Zucchini – Humble & Oh So Versatile

I was inspired to write about the humble zucchini after a trip to the Farmer’s Market at the Library. The produce at the Genova Produce stand was abundant and colorful. There were so many choices of good, fresh things to eat!

I found stacks and stacks of dark, emerald green zucchini in all sizes. There was even more zucchini in the back of the truck. When the squash comes on in the summer, it does so with a vengeance. All those pretty little yellow blossoms of early weeks are now quickly producing lots and lots of squash. Zucchini is an ordinary vegetable with very little flavor. Yet, because of that blandness, it is unbelievably versatile. So many farmers and backyard gardeners have come up with an abundance of recipes to use up this summer squash.

Tried and True Recipes

I have two zucchini go-to recipes that I use every summer. One is for a zucchini and rice casserole. It’s supposed to be a side dish, but I am perfectly content to eat it as my main entrée. The recipe came from a book I bought on sale in the 1980s when I first got a food processor. It is clearly written from the point of view of do everything in the food processor but you can adapt it for your own use. The other zucchini recipe is for a summer vegetable casserole from France, called a tian. A tian refers both to the provencal shallow cooking dish it is baked in as well as the food cooked in it. This one has eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes – summer in a baking dish! Plus I throw fresh oregano, basil and thyme from my patio garden in the bread crumb mixture.

If All Else Fails, Hide the Zucchini

The third recipe is from a good friend and it is her trusted zucchini bread recipe. I was intrigued by the addition of the rum and raisins and it is one of the best zucchini bread recipes I have tried. Later this week, I still intend on trying some sort of zucchini chocolate cake and a zucchini orange marmalade recipe I found at food.com. The addition of zucchini adds moisture and makes the cakes so good. I love the idea of orange and zucchini together in the marmalade. Enjoy the humble, bountiful zucchini while you can!

Rice and Zucchini Casserole

From Patently Easy Food Processor Cooking by Greg Patent

Ingredients

  • 3 oz Parmesan cheese, cut into 1 inch pieces (or buy it already grated)
  • 5 or 6 medium zucchini (about 2 lbs), trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 1 t salt (see note)
  • 2 qts water
  • ½ C long grain rice
  • 1/2 – 2 1/2 C Milk (see step 4 and note at end of recipe)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T flour

Directions

  1. Process cheese with metal blade until finely chopped. Remove and set aside.
  2. Shred the zucchini with the shredding disc. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with salt. Let stand about 1 hour to draw out the moisture.
  3. Bring water to rolling boil in 4 qt pot over high heat. Add rice and cook for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside; do not rinse. This preliminary cooking tenderizes the rice.
  4. Firmly squeeze handfuls of zucchini to remove excess liquid. Save all liquid; it should measure 1 ½ to 2 cups. Add milk to zucchini liquid to measure 2 ½ cups total liquid. Put liquid in 1 qt saucepan and bring to boil over high heat, watch closely to prevent overflowing. Remove and set aside.
  5. Process or finely chop garlic. Process or dice onion.
  6. Heat oil in the wiped out 4 qt pot. Add garlic and onion. Cook slowly until onion is tender but not browned, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add zucchini and increase heat to medium high. Toss and cook until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  8. Gradually add hot milk mixture, stirring well. Return pan to medium heat and boil briefly, stirring frequently.
  9. Add rice and ½ cup of cheese. Stir well, remove from heat, and taste for seasoning. Casserole may be prepared ahead of time to this point.
  10. About 45 minutes before serving, adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring zucchini mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn in into a lightly buttered casserole dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  11. Bake uncovered until casserole is nicely browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving,

NOTE: To reduce salt, prepare zucchini as directed but discard juices. Rinse zucchini thoroughly in cold water and squeeze dry again. Use 2 ½ cups milk for cooking liquid.

Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Tian

from myrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 lb eggplant, cut diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 1 lb zucchini, cut diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 lb large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 1 ½ T extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ t salt, divided
  • ¼ t freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 ounces French bread baguette
  • 1 c (4 oz) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (I used kale)
  • 2 t chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 ½ t chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ c fat free, less sodium chicken broth

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Arrange eggplant and zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat vegetables with cooking spray (I used olive oil in a spray). Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  3. Arrange half of eggplant in a single layer in an 11 x 7 inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with half of the zucchini and half of the tomato. Drizzle 2 ¼ t oil evenly over the vegetables. Sprinkle vegetables evenly with 1/8 t salt and 1/8 t black pepper.
  4. Place bread in food processor; process until coarse crumbs measure 2 cups. Add cheese and next 4 ingredients (though garlic) to processor; process until combined. Sprinkle 1 ½ c breadcrumb mixture evenly over tomato.
  5. Repeat layers with remaining eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, oil, salt, pepper and breadcrumb mixture. Pour broth over the top.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender and topping is browned.

Rum Raisin Zucchini Bread

from John Phillip Carroll, from the Baker’s Dozen Cookbook edited by Rick Rogers

Ingredients

  • 1 C raisins
  • 1/3 C rum
  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • ½ t cloves
  • 1 ½ t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 C brown sugar
  • 1 C corn or vegetable oil
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 C (3 small, or abut 12 ounces total) grated zucchini
  • 1 C chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Place the raisins and rum in a screw top jar. Cap tightly and shake vigorously. Let sit for at least 1 hour – or for several hours or more, shaking occasionally.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans.
  3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Sift them together into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together until smooth the oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the zucchini and stir to combine. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is evenly mixed and there are no unblended drifts of flour. Stir in walnuts and raisins, along with the rum. Divided the batter between the prepared pans, filling each one about half full.
  5. Bake about 50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and place the loaves, top side up, on a rack to cool completely. The bread can be stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage.

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Adrianne Evans

I’m a library volunteer and a community volunteer. I share my home with a little dog with a big attitude. I have two grown daughters, one in the food industry and the other is a veterinarian. My two granddaughters are learning to love food adventures with Nana.