Summer explosion

This is the time of year when the garden is producing like crazy. It’s hard to keep up! I always want several varieties of each summer vegetable, but several varieties means several plants, and at this time of year, that can mean that our garden is producing way more than we can eat. And not every vegetable is suitable for preserving. Take summer squash for example. I like to have several different kinds, but now our refrigerator is full and I’m having to find different ways to cook it pretty much every meal. Last year I discovered a recipe for zucchini crust pizza that uses 8 cups of grated zucchini for each pizza. That was a great discovery. Now I’m not so bummed when I find that zucchini I missed tucked under the leaves that has now grown to gargantuan proportions.

 

And I wasn’t so upset when our resident field mouse–the intelligent one that has managed to stay out of the trap—ate the roots of two of my zucchini plants. Those plants had a good run, so by the time the mouse ate them, I was actually a bit relieved. It’s not like I don’t have three more summer squash plants that are still producing.

But I’m not so happy with the field mouse making a meal of my melon roots. He probably ate more than 75% of the plants, so it’s not looking like I will get many melons this year. A few tiny little melons are just beginning to emerge, so I sincerely hope he stays away from the remaining plants.

 

 

The cucumbers are doing well this year, which means I’ve been making fermented pickles. A few years ago I discovered Linda Ziedrich’s wonderful pickling book “The Joy of Pickling,” and through quite a bit of trial and error I realized that I much prefer the flavor of vegetables pickled by fermentation in a salt brine, rather than vinegar. The vinegar pickles are a bit too strong for me.

 

 

Last night I made gazpacho with the first large batch of tomatoes. Usually for about a month after they start producing I like to use fresh tomatoes in everything, but by mid-September I start to can them. I planted four plants of paste tomatoes (two San Marzanos and two Amish Paste) so I’m hopeful I will have enough tomatoes for a good canning season. My goal is to can whole tomatoes, tomato juice, and tomato paste, along with a few different salsas, but we’ll see how well the tomato plants end up producing. They are just starting to get going now.

 

 

I will leave you with two of my tried and true recipes in case you find yourself with a pile of summer squash or cucumbers. In future blogs I will post some of my tomato and chile recipes. Enjoy the late summer abundance of veggies either in your own garden or from the farmers market while you can. I love this time of year!

 

Zucchini Pizza Crust

Makes 1 pizza.
• 8 cups shredded zucchini
• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
• 2/3 cup flour (sub almond flour for gluten free)
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
• 3 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp basil
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 ½ cup marinara sauce (optional)
• Fresh basil (optional)
• grated parmesan for topping
• Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit just inside the shape of your pizza stone.
• Preheat grill to 550F with a pizza stone pre-baking on it.
• In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the squash (I use a ricer to make this easy), discarding the water.
• Place the shredded zucchini back into the bowl and add the cheddar cheese, flour, garlic, oregano, basil, eggs, and 1 tsp salt.
• With your hands, incorporate all of the ingredients together.
• Place the zucchini mixture onto the parchment paper, set on pizza peel.
• Using your fingers, spread the zucchini crust mixture to form a circle to the edge of the parchment paper, about 1/2″ thick. Pinch the edges up so that it forms a nice crust.
• Once the pizza crust has been shaped, transfer the crust on the parchment paper onto the heated pizza stone on the grill. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the crust starts to brown.
• Transfer the pizza on the parchment paper out of the grill, back on to the pizza peel.
• Top the pizza with sauce and any additional toppings that you’d like.
• Once the toppings are on, transfer the pizza on the parchment paper back onto the heated pizza stone in the grill and bake for 4- 8 minutes more, until the crust is firm and the toppings are cooked. Top with parmesan and fresh basil.

Half-Sours, by the Quart
Recipe by Linda Ziedrich, Joy of Pickling
Makes 1 quart

¼ tsp whole black peppercorns, crushed
¼ teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed
1 Mediterranean bay leaf
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 quart (about 1 pound) 3-to-5 inch pickling cucumbers, blossom ends removed
1 dill head
1 small fresh or dried hot pepper, such as japones or de arbol, slit lengthwise
1 ½ tbsp. pickling salt
3 cups water

• Put the peppercorns, coriander, bay, and garlic into a clean quart jar. Pack the jar with the cucumbers, adding the dill head and hot pepper. Dissolve the salt in the water, and pour the brine over the cucumbers, leaving 1 ½ inches headspace. Push a quart-size freezer bag into the jar, pour some or all of the remaining brine into the bag, an seal the bag. Keep the jar at about room temperature, with a dish underneath if the seeping brine might do some damage otherwise.

• Within three days you should see tiny bubbles rising in the jar; they tell you that fermentation has begun. If scum forms on top of the brine, skim it off daily, and rinse off the brine bag.

• The pickles should be ready within a week, when they taste sour and when the tiny bubbles have stopped rising. Skim off any scum at the top of the jar, and store the pickles in the refrigerator for about 3 days, after which time they should be an even olive green throughout. They are best eaten within about 3 weeks.