Tonight's dinner began with a surplus - a massive surplus of zucchini, that is. When I saw the green and golden squash at the farmer's market last week, I started craving the incredible zucchini carpaccio salad I'd made so many times last summer. A few moments with a mandoline, a sprinkle of olive oil, sea salt, pepper and basil, and voila! Raw perfection. But, as is my luck, when I carted all three pounds of zucchini home, I discovered that I had misplaced my mandoline... and was fresh out of olive oil to boot. Bummer!
So there the zucchini sat, gently aging in the refrigerator, until this morning. I knew I wanted to make some of my friend Batya's famous Zucchini-Basil Soup, but even that only takes two pounds of squash. What to do with the rest?
Zucchini bread, natch! I used this recipe with a few alterations: I substituted applesauce for vegetable oil - getting right with my life! - and used half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of white instead of all white sugar. I really like the depth that brown sugar brings to baked goods, and I think it was a good call here.
And what's that spoonful of lovely crimson goop on the spoon? Why, strawberry-rhubarb jam, of course!
I made it last weekend after going slightly insane buying greenmarket strawberries and pounds upon pounds of rhubarb. The recipe and technique comes from the excellent Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff, and basically involves cooking the two fruits with sugar until they release their juices, then boiling those juices with fresh lemon juice to concentrate and gel them. The resulting jam is a bit runny - probably due to my endemic lack of patience - but also bright, lemony, almost herbal... and never too sweet. It goes just as well on zucchini bread as it does on biscuits.
And speaking of biscuits...
Ed and I went up to spend a weekend with my parents last month, and my mom pulled out all the stops for dessert. She made her family-famous strawberry shortcake, which is exactly as dreamy and spectacular as it looks. Chunks of syrup-soaked jewel-colored strawberries meet clouds of freshly whipped local cream and cascade down the craggy peaks of shortbread. Ridiculous. So good.
Ed liked it, too - a lot! So I decided to re-create it at home for him. I called up my mom for the shortcake recipe, and our call went like this:
Mom: Now you have to promise not to tell anyone this recipe, okay? This is a family secret, passed down from generation to generation.
Kat: Okay! I promise.
Mom: Okay. You got a pen? Because this is kind of complicated.
Kat: I got a pen and paper right here!
Mom: Good. Okay... now you get a box of Bisquick.
Kat: One... box... of Bisquick...
Mom: And you turn it over.... and read the recipe on the back of the box for shortcakes.
Kat: Oh. Mom!
Anyway... aren't we supposed to be talking about zucchini?
And Batya's famous Zucchini-Basil soup? Which, believe me, was the best possible way to turn my gigantic pile of zucchini into something warm, delicious, filling and delightfully basil-flecked. I used chicken broth instead of veggie because that's what I had on hand, and I doubled the garlic because that's just how I roll. Oh, and I added a dollop of greek yogurt because why not?
As Batya might say: Looove it!
And though I'm out of clever segues - and some might argue that none of them were clever to begin with - I want to show you something.
Peas! Lots and lots of fresh peas!
Peas with tons of butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel - hands down, one of the best things about June. Along with beach days, backyard barbecues with friends and cold beers in cans, shorts and sunglasses... and that strawberry shortcake. Oh man, is that stuff good.