Exploding Vegetation

For those of you who plant a vegetable garden every summer, the end of August can be the worst time of year for you. If you're like my family, you have more output than you know what to do with, your neighbors are starting to bring your tomatoes and zucchini to the food pantry (not that that's a bad thing), and you're starting to lose fridge and counter space in the process. The tomatoes line your windowsill and the zucchini and cucumbers are piled up on the counter and you're standing there thinking "Well, they are gorgeous, but now what??"

Well, one obvious suggestion is one that I already mentioned: the food pantry. Summer vegetables are delicious and it's a good way to minimize your stock while providing other people the option to enjoy your wares. It's a great gesture and it makes you feel good. Double whammy.

Because of your cornucopia of veg, now is the best time to pull out some stand-by recipes that you probably haven't either tried or didn't have great ingredients to use in order to make it during the other three seasons. For instance, take my enormous zucchini to the left. That thing is 17 1/4 inches long. One thing I like to do to the ones that have "let themselves go" is make zucchini boats.

Zucchini Boats:
1 large zucchini
1 medium tomato
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (extra virgin or not)
1/4 c shredded Italian cheese mix
(and if you're feeling really special:) 1/2 tsp dried oregano (optional)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut your zucchini in half (horizontally) and then in half again (vertically). Take a large spoon to the bigger bottom portions and seed, making a hollow center (like a little boat, yay). Then, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper (if its a big zucchini like mine, don't be shy on the seasoning, it'll need it). Slide into oven.

The skinnier top portions of the zucchini should be cut in to 1/4-1/2 in cubes (just make them as even as possible so they cook in relatively the same amount of time). Cut your tomatoes relatively the same size as the zucchini. Don't be a freak about it. Just get close. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium/high heat (until it starts to "shimmer") and then dump in the veg. Add salt and pepper and saute for about 5-10 minutes. If your boats aren't to the halfway point in the oven, you'll want to take the skillet off the heat while you wait.

Check on the boats often, you don't want them wilty before you get your filling in. When they are just about halfway done (you can tell because parts of the zucchini will become translucent instead of stark white) take out of oven and fill with the zucchini mixture from the skillet. Top with the shredded cheese (this is where you add the oregano, on top, if you are so inclined) and slide back in the oven. Set timer for 10 minutes, and then check every 2 minutes after that. You want the cheese to be nice and melty and all the ingredients to be hot.

Serve with a dash of hot sauce, or plain if you'd prefer. Add onion and garlic to your filling for an extra punch. I like to add roasted chicken to the filling for some extra protein. Mmmm.

There are tons of recipes available online for your viewing pleasure, so take some time to find something that sounds really delicious. If there's one thing I've learned from class, it's ALWAYS important to read the recipe all the way through before you get started. There's nothing worse than finding out you had to do something before whatever. Annoying. So read.

By the way, don't cook your squash to death. Who wants to eat mushy squash? A bit of a bite is the way to go. Zucchini is also not bad raw.

Here are some suggested recipes to try:
Roasted Vegetable Spread (are ya drooling yet??)

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