Toni’s OrIental Skillet

The year I planted five kinds of zucchini in the big garden we shared with our neighbor was also the year that we camped for a week on Kentucky Lake with our friends, Dave and Toni.  We had camped together several times before but only for two or three days at a time.  We had found a beautiful small peninsula with a deep little cove behind it that sheltered the boat and usually made possible a breeze across the narrow spit of land that discouraged insects.  We agreed it would be a great place to spend some hot summer days.


Since Dave and I were both teaching summer school, we would have to commute via boat and car to the university to meet our classes, but we could also pick up fresh meat, cold melons for dessert and ice for the coolers.  Dave and Toni had a big jon boat with a cabin on it, so they met us at the marina of Kenlake State Park where we left our car.


Besides the camping gear and duffle bag, we loaded the boat with a cooler, a toddler and a black diamond zucchini.  It was a large dark green beauty five or six inches in diameter and about two feet long, enough to provide us with Toni’s Oriental Skillet for the whole week.  In fact, it was more than enough. We left what was left for the raccoons as we headed home after our adventure.


And it was a true adventure.  Every morning Dave and I would take a refreshing swim, eat a good breakfast and motor a few miles to the marina leaving Toni and Jerri with two toddlers in a beautiful place to relax with cool breezes from the lake.  After a few hours inspiring students with our enthusiasm for English literature, we would pick up any needed items and head “home” to the lake.


Every evening, Toni made a large pan of her oriental skillet with three or four cups of chopped black diamond zucchini, onions and tomatoes from their garden.  Added to fresh catfish and new potatoes, dinners were gourmet affairs.  We even had blackberry cobbler one night.


Toni introduced us to this recipe, and Jerri and I have been making it for many years.  You can adjust quantities to fit the amount of zucchini on hand or the number of people you are cooking for.  For two people, Jerri uses approximately the following amounts:


2 T olive oil or butter
1/3 cup onion
1 small clove garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger root or 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. curry powder
2 cups prepared zucchini
1 4 oz. can mushrooms pieces and stems
1 medium tomato (about 3 inches in diameter)
Salt and pepper to taste

The proportions are not crucial, and you should feel free to adjust the spices to suit your taste.


Wash and slice zucchini into 1/3 inch slices. If the zucchini are more than 1 inch in diameter, cut in half before slicing. Slice onion into 1/4” rings and cut rings in half. Wash and cut the tomato into bite sized pieces. Mince ginger root and garlic (if using garlic).

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the ginger, curry powder, garlic and onion. Sauté about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and sauté until al dente. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and sauté until just heated through. Season with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve as a side dish with just about anything.

WARNING:  Do not plant five kinds of zucchini in your garden, or if you do, follow the advice of a friend who told me what to do with my extra zucchini:  “Put it in a brown paper bag on someone’s porch, ring the bell and run fast.”

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