The Conscious Cook: Zest for versatile zucchini
“One day we came home to find a grocery sack of zucchini hanging from our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight.” — Barbara Kingsolver
Summer’s glorious bounty yields so many mouth-watering treasures, including juicy, plump tomatoes, crisp, colorful peppers, tender lettuces and superbly scented herbs. But of all these highly anticipated annual crops, perhaps the most prolific is zucchini.
Zucchini plants are a fine sight to behold in the garden. Often reaching colossal dimensions, the indestructible zucchini plant is capable of producing quite a multitude of fruit each season. One moment its’ glossy green leaves are shielding slim shoots protruding from bright yellow blossoms. But seemingly within 24 hours, baby zucchini become enormous interlopers!
Gardeners have long succumbed to slightly suspect methods of sharing their zucchini wealth. Should your mailbox be graced with a grocery sack of zucchini, go forth and cook! Zucchini of all sizes have their place in the kitchen. The most tender will be no more than six to eight inches in length, with a glossy skin, and firm to the touch. These little beauties are well suited to salads, slaws, stir fries and the latest kitchen craze; spiralizing into “noodles.” For a sublimely simple snack, serve raw zucchini strips alongside a zucchini, mint and yogurt dip.
Larger squash love to be baked, grilled, or steamed. Try pairing with eggs, flavorful fresh herbs such as dill, tarragon and basil and some good, sharp cheese for a satisfying summer frittata. Prepare a luscious alfresco lunch by stuffing zucchini. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out an inch deep cavity, then chop that zucchini and combine with minced garlic, breadcrumbs, chopped tomato and fresh mozzarella, place back in the cavity, drizzle olive oil over, then bake until tender.
If your zucchini are more in the range of small baseball bat proportion, have no fear! Oversize squash are perfect for grating and reinterpreting as tender zucchini bread, fritters, crepes, pancakes, cupcakes and chocolate zucchini cake.
This wonderfully versatile and healthy crop contains only 25 calories per small zucchini, is low in sodium, cholesterol free, and is an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. Leave the thin skin on for all preparations, it’s a good source of dietary fiber. Store unwashed zucchini in a plastic bag, in the veggie compartment of the refrigerator, for no more than three days, for optimal freshness.
Should zillions of zucchini find their way to your doorstep — delight in them as you prepare a delicious life.
Zucchini, Mint & Yogurt Dip
2-3 baby zucchini, washed, trimmed, cut into thin slices
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup Greek yogurt (or combination of yogurt and sour cream)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh mint
Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in pan over medium high heat. Cook minced garlic until golden. Remove garlic from pan and set aside. Season zucchini slices with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Sautée until both sides are golden. Remove from heat and let cool. Process zucchini, garlic, half of lemon zest , 2 tablespoons mint, lemon juice and yogurt in a food processor or blender until smooth. Place dip in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and garnish with remaining mint and lemon zest.