When asked to characterize my cooking style, and for the record I don't recall anyone actually having asked me to, I would generously describe it as "rustic," that is, simple and unsophisticated, the kind of foods that maybe grandma would have made. It might also be described as cookin' on the cheap. In the kitchen, my mind and heart are still rooted in my working class upbringing, identifying with all the cooks before me that had to feed lots of people on tiny budgets using whatever was available to them. Even under those conditions, people managed to make some absolutely delicious meals, the lip smackin,' stick-to-your-ribs kind of stuff that lingers in the memory for the rest of your life.
There is no better way to stretch the food budget than to grow your own food, and there are some plants that are just obligingly prolific -- tomatoes, for instance, or fruit trees. Apples used to grow easily in Pennsylvania where I grew up. You didn't even have to cultivate them, just wander around your neighborhood and you could always find some wild tree that produced apples, that while not necessarily perfectly shaped and unblemished, were perfectly good for eating. Orange trees are that way in California where I live now, and just as with the apples back East, it still disturbs me to drive around and see dozens and dozens of oranges rotting on the ground under the trees.
Of course sometimes it is difficult to figure out what to do with an abundant harvest. Take persimmons, for instance: if you have one persimmon tree, you have more persimmons than you can use in a lifetime from pretty much just one harvest. Once you've made some persimmon cookies, there's just not a whole lot of other things you can do with them. Lemons are a bit more versatile, but they are the citrus' world equivalent of the rabbit, and I know from experience that you just can't find enough uses for all the lemons you're going to get. Zucchini is kind of like that. Zucchini is a pretty versatile vegetable in the kitchen, being able to be used on its own as a vegetable dish, a good team player when combined with other veggies or as an addition to stews and soups, and of course in the making of zucchini bread, but it's one of those plants that produces so much fruit so quickly that you end chasing down your fleeing neighbors hoping that they will take just one more zucchini off your hands.
This year, not only do we have some prolific plants of our own, but we also have several neighbors who have prolific plants of their own, and they have been generously (although I suspect not unselfishly) gifting us with additional zucchini. Of course I believe that the only thing better than cheap food is free food. So, what to do with bountiful zucchini?
Looking on the internet for recipes, I specifically avoided anything that sounded like "brunoise de courge avec beurre noisette" and kept an eye out for something that sounded good. I saw the words "zucchini onion pie" and was immediately intrigued. The website had not only an image of the dish, but also carried the picture of the recipe submitter, an elderly grandmotherly looking woman who looked like she knew her way around the farmhouse kitchen.
This was rustic. And it looked good. Grabbing a zucchini and an onion, I went to work and in short order had my very own zucchini onion pie. A hearty, carby kind of dish, it was kind of like a vegetable cobbler. Served with a dab of sour cream and salsa, it was a great breakfast food.
Zucchini is one of those foods that on its own doesn't have a lot of flavor, but it pairs well with almost anything, so this is a good recipe when you want to use up the leftover bits in the fridge in the same manner that people use a frittata, which incidentally is really very similar. I added some of my own blend of sausage to my pie.
Zucchini Onion Pie
- 1/2 pound breakfast sausage
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup oil (I used olive oil for added flavor, but veggie oil is fine)
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 clove minced)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 3 cups zucchini (1/2 in. slices or 1 inch cubes depending on the size of your zucchini)
- 1 cup baking mix (like Bisquick)
- 1 onion (yellow or white) chopped
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cook sausage in skillet until no longer pink. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Add zucchini, baking mix, onion and sausage and mix.
Pour into a greased 9 inch pie plate.
Bake until the top is a nice golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Serve with sour cream and salsa.