not kabochaA sign of summer, especially if you grew up in a small or rural town, was the arrival of gifts of zucchini and corn, tomatoes and peaches from friends and neighbors who had an abundant crop that needed immediate harvest. Jokes of locking your car to avoid the zucchini gift-bomb aside, the receipt of free vegetables of fruit often brought on a creative riff on how many different ways with {insert name of huge bounty item here} could you come up with quickly. That probably explains why some of us have had zucchini pickles or too many batches of fried green tomatoes for our own good. It also explains why I used to make plum jam as soon as the wild plums showed up, even tho I rarely eat jam or preserves, because it seemed wrong to not use the free fruit.

We actually don’t have much of a real garden – except for a herbs, a few dwarf citrus that we try to defend against deer and gophers, and a small number of tomato plants that have escaped the marauding chipmunks who decided to dine on our deck of container plants. When a kind and generous friend offered to share a huge squash and some Meyer lemons along with lemon cucumbers, we jumped at the offer. She had been expecting a traditional zucchini but seemed to have a surprise – large pumpkin shaped dark green squash that we thought might be Kabocha, and so we set our minds to recipes that would suit a Kabocha or butternut, roasted then maybe a soup. Imagine the great surprise when it easily cut in two, revealing a pale greenish white interior. and that it was indeed a zucchini.  Just bigger than she expected! For scale, that is an 8″ chef’s knife on the cutting board above.

I continued to cut the zuke, into eight wedges, then crosswise in ¾-1″ slices. The skin was tender, so no need to peel. Since we were roasting a mixture of mild peppers from the last farm market at 400° F, it made sense to roast these as I had planned if it had been the dark orange-fleshed Kabocha. I lined two quarter-sheet pans with parchment, drizzled a bit of EVOO, then brushed it out to coat the sheet before placing a layer of the wedged zucchini, fitting snugly. I lightly brushed the tops with the olive oil as well.

For each pan I sprinkled a blend of herbs I had on hand from Penzeys (Florida seasoning on one, salt-free Mural of Flavor on the other) and a generous grind of black pepper on both. Those went in for about 20 minutes, then turning the wedges over with tongs, and continued roasting another 15+ minutes, until each side got a bit of colour. The large whitish seeds became delicate and nicely crunchy with the high temperature.

Meanwhile, I had a bit more of this large zucchini left over, and did two single gratin pans in layers, with some thinly sliced scallions, carrots and more ordinary zucchini I had bought at the market, a layer of good Bulgarian feta crumbled, some fresh dill and a bit of dry Aleppo pepper, then more zucchini and carrots, feta, then topped with paper-thin lengthwise pieces of zucchini, a light brush of olive oil, a sprinkle of Fuller’s Paravangna herb blend then a bit more feta + finely grated parmesan. This also baked for about 30-40 minutes, until the top layer was nicely browned melted cheese.

Pay attention to the oven, checking, since the moisture content may vary with your squash.

Preparing this reminded me of how my mother would often bake zucchini slices with fresh beefsteak tomatoes and potatoes and onions during the summer. Simple fresh vegetables from summer, not a hothouse.

I served this all with a bit of orzo cooked in vegetable broth.

Thanks to our friend Laura with her generous garden, and to Alan for remembering to catch the image of the surprise squash interior before it became dinner!