There's a joke that goes, how can you tell if someone doesn't have any friends?
They have to buy zucchini in the summer.
OK, it's not a funny joke, but the sentiment is true.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Andy Gray
Zucchini Bake is a go-to recipe in the Gray household come zucchini season.
No vegetable flourishes like the zucchini. Gardeners who kill everything have plenty of zucchini (Jack Kevorkian probably has too much zucchini).
So, those who grow it (not to mention their friends and coworkers) probably have one or more or those long green squash sitting on the counter waiting for inspiration to put it to use. And when I saw my turn in the Tribune Cooks rotation fell in late July, providing ways to take advantage of its bounty seemed like a no-brainer.
In the Gray household, one of the go-to recipes is zucchini bake, something my wife's mother used to make. Michelle doesn't remember where the recipe came from, but considering the prominence of Bisquick, it could have been from the side of a box.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped zucchini
3/4 cup (3 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, stir flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Set aside.
In large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar to blend them smoothly. Whisk in oil and vanilla until blended. Use a large spoon to stir the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in zucchini, then stir in walnuts and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Pour about 1/3 cup of batter to each paper-lined muffin cup. Bake until the tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 minutes.
Cool muffins in the pan for five minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.
6 cups diced zucchini
1 cup chopped parsley
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups Bisquick (reduced fat version works fine)
1 cup canola or corn oil
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In large bowl, beat eggs. Add all other ingredients and mix. Pour into lightly oiled 9-by-13 baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Along with slicing zucchini lengthwise and grilling it with other veggies (onions, peppers, eggplant) for sandwiches, it's the most frequently used method for preparing what we grow and are given.
We usually make zucchini bake as a vegetarian entree, but it also could be used as a side dish. The texture is lighter than a custard but more egg-y than a bread. It tastes great right out the oven, and leftovers reheat well in the microwave or are just as satisfying cold.
A lot of zucchini recipes try to hide its presence and/or use a negligible amount of the veggie. We double the recipe when we make it and cook it in a 9-by-13 baking dish (those are the proportions in the accompanying recipe), and that version calls for six cups of diced zucchini. It will use up at least one large or a couple medium zucchini, especially if you avoid most of the center seeds. With Bisquick, oil and cheese, I wouldn't go so far as to call the dish healthy, but the vegetable does play a prominent role.
Even though we make this a few times every summer, I don't know if I've ever been the one to prepare it until this past weekend. Michelle usually bakes it.
But it's a quick and simple dish. There's not too much that can go wrong. Parents who have veggie-phobic children may want to let them help prepare it. Being part of the cooking process should make them more willing to sample it.
The other dish included here I'd never made until Sunday. I was looking for an alternative to the multitude of zucchini bread recipes that are out there and found one for chocolate chip zucchini muffins in ''The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook'' by Elinor Klivans.
The cup of zucchini among the ingredients makes these muffins particularly moist, and it also helps those who eat them feel less guilty about the equal amount of chocolate chips included.
The recipe says the zucchini should be ''finely chopped,'' but the recipe says bakers can do the zucchini in a food processor, and it works just as well if the consistency is closer to a puree. The puree-like consistency makes the flecks of green less noticeable for those want to disguise the ingredient.
I made mine with Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, which are larger than Nestle's/Hershey varieties. I think they taste better, too. Those with nut allergies should be able to leave out the walnuts without affecting the overall quality of the muffin.