Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Virtues of the Versatile Zucchini...

If there is one superstar vegetable in this household, I would crown the versatile zucchini. It is beautiful and mild tasting, and can virtually be shredded into most savoury dishes or baked goods-- blanched, poached, roasted, grilled, stuffed, deep-fried, and baked into bread and muffins. Also known as courgette and summer squash, there are many types of zucchini ranging in size from bite-sized to baseball bats. In Britain, huge zucchini known as vegetable marrow are grown and used for stuffing. When choosing, look for small to medium-sized vegetables with shiny, taut skin and solid flesh. Lightly scratched or slightly bruised are fine. Avoid overly large zucchini with pitted skin and spongy texture. Best used within two to three days and stored refrigerated in plastic.

Zucchini's flavour companions include basil, dill, oregano, chilies, marjoram, mint, thyme, corn, eggplant, feta, goat cheese, garlic, onion, olive oil and tomatoes. 

Zucchini stand in Belleville Farmer's Market
Beautiful chubby Japanese zucchini

Here are some of my family's favourite ways to enjoy zucchini. I hope these will inspire you to try something new with zucchini or get your picky eaters to eat more vegetables!

I came across this wonderful zucchini bread recipe in a health magazine that caught my eye. I recall in my formative years in the test kitchens at Kraft, when we used to brainstorm ideas for the ever in-demand topic of Picky Eaters-- time and time again, zucchini bread but with chocolate chips always came out on top. Here with two cups of shredded zucchini and carrots all tucked away in a cinnamon-nutmeg fragrant bread studded with kid-friendly dried cranberries and raisins, it's a hearty loaf everyone can enjoy!

Sneaky Zucchini Bread

Love 'em fritters! These zucchini fritters are definitely crowd-pleasers for the old and young alike! It's a great way to get in a lot of the nutritious vegetable (you use 3) in such a fun and tasty format, which can be attempted to win over a picky eater. Dipped in an Asian mild tangy savoury sweet sauce takes it to another umami delicious level.

Zucchini Fritters

Picture adorable short and chubby pale green Japanese zucchini all neatly tucked in rows in open crates. What to do with them? Japanese zucchini... Japanese style, and miso came foremost to mind. Blended with rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and sesame oil, grilling them brought out an incredible caramelized, charred, earthy umami aroma that penetrated the entire kitchen and one that fully satiated my family's taste buds. So-O darn good!

Grilled Miso Japanese Zucchini

I love grilling zucchini. Simply toss with good olive oil, chopped garlic and sea salt. Simply irresistible- the caramelized taste with aromatic garlic, slick fine olive oil and crunchy salt!

Simple Grilled Zucchini with Garlic

Take it a step further and compliment with grilling stars-- sweet peppers and eggplant in a Mediterranean flatbread sandwich
Mediterranean Flatbread Sandwich

Roasting zucchini transforms their flavour, making it more concentrated and sweeter. Made it more inviting to try as I had a bunch of mint on hand to use and it was a perfect veggie side to complement a Middle Eastern meal. Roasted Zucchini with Mint Salsa Verde's result was heavenly with tender sweet zucchini batons dressed in citrus mint and parsley sauce. It truly made my family's taste buds sing...

Roasted Zucchini with Mint Salsa Verde

For some quick cooking ideas with zucchini, try:

- shredded to add in your spaghetti sauce like spaghetti bolognese;
- shredded to add to savoury pancakes like Korean seafood pancakes;
- shredded to add to the meat mixture in tacos, meatballs, Asian noodle soups;
- cut into half moons and toss with pasta or goat cheese.

I would love to hear your ideas on cooking with zucchini. Drop me a note. Happy exploring this amazing vegetable's versatility!

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