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Zucchini Primavera

My mother’s handwriting has become spidery in the old note I find in the recipe scrapbook.  It is dated “7 September,” but what year?  Perhaps in the early eighties, about 25 years ago now.  As usual, she writes simply and elegantly:

“We have had some lovely rain.  Many of my flowers perished in the heat, but I have a row of baby zinnias in the garden, and they are joyous.”

Mother’s note has landed in my recipe scrapbook because it contains the ingredients and proportions for a simple zucchini casserole that is pale green in color, and somehow both delicate and intense in flavor. Simple and elegant.

The color and intensity make you think of spring, though zucchini is an old mainstay of a summer vegetable, ever and always.  Never mind.  Any dish this green, this delicate, and this intense needs to be called “primavera.”

How simple is it?  For every main-dish serving you will need one medium-large zucchini, enough for a cup of drained, grated zucchini; three tablespoons of flour, one well-beaten egg, a pinch of salt, a little bit of cheese, and perhaps a couple of cherry tomatoes or ripe olives.

Mother seems to have made the casserole in amounts sufficient to serve four, but I’ve cut the recipe to a one-serving size as a main dish.

  • one cup grated zucchini, squeezed and drained
  • one well-beaten egg
  • three tablespoons flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • optional toppings, such as grated cheese, drained, sliced ripe olives, sliced cherry tomatoes

To prepare the zucchini, select a medium-large unpeeled zucchini and grate it.  Squeeze the grated pulp by hand until it is nearly dry, saving the juice and any leftover pulp for soup.  Drain the pulp further by leaving it in a sieve for a few minutes, if you wish.  Mix the ingredients together and bake in a small,  greased souffle dish for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Reduce the heat to 325 and sprinkle the top with less than an ounce of grated cheese, and a few olive or tomato slices.  Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.  If you are using the casserole as a side dish, omit the toppings.  The casserole should be slightly puffy and vividly green, with slight browning around the edge.  Serves one as a main, two as a side.

You will probably have enough juice and pulp left to make a delicious bowl of soup.  In a small saucepan over low heat melt a tablespoon of butter and whisk in a tablespoon of flour.  Add your left-over zucchini pulp and juice and half a chicken bullion cube.  Keep stirring as you add about a half-cup of half and half.  Heat to piping, but do not allow to boil.  Add salt to taste.  Or make a healthier version of the soup, without the butter, flour and half and half.  Merely thicken your pulp and juice mixture with some mashed potatoes, add the half bullion cube, and heat while stirring briskly.  Add salt to taste.

The critical question may be: what is a medium-large zucchini?  More on that later.


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