Monday, October 1, 2012

Last Chance Zucchini

The zucchini vines have been moldering on the compost pile for some time now. It seemed early to pull them out but they looked so sad I had to put them out of their misery. Nonetheless, the zucchini season lingers on. Last weekend, I was surprised to find a few actual zucchini tucked away in the back of the refrigerator. They looked fine and I felt gleeful: here was a last chance opportunity for Zucchini Flatbread  which we haven't made since the summer of 2011.

We got the recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (pages 208 and 209) and follow it more or less as given except that I don't really measure the zucchini, parsley, and scallions very closely. Our final batch of zukes, coarsely grated, came to four cups and I used all of it, plus a big handful of backyard parsley, finely chopped, and several scallions sliced thin. And, although the official recipe doesn't call for garlic, I don't feel capable of heating olive oil in a pan without adding several cloves of smashed garlic and swirling them around to infuse the oil with that indispensable earthy essence before putting in the main ingredients.

When the mixture gets soft and the zucchini juices have mostly cooked off (too much juice makes for soggy bread), it's time to throw in a couple of big handfuls of finely grated Parmesan cheese and let it melt gently into the mix.

On impulse I took a look at the website that goes with the book to see if there were any updates, tips, or video instructions for that particular recipe. The most recent post, just the day before, presented a new take on Zucchini Flatbread, jazzed up with roasted cherry tomatoes. Serendipity! And the whole recipe was explained in detail with plenty of big, clear photos. No excuses for messing this up.

It was a simple matter to gather some cherry tomatoes from the yard and put them under the broiler for a few minutes until they started to collapse in on themselves and change color.

Meanwhile, B. was working on the bread part of the recipe. He uses the "five-minutes-a-day" system, and unlike me, follows the instructions carefully. Since he already had a container of dough in the fridge for the next batch of regular bread, all he had to do was pull off a grapefruit-sized lump and squeeze it and shape it into a smooth ball.

Everything came together once he had the dough rolled out and fitted onto our handy oven peel. All I had to do was spread the zucchini-cheese mixture evenly over the surface, sprinkle on some pine nuts (thank you, CostCo!) and dot the roasted tomatoes here and there -- forgetting that you are supposed to hold them back and add them after the flatbread comes out of the oven. Oh, well.

B had preheated the oven to 450 F in plenty of time to warm up the baking stone, about thirty minutes ahead. Then, with an experienced deftness, he slid the decorated flatbread smoothly off the oven peel and onto the heated stone. The long handle on the peel makes this maneuver easy to do despite a really hot oven, although it takes some practice to learn just how much uncooked dry polenta to sprinkle on the peel under the pizza so it will slide off, and just when to give the peel a sharp jerk to start the slide.

The final result was just as delicious as we remembered from the first time. And all the tampering with the recipe -- too much zucchini, added garlic, cooking the tomatoes twice -- turned out just fine.