Autumn Vegetables: Enjoy Late Summer's Bounty

Autumn brings with it many things: crisp air, cooler evenings, colorful foliage—and if you're a gardener, an over-abundance of certain vegetables, especially zucchini.

I can recall as a child, my mom sending me to the end of the driveway with a bushel basket or two of zucchini to sell; I realize now that I am a mother, it was as much about keeping me occupied for a little while as it was getting rid of the squash, because we lived on a half-dirt back road that saw very little traffic at the time. I can also recall the feeling of accomplishment when one of my parents' friends stopped by for a visit and purchased all my wares. What he did with a bushel or two of arm-sized zucchini, I will never know.

Though I've not had a successful zucchini harvest yet in my meager gardening endeavors, I do love finding ways to help others use up their own bounty. A favorite in my house is chocolate zucchini bread, which not only uses up zucchini in a delicious way, but allows my one-year-old to scarf down what she thinks is chocolate cake, but is actually packed with veggies. You can easily shred it and freeze it so you can have zucchini bread throughout the winter. Another favorite is a twist on a classic: eggplant parmesan, with alternating layers of zucchini and eggplant.


Food for ThoughtZucchini & Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 16-oz bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Your favorite marinara or other tomato-based pasta sauce
  • Salt
  • Oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Lay eggplant slices out on a towel and sprinkle lightly with salt; allow to sit for 30 minutes, then pat dry, flip and do the same to the other side. This draws out some of the moisture and bitterness. Pat dry again.
  2. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a bowl long enough to fit your eggplant and zucchini slices. Whisk egg with a bit of water in another, similarly-sized bowl.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet. Dip slices of eggplant and zucchini in egg, then coat with breadcrumb mixture and fry until light golden brown. Place on a paper towel to drain.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a 9x11 glass baking pan, pour a thin layer of sauce. Place several slices of fried zucchini, to cover the bottom. Spoon more sauce over the zucchini, then sprinkle with a handful of mozzarella cheese. Place several slices of eggplant to create another layer, then repeat sauce and cheese. Repeat the process, so you have two layers each of zucchini and eggplant, and top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until all the cheese is melted and beginning to turn golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated, but allow longer baking time if starting from cold.)

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. First, press as much water as possible out of the zucchini, and set it aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla, oil and zucchini, and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour even amounts into two greased loaf pans and bake until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes away mostly clean (there will still be some smearing from the chocolate chips,) about 1 hour.