotta or goat cheese, go ahead. If you want to substitute sour cream for the yogurt, that’s OK too. I’m kind of a use-whatever-you-have sort of cook. Add herbs to taste – a tablespoon at a time. Blend well. If you wanted to substitute other herbs to your liking, please do so.

To batter a blossom, one wants a very simple and delicate batter so as not to overpower the flower. The perfect batter for this is equal amounts of flour and sparkling water. Mix well.

Dip the stuffed blossoms into the batter mixture and fry at 350 degrees until lightly browned – a minute or so. Drain on paper towels.

For a quick and easy appetizer that’s full of flavor, try my squash and zucchini roll-ups.

Squash and Zucchini Roll-Ups

Squash, zucchini
Goat cheese
Fresh basil
Grilled ham slices or prosciutto
Feta cheese
Fresh mint

Peel squash and zucchini and cut lengthwise into ⅛ – ¼ inch slices. Drizzle with a little oil. I used an Extra Virgin Olive Oil here, since I wanted the extra flavor. Sprinkle some freshly cracked black pepper and salt over the slices. Grill zucchini slices on each side for a few minutes, being sure to put some pretty criss-cross grill marks on it. You want the slices flexible enough to roll but not limp.

Spread a layer of goat cheese down the length of the slice, add a few slices of ham or prosciutto, and layer on a few basil leaves. Roll the slice up and secure with toothpick.

Sprinkle a layer of feta on a slice, lay down some ham or prosciutto, add chopped mint, and roll.

For a third recipe for those uber-zukes one always misses in the garden, Zucchini Lasagna is an excellent choice. I substituted zucchini for pasta and ended up with Not Yo’ Mama’s Zusagna.

Not Yo’ Mama’s Zusagna
Slice zucchini lengthwise into ⅛ – ¼ slices.
If it’s a particularly large zucchini, stop short of the pithy interior and discard the core. Drop the zucchini “pasta” into boiling salted water and let simmer about 2 – 3 minutes. You don’t want the zucchini limp but you do want it flexible. Drain the zucchini.

Using the zucchini slices as your “pasta,” and your favorite lasagna recipe, build the lasagna. For my filling:
I mixed 2 parts cream cheese to 1 part sour cream and added in a handful of chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan. Do it to your taste.

For the sauce, I prefer to make my own:
3 – 4 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large pepper, chopped
1 TB sugar
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs – basil, oregano, thyme, parsley

Heat a pot of water to boiling and add in tomatoes. Boil for about 20 seconds until the skin starts to split. Let tomatoes cool, then peel and cut off stems. Slice in half and squeeze to remove juice and gel sacs of seeds. Chop and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large sauce pan and add onions, pepper, and garlic. Let onions sweat a bit for a minute or two over medium heat, then add in tomatoes. Add in sugar. The sugar brings out the natural sweetness in the tomatoes and gives a nice balance to the sauce, cutting the acidity. Next I added in a handful of chopped basil, and the leaves from a few sprigs of oregano and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit over very low heat for at least an hour, preferably more, to allow the flavors to meld. I like to make a large batch of the tomato sauce, pour into containers, and freeze so I can have a bright taste of summer in the middle of winter.


You’ll need a large pile of grated Mozzarella cheese and a smaller pile of grated Parmesan cheese.

Starting with a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, layer zucchini strips, cream cheese mixture, more sauce, and grated Mozzarella . Continue layering until you use up all ingredients. Top with grated Parmesan.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until the top is bubbly and golden and the dish is cooked through. Let dish sit for about 10 minutes before slicing.

When one has a steady supply of squash coming in, one needs to be inventive. I’m going to make a quick garden-fresh pizza.

For those of you intimidated by making your own pizza dough or don’t have the time, I’m recommending using a tortilla. I like a thin-crust pizza, and this is about as thin as you can get. Also, this is the perfect size for two people.

1 flour tortilla
Goat cheese
Monterey Jack cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Black olives, sliced
Red onion, sliced
Zucchini slices
Squash slices
Tomato, peeled, seeded, juiced, and sliced
Assorted peppers, sliced (I like to use green, yellow, orange, and red because it’s pretty.)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Sautéed ham slices or prosciutto
Fresh basil

I put a layer of Monterey Jack slices on the tortilla first, then the ham. Next the peeled, seeded, juiced, sliced, and salted and peppered tomatoes went on. Sliced zucchini and squash, a layer of grated Mozzarella, red onion, peppers, and black olives followed with goat cheese and grated Mozzarella on top.

Bake in a 450-degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until tortilla is crisp and cheese bubbly.

With all the flavors on this pizza, you won’t miss the non-pizza crust or the fact that there’s no pizza sauce.
Top baked pizza with a chiffonade of basil. A chiffonade is simply a cutting technique. Stack your basil leaves, roll them up, and slice them into ribbons.

For a slice of summer on a plate, I’ve got a Summer Squash Pie for you that’s sure to please, using the best and freshest ingredients from the garden.

1 pie crust — If you don’t make your own crust, I recommend Pillsbury’s frozen rolled-up crusts, not the frozen ones in the aluminum pans. The rolled-up crusts hold more filling and the frozen ones tend to crack.
Dijon mustard
Mozzarella cheese, grated, enough to cover three layers
2 young yellow squash, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, juiced, and sliced
1 small green pepper
¾ cup skim milk
¾ cup whipping cream
⅓ cup sour cream
2 eggs, room temperature
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Cheddar cheese, grated, to top
Fresh basil, chopped

Note: For the dairy amounts in all my recipes, I always use what I have on hand, and I always have skim milk and heavy or whipping cream. I use a 1:1 ratio. If you had other different fat content milks on hand, I think using them would be fine. Personally, I tend to go for the higher fat content.

Press the pie dough into a deep dish pan.
Brush the bottoms and sides of the dough with a thin layer of Dijon mustard — either creamy or coarse-ground.
I nuked the milk and cream for about 2 minutes, then stirred in the sour cream. The custard cooks a little quicker by heating the milk mixture.
Whip the eggs. Having them at room temperature gives you better volume.
Slowly add the heated milk mixture to the eggs, whisking the entire time.
Assemble the pie:
First, add a thin layer of grated Mozzarella to the pie and top with a layer of sliced squash.
Next add a layer of sliced peppers, onions, tomatoes, freshly ground salt and pepper, and some chopped basil.
Add a second layer of grated Mozzarella.
Add another layer of sliced squash, tomato, onion, pepper, basil, and salt and pepper.
Pour the custard mixture in.
Top with grated Mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about one hour. Test with a toothpick. It should be fairly clean. Let sit for 10 minutes so custard can set.

Here’s a Rosie Tip #87:
When making a spaghetti sauce, add in a few small cubes of squash and zucchini for a nice texture and flavor complement. It’s a little surprise in the sauce.

Hope you enjoy my recipes and please visit with Rosie at

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