The first baby zucchini are here, lying tangled in their vines like little green wieners wearing squash blossoms for hats. They’re so cute, I’m tempted to pick them now. But I know that soon enough the heat and sun and rain will conspire to blow them up like balloons, turning them into dirigibles overnight.
I don’t really like zucchini. Maybe if they were harder to come by, like limes this summer, or peaches that actually taste peachy, I would appreciate them. But zucchini are the easiest thing for backyard gardeners to grow, and in about two more weeks, I’ll be inundated.
Funny, then, that I was watching public TV this week, and saw a cook making a pie using zucchini. It’s not really a zucchini pie, since you can’t really point to the zucchini, but it’s in there. When the cooks pulled the end result from the TV oven, they were yumming audibly.
And so I bought a few zukes and gave it a try. You peel and cube them and put them in a blender along with eggs and almond milk and some sugar and cornstarch. The zucchinis blend down into the rest of it and cease being a green vegetable. Like the movie character Zelig, the zucchini take on the personality of whatever they are tossed in with.
Pour the whole thing into a piecrust and bake. I sprinkled on some cinnamon after it cooled and took the first bite. It tasted like custard pie. Not as sweet, maybe, but definitely eggy and smooth.
The TV cooks kept saying how healthy this was, and that there were not that many calories, so I cut a big piece and had at it.
Did it feel like I was having dessert? Not exactly. Maybe the zucchini made the filling a bit watery. Squishy, even. I looked in the fridge for some whipped cream to round it all out. Finding none, I tossed on some slivered almonds. I dug in, thinking thank goodness for the flaky crust.
I served it for dessert that night, and it was mocked and ridiculed. Zucchini pie? Who makes zucchini pie?
Defensive, I explained the many health benefits of a pie made with a green vegetable. My family said things like, “That’s what the main course is for,” and “Do we have any cookies?”
Maybe a pie of eggs and almond milk and green vegetables is more a breakfast than a dessert. I started having a slice each morning with coffee. I thought of scooping out the custard and spreading it on a bagel. I added whipped cream to my shopping list, but in the few days it took me to get to the store, the pie had turned a sort of pale army green. I smothered the last piece in almonds and had it for lunch.
Since I don’t think I’ll be making zucchini pie again, I will have to come up with a plan for when the crop starts rolling in. I like those fried strips you get at Italian restaurants, but I don’t have a deep fryer. I suppose I could chop and put them into raw salads, but eh. My mom makes a delicious chocolate-zucchini cake, but that is dessert and, really, how much chocolate cake will we have to eat around here to use up all the zukes?
Maybe this calls for a different approach. In a backyard gardener approach to crop rotation, next year I tear out the zucchini vines and plant watermelons and pumpkins. Or peach trees.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at email@example.com.