Have extra cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes? Try these 4 recipes

Wok & Roll by Peter Kwong, (Frederic) Inter-County Leader
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Recently, my good friend and neighbor down the street, Paul, came over with some boxes of vegetables from his garden. “Can you take these, please?” I could see the tears in his eyes.

“We have so many vegetables in our garden that we don’t know what to do with them. Our neighbors won’t even answer the door when they see my truck pull up, knowing that I will have boxes of vegetables to offer them.”

Oh, what a happy problem. “Of course I will take them,” I said. “Yes, all of them.”

Peter Kwong, cucumbers
Peter Kwong

I was amazed to see what came out of his garden. There were purple string beans, onions, lettuce mix, cucumbers and many more. Goodness, it could feed a commune.

I definitely could use those products in my cooking classes. So, instead of beef and broccoli, could we do beef and garden string beans? And what about the onions? The zucchini? The cucumbers? The tomatoes? Oh, life is good, there are so many things to do with what the good earth provides.

Let’s start with the cucumbers. I made a cucumber salad with sesame dressing earlier and it was a hit. I’m going to share it with you here.

Cucumber salad with sesame dressing

Ingredients:

  • Cucumbers, 6 each, thinly sliced.
  • Tomatoes, 1 each, core removed, finely chopped.
  • Scallions, 3 stalks, finely chopped or sliced.

Dressing ingredients:

  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup.
  • Sesame oil, 2 tablespoons.
  • Soy sauce, 1 cup.
  • Vinegar, apple cider or regular, 1 cup.
  • Garlic, 2 cloves, finely minced.
  • Salt, 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon.
  • Red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon.
  • Red wine, 1/2 cup (and another half cup for the chef).

Adjust the flavor to your liking by adding more sugar if you like it sweeter or more vinegar if you prefer a more sour flavor. Mix salad dressing well, pour onto the cucumber mix and marinate for at least one hour before serving. Top with sesame seeds before serving. Add a pinch of red pepper chili for coloring and extra flavor.

Zucchini, zucchini and more zucchini

Last year, we had more zucchini than we knew what to do with. It seemed like every time we harvested a mutant zucchini from our garden, another one would pop up overnight.

While my wife was overjoyed at her hard work in planting them, I was busy creating recipes to get rid of them.  Goodness, we could only eat so much of it. While fresh is best, I have found ways to preserve them for the cold winter season. Making zucchini bread is one way, as once it is made, it can be kept in the freezer for six months to a year.

We will definitely try them this year as we finally decided to get a larger refrigerator. It is over 60% bigger than our old one and literally saved our marriage!

Our old one came with the house. It was adequate for a small family. However, with my cooking classes, the tiny fridge just didn’t have enough space.

My wife couldn’t find the food she wanted, as it would be hidden behind all my prepped food for the classes. Then, I would be mad that the leftovers were spoiled.

But who’s to blame? They were well hidden behind stuff for my classes. Yes, life is complicated. Then came this new refrigerator and now life is good.

The left side is reserved for her stuff and the right side is mine. No crossing the line and no blaming each other. It is peace and harmony. Why didn’t we think of it earlier?

Oh, sorry, totally forgot about the zucchini business. So, what to do when my wife brings in three or four oversized zucchini with a big smile on her face every day? Yes, every day, three or four oversized zucchini. Don’t they sleep at night?

Being creative, my first thought was how to get rid of them in a nice way. Here are some ways to start. Trust me, you can come up with more recipes yourself. In the meantime, try the below.

Zucchini stir-fry

If you have a large family, this is a perfect recipe to feed 8-10 people. If you have a small family, two to four people, it might last a week.  So, I’ll just provide the standard recipe and you folks can adjust accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini, 1 oversize, 2-4 lbs., sliced to bite-size.
  • Onion, 1 each, sliced.
  • Tomatoes, 1 each, quartered.
  • Black bean sauce, 1 teaspoon.
  • Oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon.

In a heated wok or saute pan, add 1 tablespoon oil, then black bean sauce. Add all ingredients and cook until tender. Add some wine to steam up the vegetables. Don’t forget, half of the wine goes to the chef and the other to the food. The final touch is the oyster sauce and voila! This recipe could be used to create a veggie burger or pasta salad, too.

Now, for the tomatoes. Yes, as much as we love them, it can be a nightmare when you have too many. What to do?

Well, I like to make pico de gallo. Then, stewed tomatoes, with the same recipe from the cucumber salad, and tomato soup, either steamed and creamy or chilled. Or how about bruschetta for an Italian dinner? Actually, the same one recipe can apply to many entrees. You just have to be creative.

Here are the recipes for pico de gallo and bruschetta.

Pico de Gallo                           

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes, 6 each.       
  • Celery, 1 stalk, diced.                      
  • Red onion, 1/2 each, diced.
  • Jalapenos, 1/2 each, diced and seeded.          
  • Cilantro, 1/2 cup, finely chopped.
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon.                             
  • Lime juice, 1 each.                                    

Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes, 6 each, diced and cored.
  • Celery, 1 stalk, diced.                      
  • Red onion, 1/2 each, diced.
  • Green pepper, 1/2 each, diced and seeded.
  • Italian parsley, 1/2 cup, finely chopped.           
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon.                             
  • Lemon juice, 1 each.                                 
  • Italian dressing, 1/2 cup.

Well, there you go, same ingredients but with a twist. You have two different specials to wow your guests. Pico de gallo is best to serve with tortilla chips and margaritas, while bruschetta is best served on toasted Italian bread slices with a glass of chianti.

Life is good, no!?

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