Nancy Salerno: Zucchini recipes

Written by David Green.


Need any zucchini?

Of course you don’t. Someone gave you a bag of the stuff two days ago and it’s still sitting on the kitchen counter.

Zucchini is somewhat of a wonder plant because it grows so easily and so profusely. Its heavy production leaves gardeners wondering what to do with it all. Eventually it becomes the joke of summer gardens everywhere.

Well, not quite everywhere. Take the John and Nancy Salerno residence east of Morenci, for example. In Nancy’s kitchen, zucchini is serious business, as in good eating.

There’s Zucchini Puffed, made with ricotta and parmesan and cream, complete with a layer of fresh basil leaves.

There’s Zucchini with Black Butter Sauce and Zucchini Stuffed with Zucchini. Zucchini Fan featuring carrots, artichoke hearts, onions and olives shoved into the fan-shaped split zucchini. Quick Zucchini for an almost instant meal of fresh vegetables. Zucchini Soup served with grated parmesan and a good, hearty bread.

Everyone makes Zucchini Bread, Nancy included, but she also makes Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies. Those little flecks of green in the cookie?

“I used to tell the kids it was candy,” she said.

Nancy grew up in New York State with a mother from Albany and a father from Italy. John spent his first six years of life in Sicily before moving to America. Both of the Salernos have memories of their heritage when it comes to food.

When Nancy’s family first moved to the United States, her grandmother wanted to assimilate with the local residents. She made her daughter—Nancy’s mother—take a class to learn American cooking. But in the end, says Nancy, it didn’t really change her grandmother’s cooking style that much. She couldn’t give up the good Italian meals.

“She was a good cook but she wouldn’t show you how to do it,” Nancy said. “It was always ‘I’ll make it for you.’”

That included the cassata dessert with 33 eggs, chocolate and liquor.

“When the family got together, there was always a competition to see who had the layers right,” Nancy said. “And nobody would tell you what they did.”

Looking through an old cookbook of her grandmother’s, she spies a recipe with the words “DO NOT CHANGE.” Yet on another page, there are annotated changes, apparently made by Nancy’s mother. A variation was made in 1987. And in 1991: “Unable to get citrons; tried canned cherries.”

Nobody makes a souffle out of zucchini, Nancy says as she and her daughter, Valerie, bustle around the kitchen creating a souffle. John recalls that his uncle liked cucuzzi, the much longer and thinner Italian squash. He also recalls dandelion greens as a salad.

Nancy’s had dandelion experience with her grandmother.

“We had to go out and pick the very first greens,” she said. “If they were two days late she wouldn’t take them.”

In her family, the greens were cooked with bacon.

The Salernos moved to Morenci from Syracuse, N.Y., in the 1990s when dozens of General Motors jobs were transferred to Michigan. It came as somewhat of a shock in the food department.

“When we first moved here, we had trouble finding food,” Nancy recalls.

Midwest food wasn’t like upstate New York food. The ricotta wasn’t right. The vegetable selection was diminished. Good bread didn’t exist.

They’ve made some adaptations and located some new sources over the years, but the change reminds Nancy how easy it is to lose track of tradition. Culture diminishes quickly, she says.

But with her daughter busy in the kitchen learning what to do with zucchini, perhaps her grandmother’s words will remain: Do Not Change!

  - July 26, 2006


Zucchini Puffed

Zucchini (or eggplant)
3 T. olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/3 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 chopped and peeled tomatoes or stewed tomatoes partially drained

Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices and fry in oil until golden brown. Place on paper towel to drain off excess oil.

Mix ricotta and parmesan in a bowl with egg. Add salt and pepper. Whisk ingredients together and beat into a thick paste. Pour in heavy cream and stir until mixture is free of lumps. It should be thick.

Put half the zucchini slices in a baking dish and cover with a layer of tomatoes. Dot with basil leaves. Add another layer of zucchini. Pour the thick cheese sauce over the zucchini. Add a sprinkle of parmesan on top. Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then at 375 for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Zucchini stuffed with Zucchini

(Make ahead of time and cook just before serving)6 medium or 1 large zucchini
3 T. olive oil
1/4 c. chives (onions)
1 c. finely chopped ham, sausage, prosciutto
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 T. chopped parsley
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 egg

Trim ends of zucchini and leave whole. Cook in boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes. (Water must boil first, then add zucchini.) Drain. Rinse under cold water. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out centers. Chop zucchini centers and place in bowl.

In medium pan heat 2 T. oil, add chives, cook until soft. Add meat, chopped zucchini, bread crumbs and parsley. Cook until meat is done. Remove from heat and add 1/4 c. parmesan, egg, salt and nutmeg.

Stuff zucchini with mixture. Put in a glass dish large enough to hold zucchini. Drizzle remaining 1 T. olive oil over zucchini and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Zucchini with Black Butter Sauce

1 large or a few small zucchini
3 T. butter
1/4 c. sage or parsley
6 T. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the whole zucchini in salt water until tender, 2 to 5 minutes. (Water must boil first, then add zucchini.) Drain, trim ends, cut into pieces. Place in serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Heat butter in a pan with parsley until butter is dark brown (not burned). Remove from heat, add salt and pepper. Pour over zucchini.

Zucchini Soup

1 large zucchini (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
3 T. butter
1 small onion chopped
1 t. thyme
6 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. rice
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Trim ends of zucchini. Shred on a grater.

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add onion and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until soft. Add zucchini and thyme. Raise heat to medium. Add chicken stock and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and hard French bread on the side.

Quick ZucchiniZucchini

1/2 c. carrots
1/4 c. chicken broth
1 T. garlic
3 T. parsley
3 T. olive oil

Slice zucchini about 1/4 inch thick. Slice carrots a little bit thinner.

Heat oil in pan. Add zucchini, carrots, garlic and parsley. Cook about 5 to 8 minutes, until vegetables are tender. When just about done, add chicken broth and continue to cook for 1 minute. remove and serve.

Zucchini Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)
3 eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
2-1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. cocoa
1/2 c. milk
2 t. grated orange peel
2 c. grated zucchini
1 c. walnuts
(Can add rum and a little more cinnamon and orange peel)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs. Add oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well.

Combine dry ingredients. Add to mixture, alternating with milk.

Fold in orange peel, zucchini and nuts.

Pour into 2 greased and floured 5x9 loaf pans.

Bake 50 minutes or until done. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. softened butter or margarine
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1 pkg. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts
1-1/2 c. grated zucchini
(Can add cloves and raisins)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda, set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine brown sugar, sugar, softened butter and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips, nuts and zucchini. Mix.

Pour onto a cooking sheet. Spread evenly. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until done. Remove from oven. Cool. Cut.

Zucchini Fan

1 large zucchini, trim one end
2 large tomatoes, cut in half and sliced
1/3 to 1/2 c. olive oil
1 large onion
1 T. garlic
4 artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 c. black olives
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 t. mixed thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, parsley, basil

Split zucchini lengthwise. Place halves, split side down and cut each half into 1/2 inch slices, leaving slices attached at the stem end to form a fan.

Put 2 T. olive oil in baking dish, scatter half the onion and garlic over the bottom of the dish. Place the cut zucchini on top. Between the zucchini, add tomato slices.

Force the artichoke and olives into the crevices around the zucchini fans. Fit in a bay leaf here and there and scatter remaining onion and garlic over surface. sprinkle with herbs.

Press everything into place. Dribble oil over everything. Cover loosely with foil.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until tender.

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