4 Easy Zucchini Recipes
One summer many years ago, we children were called to the dinner table only to be greeted with a platter of fried – what is that? we wondered.
Fish, my dad said. I don’t remember what kind he said it was, if he even did. No matter, we all dug in, hungry from playing outside. It was only after the platter was empty that he told us the truth – we had eaten fried zucchini.
Zucchini?! What is that?
Since then, of course, I’ve eaten zucchini many times and had it served many different ways. Zucchini is a versatile – and prolific – vegetable. One zucchini plant can produce as many as 30 zucchini.
A few months ago, my husband and I were discussing which vegetables to plant for the summer. We don’t have a big yard so we wanted just a few we could put in containers. We agreed on tomatoes and green beans but when he suggested a couple zucchini plants, I burst out laughing. I asked him how well he liked zucchini and how often he wanted to eat it. “Remember, there’s only two of us here,” I told him. With a reminder that there would come a day when we wouldn’t even be able to give them away, he agreed that planting zucchini probably wasn’t a good idea for us.
Health Benefits of Zucchini
Choose zucchini that is firm. Skin colors range from almost black, dark green, pale green, pale green with grey, and yellow.
Zucchini contains a lot of water (about 95 percent of it is made up of water), which makes it low in calories – only about 13 calories per each half-cup uncooked “zukes.” It’s a good source of vitamin C, betacarotene and potassium. Betacarotene becomes vitamin A, which helps your eyes adjust to light changes when you come in from outside and helps keep eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist. Vitamin C helps heal wounds, prevents cell damage, promotes healthy gums and teeth, and strengthens the immune system. Potassium is an electrolyte and is critical to maintaining a person’s heartbeat. It also plays a major role in maintaining water balance (with sodium) and cell integrity.
Zucchini, like other summer squash, comes on fast and furious once the plant begins to bloom. As with many fruits and vegetables (and other things in life), bigger is not always better. If the squash is left to grow too long, it gets tough, so pick them when they are between 5 and 8 inches long. At that size, zucchini won’t need to be peeled, as the skin will still be tender.
Zucchini Fun Facts
The flower of the zucchini plant is also edible
The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69.5 inches long, and weighed 65 lbs. Credit Bernard Lavery of Plymouth Devon, UK, with that feat
A zucchini has more potassium than a banana
The word zucchini comes from ‘zucca’ the Italian word for squash
Zucchini Fests are held from California to Ohio to Florida and include events such as cook-a-zuke contests, pageants and zucchini carving.
Zucchini is so prolific in gardens that some people in Pennsylvania have designated August 8 as the official “Sneak a Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch” night
How to Prepare Zucchini
Store zucchini in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Some people advise freezing zucchini but with its high water content, I can’t imagine it holding up well. One pound will give you about four cups grated zucchini. If you do want to give freezing it a try, slice the squash in 1-inch pieces, blanch in boiling water for about three minutes, then place in freezer-safe containers.
Zucchini can be eaten raw in salads or on vegetable trays. It is excellent with dip. They’re good in stir-fry, grilled, steamed or (how we usually cook it) battered and fried. Zucchini are often grated and added to breads and muffins – it’s a great way to sneak in some veggies without your family realizing it.
For information on how to pick, store, preserve and prepare vegetables from any season throughout the year, pick up a copy of From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. This book is published by the Madison (WI) Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. It's a perennial favorite of CSAs, including La Vista.
If your neighbors hide when they see you coming up the walk with zucchini in hand, try the recipes below. The bread and cookies can be frozen for later (or shared and enjoyed now); the tuna cakes are good for a light dinner.
Each recipe calls for squeezing the grated zucchini to remove excess water. I actually do this once after the zucchini has been grated and then again when I get ready to mix everything together just because I want to make sure there isn’t too much moisture.
Combine zucchini, baking soda, sugar and margarine. Beat in egg. Stir together flour, spices and salt. Combine creamed mixture with flour mixture. Add nuts and or raisins if using. Chill dough at least 2 hours. Drop by teaspoonsful onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 375 degrees 12-15 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.
1 c. finely grated zucchini, squeezed thoroughly
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sugar
½ c. margarine
1 egg, beaten
2 c. flour
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
1 c. raisins (optional)
Mix all ingredients and shape into patties. Fry in 2 T oil until cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Serve on a bun or as open-faced sandwiches on bread or English muffin. Top with dollop of mayonnaise, sliced tomato and lettuce. Makes 4 sandwiches.
Summer Tuna Cakes (a.k.a. Poor Man's Crab Cakes)
1 medium zucchini, finely grated, squeeze out all the liquid
2- 6-1/2 oz. cans of tuna
1-1/2 c. bread crumbs (3 slices of bread, torn into small pieces)
2 tsp. grated onion
1 tsp. lemon juice
salt & pepper
dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Generously grease and flour a 12-inch fluted tube pan. In large bowl, combine all cake ingredients and beat on high 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Cool upright in pan 30 minutes. Then invert the cake onto a plate. Drizzle the glaze over the cake.
Note: Years ago, Pillsbury used to make a boxed coconut pecan frosting mix. Although they no longer do, here’s a substitute for it:
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut
¾ c. brown sugar, firmly packed
½ c. flour
½ c chopped pecans
3 T margarine
In medium bowl, combine coconut, brown sugar, flour, and pecans. Mix well. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in margarine.
1 pkg. coconut pecan frosting mix (see note)
2-1/2 cups flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
1-1/4 c. sugar
2 c. shredded zucchini, thoroughly squeezed
1 T cinnamon
1 c. cooking oil
1 tsp. salt
1 T vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T. vanilla
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. soft butter or margarine
1-1/2 – 2 T milk.
Combine ingredients and blend until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour, a third at a time. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.
Divide the batter equally between 2 buttered 5 by 9 inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour (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.
Makes 2 loaves.
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated fresh zucchini, thoroughly squeezed
2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
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)