Growing up, my mother was neither the greatest nor most adventurous cook. Lest you think I’m insulting my mother’s memory by saying that, she would have been the first to admit it. Over the years, I can’t tell you how many times she would remark “you are a much better cook than I am” or “you’re so much more adventurous in the kitchen than I was,” whenever I went home to visit (and would become default cook and chief bottle washer for however long I was staying!).
I’m not sure how much my mom really even liked cooking even though it was her “job” as a stay-at-home mom when we were young. I can’t remember when she started to let me help with the cooking–it probably started with baking cookies or something like that–but I was certainly playing in the kitchen before the age of 10 because it’s difficult for me now remember a time when I didn’t cook, although not remembering may be one of those functions of aging, like noticing yourself holding menus a good arm’s length away (or maybe up to your nose) in dimly lit restos because you can’t focus on the text.
By the time she went back to work when I was a teenager, a lot of the responsibilities of cooking for the family started falling to me. Since she was working, I would often make dinner for the family. This led me to start experimenting with new things–like insisting that the family needed to buy an electric wok for Christmas (what was I thinking? Electric? Oh, well, it was the 80s…) so that we could make homemade Chinese food. Eventually, as my mother’s health declined as she got older, she gave up cooking altogether, abdicating that responsibility to my dad, who is famous for two things in the kitchen–pancakes and pie.
Like most moms (and most families), my mom had some “standards” that she always made–tacos (good), baked chicken with seasoned salt (not good), meatloaf with oatmeal that my grandmother made (also good). She also had a few items in her kitchen repertoire that she’d taken from 60s cookbooks or from magazines and newspapers like Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping or the LA Times.
One of my all-time favorites was a zucchini and tomato dish recipe that she’d clipped from the LA Times some time in the late 60s–I think it was billed as an “Italian” recipe (probably pronounced I-talian at the time!). She would make it once or twice a year, when zucchini season had hit in the late summer. It’s still one of my favorite ways to eat zucchini.
Here’s my adaptation of the recipe.
Zucchini and Tomato with Basil
1/2 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini (or 2-3 small ones), sliced in either rounds or half moons
2-3 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2-3/4 c. white wine
2-3 tbsp. ketchup (yeah, ketchup!)
1/4 c. basil, chopped
1) Add 2-3 tbsp. olive oil to a pan and heat over medium to medium high. Add onion and a pinch of salt; sauté until translucent.
2) Add garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds; then add zucchini and another pinch of salt to pan and sauté until it’s translucent and beginning to get a little wilt-y.
3) Add tomatoes and sauté until they begin to soften. Add basil
I used a mix of heirloom cherry tomatoes this time–if you use cherry or grape tomatoes, you’ll want to cook them until most of them burst–or until you can burst them with your spoon. You may want to give them a push–bursting a hot cherry tomato and feeling that pop on your spoon is totally satisfying!
4) Add wine and ketchup. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until liquid has reduced down and zucchini and tomatoes have gotten fairly soft–depending on your taste, you can cook this until the zucchini is al dente or let it get on the mushy side – your preference.
5) Top with generous helping of parmesan and cover to let the cheese melt a bit. Serve.
This could be served with any number of things as a side (chicken maybe) or even as a main topping or tossed with pasta.
A word on ketchup. If you’re snobby about using ketchup in a recipe, then feel free to use some tomato paste or tomato sauce and up the wine content a bit here if you’re using paste to help the paste incorporate in the sauce. I actually like the ketchup in this because it brings a bit of sweetness to the dish–and because it’s so very 60s cooking!
All recipes and photos copyright of Foie Gras and Funnel Cakes.