the attack of the giant zucchini

I’ve recently returned from vacation in Croatia and since I have so many beautiful photos from the trip, I’m putting together a series of blog posts to share soon.

In the meantime, I thought I’d show you what I came home to in the garden. It was an odd experience to leave when the calendar said it was summer and return in fall. There is definitely a new crispness to the air and the days seem so much shorter than just a few weeks ago.

When I left, I was disheartened but accepted the fact that my San Marzano tomatoes weren’t to be this year. The vines were leaning over and beginning to yellow but the fruit was still hard and green. If we were lucky enough to get any ripened tomatoes from these feeble old vines, I was pretty sure it would take place while we were gone and we’d find them shriveled like prunes on arrival.

Imagine my surprise when I came home to this.

A beauty contest winner? No. But these decrepit vines produced some of the largest, most beautiful San Marzano tomatoes these eyes have ever seen.

I could hardly contain myself. If you’ve never had oven roasted San Marzanos before, imagine a sweet, tender, earthy sundried tomato. These are really meaty tomatoes with few seeds and just beg to be roasted. Here’s how:

Just slice each in half and lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and liberally with sea salt.

Place them in a 275 degree oven, close the door, and that’s it. You’ll want to check them in several hours when you get a whiff of them beginning to caramelize. At that point check them every 1/2 hour and start pulling the ones out that are done. These just have a few more minutes to go.

These can be used in so many ways, just as you would sundried tomatoes. They impart a rich, deep flavor to sauces, will brighten a salad and are unbelievable added to a pizza during the last few minutes of cooking time. My friends now request them like this – simply paired with a little piece of cheese, with or without a piece of cracker or bread – heaven!

I have a lot of garden clean up to do this weekend. Much of my basil has gone to seed, but there are still a few beautiful plants that just need some trimming back that continue to produce big beautiful tender green leaves. The last of the beans will be pulled and I’ll probably plant some swiss chard in their place. I have some beautiful eggplants to harvest and a few more heirloom tomatoes to slice into sandwiches.

But THIS. This was discovered on our arrival, too, and it’s almost as big as my kitchen. There are more where it came from and I’m in a bit of a panic. What in the world am I going to do with a zucchini this big??? Do you have any recipes to share?

Have a beautiful weekend!

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