Every August , life in the mid-Atlantic grinds to a halt. The kids are drowsy from having too many sleepovers in a row and too many hours at the pool. We’re tired of eating pizza-on-pita every day, feeding any number of kids between 1 and 6, depending on who is sleeping where. And it’s just too hot.
The only good thing about this ungodly season is that fresh produce is so flavorful you don’t need to work much in the hot kitchen to make tasty, colorful dishes. Heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers (there’s an Israeli salad right there!), zucchini and many more.
Zucchini flowers, delicate and beautiful with a subtle taste of the actual vegetable, are available in farmers markets and Latino stores from late spring. The flowers are used in Mexican and Italian cuisine, but the popular Italian way of stuffing the flowers, dipping them in a light batter and frying them seems too aggressive for such fine texture and taste.
Last year on a trip to Umbria, I got a pack with a few of those yellowish flowers that I always find hard to resist. Having stayed in a villa with only minimal cooking equipment proved beneficial, because I could only prepare a very simple dish with them. In a simple frying pan I heated a little olive oil that the villa owners make from olives they grow on the property. I quickly fried four zucchini flowers with a few torn spinach leaves and broke a couple of eggs on top. A few dollops of handmade ricotta on top of the eggs and a pinch of coarse salt, with a slice of toasted ciabatta on the side made a delicious and pretty-as-a-picture meal.
Another less-known member of the zucchini family are the baby zucchini, a finger-size variety that offers intense flavor and quick cooking time - a quality we’re looking for in these unbearable August days. Simply brush them with olive oil and grill for a couple of minutes. You can serve the baby zucchini just like that, with a little kosher salt and chopped mint. Or, make a simple dressing by mixing a cup of Greek yogurt with a minced garlic clove, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread the yogurt dressing on a serving plate and arrange the baby zucchini on top. Or, grill a few slices of olive-oil brushed Italian bread, spoon handmade ricotta on top, slice the grilled baby zucchini in half lengthwise, put on the ricotta and serve.
So easy, you’ll be out of the kitchen before you start sweating.
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