Sunday, February 3, 2013

Project Kitchen... Done! So let's cook some zucchini!

Remember last week when I wrote about Frans going under the house to connect the pipes? Well, this is where he was meant to go. And he just couldn't bring himself to crawl over that long diagonal pipe you see below. 
So he decided to forget about going under the house and instead of waiting for Stephen, he would demolish a wall of paneling and access the pipes from inside the house. Of course there were beams in the way weren't there?! So he put down his tools and waited for Stephen. In the mean time we had exposed form work to admire and tools to step over till he arrived. 
And to the rescue he came!
Let me just say here that Stephen is a sparky. His usual dirty work happens in roof spaces. He's not a fan of going under houses either. His main concern was 'are there any snakes?'. Of course not. We hoped! This man is a legend. A job that Frans had procrastinated about for three days, took him about ten minutes. The job was not without its challenges. The biggest challenge being the small space, the spider webs and the dirt!
He emerged victorious and impressed his future father in law with his bravery. All that was left to do was for the future mother in law to wash those clothes! The least I could do...
And here's the completely installed and functional hands free hand basin. Neat!
And here is the newly painted wall, filled holes and neatly installed super dooper range hood. We will repaint the kitchen soon. Then the little wooden shelf with get a coat of paint as well. 
And so a newly completed kitchen upgrade required a celebration. The kitchen had been shrouded in plastic sheets with tools scattered all over the table. I had been out picking veggies and was keen to get cooking again. 


In mid September I planted a bunch of squash seeds. I bought a pack with six different varieties. Being so far south, our season seems a little later and shorter than the warmer areas. So it's with great excitement that I've started picking the fruits from these plants. Checking my planting notes I see that it took 12 weeks from seed to fruit. I've planted a few batches since then and I hope that I'll be picking zucchini for a little while longer. The challenge is always what to do with all the fruit when they ripen simultaneously. We have a favourite recipe. It's an Italian Stuffed Zucchini dish. It is simple to make and can be enjoyed for a few days. We eat it warm or at room temperature. It makes a great side dish at a barbecue or can be served as a main with a salad for a light lunch. Served with a chilled glass of something dry and white.
This is my version. I try and use ingredients that I have grown myself; the squash, onions, garlic and herbs. Then there is the egg that I use from our own hens and the breadcrumbs made from the bread I baked. We just planted a few olive trees, but it will be a while before we can press our own oil. So in the mean time it will have to be store bought. Australian of course.
A basket of mixed squash. 

All the ingredients are gathered. 
Zucchini - I used the pale green ones, as well as the round yellow and green.
Roast pumpkin (yes, it's still from those three pumpkins we cut up a few months ago! This is the last packet)
Herbs. I used dill and parsley.
Garlic. Just a few cloves. Chopped or crushed.
One onion chopped.
A cup or two of roast pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes.
Olive oil.
About two cups of breadcrumbs.
A cup of grated Parmesan or strong cheese, grated.
Optional: A few spoons of ricotta cheese.
The first job is to gently saute' the onion in a pan with a little olive oil. Add the garlic cook till the onion is translucent. Don't brown it. 
While the onion is cooking, cut the squash in half length ways and scoop out the flesh. Some of the larger fruit have fairly big pips. You can separate the pips out if you wish or just chop them up with the rest of the flesh. They are soft and sweet and you will not notice them. I kept most of the pips aside. 
The flesh is then chopped up into small pieces. Place into a mixing bowl and add half the bread crumbs, herbs, onion, pumpkin, egg and half the cheese and mix together. Add the ricotta if you're using it. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Then fill the clean, scooped out shells with the filling.
Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese on top of each stuffed half.
Drizzle the tops with a little olive oil. Bake in a moderate oven untill the tops are golden. Around 45 minutes will do it.

And what about the pips you ask?
Well, I take a paper towel and place a group of seeds in a pile. I make a number of piles on the sheet. Then I leave them to dry. Once dry, I simply roll the sheet of pips up and store them in an envelope till I'm ready to plant them again. Write the date of harvest on the envelope! Planting these seeds will be around September this year. When I'm ready to plant, I'll just cut the sheet into squares, one pile of pips per square. Then I'll plant the square. I'll let the strongest two or three seedlings remain and remove the rest. 
Seed saving is great for the budget! Collecting seeds is a good way of ensuring your continuing vegetable planting ability without buying commercial seed. I only grow Organic seeds. No hybrids. This way I know my saved seeds will sprout and grow next season.
Back to the baked zucchini. Delicious! What you don't eat immediately, can be stored in the fridge for a few days. The larger halves can be sliced into chunks.  
Summer is a really busy time for us. The veggies are flourishing and the fruit trees are groaning with fruit. This week I'll be picking more nectarines. They are the white variety. Delicious when picked straight from the tree. I like them crunchy. Frans likes them a little softer. 
Two peach trees have fruit almost ready to be picked. One peach is pinkish-red and the other is a yellow variety. I don't know their names. Yet. When I was a kid my Mum made peach jam with yellow peaches. I have a vivid memory of little lumps in golden syrup, with a delicious peachy smell. I'm going to give it my best shot at trying to duplicate it!   
And here's wishing you a very peachy week! 

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