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Vegetarian on the Inside Zucchinis are hostage to their own desperation for approval

August 31, 2010

I overcompensate. I give too much. You ask to borrow a highlighter and I will give you three to keep, including the Shrek one I just pulled out of the Cheerios box. A homeless-looking man asked me to marry him and for 50 cents once. I gave him a dollar and said “maybe.” But I don’t think this tendency to overcompensate comes from a place of generosity and goodwill so much a way to redirect my misplaced competitiveness in athletics (misplaced in the sense that I am not the ideal size or shape to be a hammer thrower, even Division III, but boy, would I talk dirty from behind the hammer sector safety fence). Or perhaps it is a byproduct of Chinese grandmother syndrome. What is better than memorizing an entire Clementi sonatina in a day? Well, apparently, memorizing four of them. It is not unlike Stockholm syndrome, really. One internalizes her desire for a grandmother’s love and comes to think that it was her own idea to strive for straight As and participate in at least four extra-curricular activities. I am hostage to my own desperation for approval.
Too heavy? Really I was just trying to set up the following:
Zucchinis are also hostage to their own desperation for approval.
Zucchinis overcompensate.
Those of you will home garden plots I’m sure know what I mean. I for one am drowning in zucchinis, little eggplants, and the first round of tomatoes. They’re all so eager for acceptance. And they worked so hard to survive the summer heat (the requisite commentary on the weather: Even if this month has been hotter than Hell, I’m still not sure I want to go. I always assumed Hell had more of a dry heat, but I’m starting to think otherwise). I’m not sure what you all (y’all? It still chafes a little) did to celebrate, dear readers, but as August 8 was National Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbors’ Porch Day, I thought I’d provide some ideas for zucchini-based activities. And, because I overcompensate (perhaps in this case to cover up for the fact that I’m too exhausted from the beginning of school to come up with more witty chatter) I am giving you recipes for not one or two but THREE easy, fast, light veggie recipes that don’t require turning on a single kitchen appliance.

Grilled Summer Squash, Eggplant, and Mozzarella
Modified from Food and Wine Magazine
Serves: 4
Time: 25 minutes without tomato sauce, 50 minutes with sauce
Ingredients
3 little zucchinis, sliced at an angle,1/4 inch thick, ~ 2 inches long
3 little yellow summer squash, sliced at an angle, 1/4 inch thick, ~ 2 inches long
4 little long eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch thick (you can also use large versions of all of these and/or adjust the ratios as desired)
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices
salt and pepper
1 28 oz. can of peeled tomatoes or 10 peeled fresh tomatoes (optional)
1/2 small onion, sliced (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
11/2 Tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Light a grill or turn on your oven broiler (yes, I lied, if you don’t have a grill then you need to use your oven). Toss the vegetables with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill or broil until tender and golden, about 5 minutes per side.
Toss the veggies in a bowl with another 1/2 tablespoon of oil, a pinch of salt, the vinegar, garlic, and parsley. While these are cooling, if you want to whip up a quick tomato sauce (which is also great as a pizza sauce), heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Over medium heat cook the onion and garlic until soft, stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crushing them in the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, about 25 minutes. Puree the mixture smooth in a food processor.
On a large serving plate, overlap the vegetables and mozzarella, maybe three slices of veggies then a cheese slice. Drizzle the juices from the vegetable bowl over the arrangement. Serve warm or at room temperature with the tomato sauce on the side.

Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado
Adapted from “Vegetable Harvest”
Serves: 4
Time: 10 minutes active, 40 minutes total

Ingredients
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup pistachio, almond, or olive oil
4 small zucchini, sliced very thin
1 avocado, sliced very thin
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
4 sprigs fresh thyme

Stir together the lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Spread the zucchini slices on a platter or baking sheet (something with edges) and drizzle with the lemon mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
On a large serving plate, alternate overlapping zucchini and avocado slices. Drizzle with the marinating juices and sprinkle with the pistachio nuts and thyme and serve.
And, finally, like the little tacked on one-time-free-if-you-order-in-the-next-30-minutes-offer…

Ethiopian Tomato Salad
By Mark Bittman (he says “if you have time to chop tomatoes, you have time to make this salad”)
Serves: 4
Time: 7 minutes active, 37 minutes total

Ingredients
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno chili, to taste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt and pepper
4 large tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped

Stir together the lemon juice, onion, jalapeno, turmeric and dash of salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and toss to coat. Chill for 30 minutes and adjust seasonings to taste.
It’s overwhelming isn’t it? The volume of my love for you.

Alix Hui is an Assistant Professor of History at Mississippi State University. She can be contacted at alixhui@gmail.com.

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