Those of you with summer gardens – or those of you who live vicariously through your parents’ summer gardens – know full well that “late summer” = “zucchini overload.” You turn your back for 30 seconds and that tender, fingerling zucchini has quadrupled into a caveman-club-sized monster. When you’ve had your fill of zucchini parmesan, spiralized zucchini, zucchini frittatas, and every other zucchini recipe upon which you have come to rely during August-tide, try this one. I can guarantee it’s not at all what you’re expecting…
Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Zucchini Pie?’ This is probably some type of quiche or other savory thing. NO!!! This Zucchini Pie is truly God’s Vessel — in my opinion, that term sounds more sincere when applied to a pie than when self-stated by Kanye. Despite a 100% zucchini filling, this pie TASTES JUST LIKE APPLE PIE! As a native-Upstate-New-Yorker, I’m kind of an apple snob, and I will wholeheartedly assert that even an orchard owner himself could not tell you that this pie contains not a single apple.
The charade begins with the zucchini prep. Peel, scoop, slice, boil, drain. That’s it! You will be as shocked as I was that parboiled zucchini assumes a texture identical to that of cooked apples. Though the two have very different consistencies prior to boiling, some kind of magic happens in that bubbly bath, and the transformation is truly awe-inspiring.
Peeling the zucchini removes the telltale dark green exterior, leaving only a subtle green shadow that could easily be attributed to a previous life as a Granny Smith. Scooping out the stringy, seedy core accomplishes two purposes: 1. removing the fibrous component of the zucchini, and 2. giving the sliced zucchini pieces a crescent-shaped appearance more like that of apple slices. Actually, the bigger the zucchini, the better, in this case! A larger zucchini yields slices that look more like apple slices.
The flavorings are all familiar apple pie spices, with the exception of an increased quantity of sugar. Remember, apples are inherently sweet; zucchini are not — they just need a little extra help.
I have included a flaky, part-shortening-part-butter crust recipe, but feel free to use your secret family crust recipe (or, Pillsbury‘s secret family crust recipe). To tell the truth, my family hasn’t had shortening in the house in over a decade; we usually use an all-canola oil crust recipe. However, I wanted a slightly flakier crust this time, so I purchased the world’s smallest container of Crisco — I felt like I was buying heroin there in Stop & Shop’s self-checkout lane.
Whether you’re a crust crimper, a lattice-weaver, a patchworker, or a slap-a-slab-and-fork-it kind of pie topper, it doesn’t matter. Decorate the pie however you like, just be sure that whatever lid style you select is conducive to cradling a big ole scoop of vanilla ice cream!
After all, a zucchini a day…
Crust (makes a 9″ double crust):
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ~1/4″ cubes
1/4 cup shortening
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup VERY COLD water
1 enormous zucchini, or equivalent of ~6 cups sliced zucchini
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
Extra granulated sugar, for topping
Prepare crust: Place butter pieces and shortening in a mixing bowl, and use a butter knife to break up the shortening into small globs. Place in freezer for 10 minutes while you measure the dry ingredients into a large measuring cup or small bowl. Combine the dry ingredients with a fork. Remove bowl from freezer, and add remaining dry ingredients. Use a fork to gently mash the ingredients together, breaking up the butter and shortening into smaller, flour-coated pieces, ~ 1 minute — the result should be a coarse-looking, not-totally-blended, sandy mixture. Pour in the frigid water, and use a rubber spatula to quickly combine for no more than 30 seconds (overmixing will make the dough tough). You should still see butter and shortening streaks in the dough; these streaks are what will melt during baking to give you that classic flaky crust. Divide the dough in half, wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
When ready to use, roll out each block of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to prevent sticking and to permit easy transfer to your greased pie dish.
Prepare pie: Preheat oven to 425 degrees farenheit. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zucchini skin (ideally without removing any of your finger skin). Cut off both ends of the zucchini, and slice it in half, lengthwise. Use a metal serving spoon to scoop out the fibrous interior. If your zucchini is really massive, cut each half lengthwise again, then make ~1/8 – 1/4″ slices (whatever size best mimics your usual apple slicing style). Place zucchini in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then drain zucchini and let sit in a sieve to remove excess water. Once zucchini has cooled a bit, use a few paper towels to press out the excess moisture, leaving as little as possible. Transfer zucchini to a mixing bowl, add sugar, spices, salt, cream of tartar, and cornstarch. Toss with a rubber spatula to thoroughly coat zucchini slices in this glorious mixture. Transfer coated zucchini into the prepared crust, sprinkle with lemon juice or vinegar, and dot with butter pieces. Top with second crust in desired topping fashion. Brush top crust with water and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake pie for 15 minutes at 425, then decrease oven temp to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 55-60 minutes. Top of pie should be a light golden-brown color, and filling should be bubbling merrily. Let pie sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes prior to cutting, then let any leftovers cool completely before covering with wax paper and plastic wrap and storing in refrigerator.
**MOST IMPORTANT INSTRUCTION: Don’t tell anybody that this is a zucchini pie before serving, wait to astound them with the earth-shattering news at the end of dessert. [Exception: If any of your guests are allergic to zucchini, you should probably tell them first]