Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 12:01 am
It’s zucchini time!
There is a point every summer when my vegetable garden transitions from a state of scarcity to one of overabundance. My approach to meal planning shifts from “What do I have enough of to make something with?” to “What am I going to do with all these veggies?” This is especially true of zucchini.
A typical zucchini plant produces six to 10 pounds of zucchini. Growing an inch a day, a zucchini reaches optimal size for best flavor (six to eight inches long, one half inch in diameter) in about four to eight days after the blossom appears.
Zucchini has many nutritional benefits. It has a very low glycemic index score. Glycemic index scores are a measure of how quickly ingestion of a particular food results in increased blood sugar levels. Diets based on foods with a high glycemic index are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. Zucchini is high in potassium, manganese and antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin A. And due to its 90 percent water content, zucchini is very low in calories.
During the grilling season I like to throw smaller zucchini on the BBQ as a no-fuss vegetable side dish to accompany meat or fish. This is a wonderful way to cook the usually mild-tasting squash because it takes on a smokiness and sweetness. Simply slice length-wise into halves or quarters or cut crosswise into halfinch coins. Brush (or toss around in a resealable plastic bag) with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until it softens and develops nice browning.
The same preparation can also be sautéed: cook sliced onions and minced garlic in olive oil until soft, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
When you go away for a weekend and return to find your zucchini are the size of small baseball bats, there are many more things you can do with them besides making zucchini bread. A creamy and velvety soup can be very simply made without cream. In Turkey, grated zucchini is turned into savory pancakes called Mucver. As a low-carb pasta substitute, zucchini can be cut into long fettucine-like strips and dressed with arugula pesto.
- 2 pounds zucchini
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cups water, divided
- 1/3 cup packed basil leaves
- Using a potato peeler, shave several long pieces of the green skin and then cut into long ¼-inch wide strips; toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and drain in a sieve until wilted, at least 20 minutes. Coarsely chop remaining zucchini.
- Sautee onion and garlic in oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender.
- Bring remaining cup water to a boil in a small saucepan and blanch the green zucchini strips 1 minute. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl.
- Season soup with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls with the zucchini strips mounded on top.
- Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Mucver (Turkish Zucchini Pancakes)
- ¾ cup walnuts
- 1 lb. zucchini, coarsely grated
- 1 tablespoon salt for sprinkling on the grated zucchini, plus additional below
- 2 cups thinly sliced green onions, about 2 bunches
- 4 beaten eggs
- ½ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill feathers, large stems removed, or substitute 1 ½ teaspoons dried dill weed
- 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or more to taste
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, about 3 ounces
- Olive oil for frying the pancakes
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until they have just begun to brown and have become fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Cool the nuts, coarsely chop them and set aside.
- Put the grated zucchini in a colander or sieve and sprinkle generously with salt. Toss to incorporate the salt throughout the zucchini, then put the colander over a sink or bowl and let the zucchini drain for 30-45 minutes. Rinse the zucchini shreds thoroughly under cold running water, and then spread them evenly over the surface of a large lint-free towel. Roll the towel up and press it firmly to remove as much moisture as possible. If the zucchini still seems wet, twist the towel and wring it out until the shreds are as dry as possible.
- Combine the zucchini, green onions, eggs, flour, herbs and salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the crumbled feta and walnuts, making sure that the ingredients are combined thoroughly.
- Place a large baking sheet lined with paper towels in the oven and turn the oven to warm. Pour a thin film of olive oil into a large skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, place large spoonfuls (about 1/3 cup) into the oil, spreading the mixture into flat cakes with the back of the spoon. Fry until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy on the outside and cooked through, turning once, about 3-4 minutes per side. As they’re done, place the pancakes in a single layer on the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while cooking the rest. Serve warm and top with yogurt.
- Makes about 12.
Zucchini Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto
- 3 medium zucchini
- 1 1/2 cups arugula
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Cut the zucchini into long, thin fettuccine-like shapes with a spiralizer or a mandoline fitted with a julienne attachment, or shave thinly with a potato peeler.
- Place the arugula, basil, walnuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor and pulse. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high burner with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the zucchini and toss to coat in oil.
- Add a few tablespoons of pesto and toss with the zucchini. Once the zucchini begins to take on color, transfer to a platter.
- Serve warm or room temperature.
- Serves 4.
Contact Peter Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.