Deciding how to approach working my way through Deborah Madison’s book has been interesting. I could not quite figure out how best to do this or how to approach it. So I decided to start with the Z’s and work backwards in the alphabet. So after making this ziti recipe, which I liked and Zoë thought was ok, I began on the zucchini recipes, much to Zoë’s chagrin. She is not a zucchini girl. So you can imagine her surprise when after reminding me for a week that she does not like zucchini, she enjoyed this simple dish of slow cooked zucchini with fresh herbs, feta cheese and Dreamfield's pasta.
Unlike Zoë, zucchini has been one of those vegetables I have always enjoyed. I have eaten them raw, used them in bread and chili, prepared them breaded and fried, stir fried, and grilled. However, I have never slow cooked them to the point of their being caramelized. I have caramelized onions before; however, I never realized there was enough natural sugar in zucchini to allow them to caramelize. Perhaps because I have always used them in ways that focused on quick approaches, taking the slow cooking approach allowed me to experience an aspect of zucchini I did not know existed. I have always thought about zucchini as having a very delicate flavor easily taking on the flavors of its surrounding ingredients. By slow cooking the zucchini for 30 minutes, it brought out a subtle sweetness.
As I have been reflecting on this simple dish, I found myself remembering something an acquaintance said years ago, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” When I slow cooked this zucchini, I experienced it in a new way. It seems the same is true of our relationships with people. Sometimes we meet people who might appear to be like the zucchini, very delicate vegetables. However, the more time we spend with them, the more we are able to appreciate the uniqueness, depth, and “caramelization” of their personality. How many people have we met who have been treated like zucchini, an under appreciated, over looked member of the vegetable family. However, once you begin to learn more about them, their value and gifts to this world become more apparent.
Zucchini has a rich history about how it came into our culture. It is hard to believe that less then thirty years ago, people did not know what it was. Learning about its history, which comes from the mixture of cucumber and melon families, I began to understand the underlying sweetness of the zucchini. It was one of those vegetables, which has been grown in Central and South America for thousands of years. There was a point in time when chefs viewed this vegetable as bland and watery. Over time, they came to realize the smaller the zucchini, the dryer and more flavorful it was; as they did, their attitude towards it changed.
What do we have to learn from this vegetable, which is slow to reveal its sweetness and the depth of its genealogy? Sometimes we must take the time to seek out the treasures buried within people. Those who have been snubbed by others in their life may require the time to trust others to share their sweetness. Are we willing to patiently wait for these individuals to share those inner qualities? Are we judging others by what they first yield?
Are we someone else’s zucchini? Have we been the one who was snubbed because we seemed too bland or watery? Have faith, the world is filled with people who will appreciate your inner sweetness and be patient with you as it begins to caramelize. Cooking zucchini, like evolving spiritually, is all about the journey.
Slow Cooked Zucchini Coins with Chopped Herbs and Crumbled Feta
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 1 ½ lbs zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley, basil)
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- Heat the oil in a skillet, then add the garlic and zucchini.
- Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often.
- The finished squash should have a golden glaze over the surface and be carmelized in places.
- Taste for salt and season with pepper.
- Toss with the herbs and cheese and serve.
- I tossed it with 1 box of Dreamfield’s rotini pasta, so that it became part of a main dish and not just a side as intended. With the pasta, this dish came to a whopping 13.3 grams of carbs per serving.