Zucchini is ba-ack

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, June 9, 2015

By Deirdre Parker Smith


The growing season has been sped up this year with extra warm — shall we say hot? — temperatures early.

We’ve seen the first okra at the Farmers Market, and some tomatoes, too. Hard as a rock peaches are in the grocery store and people headed to the beach for a week are probably wondering what their backyard garden will look like when they get back.

You may have a zucchini big enough for a baseball bat — a lot softer than what hit that poor woman at Fenway Park.

Zucchini, like so many other summer crops, seems to come all at once, and then what do you do?

Well, plenty. Zucchini is one of those foods that takes on whatever flavor you choose to give it. The Bread Basket, a vendor at the Farmers Market, has delicious chocolate zucchini bread. It’s good plain because it’s so moist, and it’s good with ice cream or whipped cream or, well, name your indulgence.

Zucchini is a versatile vegetable, if you’re eating it. But botanically, it’s a fruit, sort of like melons. There’s only 33 calories in a medium zucchini, virtually no fat and a good dose of vitamin C.

Not many of us eat it raw, but one delicious way to do that is to slice it thin and marinate it with some crushed garlic, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Big zucchini can be sliced, seeded and stuffed. The seeds are fine in a smaller one, even in the eight ball zucchini, which can range in size from golf ball to soft ball. A stuffed zucchini is a great way to get your family to eat vegetables. When you scoop out the flesh, you use it for the filling with a little meat and something like breadcrumbs, rice or beans.

Zucchini and squash are very good grilled, and very easy. Zucchini cooks a little faster than squash. Slice both the long way, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill away. A sprinkle of hot sauce at the end really wakes it up.

Here are some more easy ideas for using zucchini:

• Slice into rounds and top with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese.

• Zucchini fries ��� so easy. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees cut up two zucchini into 3-inch sticks, skin and all. Whisk one egg white and add a 1/4 of milk and stir. Toss together 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, seasoned if you like. Dip the sticks into the egg and milk, then roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray, and bake the zucchini for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. You can double the recipe for more fries.

• For a low fat salsa, combine zucchini, corn, cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice, with just a touch of olive oil.

• Use long threads of zucchini in the place of pasta.

• Here’s a meal-size combination of all those things that explode in the garden at the same time. It’s ridiculously easy. Slice a pound of zucchini, add 1 and a half cups of fresh corn kernels and about a pound or a little more of tomatoes. You’ll also need about half of cup of Panko bread crumbs and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, coat a baking dish with cooking spray and layer zucchini, corn and tomatoes. Combine the bread crumbs and parmesan and sprinkle over the top, bake, uncovered for 30 minutes. Then cover and bake 10 more minutes to ensure the vegetables are cooked.

That’s the light version. For a more decadent version, layer slices of provolone cheese along with the zucchini, corn and tomatoes. Season each layer with freshly ground black pepper and add a sprinkle of oregano to one layer.

• Zucchini is delicious in a quiche or fritatta. It will keep the dish moist.

• Try slices of zucchini on your pizza, or better yet, make a vegetable pizza with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and cheese. Add mushrooms or olives to kick it up a notch.

• Make or buy your favorite alfredo sauce and toss it with sauteed zucchini, onions, squash, add cooked broccoli and spinach and you have a basic pasta primavera.

• Sneak it into macaroni and cheese to get a few more vegetables into your child.

• Make tacos or quesadillas with black beans and sauteed zucchini. Add cheese and salsa. It’s filling and low calorie.

• Add grated zucchini to scrambled eggs — it tastes better than you think.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed eight-ball zucchini.

3-4 eight ball zucchini, baseball size or larger

1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage

1 cup cooked rice

1/4 cup fresh parsley

Grated Parmesan cheese


Chives for garnish (optional)

Cut zucchini in half, and using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out the interior, leaving a quarter inch around all sides. Save the flesh. Steam the zucchini halves 10-15 minutes to begin cooking. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, brown the sausage and add the cooked rice and reserved zucchini flesh, with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and line zucchini halves on a rack on a baking sheet. Stuff with sausage mixture, then top with breadcrumbs and grated parmesan. Bake 20-25 minutes, until browned on top. One half zucchini is a generous serving for one, along with a green salad.