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Plan for natural disaster of too much zucchini!

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In any natural disaster, a little preparedness can make all the difference in the outcome. If your garden contains zucchini, this summer's sure-to-be-overwhelming crop could prove disastrous. No need to call in the National Guard - just arm yourself with plenty of new recipes.

Sure, you can share zucchini with non-gardening, good natured co-workers and neighbors to get rid of extra. You can bake loaves of zucchini bread to freeze and give as holiday gifts, too. But face it: you planted those mounds of zucchini, you ought to eat it.

Avoid zucchini burnout. Start gathering new recipes so you'll still be savoring every bite at the end of the season.

We treat zucchini as a vegetable, but it is actually an immature fruit. It's a member of the watermelon family, believe it or not.

Most zucchinis are picked before they reach eight inches in length, when the seeds are still soft and immature. Every now and again, a zucchini will hide under leaves and grow into a behemoth, measuring three feet or more. The giants may cause gargantuan grins, but they will be good for little more than a table decoration.

Zucchini, like all summer squash, has its ancestry in the Americas, but it is European in origin. Closely related to cocozelle and marrow squashes, which were introduced to Europe during the colonization of the Americas, zucchini is the result of spontaneously occurring mutations.

Italians call squash zucca and zucchini is the male diminutive plural. Authorities concur that zucchini was brought to the United States by Italian immigrants and most probably got its start in California.

Zucchini is a pretty carefree food. It doesn't require peeling and can be eaten hot or cold. Its delicate flavor lends itself to many preparations. Zucchini can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried or incorporated into other recipes such as soufflés or breads. The flowers of the zucchini plant can be eaten as well.

Zucchini flowers can be male or female. The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each baby zucchini. Slightly smaller than the female flower, the male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant in the leaf axis on a long stalk.

When eating zucchini blossoms, look for firm fresh blossoms and remove the stamen (males) or pistil (female) part of the flower. Be sure to check for insects. Some people like to keep part of the stem attached, to make handling and eating the blossom easier.

In my household we stuff squash blossoms with queso fresco, roll them in egg, then in masa and deep fry them to a delicate gold color. You can also dip the blossoms in tempura batter and deep fry.

Many of the zucchini recipes I reviewed called for minimal amounts of zucchini! The following soup recipe will use four zucchini and if you still have a bushel I suggest you make zucchini relish. Now there's a gift your co-workers and neighbors - and perhaps the National Guard - would enjoy receiving during the holidays!

Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!

This recipe would fit easily into the $1 per meal Oregon Food Stamp budget.

Zucchini and Rosemary Soup

Serves 8

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

6 cups chicken stock

1 russet potato, peeled and sliced

3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, cut into ½ inch cubes

Croutons

Chopped green onions

Melt the butter with oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and rosemary. Add stock and potato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add sliced zucchini; simmer until tender about 15 minutes. Working in batches, puree in blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook cubed zucchini in saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Drain. Rewarm soup over medium heat. Ladle into bowls. Top with zucchini and croutons. Sprinkle with green onions.

Adapted from Epicurious.com

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswe

goreview.com.