As so often happens during the height of summer, I glanced away from my zucchini plants just long enough for a dozen or so of them to transform from respectable grocery-store-sized specimens into behemoths of the backyard.
While I’m happy to store a few of the green baseball bats away for fall use in soups, pasta dishes, zucchini bread and other seasonal specialties, I simply didn’t have room in my larder to accommodate all of the gargantuan vegetables.
So, in an attempt to get rid of the two biggest specimens, I sought out a recipe that would enable me to feed a ravenous mob and sent out an invite for a “Summer’s Last Gasp” backyard brunch.
Soon enough, I realized I wasn’t the only one out there with scary-big zukes, and I found plenty of suggestions for what to do with the bad boys—including using them for protection against burglars, if that was the only weapon at hand.
The recipe for baked zucchini included on this page is for medium-sized zucchinis, so I made two batches—one including the ground beef, and the other without. I also used parmesan cheese and blue cheese instead of mozzarella (because it’s what I had on hand), diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, and threw in a couple more onions than the instructions called for. And because the skins of my zucchinis were so thick, I ended up cooking them for a little longer than an hour.
While I was at it, I also whipped up some blackberry sauce for use on top of waffles. After plucking about four cups of the invasive fruit off our plentiful fence crop, I simply squeezed in the juice of half a lime (for freshness), added approximately four or five tablespoons of sugar, and mixed it up with a fork until the blackberries were oozing in their own juices. After sitting in the fridge overnight, the sauce was just right, and paired wonderfully with the waffles and mounds of fresh whipped cream—neither of which survived the hungry hordes.
Finally, I realized I needed to do something with the mounds of tomatoes that, despite the recent warm spell, have refused to redden. After perusing a number of recipes for fried green tomatoes, I went with the one that was the simplest. I cut the tomatoes into quarter-inch rounds, dipped them in whole milk, and then dipped them again in flour mixed with liberal doses of salt and pepper. I fried them in canola oil until they darkened, flipped ‘em, then did it again and again until the pile of tomatoes was gone.
Along with contributions of bacon candy, frittata, fruit, spaghetti squash baked with cheese, coffee cake, sweet potato salad and more, those who came to the backyard brunch ended up with more than they could handle.
What this meant was that, despite my best efforts, I still had plenty of leftovers to deal with at the end of the day. Thanks to a suggestion from a guest, I used the remnants of the baked zucchini dish as the base of a soup. After chopping it all up and simmering the goods in water, I added a can of corn, a cup of brown rice, chopped sage and oregano from the garden, paprika and more salt and pepper, and, with the addition of grilled cheese sandwiches, dinner was taken care of.
While I’ve still got plenty of oversized zucchinis in storage or awaiting processing, it did feel good to knock a couple of them out commission. As soon as that huge vat of soup currently sitting in my fridge is gone, I’ll really breathe a sigh of relief.
1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
1 large onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 jalapeño pepper (seeded and chopped)
1 ¼ cup soft breadcrumbs
1 egg (beaten)
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce (divided)
2 medium tomatoes (chopped)
4-5 medium zucchini
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
In a medium skillet, brown ground beef. Drain and set aside to cool. In a large bowl mix cooled ground beef, onion, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, soft bread crumbs, egg, parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix in one can of tomato sauce. Stir in tomatoes.
Cut each zucchini in half length wise. Scoop out the center of each zucchini half to about ¼ inch from the edges. Fill each zucchini half with the meat mixture and place in two 13×9” baking dishes. Spoon the other can of tomato sauce over the top of each zucchini half.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until zucchini have reached your desired tenderness. During the last few minutes of baking, top each zucchini half with mozzarella cheese.
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