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Counter Intelligence: Zucchini offers endless summer snacking

By April Hamilton

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While some of us are packing away bathing suits and preparing for a new school season, neighborhood gardens and farm stands are still in full summer swing. They are loaded with fresh produce and there are infinite delicious ways to enjoy the harvest.

Zucchini is one of the prominent summer staples that could lose its appeal if not for the countless cooking methods that highlight its versatility.

A personal favorite is zucchini ribbons. You simply scrub the zucchini, trim the ends off, and use your vegetable peeler to turn it into a pile of paper-thin strips.

Quick-sauté the strips in fragrant olive oil, season with fresh garlic, herbs and a squeeze of lemon. You instantly have a flavorful side dish. A sandwich topping. A quesadilla filling. You get the idea.

Zucchini bites are another tasty treasure. Grate the squash with some onion and add fresh breadcrumbs, a beaten egg, a little cheese and some fresh herbs. Bake the mixture in mini muffin cups. These little jewels can be served as an appetizer, alongside a green salad, or even popped into a lunchbox.

Better yet, bake a large batch, then cool and freeze any leftovers. Later, when the garden zucchini is a distant memory, you'll have a satisfying summery snack at your fingertips.

Have you acquired a zucchini the size of a baseball bat? Home run!

Thinly slice it lengthwise until you get to the seeds. Layer the seedless slices with sauce and cheeses, making a wheat-free lasagna.

Zucchini recipes are practically endless. Branch out and try something new and you will renew your appreciation for its abundance. In the process, you'll get happy smiles from the hungry ones around your table.

Zucchini Bites

Makes 2 dozen.

     2    eggs

     2    cups grated zucchini (from 1 medium-large zucchini)

     1/2     yellow onion, grated on the holes of a box grater

     1/2  cup grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Swiss or Jack)

     1    cup fresh breadcrumbs (see note), preferably whole wheat

     1/4  cup finely chopped fresh parsley

     1/4     teaspoon each kosher salt and ground pepper

HEAT oven to 400°. Butter or spray 2 mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

BEAT lightly in a large bowl the eggs with a whisk. Add the remaining ingredients and gently fold the mixture together using a rubber spatula.

FILL each muffin cup to the top, using a melon scoop or teaspoon, using about a heaping tablespoon per muffin cup.

BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes, until the tops are browned and set. Let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool on a rack.

Note: To make fresh breadcrumbs, place 2 slices fresh bread (or more, if freezing) in a food processor and blend with the blade until fine and crumbly and no large pieces remain. Fresh crumbs can be frozen in a tightly sealed container for up to two months.

Zucchini Ribbons

These make an amazing summer salad or a delicious topping for bruschetta (recipe below). The possibilities are virtually endless, and the best part is kids love them!

     4     zucchini

     1     tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

     4     cloves minced garlic

     1     pinch red chili flakes

     Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

     Sea salt, preferable gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper

     2     tablespoon freshly chopped herbs (parsley and basil pair well)

WASH the zucchini and trim the ends. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise.

HEAT the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Quickly sauté the zucchini ribbons until lightly golden and wilted, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook 1 minute longer. Add the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle in the fresh herbs and toss to combine. Serve on bruschetta.

Bruschetta

     Country-style Italian bread

     Garlic, peeled and cut in half

     Extra-virgin olive oil

     Salt and pepper (to taste, if desired)

GRILL thick slices of country-style Italian bread over medium-hot coals (or under a broiler) until browned and slightly charred in places.

REMOVE bread slices from grill; lightly rub each side with the cut face of the garlic, just enough to perfume the bread, then brush each slice with extra-virgin olive oil.

SPRINKLE with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if you like.

April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April's husband and three daughters help with testing and tasting in their Charleston kitchen. She would love to hear from you: Email aprilskitchencounter@gmail.com.


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