If you think you don’t like zucchini, it’s probably because you haven’t discovered just how versatile this vegetable can be.  Read on to find at least one idea for using zucchini that sounds appealing, and then head on over to your nearest farmer’s market because there’s no better time to enjoy zucchini than when it’s in season and abundant.    The first zucchini of the season always seem to taste the best, but there’s no excuse for getting tired of this fresh vegetable.  You need not serve it the same way twice in one season.  Besides, it’s one of the most reasonably priced veggies in summer.  Get your share of local zucchini while the gettin’ is good.

 Buying Zucchini

Choose small to medium zucchini, no longer than eight inches.  Select firm zucchini free of nicks and cuts.

Storing Zucchini

Wrap zucchini and store it in the refrigerator for a week to ten days.  Don’t worry if you discover some that have languished in the fridge longer than that.  Just use it in a recipe that’s a bit more forgiving, such as one that calls for shredding it up.  

Using Zucchini

Braise fresh, tender zucchini for a simple and straightforward side.  Just add cut zucchini to a skillet with a little olive oil, some minced garlic, and a few tablespoons of water.  Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat about five minutes until tender.  Remove the lid and turn up the heat to evaporate excess water.  Stir gently before serving.

You can also include zucchini in stir fries or simply sauté it with onion and garlic and season it to your liking — try cumin and cilantro or ginger and soy sauce.

Don’t forget about zoodles, or spiralized zucchini.  Zucchini “noodles” have about one eighth the calories and one eighth the carbohydrates as regular pasta.  With their mild flavor they are a flexible lunch or dinner ingredient, either cooked or raw.  You can dress spiralized zucchini with your favorite salad dressing and some cherry tomatoes, toss them with pesto, top them with marinara, or transform them into a low-carb version of pad thai.
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Zucchini can be stuffed, cooked atop a pizza, shredded for fritters, or baked into a gratin or frittata.  Zucchini slices are great coated with breadcrumbs and either baked or fried.

Zucchini can be transformed into baked goods as well.  Zucchini bread may be the most well-known, but there are also zucchini chocolate cake and mock apple crisp to disguise your zucchini if that’s a tactic you need to employ.  The zucchini is even difficult to detect in the following soup recipe — as long as you give it a different name.

Silky Zucchini Soup

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I recently came across this soup recipe by Chef Grant Achatz when I was looking for new ways to use up zucchini that had been passed along to me, because I can’t bear to see locally-grown food go to waste.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, diced

½ teaspoon salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1½ pounds small zucchini, sliced in ¼-inch rounds

2½ cups vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)

In soup pot, heat olive oil and butter.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.  Add zucchini and cook about ten minutes, stirring frequently.  Add stock or water, salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until vegetables are soft, about ten more minutes.  

Remove from heat.  Blend with an immersion blender or puree in batches.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  Serve this soup either hot or cold.  Garnish with chopped chives and/or extra virgin olive oil if you like.

 

By Anita Dualeh