In kitchens around the Tri-Cities, as well as the rest of Northeast Tennessee, vegetables are piling up on counters! The gardens in the area are coming in full-steam now, and sometimes it is slightly overwhelming.
Love at first bite
The first few armfuls of tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and zucchini are met with enthusiastic exclamations as salads become a welcome part of each meal. Then, right about now, the garden seems to get the upper hand as supply bypasses demand. What do you do?
Paula does veggies, too!
What do you do with all the cucumbers when nobody wants to slice one for dinner? Paula Deen’s Cucumber Salad Recipe is WONDERFUL, and you can make a big tub of it ahead of time. I guarantee that your family will renew their interest in cucumbers! Not to question our Gal, Paula, but I do omit the dill and substitute lowfat milk for sour cream.
Just stuff it
Have you ever stuffed cucumbers with tuna salad, chicken salad, or other salad mixtures? You can slice them vertically and scoop out some of the center to make a little boat for the salad. You can do the same thing with the tomatoes, but just cut an opening in the top and scoop out a little of the inside. Alternately, you can just slice the tomato diagonally and pull it apart to stuff.
“Anything he can do, I can do better!”
You have probably stuffed green pepper many times with hamburger, tomatoes, onion, and rice. ( I like to add shredded cheese to the mixture, then top with cheese, too.) Have you ever stuffed zucchini? Just slice it down the center vertically, scoop out the pulp, and stuff just as you would with a pepper. These are surprisingly good, and they seem to cook to a more manageable texture in the oven than green peppers.
I guess I have learned more cooking tricks from my dear friend Brenda O’dell of Bristol than anyone I know. She is the one who told me about just tossing chopped pieces of zucchini (or other summer squash) in corn meal before frying in oil. There is no dipping in egg or milk, and it is so much neater. The squash itself comes out crispy. When I do this method, I slice it, then quarter the slice. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare zucchini, and it is certainly easier and not as messy as other methods.
In some towns, when the zucchini comes in, people are instructed to keep their cars locked or they will be stuffed with bags of zucchini! If you have more than you can eat or freeze, by all means share with people. Those who do not have a garden are thrilled to receive some home grown produce.
You can stick anything in a basket
It can even be substituted for a gift in a beautifully decorated basket. If you have a party or potluck to attend, slice some of your garden veggies and make a dip tray. Those plastic divided trays with a lid are so nice for this purpose. Make a nice presentation with whatever you have in the garden at the time. Make your own dip with equal parts of mayonnaise and sour cream, flavored with whatever seasonings or spices you may choose to use.
Longtime readers of this column may remember the overwhelming onslaught of zucchini at my house last year. Here are a couple of articles detailing the adventure in humorous details:
Attack of the Summer Squash
Attack of the Summer Squash: The Sequel
Salt and Vinegar Zucchini Fries
Zucchini: How to cook it and how to fight off bears