I’m away for the moment, teaching a class in my favorite place in the world, Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. My good buddy Casey Daniels(aka Kylie Logan with a new series debuting next month) and I are teaching together in the upcoming week. Casey and I have been friends for a LONG time and she’s one of my brainstorming buddies. In fact Casey’s my go-to gal on a daily basis and vice versa. We listen to each other’s feedback and take it into account when making completely different decisions. But it always helps.
Cooking these days isn’t easy, despite my CHUsday pledge. I bet you have similar excuses. With classes and many, many other opportunities, it’s not easy to find time for anything except fresh sweet corn from the farmer’s market, and Greek salads made from cucumbers and tomatoes from our own plants. I’m also dealing with a kitchen that has more room to prepare food on the washer and dryer than on the one narrow counter. Kitchen will be updated, but not this year. This alone requires creativity.
Creativity’s needed this time of year for another reason. It’s long and green and shiny, and if you’re not careful you’ll find baskets of the stuff on your doorstep. Yep, it’s zucchini harvest time. Have you had enough yet?
Since I’m teaching fiction classes this month, I can’t help but think how similar zucchini is to characters and plots we’ve seen, and seen, and seen before. At first we love them, then we tolerate them, then we run screaming into the night. No! Not another one! Please, I’ll do anything if you just take it away!
Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But still. . .
The good news for those of us who write fiction is that there’s always a way of making a familiar character or plot new and different. Cliches are cliches for a reason. Readers enjoyed them and found comfort and meaning. Now, they’re tired, but if you find a new, innovative twist, they’ll love you and the novel forever.
Zucchini’s the same. This is my very favorite, bar none, all time favorite zucchini recipe. I wish I could tell you the name of the cookbook it’s from, but it came to me through friends who served it at a potluck dinner. I feel madly in love, lost the recipe and the friends, and rediscovered the latter some years later. First question out of my mouth: Please, can you give me your recipe again for the zucchini and eggplant dish with the almond topping?
So here it is, on this week’s menu and lovingly prepared on my washing machine. I haven’t made it in more than a year, so maybe it qualifies as a CHU recipe. Whether it does or not, I hope you enjoy. I always do every time I make it.
PS: As a bonus this week? If you choose a zucchini recipe from an unused or recently unloved cookbook and comment here with details, you’ll be entered for TWO chances to win an autographed novel and a silly kitchen gadget. I think you’ll deserve it.
Zucchini and Eggplant with Almond Topping
4 slices bacon
½ cup slivered almonds
1 T oil
1 lb zucchini–diced
1 lb eggplant–diced
1 large onion–diced
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 t minced garlic
1 ½ t salt
1/4 t coarse pepper
1 t basil
½ lb Swiss cheese
Cut bacon strips in 1 inch pieces. Saute with almonds in a skillet until the bacon has slightly browned–not crisp. Remove both and set aside. Add oil, zucchini, eggplant and onion to skillet and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in flour–add tomatoes, then spices and heat to bubbling.
Pour into a 3 quart casserole. Top the ingredients with Swiss cheese, then sprinkle bacon almond mixture over the top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until tender. Enjoy.