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If you’ve ever listened to the classic public radio program A Prairie Home Companion, you know that the people of Lake Wobegon share their plentiful harvests of zucchini by leaving bags of them in their neighbors’ mailboxes and unlocked cars.
The thing about zucchini isn’t just the abundance in the peak season of August and September, it’s that there aren’t many ways to preserve it for later. So it has to be eaten now or never.
The nice thing about zucchini is that most people, even kids, like it. Even better, it’s low in calories, a good source of vitamin C and also provides vitamin A, potassium and vitamin B6 in significant amounts.
Whether you’re picking it from your own garden or picking it up at the farmers market, choose small to medium size squash for the best flavor. Large zucchini look impressive but taste dry and mealy.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try eating the zucchini blossoms, which appear before the squash forms. You might even be able to find blossoms for sale at farmers markets. They’re usually served battered and fried, so they’re not exactly the lowest calorie way to eat your zucchini.
But when the bounty really kicks in, here are few ideas for using your harvest. You might even want to include one of these recipes in the bag you leave on your neighbor’s porch.
First stop for putting your zucchini to good us is to whip up a batch (or six) of ratatouille. It’s all the flavors of late summer–tomato, basil, eggplant, peppers, and zucchini–melded together in one pot.
Ratatouille is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, so make a big batch to eat as dinner now and lunch all week long. And I bet it would freeze well for easy meals that will remind you of summer when the garden is drifted over in snow.
Ratatouille can be a complicated affair if you wish. Try Julia Child’s recipe if you want to achieve the ultimate gourmet version. Or if you’re looking for ratatouille that is as much a work of art as a main course, Smitten Kitchen has a baked version that is gorgeous.
I adapted this ratatouille by Alice Waters that was neither complicated nor beautiful, but it was delicious.
2 small eggplants diced
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onions, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small handful of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine and 6 basil leaves, chopped pinch of dried chili flakes
2 red peppers, diced
3 medium zucchini, diced
3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
Salt to taste
Optional grated Parmesan cheese or sour cream for serving
- Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes. Pat dry
- Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot. Add eggplant and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add more oil if the eggplant sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.
- Pour remaining olive oil into pot. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, basil bouquet, dried chili flakes, and salt.
- Cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and adjust salt to taste.
- Stir in the chopped basil leaves and more olive oil, to taste. Serve warm with Parmesan cheese or sour cream.
What else to do with oodles of zucchini? Zucchini bread of course. I chose a recipe that uses olive oil, something that is often used in Mediterranean baked goods. It’s still sweet and cake-like, but with the full fruity flavor of the oil.
1 ½ cups grated zucchini
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8-inch loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, mix together the grated zucchini, sugar, olive oil, yogurt, eggs and vanilla extract.
- Add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest and spices. Fold ingredients together. Fold in the nuts.
- Pour the batter into loaf pan and bake for 40 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and remove from pan.
Adapted from The New York Times
These oven fries are a simple and delicious way to prepare a zucchini side dish. Spears of zucchini are coated with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven. I used panko for extra crunch and served the fries with salsa for dipping.
2 zucchini cut into approximately 1 by 4 inch spears
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk egg in a small bowl, and add milk.
- Combine Parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.
- Dip zucchini sticks into egg mixture, and then roll in breadcrumb mixture.
- Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, and place zucchini on sheet. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with salsa for dipping.
There is no pasta in this fresh and colorful salad. Instead long thin strips of zucchini are marinated until soft and pliable. I used a vegetable peeler on the length of zucchini to create thin, flat “noodles” but if you need another kitchen gadget, look for a vegetable spiral that creates very convincing pasta-like strands.
2 zucchini spiralized or sliced into thin noodles
2 ears sweet corn kernels removed from cob
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped loosely packed basil
For the dressing
Juice of one large lemon
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Blanch corn by heating in pot of water on stove just until boiling. Remove and cut from cob. In a bowl, combine the zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and basil.
- Add lemon juice, zest, oil, garlic, and salt, and sugar. Stir well to combine.
- Let stand 20-30 minutes until the noodles have softened enough to twirl on a fork.
Adapted from The Kitchn
Thanks to Laura Lyjak Crawford for this blog.