Anyone who grows zucchini in their garden knows that there’s a certain point during the summer where it just grows so fast that you can’t keep up with it. No matter how much you cook and give away to friends and neighbors, there’s always more.
Fortunately, zucchini is a very versatile vegetable and can be cooked in almost any style.
You can grill it, fry it, bake it, broil it, boil it and even eat it raw. It has a relatively neutral flavor so it won’t overwhelm the other elements of your recipe, but it is a good conductor of flavors.
It’s rich green color is appealing on the plate. Some zucchinis have a paler green color, which I don’t prefer but works if you pair it with the darker variety for color contrast. Yellow squash is related to the zucchini – and in fact is almost identical in flavor – and can be used in all the same ways.
Zucchini blossoms, the flowers that form before the zucchini itself, are also edible and
make a wonderful plate garnish or in salads. Remember to remove the pistil or stamen before serving.
When I was growing up, my father grew zucchini and it was one of the few dishes he would cook regularly for our family. Mom was (is) an excellent cook, so dad was relegated to the wings. He made this stew-like dish with zucchini, that was almost like a ratatouille, but without the small dicing.
“I think the recipe you are remembering was one I just kinda made up as I went along,” my dad wrote when I asked him for it recently. “I would sauté onions, garlic, zucchini and whatever else I had, like green pepper, celery, etc. After it was soft, I would add a can of diced tomatoes and at the very end, some Parmesan cheese. All on top of the stove.”
We had it very frequently – with almost every meal – this time of year.
I recently prepared a three-course zucchini dinner for my wife, Sandi, and I’m glad to say she enjoyed it all, even though she’s a finicky eater. I started with a low-fat baked zucchini appetizer, followed with a tasty and easy zucchini and ground turkey casserole, and finished with a sweet and nutty zucchini dessert bread.
Baked Zucchini Appetizer
1 medium zucchini, sliced into medallions
1 cup Fat Free Zesty Italian Dressing
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Slice zucchinis at a slight angle to increase surface area. Combine bread crumbs, S&P, and parmesan in a bowl. Dip zucchini slices into dressing, then dredge in breading. Spray a sheet pan with pan spray and lay out breaded slices in a single layer, Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, flipping mid-way through. Serve with your choice of dressing (I used Fat Free
Zucchini Turkey Casserole
4 cups sliced zucchini
1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef)
1 TSP EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
2 jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
TSP Italian Seasoning
2 cups cooked rice
8 oz can tomato sauce
TSP hot sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
1 large egg
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
1. Blanch zucchinis by boiling for 2 minutes then rinsing in cold water in colander to stop the cooking process. Drain completely.
2. Saute onion, green pepper and jalapeno in EVOO until onion translucent, about 5 minute. Add garlic, cook another minute, then add turkey and cook until done, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in tomato sauce, hot sauce and rice. Season to taste with S&P. If using ground beef, drain the fat.
3. Stir together cottage cheese and egg in bowl.
4. Shingle half the zucchini in bottom of casserole dish, spoon turkey filling on top, layer cottage cheese mixture on top of that, then shingle remaining zucchini over the top. Cover with grated cheese and bake covered at 375F for about 35 minutes.
5. Uncover, sprinkle parmesan over top and return to oven for another 10 minutes or until parmesan has browned. You may want to broil it for a minute or two at the end to get a rich color.
Zucchini Harvest Bread
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Beat eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla until creamy. In mixing bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except nuts. Slowly add flour mixture into liquid just until batter forms, then fold in nuts. Pour into two well-greased bread pans and bake at 325F for an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving.