Midnight in the Garden of Good Zucchini
The Friday Newsletter faces down Squash Season
A vegetable garden has many lives over the course of a year.
In the winter, the fallow beds lie in wait, a bittersweet reminder of the warmer months that seem so close and yet so distant.
In April or so, the garden becomes a dream again, a place to vest our hopes for the longer months ahead.
In May, it’s a project, full of digging and spreading and sowing and hoeing.
In June, it’s a ward to be tended; vines to be staked, shoots to be watered, predators to be shooed away.
By July, the garden has become a joyous bounty, delivering on its promise of fresh tomatoes, warm to the touch and still smelling of their vines, bursting with flavor that mocks the grocery store’s inferior produce.
As July creeps into August, however, and the bounty fails to cease, the garden can take on a more ominous tone. Where just a month earlier you’d beamed at the first fresh pickings from the vine, now they spring forth from every corner, their vines tangling and strangling and threatening to take over the yard, the house, the neighborhood. It’s not a garden anymore; it’s Annihilation.
You try what you can to bail out the rising tide. A basket full of zucchini left in the office kitchen, with a hopeful note entreating others to “take some!”. An overflowing grocery bag left on a neighbor’s porch. Some fruits are left to wilt on the vine or tossed to the squirrels you once so diligently chased away. You make loaf after loaf of zucchini bread; not to eat, but only to maintain the barest pretense of still being in control, the illusion that this was your plan all along and you are still the master of your own fate.
You are not; August is coming, and the zucchini are in charge now.
But I think we can mount a resistance.
It starts with a box grater.
7) Frittering away the hours
I exaggerate a bit, of course, but this time of year even the most amateur of gardeners or farmers’ market patrons can find themselves with a vast surplus of zucchini. You’ve got options, though. They’re a fairly bland, mild vegetable, but one that takes marvelously well to other flavors.
Especially when introduced to a bit of hot oil.
Now, I’ve been trying to cut down on my frying—both for health reasons and because I know many people are hesitant to attempt it in their own kitchens—but a mere quarter-inch of hot oil in a pan is all you need to transform zucchini into something spectacular.
The zucchini fritter is an ephemeral summer joy; you could make it any time of year, but made at the muggy height of summer, it’s a celebration of the season, the sun-kissed cousin to a latke. I keep mine fairly simple—the squash shredded on a box grater, salted and aggressively drained, then mixed with grated parmesan cheese, a couple of eggs, a small bit of flour and some salt. For this batch, though, I decided to pep them up with two critical moves; first, adding a heavy handful of black pepper, and finishing with a hearty dollop of ricotta.
With parmesan cheese already playing a key role in the fritter’s construction, I figured: why not steer into it, and embrace the flavors of cacio e pepe?
Cacio e Pepe Zucchini Fritters