The key is using the right kind of additions to make it virtually undetectable and my favorite vegetable to do this with is summer squash. The humble zucchini. And his other favorite cousin, the lovely crook neck squash.
I remember a woman in years' past almost-squealing about her love for zucchini while expounding on her garden, how hard it was to wait for it every season. I didn't quite understand it, as I hadn't explored zucchini much at that point, but man . . . now I get it.
I just used it this morning with sausage. I salted two medium zucchini and let it sit a bit, squeezed out the water, added a pound of ground sausage with my own seasoning, grated a couple of apples in with it, and we had EIGHT sausage patties for breakfast instead of last weekend's six when I had used only the apple.
[Incidentally, I am also frying apples in the fat left from the sausage with a sprinkling of whole sugar and serving it with breakfast. Oh. my. goodness. Why haven't I done this before??]
The sausage patties were delicious, moist, and there was room for a second helping for hungry little tummies. A win-win all around.
Another way I've been using summer squash the last two summers is in taco meat.
Taco Salad (called "Haystacks" in my family growing up) is everyone's favorite meal at our house. As our children are growing older, I bumped into the stark reality that a pound of meat just won't be enough for this meal anymore . . . until I added the magic ingredient.
Zucchini-laden Taco Salad Meat
- 1-2 medium onions, chopped
- 4-6 medium summer squash, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, etc.
:: Then chop and add the zucchini in bite-sized pieces
:: When everything is melty and sweet, add the ground beef in good-sized pinches
:: Cook the meat with the vegetables, stirring and moving around the mixture until nicely browned
:: Add the seasonings and let cook, stirring now and then, until it looks right
:: Add the garlic and let cook another couple of minutes
It is delicious, I'm telling you. It is also a great filling for stuffed peppers topped with red onion marmalade.
What makes zucchini so amazing is its ability to suck up all the flavors around it, which makes it perfect in meaty dishes. It isn't bland, it is juicy and flavorful and meaty. And fried zucchini? After it has been salted and squeezed out? Almost as amazing as hash browns.
We had SIX summer squash plants in the garden this summer and we have eaten or I have chopped (or shredded or sliced) and dried every last one. So, it's official. Zucchini is my second favorite vegetable, in a head-to-head competition with the amazing cabbage.
I'm already sad about missing it this winter. No fresh zucchini??