Savor the Season: Zucchini

Pick one way to cook zucchini or try all 10, and make this delicious veggie a part of summer meals.
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You’ve been zucchinied? No worries. If a neighbor's garden (or yours) is overflowing with this summer squash, don't panic; this is a good thing. There are so many ways to use this prolific vegetable, you will never, ever run out of ideas.


Zucchini Facts

Zucchini is delicious, and versatile enough to eat raw or cooked. It adds moistness, a crisp crunch and a fresh flavor to appetizers, salads, soups, casseroles, breads and cakes. Fast-growing and prolific, zucchini is a rookie gardener's best friend. Its green color and cylinder shape is classic, but you can find new round, mini or yellow zucchini.

Super low in calories, (only 30 per cup), zucchini is surprisingly high in:

Vitamin C, an antioxidant that promotes healing and boosts the immune system

Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes healthy eyes

Folic acid, which helps an infant’s nervous system develop


Don’t skip the skins! That’s where the fiber, flavor and summery green color is found.

All zucchini has the best flavor and texture when the skin is tender and the flavor is delicate, so pick it small, 6 to 8 inches long. (They can get bigger than this... much, MUCH bigger, so keep an eye on them and get them while they're small.)


Did you know?

You can identify zucchini by its thin skin and mild flavor.

The entire squash is edible, including the blossom, skin and seeds.

Peak season is July through September. Bright yellow sunburst (golden) zucchini is a spectacular color with a bit more flavor than green, and it keeps its color and fresh, light and buttery flavor when you cook it.

The bigger the zucchini, the tougher it is, and the more seeds it contains.


Selection: Zucchini should be firm and feel heavy for its size (it’s 95% water!). Look for glossy skin with no cuts, bruises or discoloration.

Storage: Keep it unwashed in a plastic bag or in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. It should last 4 or 5 days.

Freezing zucchini: Zucchini loses its firmness and crispness when frozen, so cook it (called blanching) before freezing: Lower sliced or cubed zucchini (about 1 pound at a time) into boiling water and boil about 3 minutes. Drain, then place in ice water for 5 minutes and drain again. Put zucchini in a zip-type bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

Quick-Grated Zucchini: Put chunks of zucchini in a blender and cover with water. Blend on Chop for 3 to 5 seconds and drain, pressing out as much water as possible, then pat with a paper towel. Use grated zucchini in breads or cake.


Preparation:

Use a soft brush on zucchini under running water to remove any prickly stubble. To trim, cut ¼ to ½ inch off the ends. 

Grilling or roasting is an excellent way to prepare zucchini, because the intense heat reduces the amount of water and concentrates the flavor.

But that's just the beginning. You can make zucchini in lots of ways: steamed, parboiled, fried, sautéed, baked, marinated, stuffed, scalloped, mashed or braised, even raw. Cook until barely fork-tender. Allow about 8 ounces zucchini per serving.

If you want to avoid adding extra liquid to a baked recipe, (as in adding to lasagna), grate and salt zucchini first, let it drain for a few minutes, then pat dry with a towel.


Do Zucchini 10 Ways

Grill: Lightly brush zucchini chunks with oil or marinate in fat-free Italian dressing; drain. Place in grill basket. Cover-place on heated grill. Cook about 5 minutes; turn and grill 5 minutes longer.

Roast: Heat oven to 450 degrees . Lightly brush zucchini chunks with olive oil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes. (Great roasted with chicken, too.)

Sauté: Chop or slice and lightly saute’ with a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic and onion.

Stir-fry: Fry zucchini slices alone, with other sliced vegetables or with cooked rice.

Microwave sliced zucchini tossed with fresh herbs and black pepper.

Add slices to soups, stews, salads and casseroles to boost flavor and nutrition.

Shred and use in meat loaf, zucchini bread or cake, cookies and brownies.

Breaded: Slice and roll in a mixture of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and sauté. Stuffed Zucchini: This is a perfect use for larger zucchini. After placing stuffing in zucchini, bake at 375 degrees until zucchini is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Raw: Slice it and serve with a dill dip.