My family’s love affair with summer squash and zucchini started several generations ago. While visiting my grandma’s house during the summer, she often used zucchini, fresh from some roadside stand or her own garden, to make stuffed zucchini. There was just something about the soft, baked zucchini contrasted with the Italian, saucy goodness in the middle that was heavenly.
Maybe it was the fact my grandma made it. Those childhood dishes and the memories they made are still special to me.
Fast forward to college. My grandmother no longer had a garden, but still bought zucchini on a regular basis.
To make grilled zucchini, I usually cut my zucchini lengthwise, into strips. You can either coat your grill with nonstick spray or use a marinade on your zucchini to prevent it from sticking. I tend to soak mine for about 30 minutes in a good Italian dressing or a mixture of two-thirds oil and a third vinegar and a healthy dose of Tajin.
It’s one of my favorite spice blends and can be found in the ethnic food sections of most grocery stores.
Place strips on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes or until you see char marks. Turn them over and let them cook until the flesh turns soft and kind of golden. They cook more quickly than meat does, so keep an eye on them.
By itself, zucchini is rather tasteless, which makes it a great thing to add to meals as a way to hide healthy things into a kids’ dish. It’s good at absorbing flavors from spices and marinades.
One zucchini has about 25 calories. It is filled with more potassium than a banana. Zucchini also is a good source of Vitamin A, Manganese, Vitamin C and Magnesium, according to heathline.com.
Did you know you can eat zucchini flowers? Most recipes I’ve seen include using a piping bag to fill the blossoms with a cheese blend, coating them with a breading mixture and frying them. When zucchini blossoms and other flowers start growing again in the spring, we’ll feature something about using flowers in dishes.
A few years ago, when my family had a decent garden, we let a few zucchinis get big — like half-a-kid big. I have since learned that bigger isn’t always better. While almost everything is best from your own garden, the most flavorful zucchinis are small- to medium-sized.
Below are a few recipes that I use at home that incorporate zucchini.
3 cups shredded zucchini (2 to 3 medium)
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts, if desired
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
■ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease bottoms of 2 (8×4-inch) loaf pans with butter or cooking spray.
■ In a large bowl, combine zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs. Stir until well mixed. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except nuts and raisins. Fold in the nuts and raisins. Divide the batter evenly between the 8-inch pans.
■ Bake 8-inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pans on cooling rack.
■ Once the pans are cool enough to handle, loosen sides of loaves from pans with a knife. Remove bread from pans and place top side up on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.
STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOATS
1 pound pork sausage
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (32-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
■ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
■ Trim stems and ends from zucchinis and slice lengthwise in half. Scoop out seeds and put in a bowl. Mix seeds, sausage, garlic and bread crumbs. Stuff squash with mixture and place in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Pour spaghetti sauce over the top and cover the pan with foil.
■ Bake in the oven until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and cover stuffed zucchini with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
■ Return to the oven and cook until the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.