Let's Talk About Food: Zucchini


A quart of organic strawberries costs almost twice what it did just a couple weeks ago, and they aren’t nearly as good as they have been — a sign of the season. Fortunately, zucchini, is plentiful and relatively inexpensive. 

A hearty and prolific vine, zucchini is easy to grow, though I missed getting some tucked in among my rhododendrons this year. But you’ll find it at the farmers market, and it looks good at the grocery store.

Low in fat, sugar and carbohydrates, zucchini contains vitamin A, manganese, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, folate, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and thiamine. Zucchini is high in antioxidants.

The beneficial squash is easy to cook in so many different ways. It’s good, and good for you. An easy and simple way to cook zucchini is to cut it in small cubes, toss it in olive oil, add salt and pepper, then roast it in the oven. It can be grilled, stir fried or served raw in a salad. Zucchini noodles offer an alternative to pasta, or it can be baked into breads and muffins, even made into pizza crust. I ran across a recipe called mama ganoush, similar to baba ganoush, but with zucchini instead of eggplant. And of course, there’s ratatouille.

My guys like zucchini lightly breaded and fried, but that’s a pretty labor intensive process. A quick Google search for an alternative turned up two promising results. Sylvia Fountaine, a professional chef, former restaurant owner and caterer, offers Baked Zucchini with Garlicy Parmesan Breadcrumbs at feastingathome.com. Chungah Rhee of Damn Delicious makes Baked Parmesan Zucchini, that recipe at damndelicious.net.

The recipes are similar. Fountaine cuts the squash in quarters, Rhee cuts it in half. Fountaine adds mozzarella to her topping, and I like that addition. The zucchini halves seem to hold the topping better and take longer to cook.

Drizzle olive oil or spread it on the squash, then add salt and pepper. It seems to turn out better if you roast the zucchini first, before adding the topping. But zucchini is forgiving and flexible. You can add the topping and cook it all together, saving even more time.  

This tastes much like breaded and fried zucchini, but it is so much easier to prepare. It’s much healthier, too.

I roast the zucchini at 400 for 20 minutes or so. Mixing together Panko bread crumbs, parmesan and shredded mozzarella, I add garlic and whatever herbs I have on hand, usually basil or thyme. I sprinkle it on the zucchini and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes.

While Fountaine’s recipe calls for lemon zest, I add a squeeze of lemon juice or serve it with a lemon wedge. Lemon makes just about everything taste better. Even my teenager, generally decidedly unenthusiastic about vegetables in general, likes this.

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