Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash

IMG_3129Zucchini.
It’s a simple thing, really.
Until the end of August when the mere mention of it can make even the strongest person shudder with apprehension!

It’s one of those vegetables that we all look forward to in the beginning of summer, but by mid-August, there is such an over-abundance, you just can’t give it away. People see you walking toward them with a zucchini as big as a toddler’s whiffle ball bat, and they either pretend that they don’t know you, or they make a sharp left, and head in another direction to avoid you!

You can only freeze so much of it for breads and muffins. You can only make so many zucchini boats stuffed with saucy meat, or sautéed with summer squash and onions, or sliced into thin strips as fake spaghetti. Yep. I jumped on that wagon too.

Don’t get me wrong. I love zucchini. But I have had so much of it, I’m running out of ideas! So the last time I went to pick up my CSA box, Sally, the “pick up point person” was telling me that she’s been making bread and butter pickles from them. I thought that was an awesome idea… and as I was searching for a bread and butter pickle recipe… a thought popped into my head. Instead of pickles, which I really wouldn’t use much…what if I preserved them in olive oil?
IMG_3127This idea actually came from a friend of mine who shared some hot peppers preserved in olive oil with me a year or so ago. They were so delicious! I went through that jar in no time…putting them on sandwiches, grilled cheese, cottage cheese, and even cooked them in eggs, or threw a spoonful or two in sauce! So going on the premise of those hot peppers, I decided to do a little research and see if zucchini would do well in olive oil too. I’m thrilled to say that it does!

IMG_3098I found a recipe from Mario Batalli, in which he boiled the zucchini for a few minutes in a mixture of salt water and vinegar, and then placed it into a jar with anchovies and garlic. Mario also mentioned that as long as you keep the zucchini covered in olive oil, it would keep for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.

Perfect.

As hard as I try, I’m just not a fan of anchovies.
Yet.
So as of now they weren’t even a consideration for this recipe.
That may change sometime in the future when I do like them.

IMG_3139And with those hot peppers still in my head, I started slicing zucchini and summer squash really thin on my mandolin slicer. I chose some hot peppers, such as cherry peppers and jalapenos… as well as sweet peppers to add to the jar. A few cloves of garlic roughly chopped and some chopped fresh basil finished it off perfectly.

Ok, I’m not going to lie to you here… I’ll come home from work, grab a fork and eat this right out of the jar. It’s just that delicious. You can seriously serve these as thin pickles. Throw them on a hunk of crusty bread alone…or throw them on a sandwich, like I did here with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, a thick slice of tomato right out of the garden, a few leaves of basil, all topped off with the preserved zucchini and summer squash…served on fresh Italian bread… delicious.

IMG_3247The thing that I loved about this recipe the most, was that I took a taste of them immediately after I put them in the jar, and the flavors had just melded together so perfectly. Just a few minutes…and they were ready to eat. The next day, they were even better!

My first jar is almost used up, and I plan to get another jar made up this week. I’m thinking that if I slice the zucchini and summer squash and freeze it, I can do this all winter long!

All of a sudden, I find myself asking for zucchini!
Crazy, but true.

Life is good. It’s a “Zucchini is coming out of our ears….but it’s all good…and preserving it? Well, that just makes it even better…” kind of good…

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Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash
Makes 1 Quart

 Adapted from Mario Batalli’s Zucchine Sott’Olio

2 lbs zucchini and summer squash combined, sliced thin
4 cups water
1/3 cup sea salt
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cherry peppers, sliced thin
3 jalapenos, sliced thin
6 mini sweet peppers (red, orange, and yellow) sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups olive oil (or more, enough to cover the zucchini in the jar)
½ cup white wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, bring the water, sea salt and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat. Add the slices of zucchini and summer squash, and simmer for five minutes. Drain, discarding the water/vinegar mixture.

Place the zucchini and summer squash mixture into a large bowl, and add the cherry peppers, jalapenos, sweet peppers, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil leaves. Mix thoroughly.

Using a wide mouth funnel, add the zucchini mixture to a quart canning jar. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar together, and pour over the zucchini mixture until it is completely submerged in oil.

Cover and refrigerate. This will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator as long as the zucchini remains submerged in oil.

Enjoy!

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Horseradish Pickles

Have you ever opened your mouth, and inserted your foot? I have. I’m actually quite famous for that…
IMG_2745I tend to be the ‘pickle in the middle’ a lot at work. “Prudy, can you tell ‘so and so’ that I need him in my office?” “Prudy, tell ‘so and so’ that he has to contact ‘him or her’ to re-open that work order number before the end of the day today”….

Well, I used to work with a guy named Horatio**, and one day was given direction to tell him to move some boxes for Jezebel**.   In other words… I was asked to be the pickle in the middle.
**Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the Jezebel.

I knew that this wasn’t going to go over very well…given the animosity between Horatio and Jezebel…and I knew that Horatio was really busy working on another job… but I was given a task, and I had to carry it through.

I found Horatio busy working on that job.
“Hey, Horatio… I’m wondering if you would have some time to move some boxes…” I asked him.
“For who?” He asked me.
“Um..Jezebel” I reply.

IMG_2764I could see his frustration…and stood there quietly while he expressed his displeasure..

“What do you people think I am?” he asked (a bit heated), and I’m sure didn’t want me to answer.

But… in my uneasiness…my clumsy Prudy way….
Yep.
Of course I did.
I gave him an answer.

“Horatio…I don’t think you’re anything…”

Let’s all pause a moment, and let those words sink in….

Mmhmm. Yep. I said those words. I opened mouth…and inserted foot.
Big time.

But I truly didn’t mean them to come out the way they sounded. What I was trying to say was that I didn’t think he was lower than me, nor did I think he was lower than Jezebel…or anyone who we work with for that matter. I look at him as a co-worker. A good guy. I look at him as an extremely talented craftsman. I look at him as a friend.

That’s not how it came out…and I felt terrible for it…and I still feel terrible for it.
Deep down….he knew… he knew that I didn’t mean it the way it sounded….but he had to be mad for a little while, he had to take some time for it to really sink in…and realize that I didn’t mean for those words to sound the way that they did. We hugged it out a couple of days later… and we were back to normal after that.

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The pickle in the middle.
That’s me.

And in honor of my pickleness… I want to share with you my Aunt Lizzy’s Horseradish Pickles.
They’re sweet… they’re sour…. And they have a definite bite to them. They’re delicious! And so, SO easy to make!

Now here is where I can actually use those words…and really mean them…

“I don’t think the prep work is anything…”

It’s a matter of slicing up the pickles if you so choose, cooking up a simple horseradish syrup, and switching out the pickle juice for the horseradish syrup…

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However… they do take a few days to actually pickle. But that’s just a few days of flipping the jar once a day to make sure that the flavor goes through the whole jar.

They’re great for picnics, lunch, dinner, or even breakfast if you like pickles with your eggs… and they’re even great to grab out of the jar and eat…you know…just because you wanted a pickle.

And Aunt Lizzy was such a character…I know that she would have been laughing with tears streaming down her face if she would have seen that whole scene going down!

Life is good, it’s a “sometimes it doesn’t pay to be the pickle in the middle…but it always pays to be the pickle maker”, kind of good.

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Aunt Lizzy’s Horseradish Pickles
Makes 1-1/2 Pints Pickles

1-1/2 pints dill spears (drain and throw the juice away)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 oz strong prepared horseradish

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and vinegar to a boil. Boil just until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat, and add the horseradish. (Make sure you keep your face away from the pan! It’s pretty strong!)

Place the pickles in your own canning jar, or you can keep them right in the jar you bought them in. Pour the horseradish syrup over the pickles, and place the lid on the jar tightly.

Let stand for five days, flipping jar once a day to stir up the mixture.

Store in the refrigerator. Keeps for about a year (but won’t last that long!)

Enjoy!
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One Heck of a Burger!

At the start of the New Year, when everyone is starting their New Year’s Resolution to become healthy… I throw a monkey wrench in the works…

About two weeks ago, I wanted a Big Mac.
Yes. It’s true.
I wanted a Big Mac.

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I’d say about every five years or so, this craving pokes its nagging head in the door, and doesn’t let up until I give in. Usually, a trip to the fast food joint, and a few bites of the burger ends my craving, and I’m good for a few years. It’s been a long time since I last visited a fast food restaurant; I have to say, while I wasn’t completely shocked, I was disappointed in the quality of the food. I swear that the burgers were two inches in diameter, and I know this because the roll stuck out about an inch all around the burger. They forgot the cheese and onions. And there was a sprinkling of lettuce, and a couple of pickles. They did, however, remember the special sauce. Boy, did they remember the sauce. It was laden.

Okay, okay, in that particular restaurant’s defense…they are a fast food chain. I think I paid $1.99 for it. And it was probably a 16 year old kid who prepared the burger on an assembly line, and who really didn’t want to be there in the first place.

Needless to say, the burger ended up in the trash.
And, needless to say, my craving was not quelled that day.

So today, while I was sitting at work, that darn craving crept up behind me and shouted in my ear for the whole afternoon. I knew exactly what I’d be making for dinner tonight.

And make them, I did.
I totally changed them up.
And I’m good for another five years. Maybe.
I’m making my own again next time.

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In case you’re wondering… No, I don’t eat like this all the time. No, I didn’t eat the whole thing.  It was huge!!  I made it through MAYBE a third of the burger, and will have the leftovers for my lunch tomorrow!

Here’s what you’ll need:

There really isn’t a recipe for making a burger. You really don’t need a fancy burger. A couple of beef patties formed out of 95/5 sirloin, seasoned with a little salt and pepper are perfect. They don’t need to be really thick, because you’ll be putting two of them on the bun. The beauty is, is that you’ll only need to cook them for about three to four minutes on each side, and they’re done! Melt your favorite cheese on top of the burger right before you’re ready to take it out of the pan, or off the grill. Since it’s a -12F wind chill outside, I thought it would be a great idea to cook the burgers inside!  Not a bit of grease came out of the burgers as they cooked.

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Rolls (Fresh from the bakery). I used Asiago rolls from my beloved Wegmans.
A few slices of bacon fried until they’re crispy.
Pepper jack cheese slices. Or sharp cheddar slices. (Whichever tickles your fancy)
Thick pickle slices. I found these Farmer’s Garden Dill Chips by Vlasic.
Shredded lettuce

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Fried Onions:
1 small onion, sliced thin. Dredged in ½ cup of flour that has been mixed with 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2  tsp salt, ½ tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp cayenne. Fry in about an inch of vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan until they’re golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

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Special Sauce:
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp sweet pickle relish
1 tbsp minced pickled jalapeno
1 tbsp minced fresh onion
2 tbsp ketchup

Mix the mayonnaise, relish, onion, jalapenos and ketchup in a small bowl. Set aside.

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Assemble the Burger:
You can assemble the burger anyway you’d like…here is what I did:
Slice two rolls in half. I used the bottom of the second roll for the middle roll. Place one burger with cheese on one of the bottom rolls. Add lettuce, and a spoonful of special sauce, and cover with the bottom of the second roll (which is now the middle roll). Place the second burger on top of the middle roll. Add some bacon. Add three pickles on top of the bacon. Add some shredded lettuce on top of the pickles. Add a dollop of special sauce on top of the lettuce. Generously top with fried onions. Top with the remaining roll top.  Enjoy!

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