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Zucchini one of most versatile fruits in the kitchen

Do you remember how your Mamma encouraged you to eat your vegetables?

Well, there was a good reason for it.

Most of us know that veggies are good for us – some more than others.  Zucchini ranks higher on the nutritional scale. In addition to a long list of health-enhancing benefits, zucchini proves quite versatile in the kitchen.

But first – we need a botany lesson. While most people think zucchini’s a vegetable – it’s not.  Zucchini’s classified as a fruit.

And zucchini doesn’t just go both ways – it goes all ways.  What’s better than a food that’s tasty as an appetizer, salad, bread, meat combo, side dish, relish, or pickled – and is equally delicious for dessert?

Not many foods carry this distinction of versatility so well.

While zucchini can grow to more than 3 feet long, they’re best harvested when immature and small. When I was a teen, Mama would send me to the grocery to buy squash – with exact instructions every time.

“Buy the smallest ones they have – they taste better.”

As usual, Mama was right. As a general rule, the smaller ones pack greater flavor.

CASSEROLE OF ZUCCHINI

4 beaten eggs

½ cup whole milk

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 lb. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 oz. diced green chilies

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

3 lbs. steamed, cubed zucchini

1 ½ cup bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. salted butter

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, salt, and baking powder. Mix well. Fold in cheese, chilies, parsley, and cooked zucchini. Stir to mix well. Butter grease sides and bottom of an oven dish, and evenly spread ½ cup of bread crumbs over bottom. Pour mixture into dish, and sprinkle top with remaining bread crumbs. Dot with butter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS

1 beaten egg

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 ¼ cups whole milk

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 medium, grated, drained zucchini

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

3 Tbsp. grated onion

3 crushed cloves garlic

2 Tbsp. minced parsley

Wesson vegetable oil

In a mixer bowl, beat egg and add olive oil. Add flour and baking powder while alternating with milk. Salt and pepper. Fold in cheese and zucchini. Mix well. Add onion, garlic, and parsley, and mix well. In a skillet, heat oil to a deep-fry stage and drop in batter by spoonfuls. Fry until golden. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Salt to taste. Keep warm until all are cooked. Serve immediately.

FRESH ZUCCHINI SOUP WITH CHEESE

5 Tbsp. salted butter

1 chopped onion

2 minced cloves garlic

6 small, sliced zucchini

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chopped rosemary

1-quart chicken broth

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ cup white wine

¾ cup grated white melting cheese

¼ cup sherry

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup grated raw zucchini for garnish

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes until translucent.  Thinly slice zucchini and sprinkle with salt. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Drain off water and pat dry. Add to butter mixture and cook for 5 minutes. Add rosemary, broth, lemon juice, and wine. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, and puree in a food processor. Add puree to a pot and add melting cheese of your choice and sherry. Simmer and stir for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and grated zucchini.

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD

1½ sticks softened, salted butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa

2½ tsp. baking powder

1½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ cup whole milk

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts.

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition, and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon while alternating with milk. Mix well. Fold in grated zucchini and chopped nuts. Mix well. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven in 2 well-greased and floured loaf pans for 1 hour or until done. Cool on rack.

ZUCCHINI RELISH

10 cups finely chopped zucchini

2 cups finely chopped carrots

2 cups finely chopped green pepper

3 cups finely chopped yellow onion

¼ cup kosher salt

2 cups cider vinegar

4 cups sugar

2 tsp. celery seed

1 ½ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. nutmeg

Paste of 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and water

In a large crock, combine zucchini, carrots, green pepper, and onion with salt. Allow to stand for 24 hours and then drain.  In a large pot, combine vinegar, sugar, celery seed, pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, and a paste made of cornstarch and water.  Add drained vegetables and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Spoon into sterilized jars. Store in a cool place.

FRENCH-FRIED ZUCCHINI

8 small zucchini

½ cup flour

2 cups Wesson vegetable oil

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Peel zucchini with vegetable peeler. Cut into matchsticks or slices. Dredge sticks in flour. Shake off excess flour. In an electric skillet, heat oil to 375-degrees. Fry a handful of zucchini sticks at a time for 3 minutes or until light brown. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper sack or paper towels. Keep warm in oven while frying remaining sticks. Salt and pepper to taste. To reheat, spread sticks on a baking rack on baking sheet. Warm in a 350-degree oven.

ZUCCHINI REFRIGERATOR PICKLES

2 lbs. unpeeled, fresh zucchini

1 thinly sliced, cut in half lemon

1 chopped red pepper

½ cup sliced onion

1 Tbsp. salt

2 tsp. celery seed

¾ cup sugar

½ cup fresh lemon juice

Cut washed zucchini into thin, 1/8th-inch thick slices. In a bowl, combine zucchini, lemon red pepper, onion, salt, and celery seed. Gently toss to combine. Allow to stand 1 hour. In another bowl, combine sugar and fresh lemon juice, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over vegetables. Refrigerate while covered for 24 hours. Serve as a relish with cold meats.

STEAMED ZUCCHINI WITH GARLIC OIL

3 medium zucchini, sliced ¼-inch

1 ½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 pressed, large garlic cloves

1/8th tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/8th tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Trim ends of zucchini and cut into slices. Put into steamer basket. Steam for 7 minutes over boiling water.  While steaming, in a skillet, heat olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes for 4 minutes over medium heat. Remove zucchini from basket and dry on paper towels. Place in a bowl. Add garlic oil, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

SAUTEED ZUCCHINI OVER RICE

2 Tbsp. salted butter

4 cups chopped zucchini

1 cup chopped onion

½ tsp. salt

2 cups fresh tomatoes

4 oz. green chilies

2 cups cooked rice

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

In a skillet, melt butter. Add squash, onion, salt, and tomatoes. Cook 15 minutes over medium heat while occasionally stirring. Add chilies and cook 5 more minutes. Spoon over rice. Sprinkle with cheese.

RICE STUFFED ZUCCHINI

1 ½ lbs. zucchini (6 small)

Salted boiling water

¼ cup salted butter

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 medium chopped onion

1 cup chopped fresh tomato

1 cup cooked white or other rice

½ tsp. dried oregano leaves

1 tsp. salt

1/8th tsp. cayenne

salt

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. In a small amount of boiling water with salt, cook zucchini for 5 minutes while covered just until barely tender. Drain well. Cool and scoop out seeds. In a skillet, melt butter, and saute garlic and onion while stirring until golden. Add tomato, rice, oregano, salt, and cayenne. Mix well. Sprinkle inside of each zucchini lightly with salt. Fill each zucchini half with rice mixture. Sprinkle each with parmesan cheese. Arrange in a single layer in a buttered baking dish. Bake uncovered in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Broil several minutes to brown top.

SAVORY STUFFED ZUCCHINI

2 medium zucchini

2 Tbsp. salted butter

3 Tbsp. chopped onion

1/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

½ cup chopped tomatoes

½ cup chicken broth

½ tsp. dried whole basil

½ tsp. dried whole thyme

1/8th tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 cup whole wheat bread cubes

3 tsp grated parmesan cheese

Steam whole zucchini 15 minutes or until tender. Slice zucchini lengthwise and scoop out pulp. Reserve pulp and shells and set aside. Coat large skillet with melted butter, and heat until hot. Saute onion and cook until transparent. Add mushrooms, tomatoes, and reserved zucchini pulp. Cook 5 minutes while stirring. Add broth and seasonings, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in bread cubes. Mix well. Fill zucchini shells with mixture. Arrange zucchini halves single layer in bottom of a buttered 13 x 9 pan. Bake uncovered in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. Broil several minutes to brown.

REUNION SQUASH CASSEROLE

8 medium zucchini, sliced ¼-inch

1 cup water

8 diced, cooked, drained, bacon slices

1 cup chopped onion

2 large minced garlic cloves

4 diced slices of bread

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Dash of pepper

15 oz. tomato sauce

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In saucepan, cook zucchini in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain well and set aside. In skillet, cook bacon pieces until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. To the skillet, add onion and garlic, and saute until tender. Drain off grease.  Stir onion and bacon mixture into drained zucchini. Add bread, cheese, salt, seasoning, pepper, and tomato sauce. Toss until well coated. Spoon into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dish. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

ZUCCHINI QUICHE

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1/8th tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. Crisco shortening

4 Tbsp. whole milk

1 beaten egg white

6 slices cooked, drained, crumbled bacon

¼ cup chopped green onion

½ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. salt

1/8th tsp. pepper

6 oz. shredded provolone cheese

4 beaten eggs

1 ¼ cups cream

½ cups cooked squash

For crust, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter and lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle in milk a little at a time until flour is moistened. Shape into a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to form a 13-inch circle. Line 9-inch pie plate and flute edges. Prick inside of crust with tines of fork. Brush with egg white. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10-13 minutes. Decrease oven to 350-degrees. For filling, cook bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble. Reserve 1 Tbsp. bacon fat and saute onion. Combine bacon, onions, and seasonings. Place in bottom of pie shell. Sprinkle with cheese. Combine eggs, cream, and squash. Pour over cheese. Bake 40-50 minutes or until knife tests clean. Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.