Saturday, August 6, 2016

Zucchini, zucchini everywhere...

When I was a kid, I hated zucchini season. My mom would slice the zucchini into thin rounds and saute it in a bit of oil, essentially turning it into slimy green nothing as far as I was concerned. It only had flavor if the oil was getting old, and that flavor certainly didn't help.

My appreciation for zucchini grew as I got older and learned to fix it myself. A friend recently gave me an enormous zucchini, which I promptly reduced to a couple pounds of "noodles" with my mandolin. I sauteed some with soy sauce, veggies, and cashew butter for a lo mein-ish dish, some with tomato sauce and herbs, then a topping of cheese for a spaghetti-ish meal. As I hit day four of zucchini noodles, I kind of wondered what people used to do with their over-abundances of zucchini.

I learned that the zucchini noodle craze isn't exactly as new as it may seem. Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Dieting to Stay Fit (1978) recommends this:

No, they're not the more fettuccine-style noodles I made on the mandolin, but the zucchini planks in Herbed Zucchini Lasagne are clearly meant to stand in for zucchini noodles.

This might actually be a good recipe if it were not so pathetic. Tomato sauce does have more calories than zucchini, but it's not Alfredo sauce. Maybe the recipe could call for more than half a cup? Or maybe a simple rename would make this sound better. If it were called "Zucchini with a Little Tomato Sauce and Cheese," my expectations would be way lower. Calling this meager offering a lasagna sets up expectations that this sad little concoction can't hope to live up to, even if it tastes all right.

I found that zucchini sometimes stood in not just for noodles, but also for other kinds of vegetables:

The New McCall's Cook Book (Mary Eckley, 1963 copyright, 1973 printing) suggests Our Best Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles as a way to use up some of the zucchini without having to immediately consume it (surely a relief after having had zucchini casseroles and zucchini bread for days on end). (Side note: I'd recommend against eating zucchini bread-and-butter pickles on zucchini bread, as that would probably get pretty weird.)

Zucchini is so inoffensive that it was hard to find a truly awful recipe, although a few made me wonder about people's tastes. American Home All-Purpose Cookbook (ed. Virginia T. Habeeb, 1966) suggests a recipe unlikely to become a classic:

Zucchini a l'Orange is the fancy name for zucchini cooked in orange juice concentrate. Giving it a Frenchified name does not change the fact that it is, as you may have gathered by this point, zucchini cooked in orange juice concentrate.

If you are a real sucker for mushy foods, I suspect Rival's recommendation from Crock-Pot Cooking (1975) will sound yummy:

Spaghetti noodles and thinly sliced zucchini cooked with quartered frankfurters in bouillon for six to eight hours are sure to be a gloopy mess... if perhaps inoffensively tomato-y.

Home ec teachers were a great source for questionable recipes. Can you guess what "Creole" means to the teacher who sent the Zucchini Creole recipe to Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Vegetables (Including Fruits) (1966)?

It means "boiled to death in catsup" from the looks of it.

And some recipes are just kind of inexplicable, like this one (from the same book as Zucchini Creole):

I would not necessarily be excited about zucchini casserole loaded up with brown sugar, but zucchini bread is fine, so I could maybe see somebody enjoying a sweet zucchini casserole...?

Zucchini is delicious with cheese on it (especially if that cheese is paired with tomatoes)... but... Does anyone really want brown sugar AND Parmesan cheese on zucchini? Am I the weird one in thinking, "Not a match. The board goes back"?

 You can ponder that question while I mourn my inability to find a clip of David Letterman saying that last line.


  1. Too bad you don't have grandma's zucchini cream pie recipe. That gray green slime inspired many sudden diets.

    1. I tried to see if there was a zucchini cream pie recipe, but I didn't find one. That must have been special to her.

  2. Too bad you don't have grandma's zucchini cream pie recipe. That gray green slime inspired many sudden diets.

  3. Boiled to death in catsup sounds like medieval torture or a fun 50's way to spice up your veggies :D

    1. It might be a good punk band name, too.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. When I was living on the farm, we had an amazing growing season for zucchini. Our 4-H director gave Mom a recipe where you could can zucchini and it tasted like pineapple. Guess what? It worked!

    I looked and just found the recipe -