Unless you have a vegetable garden, or a friend or neighbor who does, you likely haven’t seen the gargantuan zucchinis that peek out from beneath a canopy of wide squash leaves around this time of year. It’s as if they balloon from baby-squash cute to ginormous in the span of a couple of days, not weeks. City slickers like me, who normally only have access to farmers market produce, won’t see these behemoths, but they are the real stuff of zucchini jokes and unwanted gifts.
Next-door neighbors in northern New Hampshire, where we go on vacation, practically pleaded with us to eat from their vegetable patch, and now I get why. I stumbled upon a four-pound zeppelin while hunting for some tender little zucchinis. My neighbor stuffs and bakes the blimps, but I immediately thought about some individual zucchini pecorino frittatas baked by former Gourmet magazine food editor/stylist Lori Powell, now the food director at Prevention Magazine.
How to tackle my elephantine squash? I peeled it (the skin’s quite tough), cut it crosswise into sections, then quartered each section to facilitate discarding the seedy cores. Next, I coarsely grated 3 pounds of the pale flesh, tossed it with 1½ teaspoons salt, and let it weep in a bowl for 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, I sautéed 1 cup finely chopped onion and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, with ½ teaspoon salt in 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the onion turned pale golden.
I spread a kitchen towel out on the counter, dumped the grated squash into its center, then pulled up the edges and squeezed out a significant amount of liquid. The flesh, unlike that of the more youthful zukes, was still tough, so I mixed it with the onions and sautéed the mass, alternately covered and uncovered, for about 5 minutes, until it was tender.
A well-packed half-cup measure of zucchini shreds now went into each of six buttered jumbo 1-cup non-stick muffin cups, which I then topped with 1 to 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (it’s tempting to get generous with the cheese, but the zucchini flavor is delicate and easily overwhelmed). Snip about 1 to 2 tablespoons basil, mint, or cilantro into each cup and stir it around with a fork.
With the help of an Epicurious reader’s comment, I only whisked 6 eggs (not 10) with ¼ cup water and ¼ teaspoon salt, then slowly drizzled it into the cups, filling them. If you need more egg, whisk up another with a couple of teaspoons of water.
By this time, I’d long since veered from the recipe. Mine became a lot about squash and not much about egg. A few grinds of black pepper, a light sprinkling of more Parmesan, and the option of some halved cherry tomatoes topped them off. Shoved into the middle of a heated 375°F. oven, the individual frittatas were puffed and set in 12 to 15 minutes. And in less time than it took to bake them, they were devoured. Score one for the jumbo zucchini!