From the Kitchen – Zucchini Inspiration

by Joan Saunders | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography

My friend wouldn’t let me leave her garden without taking a zucchini. My neighbour left zucchinis for me at the door. There was no escaping it: it was time to get inspired by zucchini.

I grew up eating zucchini as it was easy to cultivate. There were zucchini cookies, zucchini bread and sautéed zucchini with tomatoes and onions. And, finally, there was Zucchini Cucamonga.

In those days my mom flirted with spice, but we were generally a meat, potatoes and two veg kind of family. I think it was in desperation and with grumblings that we kids were done with zucchini that she uncovered the recipe for the soon-to-be-infamous Cucamonga.

The directions involved scraping out the zucchini’s flesh and cooking it with ground meat, onions, tomatoes and peppers, then putting the mix back into the zucchini shell to bake. Mom decided to liven it up, so she threw in some peppers from an ornamental plant.

It did not go over well. For people not used to any sort of heat, the ornamental peppers were mind blowing and made the dish inedible. However, the real joke was when my brother came home later and, as he hadn’t been in on the initial taste testing, we remained ominously quiet and waited for him to sit down to dinner. He was not amused.

The story has become part of family lore. Zucchini Cucamonga was never attempted again, but I’ve put other dishes involving the hardy green squash into recipe rotation, especially at this time of year when zucchinis are omnipresent.

I do adore a good galette, sweet or savoury, and zucchini is a fabulous base as it merges with the flavours of the other ingredients. I also love tomatoes and, as we have a glut of them in the garden, I thought they would pair beautifully in this appealing galette. They do. The tanginess of the cheese layer also brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes while the pastry is satisfyingly flaky. Add a salad and this makes a delicious vegetarian meal.

So, take some time to explore inspiring seasonal produce at our local farm stands and see where it takes you. Just, please, don’t add any ornamental peppers.

Zucchini, Tomato & Ricotta Galette

1¼ cups flour, chilled
in freezer for 30 minutes
¼ tsp salt
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, chopped into chunks
¼ cup sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup ice water

1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup grated mozzarella
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 tsp water

Make dough: Whisk together flour and salt in large bowl. Sprinkle chunks of butter over flour mix and, using pastry blender, cut it in until mix resembles coarse meal, with the biggest chunks of butter reduced to the size of little peas. In small bowl, whisk together sour cream, lemon juice and water; add to the butter/flour mixture. With a fork, mix in liquid until large lumps form. Pat lumps into a ball; try not to overwork the dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate one hour.

Make filling: Spread zucchini slices out over a few layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt (about ½ tsp); drain for around 30 minutes. Before using softly blot the tops of zucchini dry with paper towels. In bowl, whisk olive oil with minced garlic; set aside. In separate bowl, mix ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and 1 tsp of garlicky olive oil together; season with a bit of pepper.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400°. On floured work surface, roll out dough into 12-inch round. Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Evenly spread ricotta mixture over dough, leaving 2-inch border all around. Shingle zucchini nicely on top of ricotta in circles, starting at outside edge. Do one layer. Layer on sliced tomatoes, again in one layer. Then put on another layer of zucchini. Drizzle remaining garlic/olive oil mix over top zucchini layer. Fold dough border over filling, folding/pleating edges to fit. Centre will be open (add tomato slice in centre if desired). Brush dough with glaze.

Bake until zucchini is cooked and galette is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven, cool 5-10 minutes, shift galette onto serving plate; sprinkle with basil. Cut into wedges; serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Recipe adapted and amalgamated from:

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