By Matthew Thompson, Associate Food Editor for EatingWell Magazine
It's already started: just the other day I ran into my neighbors as they were admiring their garden. "Looks like we've got a lot of zucchini coming in," one of them said. "Would you like some?"
Yes, I would. It seems like everyone has zucchini to offer this time of year--it's one of the most easy-to-grow garden veggies out there and a staple of supermarkets, farmers' markets and backyard gardens alike. Finding ways to use it all is one of summer's delicious challenges.
It's a challenge I'm always up for. Zukes have a mild, grassy flavor that pairs well with almost anything. They're great raw in salads, grilled, sautéed or stuffed. You can even cook the blossoms! At about 70¢ a pound this time of year, they're amazingly cheap too. While they are low in calories, just 15 calories in a 3/4-cup serving, they're rich in potassium, which promotes healthy blood pressure, as well as immunity-supporting vitamins C, A and B6. They also have plenty of zeaxanthin, which is good for your eyes. (Be sure you eat zucchini with the skin on--that's where most of the nutrients are.)
When shopping for zucchini, reach for ones on the smaller side--6 to 8 inches is best. Remember that extra-small zucchini will be extra-sweet and have smaller seeds too. Avoid any with wrinkles, gashes or soft spots. You can store them in a plastic bag in your crisper for up to a week, so don't be afraid to accept a few extra if your neighbor is offering.
Here are some tasty ways to use this delicious veggie, along with a killer recipe for one of my favorites:
Zu-Canoes1. Stuff it: Zu-Canoes
Zucchini stuffed with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil make a fresh summer side dish. For the nicest presentation, use long, relatively skinny zucchini.
2. Use it to slim down a dip: Skinny Guacamole
This delicious guacamole recipe replaces half the amount of high-calorie avocado in a traditional guacamole recipe with a stealth, low-calorie vegetable--zucchini--to cut 100 calories and 6 grams of fat so we can eat more guacamole with fewer calories. We use the microwave to cook the zucchini until it's very tender, but you can steam it on the stovetop if you prefer.
3. Shred it to make latke-style cakes: Parmesan-Squash Cakes
In this recipe we shred summer squash or zucchini and use it like shredded potatoes to make tasty little pancakes flavored with Parmesan cheese and shallots.
4. Use it to make zucchini bread: EatingWell Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips
OK, so turning zucchini into zucchini bread isn't the most unexpected thing out there. But here's what is: our recipe has about half the calories per serving as conventional recipes and 0.5 g of saturated fat less as well. But it still tastes amazing! The addition of chocolate chips makes it more like a dessert than a breakfast, but you can enjoy it anytime. Skip the chocolate and try it with toasted walnuts or raisins if you prefer.
5. Mash it: Zucchini Chile-Cheddar Mash
This recipe for mashed zucchini with chiles and Cheddar embraces zucchini's tendency to become very soft when cooked.
6. Peel it into ribbons: Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter (pictured above)
Active time: 20 minutes | Total: 20 minutes
For this recipe, convenient store-bought potato gnocchi are tossed with delicate ribbons of zucchini, shallots and cherry tomatoes that have all been sautéed in nutty browned butter.
1 pound fresh or frozen gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 pound zucchini (about 3 small), very thinly sliced lengthwise (see Tip)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook gnocchi until they float, 3 to 5 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add shallots and zucchini and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, nutmeg and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until the tomatoes are just starting to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and parsley. Add the gnocchi and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each.
Per serving: 424 calories; 10 g fat (6 g sat, 0 g mono); 25 mg cholesterol; 66 g carbohydrate; 17 g protein; 5 g fiber; 753 mg sodium; 539 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (75% daily value), Vitamin A (35% dv), Calcium (28% dv).
Tip: To make "ribbon-thin" zucchini, slice lengthwise with a vegetable peeler or a mandoline slicer.
What's your favorite way to cook zucchini?
By Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.
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