A zest for zucchini

 | September 8, 2012

I passed a fellow at a farmers’ market who had just picked up what looked like a 20 pound zucchini, and I think I might have drooled a little. Slipping into a daydream of the things I could make with that much zucchini, so much time passed that I missed my opportunity to buy one for myself. Images of zucchini loaves, cake, fritters, pancakes, pasta, and salads floated in front of my eyes.

Being such a versatile vegetable, zucchini is a staple on my grocery list and it’s eaten in some form or another almost daily in our house.

As a kid I hated zucchini and didn’t want anything to do with it, I would even turn away from chocolate cake if I knew it was made with this green vegetable, yet now I love it and look for ways I can add it to meals.

Grated zucchini is amazing for sweet treats and baked goods, adding extra moisture but not extra calories. For a savory breakfast, there’s zucchini feta pancakes, carrot and zucchini fritters or, my favorite, spinach and zucchini quiche. It’s an excellent addition to pasta dishes or it can simply be grilled on the barbecue.

Also known as courgette, zucchini is a summer squash that grows on the vine. A male flower grows on the plant’s stem while a female flower grows on the blossom end of the vegetable. These female flowers are typically removed from the zucchini once picked, however the male and female flowers are edible and can be cooked or simply used as a garnish. These green and yellow squash are very nutritious and contain beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and vitamin B6.

Now I may have missed out on that beautiful, organic fresh zucchini, but I’ll definitely be first in line at this weekend’s market, and since the farmers’ market season will be wrapping up soon, I may even buy a few!

One of my favorite ways to eat zucchini is also one of the simplest, I hope you’ll try it, and I’m sure you’ll like it as much as I do.

1 to 2 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup chopped tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
With a small spoon, scoop out pulp and seeds from halved zucchini to form a boat.
Add cheddar to zucchini, then top with tomatoes, basil and parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until zucchini are soft to pierce and cheese is melted. Let cool slightly, and enjoy.
Feeling adventurous?  Try Monterey Jack cheese instead of cheddar, a sprinkle of chili flakes after the tomatoes, or drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes mixed with pine nuts and feta in lieu of chopped tomatoes. You could even go with some chopped chickpeas for a different combination.