Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer should be . . .

I'm sure everyone has a different finisher for this statement -

Summer should be . . .

Living in Alaska has taken "hot" and "sunny" off the table. 

The Red River Valley taught me to finish the statement with "dreaded" adding words like "buggy" and "humid." 

Becoming a grown-up should have killed "a vacation." However, 13 years of grade school is not easily forgotten and I still believe in summer vacation's enduring qualities.

Vacation from watering my lawn. This one applies to winter too though, so doesn't really count. I just can't get behind throwing water into the dirt only to create more mowing for myself. "Myself" meaning "Ryan."

Vacation from bathing my children. It's either the garden hose (kids aren't fond of this one), lake, river, swimming pool, or dirt.
Dirt is a popular option.

Vacation from sweeping crumbs. All food is served al fresco. Spillages is a great way of attracting birds into our city lot. I feed my kids. Their crumbs feed the birds. The grounded birds feed the stray cats. The whole scene feeds my mood as I watch from the kitchen window while watching dishes.

Vacation from complication. It's no coincidence that "Simple" and "Summer" are alliterative. I don't know about France, Portugal, or Japan. But in my backyard summer simply goes with scum, sitting, sailing, sweets, strawberries, swimming, seafood, saute, and skillet.

Simple Skillet Sauteed Zucchini and Rice
(Speedy too - very little prep and ready in 20 - 30 minutes depending on how focused you are!)
If you grow zucchini, let a few swell to the size of a bat and use them for soup, which just happens to be my next project. The rest should be picked when they're about the length of your hand while the skin is still tender.

And again, if you do grow them yourself, this dish can easily be considered kid friendly since wee-one's really do eat veggies better when they are involved in the growing process - one of the only tricks parenting magazines are right about.

However, if your child needs some coaxing, try constructing the perfect bite on a spoon with the rice covering the zucchini. I had to explain to Georgia that she didn't need soy sauce if she ate a slice of zucchini with each spoonful - the seasoned zucchini makes the rice taste perfectly salty without soy sauce. She said, "Okay . . ." with a dubious, slightly sarcastic tone, took a bite, and thought about the flavors while hooking the spoon on her schnoz.

"Hmmmm," was all she said before taking another bite and finishing off the bowl, leaving plenty of rice in her lap for the birds.

Still having trouble getting zukes down your gremlin's gullet? Peel the zucchini before slicing so the green is gone. Not as nutritious, but oh well. And never call it "squash" when children are within earshot.

Don't bake zucchini bread. Don't mash it up so your kid never learns to eat vegetables. Better never to go near zucchini than to offend and corrupt it so.

Quick directions -
Steam rice. Saute zucchini. Serve zucchini over rice. Simple.

Step-by-step -
2 cups short grain or pearl white rice - rinse well in cold water to reduce starchy stickiness so your rice doesn't turn out as a big pot shaped blob (short grain brown rice is fine too, just add an extra splash of cooking liquid)
2 cups water
1 tsp Better than Bouillon chicken base (optional, you can always go with plain water or sub the water for your favorite chicken stock)

3-4 zucchini (1 to 1/2 zucchini per person depending on your passion for squash)- slice in about 1/4 inch rounds for even cooking time OR just as quick as you can and if some are too thick and lagging behind simply push on it with your spatula to speed things up.
2 tbsp olive oil or enough to thinly coat the bottom of your pan. The zucchini with soak up the oil so be generous. If things look too greasy remember that you are serving over rice so you can call the flavored oil a sauce and it will be delicious.
1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning (or just sprinkle Kosher salt and pepper) - I LOVE McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning and add it to just about everything savory; soups, roasted veggies, sauteed veggies . . . that's everything. It's basically coarse salt and pepper with added spices like garlic, red pepper, paprika, etc. It's a one stop seasoning shop and useful when I'm in a hurry and don't want to scramble for spices.

1. Place equal parts rinsed rice and water along with bouillon into a medium sauce pan. Give it one quick stir then leave it alone 'til it comes to a boil. Give it one more quick stir, cover, and reduce heat to low and let sit about 15 minutes (longer for brown rice). Don't peek! Lifting the lid lets out steam that you want to stay in the pot. A clue that it's done is an even, appropriately dry surface with little vent holes. Remove from heat and let sit just a few minutes. Once ready to dish, remove lid and gently fluff with a fork.  DO NOT over work your rice. It will become gluey rather than perfectly tender in it's individual grains.
2. Once you've covered your rice to simmer, heat oil in a skillet over medium high. Toss in zucchini with steak seasoning or salt. The salt will help break down the zucchini - cooking better. Give it a stir to coat the squash. Then leave it alone, stirring every few minutes so it has time to caramelize. If you agitate continuously the squash will get mushy and slimy.
3. When the zucchini is tender (about 10 - 15 minutes) and the rice is cooked (about 15-20 minutes covered over low heat), mound rice onto each bowl or plate and spoon zucchini on top with any oil that might be left over. If you don't have any oil left in the skillet don't stress. It's good either way.

Remember, this is suppose to be a simple summer recipe. Few ingredients. Few steps. Few dishes. Phew!

Enjoy while sitting in the dry grass with the birds circling above and the cats crouching under the heather.


  1. Love zucchini in the summer, it is just so yummy! Great post about all things summer!

  2. Thanks Christine and Erin. I'm loving summer right now too! Stay tuned Erin - I have more zucchini coming!