It’s almost here — that point in summer when cooking through your garden’s bounty of tomatoes and zucchinis becomes more of a chore than a rewarding garden-to-table treat.
And it’s not just backyard gardeners who struggle with a tomato and zucchini overabundance — Community Supported Agriculture boxes soon will be chock full as well.
But before you resort to midnight produce drops on friends’ doorsteps, consider the following recipes by Laura Gilliam and Patricia Mulvey, co-founders of the farmers’ market and CSA meal planning service Local Thyme.
Through Local Thyme, Mulvey and Gilliam, both of Madison, contract with farms to create meal plans based on the contents of each week’s CSA box. New this summer, the business is offering the same meal planning service to people who need a little direction when shopping for and cooking food from local farmers’ markets.
The number one reason people leave CSAs is vegetable guilt, Mulvey said.
“Sometimes just having somebody to give you a good recipe that’s tested by a chef is really nice,” Gilliam said.
Recipes for tomatoes and zucchini
Rosalie’s padella: “Padella” means skillet in Italian and Gilliam says this hearty one-pot dish using both zucchinis and tomatoes is somewhere between a quick stew and a panzanella, or bread salad.
Gilliam, originally from San Francisco, created the padella based on a dish her mother made using stale sourdough, but said any crusty, chewy bread will work.
For this padella, zucchini is added to browned Italian sausage, onions and garlic and cooked until it begins to soften. Tomatoes are then added and cooked so their juices release. The bread, added last, soaks up that juice and adds a warm heartiness to the dish.
“The main thing is that (the bread) be a little bit stale,” she said. “You don’t want it to disintegrate when it gets into the liquid.” In addition to fresh zucchinis and tomatoes, the dish is finished with a few leaves of fresh basil.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 ounces Italian sausage
3 cups French bread, torn into about 1 to 2 inch pieces, or gluten-free bread that has been toasted
1 pound tomato, chopped, with juice and seeds
1 pound zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 cup basil, leaves only, torn into small pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté olive oil, onion, garlic and sausage. Sauté for about 8 minutes, or until meat is brown and onion and garlic are softened. Drain excess oil from the pan so there is about 2 tablespoons remaining.
Add chopped zucchini to the pan with the sausage. Increase heat to medium high, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the zucchini is just beginning to soften. Add tomatoes and their juice, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes begin to release more of their juice in the pan.
Toss the French bread into the pan, stirring the bread so it begins to absorb the cooking juices. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook until all the vegetables are tender, and the mixture starts to appear drier and the bread is heated all the way through, about 6 minutes more.
Toss in the torn basil leaves at the last minute, and divide onto plates. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Greek stewed zucchini: Mulvey created this recipe, using both tomatoes and zucchini, based on a dish she had while traveling in Greece.
“The thing that struck me the most is how simple the recipes are,” she said of the food she ate while traveling in the Mediterranean. “The ingredients are so pure, they just shine through.”
The first step is to make the tomato sauce using the whole tomato, seeds and all.
“Because it very quickly cooks, the seeds don’t get bitter,” Mulvey said. Once the sauce is made, mix in diced zucchini and stew until the vegetables are tender. Canned tomato sauce can be used if fresh tomatoes aren’t available. A sprinkle of feta cheese adds another layer to the finished dish.
Greek stewed zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds slicing tomato, cored
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 to 2 zucchinis, sliced
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Warm olive oil in a saucepan, then place the tomatoes in, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer about 20 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor.
Mix the sliced zucchini and tomato sauce in the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer until zucchini is tender, about 8 minutes. Fold in the feta, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipes for zucchini
Grilled zucchini and goat cheese bruschetta: If you’re planning to grill a main course of burgers or brats, Gilliam recommends first throwing on some zucchini (or eggplant) for a quick and easy bruschetta appetizer.
Before grilling, combine oil, salt, pepper and chopped garlic and allow the mixture to stand at room temp while prepping the zucchini and bread.
Gilliam slices the zucchini into “planks” and brushes them with the oil mixture. She grills the zucchini until nicely charred – about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Then spreads bread with cheese and add a plank of zucchini.
The same recipe can apply to many vegetables – Gilliam especially likes peppers and eggplants. “It’s one of those things that’s super easy,” she said.
Grilled zucchini and goat cheese bruschetta
• 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 sprig basil, minced
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 pound zucchini, trimmed, sliced lengthwise into “planks”
• 8 ounces soft goat cheese, like a chevre
• 1 baguette
Salt and pepper
Finely mince garlic and basil, then pour olive oil over them and allow to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes so the flavor infuses the oil.
Preheat gas or charcoal/wood grill to high heat or warm grill pan over high heat inside.
Brush both sides of each slice of zucchini with oil mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Slice baguette in half lengthwise, and into 4 inch segments. Brush the doughy side of each baguette with garlic oil.
Grill the zucchini until nicely charred and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Then lightly grill the bread, about 2 minutes, face down.
Smear the bread with some goat cheese, drizzle with some more garlic oil mixture, and top with sliced zucchini.
Laura’s zucchini chocolate chip bread: Bread is an easy go-to recipe when using up zucchini, and Gilliam’s version is low in sugar and incorporates wheat in addition to white flour.
“It makes two loaves and has 1 cup (of sugar),” she said.
The recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded zucchini, and Gilliam said you can squeeze in more than that if necessary.
The recipe also calls for canola or sunflower oil, however “I’ve made zucchini bread with flax seed oil in place of vegetable oil,” Gilliam said.
Laura’s zucchini chocolate chip bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or sunflower oil
1/3 cup apple sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
2 cups zucchini, from 2 to 3 zucchini, chopped fine, or shredded
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
12 ounces chocolate chips, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, oil, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla extract until well blended.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. At low speed, slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
Fold in the zucchini and toasted walnuts and chocolate chips. Divide mixture into two greased loaf pans, and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool in loaf pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack.
Recipes for tomatoes
Oven-dried cherry tomatoes: A better name for this dish, Mulvey said, is “tomato candy,” and it’s as easy as popping sliced tomatoes into the oven.
Cherry tomato halves are cooked at a low temperature until they are shriveled tasty bites that can be added to soups, stews and sauces or eaten right out of the dish.
Mulvey recommends cooking the cherry tomato halves on a cooling rack placed inside a cookie sheet to catch the tomato juice. Cooking for a shorter time will yield a juicer bite. Or “you can cook them until they’re truly dry,” Mulvey said.
The dried tomatoes also can be stored in an air-tight container on the counter, in the refrigerator or frozen and used later. They taste especially good “in the middle of winter when you’re freezing and need a piece of sunshine,” she said.
Oven-dried cherry tomatoes
Preheat oven to 275 degrees, brush a baking tray with olive oil, cut tomatoes in half, and place cut side up on baking tray. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until nicely shriveled. Store in fridge or freezer for more tender tomatoes, or at room temperature for drier tomatoes.
Chicken positano with arugula and tomato dressing: What makes this breaded chicken dish stand out, Mulvey says, is the depth of flavor from the tomatoes that sit in a warm spot (like on a burner with the oven turned on) with onions and garlic while the chicken is breaded and fried.
“The warmth coaxes out a really beautiful flavor from the onion and the garlic,” she said of the tomato dressing. Peppery arugula added at the end brings another layer when added to the sauce, she said.
Chicken positano with arugula and tomato dressing
2 tomatoes, cored, diced with juice
2 to 3 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided use
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided use, freshly ground
4 boneless skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4 inch thin
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Canola or sunflower oil, for pan frying
1 bunch arugula, slivered
Place the chopped tomatoes and their juices in a medium saucepan, and add the onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir well, and allow to macerate, or rest, in a warm place, such as on the stove top with the burner off.
On a piece of wax paper, mix together the cornmeal with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the cayenne. Wash and pat dry the chicken breast filets. Dip each chicken filet in the egg, coating the filet on both sides, and allow excess egg to drip back into the bowl with the egg. Place the wet chicken filet into the cornmeal mixture, and gently press the cornmeal into both sides of the chicken filet, dredging both sides. Lift the filet and gently shake off any excess cornmeal. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add several tablespoons of canola or sunflower oil and wait until it shimmers. Add as many of the chicken filets as will fit without touching, and cook, uncovered, until brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn and continue cooking on the other side, adding more oil to the pan if necessary, for another 4 or more minutes, cooking until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Drain on a towel-lined plate, and continue cooking any remaining chicken filets.
Just before serving, toss the slivered arugula into the tomato mixture, and top each chicken piece with 1/4 of the tomato-arugula dressing.