As I’m sure you all know, zucchini is ridiculously easy to grow, and once it begins to fruit most gardeners are overwhelmed with the speed and volume at which it produces. Growing zucchini can make any gardener look like a pro and will leave you with bountiful amounts of food to share with (or force upon) friends and family. As of the first week of July, we here at Pine Mountain were quickly overtaken by zucchini in our garden, and seeing as we often have the good fortune of coming home to bags of vegetables on our front porch, the zucchini quickly filled our fridge, and took up residence in buckets on the kitchen floor. Being incapable of throwing out any good food I have been gathering ideas and recipes from Grow Appalachia participants and the zucchini preservation has begun! Here are some great ways to bake, cook, and preserve your zucchini this summer and wow all your friends when you still have homemade zucchini goods throughout the winter.
First the harvesting of Zucchini:
To have the best zucchini for cooking fruits should be harvested frequently when they are 5 to 6 inches long, small squash have the best flavor and the fewest seeds. Harvesting often will also prolong the period of harvest for the plant. Don’t throw out your big zucchini’s though; they are great for baking as they don’t have as much of a bitter vegetable flavor to them.
Zucchini is one vegetable that just can’t be preserved perfectly, and will always come out a bit soggy, but frozen zucchini is still great to use for cooking things such as soups and risotto etc., and baked goods are a perfect use of frozen zucchini in the off season!
1. Start with clean Zucchini cut into ½ inch thick slices
2. Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water and heat to a boil
3. Have a large bowl of ice water ready
4. Put squash in the pot and cover, boiling on high heat for 1 minute (this is called blanching and will destroy enzymes in the fruit that would change the flavor, nutrition, and texture of squash while frozen)
5. Remove squash from boiling water with a slotted spoon and place in ice water to cool for about 5 minutes (this will keep the squash from overcooking)
6. Drain for 2-3 minutes, put into Ziploc bags, and freeze!
Cooking with Zucchini:
Cooking with fresh zucchini is by far the best way you can eat it; here are a few simple ways to prepare zucchini this summer.
Salt and pepper
Dried herbs (such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
A couple cloves of chopped garlic
Cut small zucchini lengthwise or in thick round slices. Mix olive oil, herbs, and garlic in a shallow bowl and marinate zucchini for an hour or so. Place zucchini on hot grill, and cook for 3-4 minutes on both sides. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Zucchini Fritters (makes about 10 2 1/2 inch fritters)
1 pound Zucchini (about 2 medium size zucchinis)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped onion (any kind will work, including green onions)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil, for frying
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.
1. Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor.
2. In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. This will keep fritters from being soggy.
3. Return zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in onion, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a separate bowl stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.
4. In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until hot. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don’t become crowded and lightly press them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.
Fritter Topping (optional)
1 cup plain, full fat yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of lemon zest
Pinch or 2 of salt
1 minced clove of garlic
For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Serve beside fritters for dipping
Note: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp again
Recipe courtesy Smittenkitchen.com
Baking with Zucchini:
Zucchini is a great way to add flavor and moisture to baked goods, I’m sure you all have your own favorite zucchini bread recipes but here are two slightly different ways to bake with zucchini that might be new to you. After hearing rave reviews from several of our participants about the Zapple pie, Maggie made one for the potluck on Thursday, it was beautiful, delicious, and could be mistaken for apple pie any day!
Zapple Pie (serves 6-8)
This works best with large, over grown squash and zucchini. This filling can be made to freeze in order to use later. The filling can be made into a pie, served over biscuits, pancakes, French toast, or served alone like fried apples.
Pie crust for 9 inch double crusted pie
6 cups peeled, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced zucchini or summer squash
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Combine zucchini and lemon juice in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally for even cooking. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and simmer for 5 minutes longer.
2. Remove the zucchini from the heat. Stir in the cornstarch and let stand 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 425°F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.
4. Spoon the zucchini mixture into the crust. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust with water. Fold the dough circle in half, lift off the work surface, place the pastry across the center of the filled pie, and unfold. Trim the edge ½ inch larger than the pie plate and tuck the overhang under the edge of the bottom crust. Crimp the edges with a fork or make a fluted pattern with your fingers. Make several decorative slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
5. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the pie with granulated sugar and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbly.
6. Cool the pie on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake (serves 12-16)
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
½ cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ounces baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup coffee
3 cups grated zucchini
Confectioners’ sugar for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 10-inch fluted tube pan with butter.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
3. Beat together the brown sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee, and beat until smooth. Fold in the zucchini. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
4. Bake for 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
5. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto the wire rack, remove the pan, and leave on the rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.
Recipes courtesy Serving up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman
Whehh, sorry that was such a long blog post, I hope you all find it useful and enjoy your zucchini in new and tasty ways this summer!