Italian for”little gourd”, zucchini have become as common a staple into the North American home as carrots or corn. Especially loved by anglers for their easy growing requirements and their abundant harvest, zucchini are a versatile food that is good for your waistline, heart, and taste buds!
Members of the Cucurbitaceae family (like other squash), zucchini is typically long and cylindrical and has a thin freckled skin, similar to a cucumber. However, fruit from this member of the Italian marrow squash can also be found in round and other odd shapes. Zucchini is often grown for its yellow flowers, used before they develop fruit.
Zucchini are a mandatory component for creating the dish ratatouille. They’re perfect when combined with oil, butter, or frying. Their flavour can be mild, so zucchini often needs a little boost in flavor with the addition of spices such as garlic, thyme, or rosemary, or by being paired with other vegetables. One of our favourite dishes simply combines diced zucchini with corn, red peppers, onions, and jalapenos, tossed with a bit of our poultry and pork rub and oil, then roasted until caramelized.
Many varieties exhibit various degrees of speckling, and others have ridges resembling a cucumber. While found in their dark green form in several market stalls, do not be surprised to find them called”grisette” (grey) in Provence, or”Aurore” or”Reine-des-Noires” depending on their shade of green. In addition to being named by their color, they could be known by their regional title, such as courgette, summer squash, or marrow squash.
Rich in carotene, pectin, Vitamins A and B, zucchini also provides heart healthy fiber, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium, with extremely low levels of fat and sodium.
This is also the stage in the season where its flavor is at its peak. Zucchini tastes best when young, small, and heavy for its size. Search for firm zucchini that is regular in shape without any blemishes or yellowish patches, and using a tight, shiny skin. Smaller zucchini are preferable, since as they get bigger their flesh becomes stringy, tough, and dull, and the amount of seeds within increases.
Zucchini has the best shelf life when kept in a dark, cool place. Kept dry in a plastic bag, zucchini should last at least one week in the fridge. Whole or sliced zucchini don’t take well to freezing due to their high water content. However, it’s possible to shred or grate the zucchini, squeeze out excess moisture, and then freeze it. This is nice for when you wish to use zucchini in baked applications such as zucchini bread.
Zucchini can be ready in a variety of ways, making it a great vegetable for use in virtually any dish. Be careful though. . .few items are less appetizing than overcooked zucchini, which becomes mushy, limp and at times bitter.
Steaming: Toss steamed zucchini into a casserole or nibble on individual slices for a nutritious snack. Zucchini can be steamed whole, sliced, or diced.
Don’t forget to wash and slice the ends off first.
Frying: Make a crispy appetizer or party item by dipping unpeeled pieces in an egg wash and breadcrumbs, and then fry in hot vegetable oil.
A traditional item that’s made a comeback on pricey dinner menus is fried zucchini blossoms. Baby zucchini flowers are usually stuffed with some sort of savory filling, dipped in an egg and flour mixture, and either deep fried in oil or placed on a griddle and turned just like pancakes.
For a simple side-dish full of taste, simply drizzle pieces of zucchini with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 350º oven until tender (length of time depends on thickness of slices). You can also substitute zucchini in your banana bread or pumpkin bread recipe to make the traditional zucchini bread – a real treat that even your children will love.
Grilling: If you end up facing a large size zucchini, you do not necessarily have to throw it away. Slice into 1/2 – 3/4 inch rounds, drizzle with olive oil, season with your favorite dry rub, and throw them on the grill for around 8 – 10 minutes.