They should be harvested when they are still young and tender, however turn your back on them for a week or so and they can grow to the size of a football, begging to be baked. This variety is pale speckled green, more bulbous than the common zucchini, and are most often found in Middle Eastern cuisine.
When I did some research on them, I discovered they originate from the Cucurbitaceae family, an early Italian variety. "Zucca" is the Italian word for squash, which is why zucchini are sometimes called "Italian soft skinned squash". Whilst we call a pumpkin a pumpkin in Australia, and a spade a spade as well, in many overseas countries they are called a squash, a hard skinned Winter squash, and they are not always meant for human consumption, but are fed to the animals.
We don't have much luck growing zucchinis in our vegetable garden once the summer humidity arrives, however our friend has a hot and dry Northern facing garden which suits various varieties of squash. Home gardens and Farmer's markets are treasure troves for different types of vegetables not usually found at the Supermarkets, and I enjoy the opportunity to cook with different types of vegetables and fruit requiring some research into what I can best achieve with them. They might not look perfect like those in the supermarkets, but looks are only skin deep.
These Italian Zucchini pictured below have been harvested when they can be eaten as a tender vegetable. I also have a couple which were picked early that look just like these, well almost.
These 2 Photos of Italian Summer Zucchini copied with permission from this website:
These plants also produce lots of wonderful and highly prized zucchini flowers
Below is the Italian Zucchini I was given weighing 1 kilo. It's a little battle scarred but still ok for baking.
Pictured next to two fairly normal sized ones from the same garden
This recipe Serves 4
1 or 2 large Italian Zucchini (Summer squash) or bush marrow, cut in half lengthwise ( or just any overgrown zucchini)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
500g minced lamb ( or beef if you prefer)
1 large onion
1/2 cup Fine Bourghul
Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup finely chopped mint or parsley (I used mint)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
(Next time I will add 1 tablespoon of currants for a piquant addition to the filling.)
3 cups plain Greek yoghurt
1 egg white
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint, or 4 chopped teaspoons of fresh
20 g butter
Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.
Soak Bourghul in water for 5 minutes, then squeeze it dry.
Meanwhile make the sauce:
Whisk the yoghurt and the egg white. Then simmer uncovered for 10 minutes whilst stirring until it is rich and creamy. I don't cover it as one drop of water will spoil it.
Saute the garlic, mint and salt in the butter for 1 minute, and then stir it into the yoghurt mixture.
(I found this Yoghurt Sauce in Stephanie Alexander's book, "The Cook's Companion". Yoghurt will quickly separate when heated, due to it's delicate acid balance, so it needs to be stabilised before using, or stir it into hot, already cooked foods just before using. That is why I am adding 1 egg white and salt to stabilise it. Yoghurt should never be whipped without a stabiliser added as it will break up the curd, and cause the whey to separate out.
To make the Mince filling:
Saute the onion in olive oil until golden. Mix the onion with the remaining ingredients except the zucchini and fry up a small amount to test the seasoning.
Pack the mince mixture into the zucchini halves, then rest them in a large baking or gratin style dish.
Pour over the yoghurt sauce and bake for 45 minutes.
This dish can be served hot, or warm or cold, with some finely chopped parsley.
Have a great Friday.