By Marsha Fottler –
Zucchini is so easy to grow that most home gardeners end up with way too much for their own kitchen use this time of year. Consequently, there are all kinds of zucchini jokes about homeowners making stealth visits to neighbors’ homes and leaving baskets of zucchini on the porch in the middle of the night. Don’t you be one of them. Celebrate your garden zucchini and get creative with recipes. It’s time for a zucchini festival in your neighborhood.
Zucchini has such a mild a pleasant flavor that it blends easily with other vegetables, fruits and all kinds of meats and seafood. Many zucchini dishes make tempting vegetarian entrees, while the same preparation can be a terrific side dish. Zucchini can be used in desserts to make wonderful cakes as well as delicious muffins for breakfast. And zucchini can be a stealth ingredient in and of itself, a secret addition whose taste and texture can be masked by more assertive ingredients.
Most zucchini experts say that small (five inches or smaller), young zucchini have the best flavor. Anything over eight inches is best stuffed and baked. Some zucchini grows to 18 inches, so know when to pick yours. Zucchini comes from the Italian word “zucchino,” which means little squash. To prepare a zucchini for cooking, scrub the vegetable gently with a soft brush under running water. Slice off both ends. Do not peel, the skin is edible. Zucchini can be baked, boiled, grilled or stir-fried. Tiny Zucchini are good raw with just a drizzle of olive oil.
Here are some zucchini recipes to try with the bounty from your garden. They are from of my favorite cookbooks. Invite friends and stage a zucchini festival at your house. Delicious fun for everyone.
Zucchini and Carrot Soup
(A well Seasoned Kitchen by Sally Clayton and Lee Roper Clayton. Serves six. This soup is best chilled and served in espresso cups as an appetizer or shallow bowls as a first course.)
3 medium zucchini
3 large carrots, peeled
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken broth
8 ounces cream cheese
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
Slice zucchini and carrots into ½-inch pieces and combine with the onion and chicken broth in a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Place half of the vegetable mixture and half of the cream cheese into a blender. Blend until smooth. Place in a large bowl and repeat with remaining vegetable and cheese. Stir in salt and pepper. Bring to room temperature and then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. This soup can be made up to two days ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Pan-Grilled Zucchini Sandwiches
(Food Network Favorites, by All-Star Chefs. Serves 4-6. A lovely summer vegetarian sandwich meal.)
2 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise in ¼-inch slices
2 small yellow squash, sliced lengthwise in 1/4-inch slices
2 red onions, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Kosher salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 baguettes, about 24-inches long
1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 bunch arugula, washed, dried and stems discarded
Balsamic vinegar to taste
1 small jar roasted red pepper, halved
1 small jar olive paste
Vegetable oil for brushing
Brush a large grill pan with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. Before grilling, toss veggies with olive oil, garlic and salt and black pepper. Grill vegetables in batches until nicely colored and soft, about 6-12 minutes per batch. Wipe down the grill pan between batches to get rid of burnt-on bits. Cut bread into 6-inch pieces. Cut pieces lengthwise, but don’t go all the way through. Spread a thick layer of ricotta on the bottom half of the bread. Sprinkle with some salt. Toss arugula with olive oil, balsamic, vinegar and sat and pepper. Place dressed arugula on top of ricotta, than add generous amounts of the different grilled vegetables and red peppers. Spread a thin layer of olive paste on the top half of the bread and close the sandwich. Great with a glass of rose.
Zucchini Ribbon Salad
(Southern Living 2009 Annual Recipes by Editors of Southern Living Magazine.)
Serves six. Incredibly refreshing and pretty to look at on the plate.
4 medium zucchini
2 shallots, minced
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Using a Y-shape vegetable peeler, cut zucchini lengthwise into very thin strips just until seeds are visible. Toss zucchini ribbons with shallots and the next 6 ingredients. Serve immediately over arugula.
(Simply Sarasota by Junior League of Sarasota)
Serves eight. A great side dish or entree for a vegetarian.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
Cut the zucchini lengthwise into halves. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Discard the pulp. Place the shells in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Cook for 4 minutes and drain. Rise with cold water and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Preheat over to 350. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the spinach, pepper and nutmeg and cook, covered, for 2 minutes. Remove cover and cook for 2 minutes longer or until the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat and let stand until cool. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Spoon into the zucchini shells and bake for 20 minutes.
Tish’s Zucchini Bread
(Grant Corner Inn by Louise Stewart and Pat Walter)
Makes 2 loaves. Can be frozen and enjoyed later in the season.
1 cup vegetable oil
2 ½ cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 325. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs with oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Set aside. Into a medium bowl sift four, salt, baking powder, soda and cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Add pecans. Pour into loaf pans and bake at 325 for one hour or until toothpick inserted at center comes out clean.
(from The Educated Palate, By the University of Central Florida Women’s Club. Makes 24).
2 cups grated zucchini
½ cup mashed ripe banana
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Confectioners’ sugar, sifted, for dusting
Preheat over to 350. In a large bowl, combine zucchini, banana, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well blended. Batter will be very stiff. Spread in a 9×13-inch baking dish, either nonstick or lightly sprayed. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool. Dust lightly with sifted confectioners’ sugar before slicing. Each brownie is on 70 calories each.