Thursday, May 5, 2011

When You Can't Always Get What You Want... Get Zucchini

   When I lived in Los Angeles, anything for my Indian kitchen was practically steps away. Bitter melon? Got it. Bottle gourd? Check. Fresh turmeric root and ridged gourd? Fuggedaboutit! There was no recipe that I couldn't tackle, no ingredient I couldn't find. Then we changed our base of operation to Sonoma's Wine Country and LA became the temporary residence. Now I am up to my ass in 14 different kinds of sage, fresh gourmet olive oils (I have my own tree) every wine and cheese under the sun, artisanal breads and a wealth of fresh (luckily inexpensive) organic fruit and vegetables. But when I want the exotic stuff I have to send away for it, or hit the road for a 50 mile round trip. Or pick it up when I'm in LA on business.
   Since I try to be a good little locavore, the task before me (should I choose to accept it) is cooking Indian with what grows around me. Fortunately many of the same vegetables grown in India are also grown here. But every now and then I want that smack of bitter melon or long beans and I'm s**t outta luck as my dad says. So when I can't always get what I want, I get what I need and usually that involves zucchini.

  Zucchini, like my husband's old college buddy Harry, always seems to be around and isn't always welcome. People say that when the world ends they'll be only two things left. Styrofoam and cockroaches. I'd like to nominate a third. Zucchini.
  Zucchini are tricky. They're everywhere this time of year and nearly all times of year, and they're cheap. Cheap I cannot resist. When I market it's the siren song that rings in my ears. "Yo, Gori, I got your 99 cents deal right here!" It's always zucchini and I always take it home with me. Sort of like last call on a Saturday night at the Roxy... but no. That was the 70's, this is now and zucchini is in the house. So, what to do with it?! Cook it like the vegetable I do not have, that's what. Cook it like ridged gourd.
  This, is Ridge Gourd.
It is not zucchini. Nothing is quite like ridge gourd but it's sort of close in a pinch. Both are squash, but if you let a Ridge Gourd go, it turns into this. Otherwise known as a Loofa. One can exfoliate with it.
If you let a zucchini go, it turns into something dark and liquidy in the bottom of the fridge. Trust me, I know. You do not want to exfoliate with it.
   But a zucchini when ripe can stand in for a Ridge Gourd aka Luffa. It won't taste exactly the same, Zucchini is more watery and the Ridge Gourd is sweeter, but if you are bored with the usual zucchini dishes, this works like a charm. Here's my adaptation of a Ridge Gourd recipe done with Zuccs. There are minimal ingredients so it's ready pretty darn fast.

Zucchini Curry

Here's what to do:
 Soak 2 Tbs of white poppy seeds in 1/2 cup of water for about 30 minutes, then drain them.
Grind them in a spice grinder or blender along with:
 3 green chilies seeded and chopped
 1/2 tsp of salt
Grind it to paste and set it aside.
Chop 1 lb of zucchini into cubes, and set them aside
In a large skillet or kadhai heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil
When the oil is hot toss in:
 2 whole cloves and
 3 chopped red onions.
Cook the onions until they're a bit browned, about 5 minutes or so.
Add in the chopped zucchini and saute for another 5 minutes or so
 Add in 1/2 tsp of turneric and mix it up well
 Add the poppy seed paste mix
check for seasoning and add a bit more salt if needed.
Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or so, until the zucchini is tender. Serve it up.

  There it is, another way of doing something with all that wonderful zucchini we're all treated to this time of year. If on your travels to any Asian or Indian market in your area you discover Ridge Gourd, do try this as it's intended, and no, soaking your loofa won't do.
  Coming up next, more veg and more friends go gluten free. Eat Indian say I! Plus a visit to small town America. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Great recipe and great for improvisation! If you can not find it may be grow it! :)

  2. Poor Harry. Oh, you are toooooo funny!! You definitely made this work, aka Tim Gunn-style.

  3. Hey, Kathy I disagree with your nomination...I don't get Zucchini here so easily..its still an exotic veggie in India! ... would love to nominate ridge guard though :)
    Love your easy peasy recipe.

  4. @sanjeeta,
    I am so wanting some ridge gourd and long beans right now. I guess it's time for the 50 mile round trip drive to santa rosa

  5. Hi Kathy, Came here via twitter, delighted to discover your blog.

    What a diverse world we live in. Where I stay, in south India, ridge gourd will win the award for the most ubiquitous vegetable. Every veggie vendor's cart on my street has stacks of it. If I ask for zucchini on the other hand, I will only get blank stares!

    Will try your recipe with ridge gourd. Thanks!

  6. This is such a well written post. Such funny allusions.

  7. pfffft we dont have vegetables in New England. All I eat since we moved here is gruel.

  8. I always love a zucchini dish ... I cook them all the time in every shape, way or form :) So I will not be sad if they never end ... when you have a kid who thinks that vegetables means zucchini you have to get creative with them right ... hey guess what I have never tried adding poppy seeds ... so you have just opened my eyes to even more endless possibilities with zucchini ... I have no idea why we call them zucchini because they really should be zucchine :( ... and in case you hadn't noticed I really enjoyed reading your post!

  9. Lol, this reminds me of the year I planted four zucchini plants, not knowing how much each of would produce. Well, pretty soon we were waist-deep in the stuff and couldn't give away enough! Who knew? Well, actually, a lot of people knew but I didn't bother to ask....

    Anyway, this looks wonderful! And, it may sound odd but I bet it's great as a filling a tortilla for a soft taco.



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