Go For a Dip!

After several summer squash-free years, the Food It Yourself has been visited by the Zucchini Fairy once again. So far, I have put up a dozen jars of zucchini relish, stocked my freezer with zucchini-bread-recipe-sized containers of shredded zucchini, made some zucchini chips, and baked a HUGE pan of moussaka. However, where there is so much squash to savor, one can never have too many recipes.

A little search of the internet yielded multiple recipes for somehting I had never heard of before- an eastern European dip or spread made with zucchini and other vegetables called “ikra”.

I had to try this “zucchini caviar”!

I grabbed two large zucchini, a few carrots, two onions, and three garlic cloves. Everything was shredded with a box grater, except for the garlic which I smashed in a garlic press. If you have a food processor with a shredding attachment you can certainly use that. It will probably make shredding the onions less painful.

I was just about to grab my favorite, huge, cast-iron skillet, but I had a thought. The instructions for each of the recipes required babysitting the veggies as they cook down. I was not particularly entranced by the idea of hanging out in my kitchen all afternoon. If only there was a way to cook down vegetables unsupervised without burning them. Oh wait, I have a way!

Hello, old friend. Sorry it’s been so long.

What kitchen implement is better at cooking without burning than a slow cooker? I didn’t think of it right away, because I do not use it so much in the summer. I sprinkled the veggies with just a little salt, set the cooker to “high” and walked away. By “away” I mean out to the garden, because this ikra needs some tomato, and I have plenty of them!

Oh look! There is exactly one tomato that might eventually get ripe. Good thing I keep some canned stuff around.

No shame in this game. I poured about half the can of puree into the slow cooker and gave it a good stir. After that, I mostly left the ikra alone for a good five hours. I did give it a little stir now and again.

Once all the vegetables were very well cooked, I gave it a brief squish with my trusty hand blender. I did not make the mix completely smooth, I just wanted break up the larger pieces. Afterwards, I propped the slow cooker lid open with a pair of chopsticks to allow the extra water to evaporate.

Once the thickness was to my liking, I a tasted a little. I added a couple fat pinches of salt, but nothing else. The flavor of the vegetables was enough for me. If your vegetables are a little bland, any seasoning you like could be added, from adobo to za’atar. The important thing is to wait until the end to add the seasoning, even if it is just salt. Flavors develop and concentrate during the cooking process. “Just enough” at the start of cooking can easily become “way too much” by the end.

And here it is, after a cool down. Ikra is delicious with crackers and vegetables; I am also eager to try it on pasta. I can even imagine dipping french fries in it. This may be my new favorite use for zuchhini!

I am so happy I learned about ikra. How had I not heard of it before? What new recipe have you added to your DIYet this summer? Share in the comments section!