Many years ago, Dr. Henry Bieler, a renowned medical doctor who catered to the glamorous Hollywood starlets of the early 20th century, created a soup — the infamous “Bieler’s Broth.” This zucchini-based concoction was touted for its wonderful healing properties. Although Dr. Bieler certainly helped propel zucchini to a new level of fame, I wonder if even he realized the many uses of this delicious and plentiful summer squash. Zucchini, called courgette in parts of Europe, New Zealand and South Africa, is the most popular of all the summer squashes. Though it traces its origins back to Central America, what we typically think of as zucchini was first cultivated in Italy. For culinary purposes, it’s treated as a vegetable, but scientifically speaking, zucchini is really a fruit.
With a mild, delicate flavor, it’s lovely raw, as in salads, or lightly cooked in simple dishes or even “hidden” in sauces. And its high water content means it cooks quickly and makes a moist addition to quick breads and muffins. Once purchased, be sure to use it within a few days. Keep in mind that zucchini does not like to be cold for too long. The longer it sits in the refrigerator, the more likely it is to develop little pits along the surface of its skin – evidence of cold damage. The most common varieties are either dark or light green, but the brilliant golden variety is equally delicious.
Zucchini is ideal in summer salads, on the grill, stuffed or baked, in cold or hot soups or as a side dish. You can even enjoy it as part of a healthy breakfast, a delicious snack or a yummy dessert. Even its flowers are enjoyed as a delicacy in many cultures, often enjoyed stuffed. Here are some fun and delicious zucchini tips and recipes to add to your summer menus:
- Grate and serve raw in green salads, or slice, lightly steam and add to most any vegetable salad.
- Blend into salad dressings or morning smoothies.
- Chop and add to cold or hot soups and stews, or grate and use as a garnish.
- Chop and sauté in butter, olive oil or a bit of vegetable stock. Delicious with fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, chives and oregano. A sprinkle of feta, Romano or Parmesan cheese can finish it up nicely.
- Add lightly cooked or grated raw zucchini to pasta and noodle dishes. Here is an easy Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini and here is our fabulous Fusilli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and “Hidden” Zucchini.
- You can even use ribbons of zucchini as the noodles themselves as in this recipe for Raw Vegetable “Pasta”!
- Scramble with eggs and tomatoes. Try this Goat Cheese-Zucchini Frittata.
- Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out flesh in a boat-like fashion and stuff with sautéed veggies, breadcrumbs and herbs. Try mushrooms, onions, panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Here’s a recipe for Curried Stuffed Zucchini.
- Slice lengthwise, brush with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Grill until tender. Here’s a recipe for Grilled Zucchini.
- Make potato zucchini pancakes or Latkes.
- Steam or sauté chopped golden yellow and/or green zucchini with mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs. Add chicken, shrimp or tofu for protein. Serve over whole grains, pasta, or with hot crusty whole grain bread. The Sautéed Shrimp with Zucchini and Tomatoes is the ultimate summertime meal.
- Grate and add to muffins, pancakes, quick breads and cakes. What a great way to get some good veggies into kids! Enjoy this Zucchini Bread, these Zucchini Pancakes, these Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes, and these Carrot Zucchini Cupcakes.
- Make whole grain pilaf with brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or barley. Add zucchini and other favorite veggies. Try this Quinoa with Lemon and Zucchini.
Are you keen on zucchini? I’d love to hear about your favorite recipe? Let me know in the comments below.