In spite of Michigan’s heat and drought, many of us have still found the time and resources to faithfully water and attend to our backyard gardens. And the fruits of our labors are beginning to pay off with, among other vegetables, zucchini, one of the most popular homegrown garden vegetables and certainly one of the most versatile.
From sauté to soup, casseroles to desserts, zucchini’s appealing taste and nutritious attributes lend themselves to recipes of nearly every culture and preparation style.
Also known by the name “Courgette” (France, Ireland and the United Kingdom), the zucchini is typically harvested at approximately 8” to 10” in length but can grow to 3 feet or longer if allowed to. Another related hybrid, the Golden Zucchini, is deep yellow or almost orange in color and has a similar taste and texture.
Unlike many foods we eat in the U.S. but like most squash, the zucchini actually has its origins in the Americas. The actual variety of squash we now call zucchini, however, was developed in Italy (some believe near Milan) many generations after its introduction back to the “Old World” from the “New World.”
In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is a fruit, just like the tomato.
Although it can be enjoyed raw like a cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, but it can also be cooked using a number of other techniques, including steaming, boiling, grilling, stuffing and baking, barbecuing, deep frying, or incorporating in other recipes, such as soufflés. It can also be baked into bread or incorporated into a cake mix. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep-fried as tempura.
Before I share with you a couple of new recipes, you might want to check out a few recipes that are already on Nino’s website including:
And review Nino’s Squash Guide, which gives you more information about other varieties of squash.
Now, on to my new recipes:
First up, we have a delicious soup, incorporating zucchini and fresh basil. Garnished with a dollop of sour cream and some finely julienned zucchini, carrot and yellow squash, it tastes as great as it looks.
Zucchini Basil Soup
(Makes about 2 Quarts)
2 Lbs Zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces 3/4 Cup Sweet onion, chopped 2 Each Garlic cloves, chopped 1/4 Cup Olive oil 4 Cups Chicken broth (or stock) ½-Cup Fresh basil leaves To Taste Salt & pepper To Garnish Sour cream To Garnish Finely julienned raw carrot, zucchini & yellow squash (approx 1 TBSP each per serving)
In a soup pot, add olive oil and bring up to a medium heat.
Add onion, and sweat for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not brown.
Add garlic and zucchini, and sweat until glazed and slightly softened.
Add chicken broth, and bring soup to a gentle simmer.
After 10 minutes, add basil and continue to cook until zucchini is tender (approximately 30 minutes). Do not cover.
Allow to cool until mixture can be placed in a blender (30 to 45 minutes).
Blend soup until smooth. Strain if desired, and then return soup to the original soup pot and reheat.
Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Serve in shallow soup bowls with a garnish of sour cream and a julienne of zucchini, carrot and yellow squash.
The next recipe is a classic “Quick Bread” using zucchini as a key ingredient. It’s a delicious breakfast treat or goes exceptionally well with any cream cheese frosting you buy or make from scratch.
Zucchini Carrot Bread
(Makes 1 – 9” Loaf)
3 Cups All-purpose flour 1 TBSP Baking soda ½ Tsp Ground cinnamon 1 ¼ Cups Granulated sugar ½ Tsp Salt ¼ Cup Poppy seeds 4 Each Egg, extra large, beaten 1 Cups Vegetable oil 2 Tsp Vanilla extract 1 ½ Cups Carrot grated 1 ½ Cups Zucchini grated ¾ Cups Dried currants (or raisins)
Sift the first 5 dry ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir in the poppy seeds.
Combine the eggs, oil and vanilla, add to the above mixture and stir in until smooth.
Squeeze out the moisture from the grated carrots and zucchini, and stir, with the currants, into the mixture.
Turn batter into a greased and floured 9” loaf pan, and bake approximately 45 minutes at 350 F or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Wrap tightly in plastic film and store refrigerated until served.
I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes — let me know how you liked them.
Until then, keep the watering hose at the ready and enjoy the bounty of Michigan’s backyard harvest.