Summer Vegetable Ragout

I've been in a cooking slump. Work has been crazy, school is insane, the garden is demanding, the kids' activities have us running all over. Between work, yardwork and homework, Panda's class and rehearsals, my class and rehearsals, Redman's games and practices, I'm in no mood to make dinner. Let's just order Chinese Food. 

But suddenly, Panda's two recitals were finished, and last week was her last ballet class in Ridgefield. And suddenly I have Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights free. Welcome back, Kotter! I can actually plan a dinner. I can plan a week of dinners and there will be people here to eat them! We can eat on the deck! I can put flowers on the table on the deck while we eat the dinner I planned!

Life is great.

So all my cookbooks are stacked up next to my bed again and I'm getting reacquainted with some old friends. Diving back into one of my very favorites, Fast, Fresh & Green, here's a simply awesome recipe for Summer Vegetable Ragout with Zucchini, Green Beans and Corn. This is a lemon-bright, elegant succotash of sorts. I doubled the recipe below, substituted asparagus for green beans because it's what I had around, and I used frozen corn instead of fresh. A little bit of prep time goes into this, but then it's 1-2-3 in the skillet and just totally delicious. Redman really liked it, which surprised me. Then again, he's always surprising me.

Summer Vegetable Ragout

  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
  • 1 tbsp Canola or Olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup sliced baby zucchini (slice baby zucchini straight across; if you don't have baby, use regular, sliced lengthwise in quarters and then straight across)
  • 3/4 cup sliced slender green or yellow wax beans (I used 1/2 bunch of asparagus, cut on the diagnol into 1" pieces)
  • 1 cup medium-diced yellow onion (I used a red onion because I had half a one hanging out in the fridge)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives, thyme and just a little bit of mint)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine broth and heavy cream. Set these aside.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, zucchini, green beans, onion and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pan is browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until well combined. Turn the heat to low, add the broth-cream mixture, stir well to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cover. Simmer until the liquids have reduced to 1 or 2 tbsp, about 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the stove, and stir in the lemon juice mixture and most of the fresh herbs. Season with pepper and stir again. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining herbs.

This and a cranberry-radish slaw, along with two rotisseries chicken, were dinner on the deck.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

I grow six zucchini plants. Three are for the purpose of having zucchini. The other three are expressly for flowers, and if the plant manages to produce a fruit or two anyway, fabulous. But if you are a male flower on those three plants, you should accept that your days are numbered. Oh, and you blossoms on the rogue pumpkin vines scattered about the premises? You're not safe either.

Between yesterday and today, I got 10 good flowers—8 zucchini and 2 pumpkin. The blossoms will keep in the fridge, rolled in a damp paper towel.

There are about a thousand ways to make zucchini flowers—unstuffed, stuffed, pan-fried, deep-fried, baked, rolled in a batter of flour and seltzer, or egg and flour, or egg white and bread crumbs. It's simply a matter of finding the recipe and method that works for you. Or, in my case, cobbling a method together from one or two sources—the filling from one of my cookbooks, and the batter from Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking. 

Whatever your method, it's pretty hard to screw these up. And it's impossible to make enough.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

You use male flowers for this dish. The stem of a male flower looks like a stem, and the stem of a female flower looks like a tiny little squash. Inside the blossom, the males look like boys, and the females look like girls. OK? That's all I'm saying. For further botanical sex education, and visual aids, go here.

Trim the stems off the blossom—I leave about a two-inch stem just to have something to hold onto (shut up). With small scissors, cut out the stamen of each flower (courage, men, courage). (And shut up).

Filling (for about a dozen blossoms, plus leftovers for the next crop)

  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley)

Mix all in a small bowl. You have a choice of filling the blossoms with a small spoon, or putting the filling into a pastry bag (if you own one) or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off and piping the filling into the blossoms. I use a small spoon. Fill each flower with about 2 teaspoons, then twist petals to close. It helps to wet your fingers first, then twist. (Shut up.)


  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

Beat egg with lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisk in flour. Batter will be thick. Whisk in water until consistency of thin pancake batter or tempura. I know that's extremely vague, and very lame coming from someone who does not cook before 12PM, but that's what it will look like.

Heat 1/2" canola or vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Dip each blossom in batter, twist by the stem to coat completely, then lay in skillet. Fry 3-4 minutes a side until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt. Immediately claim yours. Serve the rest. Wipe the tears when they realize there are no more.

So dinner tonight, like the zucchini flowers, was cobbled together from this and that. I don't know why this seems so much acceptable in summertime, but in general I find mealtimes easier this time of year. I'm not racing the clock, I'm usually letting the garden dictate the direction of dinner, people are hungry and seem more amenable to new things, everyone is just in a better mood. 

So I already had the blossoms on deck, but when I went to our local Italian deli (Valben's, for those of you in the area, I love them) for the ricotta cheese and eggs, she had rice balls in the front display case—breaded and fried and wow, they looked good. And her fresh marinara sauce in the cooler, yes, I'll take a half-quart of that, please. The woman there is so wonderful, "What are you making for dinner tonight, honey?" I told her about the crop of blossoms waiting at home and she was as excited as if she'd been invited for dinner.

So there were the blossoms, the rice balls with marinara sauce, steamed green beans, and roasted potatoes. Potatoes and rice for dinner? Sure, why not, what the hell!

And one more "Before and After" shot of the zucchini flowers. Don't blink or you'll miss it...