Reminiscing on Zucchini, The Taste of Summer, and my Grandfather

Food is such a mnemonic device for me. Certain smells and tastes bring me back to different parts of my life. I wrote a little a while back about how “Sunday Sauce” immediately took me back to my grandparents’ house for dinner after church. The smell of fried seafood immediately triggers memories of post-college summers spend drinking cold beer in one of the many sea side bars on Long Island. Sausage and peppers remind me of an unfortunate 4 days when I worked as a “grill man” at an Italian feast.  I couldn’t wash the smell off of me for days and I am amazed that the dish wasn’t ruined for me after that.

One of the most powerful tastes in terms of triggering memories is a specific combination of ingredients. If you take each one on it’s own, it’s nothing special, but once you combine zucchini, eggs, basil, and some parmigiano cheese my head immediately turns to thoughts of summer… and my paternal grandfather.

There are many smells that remind me of my “Grandpa Pete”; cigars (more specifically the smell of stale cigars in his car), bacon being cooked over and open fire, yoo-hoo, jelly donuts… but his summertime frittata is the most powerful. This dish was always something that was made ahead of time and brought to outings. When we went to the beach, out on a fishing boat, or to our family picnic (where he would show up at an ungodly hour to reserve the spot, and then cook the aforementioned bacon over an open fire so breakfast was ready when we arrived), he seemed to always have a stash of this frittata hidden away in a cooler.

This is the time of year that the onslaught of zucchini comes. It’s everywhere. We got a bunch last week from our CSA. I don’t mind at all. In addition to grilling it, putting it in pasta, or shaving it thin to make a salad, I always pay a bit of tribute to “Grandpa Pete” and make the frittata that reminds me of him. In fact, Saturday I made one that sat in the fridge to be picked on throughout the week. I had a piece this morning in a wrap for a quick breakfast.

In true “Grandpa Pete” style, here’s the recipe as I imagined he would have told it to me.

Grandpa Pete:  Get a piece of zucchini and cut it up
ME: What size? should I peel it? How should I cut it?
GP: Eh, whatever you feel like. Do you want to learn this or not?
ME: OK, go ahead.
GP: Take the zucchini and cook it in the pan with some olive oil
ME: You mean saute’ the pieces?

Zucchini cooking in olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper

GP: Yeah…cook it. Then take 4-5 eggs and scramble them in a bowl, get some basil from the garden and chop it up. Put that in with the eggs, then throw in some grated cheese and mix it all up.

Like every good Italian, I have an overgrown bush of basil in the backyard
Like every good Italian, I have an overgrown bush of basil in the backyard

ME: How much cheese?
GP: Eh, whatever you feel like. Once the zucchini is pretty cooked, stir that in with the eggs. Take your egg / zucchini mixture and pour it in to your hot frying pan. Cook it until the bottom is done.
ME: You mean until the eggs set?
GP: Yeah. Once that happens then put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the top cooks. Immediately slide it out of the pan on to a plate and let it cool.

All done!
All done!

NOTE: From what I remember, my grandfather never actually put it under the broiler. He had some way of flipping the frittata on to a plate halfway through and then back in to the frying pan to get the other side. I like my method better… much easier. This is what it looks like when it comes out of the broiler:

This dish is a Notafoodie family favorite during the summer. it’s simple and awesome. Do yourself a favor and make one today!

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4 thoughts on “Reminiscing on Zucchini, The Taste of Summer, and my Grandfather

  • September 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm
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    Hi, Tom – How funny that we both wrote about frittata on our 9/1 blog!
    Can you please get in touch with me at spiegwrite@gmail.com? Bev Yehuda and I are confounded by a problem Im having with people posting comments on my blog, and Bev thought you could help.

    Reply
  • September 5, 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    Wow, I must have been channeling you yesterday. I made pretty much the same thing, using goat cheese and thyme (sted of basil.) And some shallots.  Really good.

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    • September 5, 2011 at 5:59 pm
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      Ha. It really is the perfect summer meal!

      Sent from my iPad

      Reply
  • September 5, 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    Wow, I must have been channeling you yesterday. I made pretty much the same thing, using goat cheese and thyme (sted of basil.) And some shallots.  Really good.

    Reply

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