Zuke alors!

Late July is the beginning of squash season in Seattle and as our weekend began I realized that we had two pounds of squash from our CSA box, with a good chance of receiving more squash on Tuesday. I had planned to grill squash on the weekend, but work and the reappearance of rain interfered with those plans. Squash grills nicely when coated with olive oil,zuke-coins.jpg though you also can use melted butter ("Absolutely!" says the Butter Bitch). I turned to the recipes provided by our CSA farm and modified them slightly to my preferences for a zucchini extravaganza on Sunday, accompanied by chorizo sausages from our local butcher and chocolate from a new chocolatier in Fremont.

The first step was to slice one pound of zucchini into thin coins and put them into a skillet with two thin-sliced garlic cloves, about two tablespoons of olive oil, and a generous pinch of kosher salt. (With rare exceptions, I don't measure when I pour olive oil into a skillet or sauce pan.) The recipe called for slow-cooking the zucchini for 20 minutes until they appear glazed. I could have cooked them faster, but it suited my purpose to let the zucchini cook slowly while I tended to other matters. The sausages were browned over medium high heat and joined with half a bottle of Snoqualmie Brewing's Steam Train Porter. The porter is rich and chocolaty, and it slightly tempered the heat of the chorizos, making them a little sweeter.

We had half a bottle left of one of the Arizona red wines that the Butter Bitch had brought back, so while I grated and goatcheese.jpgsliced zucchini I also had a pot of marinara sauce simmering. The tomatoes came from an old can of crushed tomatoes that had been in the cupboard for months, from before we started Ethicurean. I diced garlic from our CSA and organic onions from PCC, cooked them with chopped local basil in olive oil until the onions were translucent, and added the crushed tomatoes and wine. The Butter Bitch suggested adding sliced zucchini to the sauce, but I think zucchini has no place in marinara sauce.

The zucchini coin recipe calls for the zucchini to be mixed with herbs and topped with feta, but a chevre or other goat cheese may be used. I chose an ash-covered soft goat cheese from Quillisascut Cheese in northeastern Washington. The cheese has amarinate.jpg mild goat flavor accompanied by the tanginess of the ash and rind. Quillisascut pastures their livestock and feeds them alfalfa hay from nearby farms, though they do make fun of the goats' fear of rain. The goats are fed whole barley and oats during milking, and are not given growth hormones.

The wedge of goat cheese was more than called for by the zucchini recipe, and I had more basil than needed. Fortunately, I bought a few local organic tomatoes to make into salsa and had an extra tomato that could be used for a salad. I marinated chunks of the cheese with basil leaves in balsamic vinegar and olive oil (1-2 tablespoons of each) for roughly half an hour nw-caprese1.jpgwhile other things cooked. The tomato was sliced in half and cored, then the two halves were laid end to end. I ladled the cheese-basil mixture over the tomatoes for a fun variation on caprese.

The other pound of zucchini went into fritters, which originally were intended to be my Monday lunch. Some of the fritters wound up on our dinner plates. Making the fritters is easy. Grate one pound of zucchinis using the largest holes on a box grater. The recipe calls for them to be wrapped in a paper towel or a cotton towel and squeezed dry, but I dislike cotton and paper fibers in my food. I put the grated zucchini in a colander and pressed down on them to remove some of the moisture. That didn'tzukes.jpg work very well, so I grabbed clumps of zucchini and squeezed out water. After removing as much water as possible, mix the zucchini with a diced pearl onion and two or three diced cloves of garlic. Beat two eggs and mix those into the vegetables, and then add half a cup of flour and mix well to create zucchini batter. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil or butter ("Absolutely!" says the Butter Bitch again) in a skillet over medium heat, or medium high heat if your stovetop cooks a little cold. Measure 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet and press the batter lumps into fritter discs. Fill the skillet with batter and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The recipe is fine with only 1 egg, and the second egg makes the fritters taste, well, eggy, but the additional egg seemed to compensate for the moisture left in the zucchini.

For wine, I could not resist a bottle of Tempranillo from La Mancha region in Spain. The wine was the perfect accompaniment to the zucchini, ash-covered goat cheese, herbs, and porter-braised chorizos. For dessert, we tried a bar of organic fair trade chocolate from Theo Chocolate, a new chocolatier frying-fritters1.jpglocated in the old Red Hook Brewery building in Fremont. (Theo offers tours, so expect a post on a chocolate-tasting trip in the near future.) The chocolate we tried is named "Bread and Chocolate" and was made with French bread and sea salt. The results were interesting--crunchy salty chocolate. On its own, the chocolate is a little strange because of the sea salt, but paired with a bold Spanish wine it is delightful. The chocolate should go well with a Washington cabernet or syrah.

By the end of the evening, we had decimated two pounds of zucchini, prompting a raised fist of victory from the Butter Bitch. Some of the zucchini coins and fritters were left over for my lunch on Monday, which made me happy. The marinara sauce turned out nicely and was placed in the freezer for later consumption, along with afritters.jpg tub of salsa (made of pearl onions and cilantro from our CSA box and tomatoes from PCC). The tasty spoils of the evening were ours.

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