If your garden is overflowing with a wealth of zucchini and you can't share your bounty fast enough, challenge yourself to serve it in some ingenious, interesting ways. There are an amazing number of possibilities -- including a few shared by Los Angeles area restaurants.
Ever thought of zucchini carpaccio, zucchini noodles, zucchini hummus or zucchini salsa?
You can stuff zucchini with a variety of meat or poultry mixtures, stir-fry or roast it or shred it and top with fresh tomato or jarred pasta sauce, slip it into meatloaf or coleslaw or bake it in chocolate or cream cheese cake and bread. Even slice it up for zucchini parmigiana or lasagna.
At the five-month-old Fig & Olive Melrose Place restaurant in West Hollywood, an innovative zucchini carpaccio creation is a signature appetizer. Designed by executive chef Pascal Lorange, it features thin overlapping slices of zucchini drizzled or "cooked" with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing, then sprinkled with pine nuts, fleur de sel, freshly cracked black pepper and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. With its light flavor, it can be easily re-created by home cooks.
To make it, "we use normal green house zucchini about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches in diameter and about nine to 12 inches long with bright green skin," notes Mitchel Ramos, the restaurant's chef de cuisine.
"Use a mandoline to get even (very thin) cuts of zucchini," he suggests. You can use a knife, but you'll end up with uneven slices. Arrange the zucchini slices, slightly overlapping, on white serving plates, cover and refrigerate a maximum of three to four hours before adding the toppings and serving.
The restaurant also features baby zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise, in a sauteed vegetable medley with thinly sliced fennel, chick peas, heirloom cherry tomatoes, manzanilla olives and oregano. Coated with mojo (mint, citrus) and oregano olive oil, it's served alongside a flatiron-seared salmon filet in an Andalusian-style fish selection.
At home, Ramos, a Puerto Rican native who has worked in restaurants in Asia and Palm Desert, says, "I usually pickle zucchini (cut in strips) lightly with sugar and rice wine vinegar (figure about 1/3 cup granulated sugar to 2/3 cup rice vinegar, depending on amount of zucchini)." Add a touch of soy sauce for salty flavor, if desired. Let the zucchini sit in the solution in the fridge 45 to 60 minutes and it's ready to eat. "You can reuse the solution (for another batch of pickles), but only once," he advises.
At M Cafe in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, long thin zucchini "noodles" are dressed with a house-made basil-almond pesto. Home cooks can make a similar version by doctoring up store-bought (OR homemade) basil pesto by whirring in some arugula leaves and almonds and a little more liquid (stock or oil or a combination).
The noodles or shreds would also work well with a light fresh uncooked tomato
"I have more fun with zucchini," says Lou Seibert Pappas, author of "A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash," (Chronicle Books; $15.95). One of her favorite ways to use grated zucchini is in a chocolate cake. "It's really great."
What else does she do with the vegetable? "I do what's easy and good," adds the Palo Alto-based gardener and author of more than 50 cookbooks.
She uses flour tortillas to make fast-fix pizzas. "Place the tortillas on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, then spread with tomato paste or olive oil and layer with zucchini slices (microwave a few minutes before adding to soften a bit), mushroom slices, olives, chopped red onions and shredded mozzarella and
Zucchini frittatas are also on her radar occasionally as are zucchini-stuffed grilled chicken breasts.
At Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, executive chef Joseph Gillard features flatbread with arugula pesto, petite zucchini slices, smoked mozzarella and olives on the appetizer menu at lunch and dinner. "People love it because our clientele is interested in vegetarian items and find this light."
Also offered is a pureed soup made with zucchini, stock, a little cream, onions, garlic and basil and topped with arugula pesto. "I love zucchini with arugula and arugula pesto."
Growing up on a farm in Michigan, Gillard ate zucchini bread as a kid, but was not a fan of gigantic watery zucchini with big seeds. These days, he's changed his tune and embraces small, flavorful heirloom varietals.
- When it comes to picking zucchini, it should be young, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and range from six to eight inches long.
- When selecting zucchini (both green and yellow or golden) at the market, look for squash with bright glossy skins, those that are firm and heavy for their size and free from bruises or mold. Small to medium zucchini are preferred.
- Store zucchini unwashed in unsealed plastic bags in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator (no plastic bag needed for those from the garden) and use within three to four days. "After four days, zucchini tend to get bitter," advises Lou Seibert Pappas.
- Rinse zucchini with cold water and trim ends just before using. Peel only if specified in recipes.
- Zucchini requires little or no cooking, depending on the recipe. Different varieties can be used interchangeably in cooking.
- Zucchini lends itself to grilling, broiling, stir-frying, steaming, sauteing, oven roasting and microwaving.
"I really love to microwave my zucchini, sliced, with a tablespoon or two of water, covered with plastic wrap, waxed paper or a paper towel, in a 9-inch Pyrex dish," says Pappas. "Two nice size 8-inch long zucchini, sliced will take about 4 minutes -- I like them crisp-tender -- but I monitor them." Drain off the liquid, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and slip under the broiler. Let brown on the top and then serve with some chopped basil from the garden. "It's great."
- Zucchini partners well with many flavors among them garlic, cheeses, walnuts, yogurt, tomatoes, parlsey, basil, oregano, dill, mint, lemon, soy, ginger and much more.
- To freeze to use later in cooked dishes, cut zucchini into thick slices, blanch in boiling water two to three minutes, remove to ice water to cool and drain well. Pack and seal in airtight freezer bags. If planning to use in baked goods like cakes or breads, rinse zucchini, shred and pack in freezer bags or containers. Best used within three to four months.
- Zucchini is low in sodium and calories (about 20 per cup of chopped raw) and high in potassium, phosphorous, vitamin C and vitamin A.
ZUCCHINI CARPACCIO1 pound zucchini
4 tablespoons pine nuts
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pinch freshly ground pepper
1 pinch fleur de sel
6 tablespoons shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Slice zucchini penny-thin using a mandoline; then arrange slices slightly overlapping on 3 (8-inch) round plates. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time, a maximum of 3 to 4 hours.
Toast pine nuts over medium heat in a dry saute pan until slightly brown (about a minute) and set aside in a small bowl.
Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. When ready to serve, drizzle dressing over zucchini, season with pepper and fleur de sel, then sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts. Makes 3 (8-inch) plates, 3 to 4 servings.
From Pascal Lorange, executive chef, Fig & Olive Melrose Place, West Hollywood.
GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS STUFFED WITH ZUCCHINI AND GOAT CHEESE1 pound zucchini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces each)
Herbes de Provence for sprinkling
Prepare a charcoal grill for a medium-hot fire OR preheat a gas grill to medium-high OR preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Shred zucchini, sprinkle with salt, wrap in paper towels and let stand 15 minutes. Squeeze zucchini dry. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and saut 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender; remove from skillet and let cool.
In same skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add onion and saut until translucent, about 5 minutes; remove from heat and let cool.
In a small bowl, beat together goat cheese and butter until blended. Add egg and beat until smooth. Mix in zucchini, onion, parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Using your fingers, loosen skin from chicken breasts, leaving one side attached, and force zucchini stuffing underneath skin of each breast. Brush each stuffed breast with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with the herbes de Provence.
Grill chicken breasts directly over heat, turning once, until opaque throughout and juices no longer run pink, 15 to 20 minutes. If using the oven, place chicken on a roasting pan. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.
From "A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash," by Lou Seibert Pappas.
ZUCCHINI NOODLES1 1/2 pounds (approximately) green zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, Mexican zucchini, Italian heirloom zucchini OR any summer squash desired
1/4 cup (OR more) homemade OR store-bought basil-almond OR other pesto
1/4 cup (OR more) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons roasted, chopped almonds
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes (in olive oil), drained and julienned (OR use 1 small fresh tomato, seeded and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Italian parsley and basil for garnish
Using a sharp knife or slicing tool (such as a Japanese Benriner-brand slicer), cut long, thin "noodles" from the squash. Alternatively, you could simply slice squash into thin rounds or use a peeler to create thin ribbons.
Combine "noodles" with remaining ingredients except parlsey and basil garnishes and toss well to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled, garnished with parsley and basil. Makes 6 to 8 side-dish servings.
BASIL-ALMOND PESTO: In a food processor, combine 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped, 1 tablespoon roasted almonds, 1 teaspoon flax seeds, 2 teaspoons yellow miso, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon lemon juice; pulse 5 or 6 times to combine. Add 1/2 pound rinsed and well-dried basil and 1 cup rinsed and dried packed arugula leaves and process until ingredients are just combined. With motor running, drizzle in 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream. Scrape from food processor into a small storage container and drizzle a small quantity of olive oil on surface of pesto to keep from browning. Cover, refrigerate and use within a few days. Makes about 2 cups.
From Lee Gross, consulting chef, M Cafe, Los Angeles.
ZUCCHINI FLATBREAD WITH ARUGULA PESTO, SMOKED MOZZARELLA AND OLIVES1/2 pound petite zucchini, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
1 (8-ounce) ball pizza dough
3 to 4 tablespoons arugula pesto (homemade OR store-bought OR use basil pesto)
1/2 cup smoked mozzarella cheese
12 dry cured, dry pitted black olives
Cut/slice zucchini into small pieces. Brush with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 450-degree oven 5 to 10 minutes, until crisp tender. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Roll out pizza dough to an elongated 12x4-inch rectangle. Spread with arugula pesto. Sprinkle with cheese, olives and then zucchini.
Bake in preheated 475-degree oven 8 to 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Serve immediately, cut into strips. Makes 2 servings.
From Joseph Gillard, executive chef, Napa Valley Grille, Westwood.
ZUCCHINI BUNDT CAKE1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups sugar
Grated rind of 1 large orange
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts OR pecans
In large bowl, using electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, oil, sugar, eggs, orange rind, cinnamon and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and coconut and beat 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in raisins, zucchini and walnuts.
Turn into a 12-cup Bundt pan sprayed well with non-stick coating. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 45 to 55 minutes, until cake tests done. Remove from oven and let stand in pan 15 minutes before removing. When cool, frost with cream cheese icing or dust with powdered sugar. Makes 1 large cake.
From Natalie Haughton, Los Angeles Daily News food editor.
CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/4 cups shredded zucchini
6 tablespoons yogurt OR buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Line a round 10-inch springform pan with parchment and butter sides of pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa.
In a large bowl, combine sugar and oil, mixing well. Add eggs and beat well after each addition. Stir in zucchini. Combine yogurt or buttermilk and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to zucchini mixture alternating with buttermilk and vanilla, a third at a time, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips. Turn into prepared pan. Top with additional chips, if desired.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 50 to 60 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cool on a rack. Makes 10 servings.
Adapted by Lou Seibert Pappas from a recipe from Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden.
ZUCCHINI, CORN AND BASIL FUSILLI WITH BACON6 bacon slices
1 pound fusilli
3 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped (1/2-inch pieces)
1 (5- to 7-ounce) container basil pesto
Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels; discard drippings from skillet.
Meanwhile, cook fusilli in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then add vegetables to pasta in pot and cook, partially covered, 2 minutes (water will stop boiling). Drain.
Add pasta with vegetables to skillet along with pesto and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and toss. Season with salt and moisten with additional cooking water if necessary. Top with crumbled bacon and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Makes 6 servings.
From Gourmet magazine.
ZUCCHINI DILL PICKLES2 pounds small zucchini (preferably about 4 OR 8 inches long), trimmed
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt OR pickling salt
12 fresh dill sprigs
2 teaspoons yellow OR brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
4 garlic cloves, halved
4 red jalapenos OR Fresno chiles, split lengthwise
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
If using 4-inch zucchini, halve lengthwise. If using 8-inch zucchini, halve crosswise, then quarter lengthwise. Place in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 4 cups ice. Add cold water to cover. Top with a plate to keep submerged. Let sit 2 hours. Drain; rinse.
Divide dill sprigs and next 6 ingredients between 2 clean, hot 1-quart jars; set aside.
Bring vinegar, sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons salt and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Working in batches, add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until khaki in color and slightly pliable, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer zucchini to jars.
Divide hot syrup between jars to cover zucchini, leaving 1/2-inch space on top. Wipe rims, seal and process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes. Allow at least a week to pickle before eating. Makes 2 quarts.
From Bon Appetit, August issue, recipe by Kevin West.
ZUCCHINI NOODLES4 small zucchini
1 cup prepared pasta sauce OR creamy low-fat salad dressing
Run a vegetable peeler down the length of zucchini, creating long strips ("noodles"). Steam or microwave 2 minutes; toss with pasta sauce or salad dressing.
From "The EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook," by EatingWell.