Zucchini can be a "burden" — you plant a few seeds and then come August find yourself with dozens and dozens of summer squash and no new ideas for using them. You try to give them away, but almost every cook and gardener you know has the same issue: an overabundance of summer squash.
During this past year and a half, with all its complexities and difficulties, I've learned to rethink things. And this August I find myself looking at, and appreciating, summer squash in a new light.
Zucchini and yellow summer squash — along with tomatoes and corn — have become my August obsession. I eat zucchini for breakfast in savory muffins or sauteed in olive oil and served with fried eggs or grated and tossed into an omelet. I eat them for lunch and dinner in soups, tarts and main course vegetarian dinners. You can even use long thin strips of zucchini instead of pasta for a summer "lasagna." Zucchini is so adaptable that it's hard to get sick of it. It works well in Italian dishes like pasta sauces, French tarts, Asian stir-fries, and can be pickled or grated into bread and cakes.
A Few Basic Zucchini Questions:
Does size matter?
You can eat zucchini when it’s tiny, pinky size or almost as large as a child's baseball bat. When zucchini grow and get large, they tend to become fibrous and less tender. Larger summer squash are great for baking — grating into zucchini bread or making into pancakes or cakes. But tender smaller squash is great raw or sauteed in tarts, soups and salads. I always look for smaller squash for its tenderness and adaptability.
Is zucchini good for you?
Yes. It's low-carb and cholesterol-free, and offers fiber, potassium, Vitamin C and B6!
Can I eat it raw?
Yes. Zucchini can be grated or thinly sliced into long ribbons and layered with salt, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs. Marinate for about 20 minutes and you'll have a refreshingly simple, healthy salad. You can add crumbled or grated cheese and nuts for a heartier salad.
Are zucchini and yellow summer squash interchangeable?
Zucchini is almost always dark green and grows fairly straight in shape, while yellow summer squash tends to be yellow and slightly bulbous on the bottom. They are very similar in taste and texture and can be used interchangeably. They look beautiful together, side by side, in salads.
Cold Zucchini And Yogurt Soup With Mint
The hardest thing about making this soup is waiting the two or three hours it takes to chill it. Slices of zucchini are sauteed with olive oil, shallots (or onions) and fresh mint and tarragon or thyme. The sauteed squash is then pureed with a cup of Greek or plain yogurt and chilled for a quick refreshing soup.
The toppings can be as simple as a drizzle of olive oil or as "fancy" as chopped pistachios or walnuts, a drizzle of lemon oil, a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of fresh chopped mint and tarragon.
Serves 2 to 4, depending on if it's being served as a main or first course.
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced, or 1 medium-large onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or thyme or lemon thyme
2 to 3 medium zucchini, about 13 ½ ounces, ends trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup Greek-style or plain full fat yogurt
½ cup chopped salted pistachios, walnuts, or almonds
A drizzle of lemon oil or olive oil
Chopped fresh mint and tarragon leaves
A dollop of Greek yogurt
In a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add the shallots (or onion), salt and pepper and saute for 3 minutes. Add half the mint and tarragon and cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini, raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until the zucchini just starts to soften. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
In a blender or food processor, blend the yogurt and zucchini and shallots (or onion), adding all the juices and oil from the skillet. Add the remaining mint and tarragon or thyme and blend. Taste for seasoning adding more salt, pepper or herbs if needed. If the soup seems too thick add a few tablespoons of water. Place In a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The soup will last for several days.
Summer Zucchini And Tomato Tart
This is one of my favorite dishes to make during August when zucchini and tomatoes are plentiful. This is a real show-off dish, ideal as a main course with summer salad but sometimes I like to warm up a slice for breakfast with a strong espresso.
You can make your own pastry or buy a premade shell — no judgment here.
The pastry (or one 9-inch pre-made pie shell):
1 ½ cups flour, 188 grams
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme, optional, or 2 teaspoons dried and crumbled thyme
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
About ⅓ cup ice cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
About 2 to 3 medium zucchini, about 10 ounces, ends trimmed and then cut lengthwise into long thin slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, coarsely chopped or sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Make the pastry (or use a premade 9-inch pie crust): In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt and thyme if using. Add the butter and using your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend the butter into the flour until it is pea-sized. Add only enough water so the dough holds together into a tight ball. Wrap in wax or parchment paper or reusable wrap into a ball or rectangle shape. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Roll out the dough into a 9-inch circle and drape into a tart pan with a removable bottom or a pie plate.
Make the filling: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the zucchini slices, salt and pepper, and half the thyme and basil. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until softened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tart or pie pan on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and some pepper. Arrange the cooked zucchini into the crust on top of the cheese. Arrange the cut cherry tomatoes along the edges, cut side down. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme and basil. Top with the remaining Parmesan and the feta and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil.
Place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and bake another 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown along the edges and the zucchini is tender and the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot or at room temperature.
This savory muffin can be served for breakfast with hot coffee and tea, for lunch with a green salad or as a side dish at dinner with grilled fish, poultry, vegetables or meat.
Although the muffins are so good hot out of the oven, they can also be covered and refrigerated and will last for several days.
Makes 10 muffins.
Canola oil spray, butter, or 10 cupcake liners for greasing the muffin cups
1 medium zucchini, about 7 ounces, ends trimmed and then grated on the largest hole of cheese grater, about 11/2 packed cups
1 packed cup sharp cheddar, grated on the largest hole of a cheese grater
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 scallion, white and green section, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 cups flour, 240 grams
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 10 muffin cups with canola oil spray, or lightly butter them, or line with cupcake cups.
In a large bowl thoroughly mix the zucchini, cheddar cheese, melted butter, scallion, herbs, feta cheeses, pepper and egg. Add the milk and gently whisk until the egg and milk are thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the flour mixture into the zucchini cheese mixture until fully incorporated.
Divide the mixture between the 10 prepared muffin cups filling each cup about 3/4 of the way.
Bake on the middle shelf for around 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown along the edges and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Let cool for 5 minutes before releasing from the muffin tray. Serve warm or at room temperature. The muffins will keep for several days; covered and refrigerated.