Sometimes I forget how little I knew about food when I first entered adult life.Zucchini always brings it rushing back to me with the happy reminder that we all have to start somewhere. Zucchini reminds me of Suzanne and Sheryl who were my college roommates and the friends that first taught me how to cook. I think back now and I am so grateful for their love and support and lack of incredulousness regarding my food ignorance.
I wanted to live off-campus for my sophomore year in college and a friend introduced me to Suzanne, who was a year older and already had an apartment secured nearby. I liked Suzanne's apartment and I really liked Suzanne, who ended up being my roommate for two years and eventually I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. Through Suzanne, I met Sheryl, a wonderful friend who grew up gardening, cooking, sewing and painting. The three of us girls ended up being roommates the following year and we are still friends to this day although the visits are few and far between.
As a side note, while still in college I "commissioned" from Sheryl a wine-themed watercolor for Hubby that still hangs in his office. I don't remember the exact payment but I know it was well below what I thought it was worth. Even in college I could tell that painting was what truly inspired Sheryl...and it still does. See Sheryl's fabulous art here.
During those college years, Sheryl came home once from a weekend visiting her parents wielding the largest zucchini I have ever seen. I never had a garden, so I didn’t even know how zucchini grew, and to top it all off, I had no idea what to do with one. I had never cooked zucchini and I don’t think I could even hide my astonishment when Suzanne and Sheryl suggested we make zucchini bread out of it. Vegetable bread sounded terrible! Suzanne and Sheryl didn’t tease or laugh or ever make me feel stupid. They just handed me a grater and showed me how it worked.
My kitchen tutorials continued throughout college and Suzanne and Sheryl even taught me how to garden. I never understood the importance of what they were doing for me at the time, but seeing how my life has gone, there is no denying the impact of my wonderful college friends.
I didn’t save that zucchini bread recipe that we got out of a basic cookbook, but zucchini became a staple in my kitchen and my garden. Anyone who has grown zucchini knows that mid-season you are desperately searching for recipes to use up your bounty. (I got the idea to make zucchini pasta from two wonderful blogging friends. See their recipes here and here).
My recipe can be doubled and tripled and made with endless different combinations like sauteed mushrooms and truffle oil, or roasted carrots and honey, or as a base for meatballs and tomato sauce. I used my year-round favorite of beets and goat cheese just because it is so pretty! And when you just can’t eat it anymore, there is always zucchini bread.
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” - Laurie Colwin
Zucchini Pasta for Suzanne and Sheryl
2-3 medium/large zucchini 1 T olive oil 1 tsp orange juice (optional) 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 2 beets, peeled, chopped and roasted* 2 oz goat cheese Special equipment: spiral vegetable slicer, (I like the one by World Cuisine, $30. You can order it here)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the zucchini. Using the vegetable slicer, spiral cut the zucchini to look like spaghetti. There are many tutorials online for how to use a spiral slicer. It is easy! Toss with oil, juice, salt and pepper in baking dish. Spread beets and goat cheese evenly across the top. Put in hot oven for 10 minutes to heat through. Serve and enjoy.
*Fresh beets are easy to cook, can be done well in advance and the cooked beets will keep for days in the refrigerator. For 3 simple ways to roast beets, click here. Basic Roasted Beets: Cut the leaves and roots off 2 beets. Peel with a vegetable peeler then chop into bite-sized pieces all about the same size. Toss in 1 tsp olive oil (I like to use orange infused oil or add a tsp of orange juice) and 1/2 tsp salt and spread onto foil-lined cookie sheet in one layer. Bake in 375-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until they pierce easily with a knife. Remove from oven and fold up foil from edges to unstick the beets and toss them a bit. Leave foil loosely folded up with beets in a pile in the center. Let cool.