Zucchini Relish, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Squash

This is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest (where I call home) that zucchini, yellow squash, and other summer squashes become the reason why neighbors and family begin avoiding each other. A single zucchini plant can produce so much fruit that it’s not only impossible for a single person to use it all themselves, it’s impossible to even give it away right now because everyone is trying to give away their excess. If you had hearts in your eyes as a mid-winter dreamer of gardens and foolishly seeded more than one plant, then you are in even worse straits; it’s likely that your local food bank won’t even answer the doorbell when you ring, now.

However, I have discovered a partial solution, and it’s a good one: zucchini relish. It’s easy to make, easy to preserve (if you enjoy canning), delicious, and it works for any food that you might use pickle relish on. (Think meats: hot dogs, hamburgers, etc., but it works equally well on veggie burgers and even with crispy fried tofu.)

There are a huge number of recipes for zucchini relish out there, but this is the one that I’ve settled on, after a bit of modification. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and probably a couple of years after being canned. I cannot comment on that second assertion since I devour it long before it gets to its first birthday, no matter how much I make.

The offending fruits

The offending fruits

Sweet Zucchini Relish

  • 12 cups shredded summer squash (I use a food processor)
  • 4 cups chopped onion (I use a Vidalia ChopWizard)
  • 5 tablespoons salt (I use salt *snerk*)
  • 1 red bell pepper (optional: just for color)
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional: just for colour, for my UK friends)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
  • fresh ground black pepper (amount to your liking)
  1. Place the shredded squash in a large bowl, and add the salt. Mix with your hands until it’s evenly mixed. The squash will immediately start shedding liquid. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the squash. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the remaining solids.  (Rinsing is important: the salt was there to get the liquid out of the solids; you don’t want the salt in the final product, at least not in that amount. What salt remains will be perfect for enhancing the flavor.) Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

At this point, your relish is done. You can pack it into jars and refrigerate and eat, or you can freeze it, or you can can it. It’s really just that simple. If you decide to can it, here are the remaining (incredibly uncomplicated & standard) steps:

  1. Pack relish into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  2. Use a knife to skim the insides of the jar to remove any bubbles.
  3. Wipe the top of the jars to get rid of any moisture or solid bits.
  4. Put on a fresh lid and place in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

A pint of canned zucchini relish. This EXACT pint is going into the mail to grace Josh SpokesGay’s table.

And that’s all there is to it. The great thing about this recipe is that it takes a nutritious and delicious fruit, summer squash, which has a very short raw shelf-life, and turns it into something that you can use for months or even years.

Chilled Pea Salad

Ingredients:

1 lb peas
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. flour
3/4 cup Greek/strained yogurt
2 tsp. dill
1 oz feta cheese
2 scallions/spring onions, diced
Squeeze of lemon juice

Technique:

Simmer peas in a saucepan until tender. Drain water, return to pan. Add salt and dill. Meanwhile, whisk flour into half and half until smooth. Turn heat on low and stir flour/milk mixture into peas. Stir gently until heated through and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and put in glass bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Stir in yogurt along with scallions and feta. Refrigerate at least one hour (longer is better).

To serve: stir in one squeeze of fresh lemon.

Mayonnaise as good as Duke’s

I am an unapologetic fanboi of mayonnaise. I love the shit. I love it so much I’d marry it if that were legal in my state. This recipe is the best I’ve had aside from Duke’s, the last commercial mayonnaise that doesn’t add sugar. Sadly, Duke’s can only be bought in the south of the US. Before discovering Duke’s, I was a Hellmann’s boy. And it’s a fine mayonnaise. But I think this is better. And it’s dirt cheap to make.

Equipment
-A stand mixer OR a hand-held electric mixer OR a blender into which you can pour liquids while it runs.

Ingredients

1.5 – 2 cups canola oil or other light, flavorless oil

1 whole egg
4 tsps. white vinegar. No, not apple cider, not rice, and for god’s sake not balsamic. White. Vinegar.
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried, ground mustard
1 tablespoon French’s Yellow prepared mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Technique
Whip egg, salt, dried mustard, prepared yellow mustard, cayenne, and vinegar with two tablespoons of the oil. Scrape bowl. Put mixer on highest setting and add a thin stream of oil until mayonnaise turns thick and white. Every now and again stop the mixer to scrape the bowl. Whip and add oil until the mayonnaise is your preferred consistency. The more the oil, the heavier and also the whiter.

EXPECT this to take at least 10 to 15 minutes. Do not rush adding the oil or it could break.

The last spreadable butter you’ll ever need

Don’t ever buy whipped butter, spreadable butter, or half-fat margarine again. This recipe does it all, it’s easy, and it’s cheap.

Equipment
-A stand mixer OR a hand-held electric mixer

Ingredients
-(scalable—this recipe uses 1/4 cup for each part. You can make more or less with the same proportions)
-2 parts butter, at room temperature, sliced into chunks (1 stick=1/2 cup=2 parts)
-1 part greek yogurt, room temperature
-1 part flavorless oil, such as canola, corn, etc.
-1 part water
-1/4 teaspoon salt. Plain, granulated salt. Not some fancy chunky shit that won’t dissolve.

Technique
KEEP MIXER RUNNING THROUGHOUT EXCEPT WHEN SCRAPING BOWL.
Place butter in mixer bowl. Whip on high until butter is totally smooth and liquid. Scrape bowl as needed throughout. Pour in oil at a medium pace; don’t dump it in, but you don’t have to trickle it either.  Pour water in, whip until smooth. When mixed, spoon in greek yogurt a spoonful at a time. Whip until smooth on highest speed. You’ll end up with something that looks like butter frosting or soft whipped cream.

Pour into glass container and refrigerate.

This “margarine” sets up firm when cooled, yet spreads right out of the fridge. It’s delicious and tastes real, not fake, like commercial products. Bonus—it has half the total fat, half the saturated fat, and about half the calories of plain butter.

Chilled Cream of Broccoli

This is my new favorite soup. Using low-fat dairy products, believe it or not, doesn’t detract from the taste. It’s savory and refreshing, with only a moderate amount of dairy fat per serving.

For a vegan version, substitute almond milk and non-dairy yogurt of your choice. You may need to add a squeeze of lemon at the end.

Ingredients
1 or 2 heads of broccoli, chopped (reserve 1/3 separately)
1 cup vegetable stock (or water, but not chicken stock. It doesn’t taste right.)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 scallions, chopped (reserve 1/3 separately)
Salt to taste
Optional: fresh herbs you have on hand. Dill is very nice.

Technique

Add 2/3 broccoli and scallions, garlic, veg. stock, milk, butter, and salt to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until broccoli is just past the tender-crisp stage. Still green but on the way to soft. Taste and adjust salt so that it tastes perfect and does not need additional salt at the table.

Meanwhile, microwave/steam the reserved broccoli just until it’s crisp and still bright green.

Remove soup from heat and let cool a bit. Then pour into blender and puree. Remember to start the blender on low as hot liquid easily splashes up. Stir in greek yogurt and remaining 1/3 broccoli. Garnish with remainder of scallions.

This is absolutely delicious chilled, and good at room temperature. I wouldn’t heat it too much after the addition of the yogurt for fear of curdling.

 

Veggie/Vegan sausage and greens with pasta

One of my favorite dishes is orecchiette (little ears) pasta in a broth with garlic, hot sausage, and broccoli rabe. It’s Italian-American comfort food I first encountered in college. I’m happy to say my experiment doing it vegetarian/vegan was a success! This is a dish I’ve never known anyone to dislike.

A bitter green brassica-type vegetable is a requirement. Don’t substitute something mild like plain broccoli; it won’t work.

Any time you see a dairy product, just substitute your vegan version if you like. I did the first batch all vegan except that I added parmesan at the end. The vegan stuff was delicious all by itself, though.

Ingredients

2 links Field Roast brand vegan sausage. The chorizo works great, but so does the milder stuff. This fake meat is good and chewy

4 good-sized cloves garlic, minced

1 head broccoli rabe chopped into bite-sized pieces ~or~ same amount of chopped kale, fresh or frozen

3 cups veggie broth (reconstituted from powder, canned, or from your freezer bin of vegetable stock odds and ends)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt to taste

Olive oil for sauteeing/dressing

Cooked pasta—the classic shape is orecchiette. Farfalle (bow ties) and penne rigate work, too.

Technique

Chop Field Roast sausage to desired texture. . .sorta like ground sausage. Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat, add sausage and brown to a crisp, stirring as necessary. Add 1/2 cup broth, scrape pan, then add in minced garlic and crushed red pepper. Reduce for about a minute.

Add greens and remaining veggie broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a medium simmer, and stir. Cover and cook for three-five minutes. Remove cover, taste broth, and adjust seasonings. It may want a squeeze of lemon juice and a glug of olive oil.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente and no softer. Drain, put back in pan. Add broth/veggie/sausage mixture to pasta and heat through quickly, stirring. It’s best to do this in portions, rather than putting all the sauce on all the pasta at once. That makes for soggy leftovers.

Taste and give final garnish of olive oil or salt if necessary. Vegetarians add parm/romano. Vegans add nootch and hot sauce.

Spiced Noodles

A great noodle dish that can be used as the base for other more complex recipes or as a great side or main course.

Ingredients

* 1/2 lb Spaghetti

* 2 tablespoon soy sauce

* 2 tea spoon ginger

* 1 teaspoon garlic (ground or minced)

* 1/4 cup diced mushroom

*1 table spoon butter

*2 eggs

* Asian Chili sauce

Prepare the pasta and strain it. Rinse well with cold water and let dry.

In a large high rimed frying pan or a wok lightly oil and preheat to medium. Put noodles in and add the butter atop of them. Stir until the butter melts into the noodles. Add the soy sauce, ginger and garlic while tossing and string the pasta regularly. Cook until the soy sauce is fully boiled away or absorbed into the noodles. Don’t over cook, you don’t want them to be crispy. Sprinkle in some sesame seeds and stir.

At the end put in a spritz of the chili sauce and stir, the sauce is very potent so you only want a little to add some kick. Put into a serving bowel.

Fry the two eggs and serve over the noodles.

*You can optionally change the recipe slightly by adding in diced beef, turkey or chicken as you add the soy sauce. Diced cubes of bean curd is also a great addition.

Egg Fried Mustard Noodles

 

A recipe I came up with experimenting with cooking Asian noodles. It’s a quick and easy dish that works great as a side or for a quick lunch

 

Ingredients

  • About ½ lb wheat spaghetti
  •  ¼ cup baby Bella mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons spicy brown mustard (condiment)
  • 2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 table spoon ginger powder
  • Sesame seeds (sprinkled)
  • Garlic (sprinkled)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice butter

Technique

Pre-prepare pasta and strain it well. You may want to let it air dry or chill in the fridge.

Add eggs, mustard, honey, garlic and ginger to a mixing bowl. Mix well until you get a uniform texture

Slice the mushrooms

Put the pasta in the mixing bowl and mix well. You want to get a uniform coating over all the noodles. You can use some wooden spoons or thongs to toss it but it might also be fun to mix with (well washed) hands. It’s very gooey and smells nice.

Butter a pan and turn stove top to medium. Add the coated pasta.  Stir regularly to cook evenly and stir in mushrooms and sesame seeds. Cooking time should be about 5 minutes, but you’ll want to judge it by eye and taste. Make sure you have no raw egg remaining. Taste test occasionally to ensure it’s as flavorful as desired. If the taste is a little week you can add in more mustard and restir as you cook. The mixture should cake onto the pasta. You can cook it to varying degrees of crispiness (from soft to crunchy) depending on your preference. I usually cook it just slightly crisped. Turn off stove and move to a serving dish.