5 Ways to Eat Zucchini: ‘Tis the Season
Eat the seasons. It’s the easiest way to eat healthfully and keep your grocery store bill in check. The healthiest foods come from the ground, and their costs are dictated by the crux of economics: supply and demand. When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive, so farmers will charge lower prices. What’s more, food in season usually tastes better than that not in season — because when food is not in season locally, it’s either grown in a hothouse or shipped in from other parts of the world, and both effect the taste. When produce is grown in other parts of the world, the crops need to be transported, which means they must be harvested early and refrigerated so as not to rot during transportation. Thus, they may not ripen as effectively as they would in their natural environment and, as a result, don’t develop their full flavor.
This spring and summer, make sure you’re eating seasonally and taking advantage of the low-priced in-season fruits and vegetables. Everyone knows that fresh fruits and berries are soon to make an appearance, but also make sure you don’t count the savory fruits and veggies out, especially one in particular. Many people mistake zucchini as a pesky vegetable that only appears in tasteless lasagna, unappetizing ratatouille, or dry baked goods, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Zucchini can actually be delightfully tender, sautéed to perfection, and/or the perfect complement to any meat or vegetable dish. And if you’re wondering, zucchini is treated as a vegetable in cooking because it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. But technically, because zucchini has seeds, and “fruit” is the seed-bearing part of a plant, botanically, the zucchini is an immature fruit.
Regardless of the zucchini’s classification, here are five ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of your seasonal plant, whether you’re harvesting it from your own garden or putting it up fresh at the grocery store. Zucchini is extremely versatile, and you’d be doing the vegetable a disservice if you failed to bring out its natural flavors in a number of easy yet tasty dishes.
1. Zucchini Bread
Perhaps one of the most popular ways to eat zucchini is by consuming it in carb form. Banana bread might be the most well-known quick-bread, but zucchini bread is a close second, and most people are surprised by how good these greens taste when baked into a loaf of warm, comforting carbs. Here’s an easy formula for Zucchini Bread from Simply Recipes. Grate up your fresh zucchini and give it a try. Your guests will never have to know your secret ingredient.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
- 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Pinch salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture, and stir it in. Add the flour, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using. Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.
2. Zucchini Chips
If you’re in the mood for a more savory snack, roast up some zucchini chips. Added bonus: They’re even (gasp!) healthy. Zucchini chips are easy to perfect because all you need to do is slice up your green vegetable, toss it in some oil, and then bread it. We’ve already highlighted this Zucchini Chips recipe from Ellie Krieger before, but it’s that good, so we’re sharing it again. Requiring only a handful of ingredients, you really have no excuse not to roast up these chips once zucchini season rolls around, and then you can thank us for helping your picky eaters actually like vegetable chips.
- Cooking spray
- 2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (3/4-ounce)
- 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and a few turns of pepper. Dip each round into the Parmesan mixture, coating it evenly on both sides, pressing the coating on to stick, and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the zucchini rounds until browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove with spatula. Serve immediately.
3. Zucchini Parmesan
If you’re interested in a meal starring the veggies, you can always try this recipe for Zucchini Parmesan via Taste of Home. It takes the carbs out of an Italian meal, but when you properly season the veggies, you won’t even miss the pasta. Plus, it’s the perfect light dinner for spring and summer when cravings for comfort food hibernate for the season.
- 4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet, saute zucchini in oil until crisp-tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes, seasoned salt, and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 9 to 10 minutes or until liquid is evaporated. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with a slotted spoon. It yields six servings.
4. Zucchini Casserole
Another appetizing summer dinner idea is this Zucchini Casserole recipe from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life. The blogger behind this lightened up dish swears that it is reminiscent of a light, cheesy hash brown casserole, and is good enough to sway even the toughest anti-green critics. Zucchini Casserole comes together in no time and is the perfect vehicle for your summer veggies. Get it while it’s hot!
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 teaspoons butter, divided
- 6 cups coarsely grated zucchini
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped peppers
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 cup low-fat evaporated milk*
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini, onion, and peppers and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the liquids have evaporated. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add 2 teaspoons of butter to skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add milk, Dijon, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and whisk until mixture thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until blended. Pour over zucchini mixture, stir, and set aside.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into zucchini mixture, then pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Melt the remaining teaspoon of butter, combine with panko breadcrumbs, and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Enjoy!
5. Spiced Zucchini Muffins
Ending on a sweet note we come to Spiced Zucchini Muffins from Chow. Although zucchini is typically incorporated into savory dishes, it can also be the star ingredient in sweet treats, as you’ll taste in these muffins. If you can’t get your kids or picky eaters to consume their greens, hide them in hot carbs, and serve these Spiced Zucchini Muffins up for a post-dinner treat. Everyone wins when carbs and greens are combined.
- Unsalted butter, for coating the pan (if needed)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 14 ounces zucchini (about 3 to 4 medium zucchini), ends trimmed, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 3 cups)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line two (12-well) muffin pans with paper liners. Alternatively, coat the wells with butter; set aside. Place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
Place the eggs, sugars, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until the eggs are broken up and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the zucchini until evenly mixed.
Fill the muffin wells about two-thirds of the way. Bake, rotating the muffin pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through the cooking time, until the muffins are browned and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pans and cool completely.