I heard this joke when I first moved to Utah: why do you have to lock your car when you go to church in the summertime? Because if you don’t, your neighbors will fill it with their giant zucchini “gifts”.
The management around here ought to fire the gardener. The weeds aren’t so out of control, partly because the single ginormous zucchini plant is shading half a bed. We pulled out a monster zuke (3 lbs 10 oz) just last week. This is the first year I have planted Costata Romanesco. I got the seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It was slow to take off, perhaps because of the cool spring rather than the variety. I will know more about its habits next year, because I definitely will grow it again. Costata Romanesco is the best tasting zuke we’ve ever grown, and it stays tender even at this unfortunate size. Yes, zuke neglect has happened before at the palace, plenty of experience here in that department. So what can be done with a supersized zucchini? (Recipe follows).
I’m not a zucchini bread fan, and I don’t care for the texture of zucchinis after they have been frozen. And we don’t want to nibble at it: we need an attack plan to use it up. Five more zukes from the same plant are getting larger every time the sprinklers come on. What we want here is to turn this problem into a feature (software engineers do this all the time so they don’t have to fix bugs in the code).
*Further discussion of the horticultural beans saved for a cold rainy cooking day.
In the palace kitchen, the chef uses a mandolin to dispatch the entire zuke into a shredded pasta substitute. It is so low-calorie, high-fiber healthy that I can almost justify saucing it with large quantities of pesto. Did I mention the basil plants are huge this year too?
Zucchini pasta with pesto and shrimp
Thinly shred zucchini on a mandolin, or cut into 1/8″ thick ribbons as wide as desired. Spread “pasta” on a platter. Sprinkle heavily with salt, and set aside for 30 minutes. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
2 packed cups basil leaves
1T minced or crushed garlic
2 T pine nuts (plus extra for garnish)
1/2 cups (or more) olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan (grate extra for garnish)
salt to taste
Put the basil and garlic into a food processor. Process until finely chopped, then drizzle in olive oil until finely pureed. Add the pine nuts and cheese, pulse again. Season with salt to taste. Makes enough to generously sauce a 3 lb 10 oz zucchini. Or save extra to make other goodies.
Put it together
Pre-cooked shrimp (I used about 1/4 lb per person)
Whole cherry tomatoes or sliced salad tomatoes (I used our Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes)
Grated parmesan and pine nuts
Dried spaghetti or fettucine (optional)
Rinse the salt off the zucchini. Assess the quantity of zucchini “pasta” for the crowd you are feeding. The volume of shredded zucchini will be about the same after cooking. If you need to augment it with pasta (or just want to), put the pasta into the pot of water first. When the regular pasta is about a minute from done, toss the zucchini into the boiling water. (If you aren’t using the dried pasta, just plunge the zuke shreds in the boiling water when ready to eat.) Cook just until zucchini is bright green, hot all the way through. Drain well. Return the zucchini to the cooking pot or a large bowl, stir in the pesto. Transfer the sauced zukes to a serving plate or individual bowls, then scatter shrimp, tomatoes, cheese and nuts on top.
We served three hungry people with that 3 lb 10 oz squash. Four servings would have been more genteel, but we were three and the pesto was very good. Enjoy!