Zucchini season is here — make the most of it

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2019

It’s already zucchini season, at least at the Salisbury-Rowan Farmers Market, and they are just the right size. Not too big, not too small. Zucchini can be a big or bigger than a baseball bat, but you don’t want to eat those.

In the garden, the abundance of zucchini can be overwhelming, but it’s so versatile, you can use it for everything, even dessert.

Zucchini is actually a fruit, not a vegetable, and it originated in Italy, which may explain the name. It is also known in Europe as courgette. It’s low in calories, fat, carbs and sugar, because it’s mostly water. A zucchini will give you 40% of your daily vitamin A requirement.

Zucchini is also high in antioxidants. Eating it can help your digestion and may reduce blood sugar. To get the most health benefits, eat the skin, which is generally tender. Just wash the zucchini before using.

How do you cook zucchini? You can eat it raw. You can steam, sauté, bake, grill, stew, roast or stir-fry it. You can spiralize it and use it in place of pasta, cooked or raw. Try raw, spiralized zucchini instead of pasta in a salad. And you can fill it or use it as a wrapper.

Zucchini Enchiladas
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups (about 12 oz.) cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese, divided
1 (15 oz.) can enchilada sauce, divided
3 medium zucchini, trimmed
1/3 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. milk
1 cup shredded romain lettuce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, poblano and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium if vegetables start to burn. Transfer to a large bowl. Add chicken, 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce. Stir to combine; set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin slicer, slice zucchini lengthwise into thin strips. Discard any uneven and broken pieces. You should end up with 48 slices.

Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Lay three strips of zucchini on a clean work surface, overlapping the edges by 1/4 inch or so. Place 2 generous tablespoons of the chicken filling across the middle of the zucchini strips. Gently roll the zucchini strips around the filling and place seam-side down in the prepared dish. Repeat with the remaining zucchini strips and filling. (You should have 16 enchiladas.) Top the zucchini rolls with the remaining 3/4 cup enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk sour cream and milk together in a small bowl. When the enchiladas have finished baking, top with lettuce and cilantro. Drizzle the sour cream mixture over the top.

Tip: The strips should be able to roll around the filling without breaking. Test a few strips to make sure you have the right thickness. If they break, slice them thinner.

Zucchini, Corn and Egg Casserole
5 cups shredded zucchini and/or yellow squash (about 3 medium)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cups cottage cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
10 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or similar-size 3-quart baking dish) with cooking spray.

Place squash on a clean kitchen towel, gather up the edges and squeeze out excess moisture.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the squash and a pinch of salt; cook until very soft and dry; about 4 minutes more.

Transfer the squash mixture to a large bowl. Add corn, cottage cheese, feta, bell pepper, dill, flour, baking powder, pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir until well combined. Stir in eggs. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake the casserole until the center is set and the edges are lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Zucchini Noodle ‘Pasta’ Salad
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 small shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
16 ounces spiralized zucchini noodles
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
3/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, divided

Whisk oil, vinegar, oregano, mustard, crushed red pepper, shallot and garlic in a large bowl. Add zucchini noodles, tomatoes, olives and half the Parmesan; toss gently to coat. Divide evenly among 4 bowls; sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Curly Fries
Cooking spray
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. dried organo
12 ounces spiralized zucchini noodles
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup light ranch dressing
1/4 cup lower-sodium marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; coat with cooking spray. Place cornstarch in a shallow dish. Place egg whites in a separate shallow dish. Stir together panko, Parmesan and oregano in a third shallow dish.

Coarsely chop zucchini noodles into 5- or 6-inch-long pieces. Working in batches, dredge the noodles in the cornstarch; shake off excess. Dredge in the egg whites; shake off excess. Dredge in the panko mixture; shake off excess. Arrange the noodles, well spaced apart, in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Coat with cooking spray.

Bake until golden and crispy, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with salt.

Combine ranch and marinara in a shallow bowl; serve alongside the fries.

Tips: Finely grate Parmesan using the medium holes of box grater (you should get about 1/4 cup).

Garlic-Marinated Zucchini
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons salt, and toss with your hands to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes, then rinse well and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Stir together the basil, parsley and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the zucchini, turning once, until softened and lightly browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer half of the zucchini to a shallow ceramic, glass, or Pyrex (not metal) baking dish and top with half of the herb mixture and half of the vinegar. Taste and season lightly with salt, if desired (zucchini should already be salty), and pepper.

Repeat with the remaining zucchini, herbs and vinegar.

Let stand at room temperature, basting occasionally with the juices in the baking dish, for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours, before serving. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.