Summer Zucchini - Endless Feast

Posted: Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Because there are so many ways to prepare zucchini, from breakfast loaves, to dinnertime side dishes and appetizers, most of us never get tired of eating it. When moms want to "hide" the zucchini their kids won't eat, they'll often use it in cake, sometimes even one made with chocolate. And, as a hors d'oeuvre, who could possibly resist the temptations of piping hot golden fried zucchini strips? While fast growing zucchini is plentiful all year long, the time is right for seeking out young zucchinis that measure no more than six inches in length and two inches in diameter. Although zucchinis are edible no matter their level of maturity, those of diminutive size possess the sweetest flesh, smallest seeds, and most tender skin. Zucchini's edible skin and seeds, in fact, is what differentiates it as "summer" squash, along with other summer squash varieties such as crookneck, straightneck, and pattypan. "Winter" squash, on the hand, like popular butternut, acorn and Hubbard squash, have hard rinds and seeds that must be removed before the squash can be eaten. Summers are not endless, but the ways in which we can eat summer squash are.

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Photo By Sue Ade
Photo By Sue Ade
No matter your plans for cooking with zucchini, be sure to select firm, slender zucchini with bright green color, free from bruises and soft spots. Small to medium zucchini (those no more than six inches in length and two inches in diameter) will have the thinnest, most tender skin, smallest seeds, and sweetest flesh.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at

Chocolate-Orange Zucchini Loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups canola oil

3 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 cup Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 medium zucchini, washed, grated, and drained of excess water*

Grated zest of one medium orange

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

1/2 cup chopped pitted fresh dates (use a scissor or "chopping" dates)

Confectioners' sugar, optional

Orange-Vanilla Icing, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. In a medium bowl, sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until blended. Add chocolate and oil; mix until blended. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing on low speed until just combined. By hand, fold in zucchini, orange zest, nuts and dates. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until wooden skewer inserted in center of loaves comes out clean. (Begin testing at earliest bake time.) Cool loaves on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out to finish cooling. (Loaves will cut better when cool.) Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Store, well wrapped, for up to 3 days, or freeze, in airtight wrap or a container, for up to 3 months.

*Kitchen Ade Note: The success of this recipe depends on the zucchini being well drained and squeezed dry of excess of water.

Zucchini Coins with White Balsamic Vinegar and Fresh Mint

2 medium zucchinis, washed, dried, ends trimmed

Safflower, peanut, or canola oil

White balsamic vinegar

Fresh mint leaves, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour oil into a large heavy skillet to a depth that comes halfway up the sides of the pan; heat oil to 375 degrees. While oil is heating, slice zucchinis into paper-thin slices and place slices on a paper towel to keep them as dry as possible. (Do not slice zucchini ahead of time, or the slices will become too watery for frying.)

Working in batches and being careful not to crowd zucchini, fry zucchini until golden brown, turning once or twice for even browning. When brown on both sides, remove zucchini to a paper-towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. (If not using zucchini right away, place zucchini on a cookie sheet and keep warm in oven.) Serve zucchini coins on a platter or individual dishes with splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of minced mint.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Fried Zucchini with Lemon

Safflower, peanut, or canola oil

3 medium zucchini, washed, dried, ends trimmed

All-purpose flour, for dredging

2 large eggs, beaten, for dipping

Plain dry breadcrumbs, for coating

Salt and pepper

Lemon wedges, for serving

Cut zucchinis in half (lengthwise), then into 1/4-inch diagonal slices. Dredge zucchini slices (one at a time) in flour, then dip into egg, letting excess drip off. After slices are dipped in egg, thoroughly coat each slice with breadcrumbs. Place slices in a single layer on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in large, heavy skillet, then heat to 375 degrees. When oil is hot, fry zucchini slices, in batches, until deep golden brown.* Drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve fried zucchini slices hot with lemon wedges.

*Kitchen Ade Note: If some breadcrumbs fall off the zucchini slices during frying and begin to burn, change the oil, as needed.)

Makes 6 servings.

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