Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Accidental Zucchini

Two weeks ago at Trader Joe’s (before I decided to focus on local food), I purchased what I thought were two cucumbers. Leave it to the CSA Virgin not to know the difference between two different kinds of oblong, green vegetables: When I sliced into the first one, I realized I had zucchini instead. Yuck.

There are very few vegetables that I actually hate. Some are better than others, but I’ve been known to pick around only four: zucchini, mushrooms, cauliflower, and red bell peppers. Zucchini and mushrooms are the only two vegetables I have hated practically since birth. I truly hate their texture when cooked, and their taste does nothing to make up for it. I could always take or leave cauliflower, but it didn’t make my enemies list until a highly unfortunate incident involving creamed cauliflower and food poising several years ago. Red bell peppers are the weird one: I like them in virtually all stand-alone preparations (raw, roasted, grilled, etc.), but I cannot stand them if they show up in a mixed veggie side dish (the frozen medleys are the worst offenders). Weird, I know.

So, there I was at the counter, slicing into my accidental zucchini, and wondering what I was going to do with it. I had only just convinced my husband that I would make full use of CSA vegetables, so if he came home from work to see two, perfectly good zucchinis in the trash, I would have a lot of explaining to do. Not to mention, I know my CSA will probably have a bumper crop of them next summer, just because that’s my luck. So, it was time to find a way to like a zucchini.

I hit the web and found this recipe for Zucchini Oven Chips.

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
2 1/2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 small)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place milk in a shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place coated slices on an ovenproof wire rack coated with cooking spray; place rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

For bread crumbs, I used half a slice of Ezekiel bread made into crumbs in my baby-food maker. [Ezekiel bread is hard and crunchy to begin with, so it makes excellent bread crumbs with no toasting.] I skipped the salt because I had “garlic salt” in my pantry instead of “garlic powder,” so I assumed they would be salty enough. I also went a little heavy on the freshly-ground black pepper because I prefer my food to be spicy. I had only 1-percent milk, so that’s what I used. And I used a pizza tray instead of a wire rack. I popped them in the oven and they were perfectly done in 20 minutes (rather than the 30 the recipe called for).

The result was incredible. They had none of the watery mush I usually associate with cooked zucchini. They were spicy, crunchy, rich, and wonderful. Restaurant-appetizer worthy. They were so decadent, in fact, that I poured myself half a glass of red wine to go with them. And then I ate the entire plate of them: a whole zucchini’s worth.

If I could turn around a lifetime’s worth of zucchini-hate with just one, simple recipe, maybe there’s hope for mushrooms, cauliflower, and red bell peppers, too? And for my husband’s hatred of virtually all vegetables?

I guess we’ll find out!

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