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10 delicious and inventive (courgette) zucchini recipes

Yellow and green zucchini with flowers still attached are a highlight of summer at local farmers markets
Yellow and green zucchini with flowers still attached are a highlight of summer at local farmers markets

The zucchini or courgette is a prolific vegetable that quickly grows to immense size, being both a blessing and a curse in the summer garden. Here are some delicious and inventive recipes for this persistent summer squash that may wow your family and guests. Several of these zucchini recipes freeze well, so they are a good way to get zucchini from garden to larder, and pull out during winter when the green vegetable becomes a more welcoming presence. If you have a lot of zucchini growing in your garden (or a helpful neighbor who leaves them furtively on your doorstep), consider also these 7 food preservation methods for zucchini.

Grilled Zucchini Feta Bites. Trim the ends and cut into thin slices (1/8-inch thick) 3 pounds zucchini. (A mandolin is very handy for this purpose.) Toss the zucchini slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and a few grindings of black pepper. Grill the zucchini medium high heat for 4-6 minutes, turning once, or until they're well marked and tender. Transfer to a plate. In a small bowl, crumble 6 ounces feta cheese and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilies or ground cayenne, and a big pinch of dried oregano. Mix with a fork until well blended. Spread a scant teaspoon of the feta cheese mixture on each zucchini slice, covering only about half of the zucchini. Starting with the end where you have spread the cheese, roll up the slice. Stand on end on a plate. If needed, secure with a toothpick. Can be made early in the day. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.Makes 25-30 pieces.

Zucchini ‘Monte Cristo’ Hors D’oeuvres. Most preparation can be done a day ahead. Prepare batter in a medium bowl: mix together 1 ½ cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 beaten egg. Whisking slowly, add about 1 cup beer, or enough to make a semi-thick, not too thin batter that will stick to the zucchini. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest in the refrigerator 3-12 hours. Slice 1 large zucchini (about 1 pound) thinly into 50-60 slices. (A mandolin slicer is very handy for this purpose.) Toss zucchini slices with 1 teaspoon salt and place in a strainer set over a bowl. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Cut about 2 ounces of thinly sliced ham and 2 ounces of thinly sliced firm cheese (such as Gouda or Emmentaler) into 25 one-inch squares. Set aside 25 small, fresh sage leaves. Press zucchini slices between towels until well dried. Stack two equal-size slices of zucchini together. Place on each pair: a thin slice of ham, a thin slice of cheese, and a sage leaf. The zucchini “stacks” may be placed on a towel-lined baking sheet, covered, and refrigerated overnight. Fry the Monte Cristos about 30 minutes before serving. Heat a large (10-12 inch) skillet over medium. Film the bottom of the skillet with oil, no more than 1/4-inch. Place about 1/2 cup flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Take one of the zucchini “stacks” and move one zucchini slices to the top to enclose the ham, cheese, and herb filling. Dredge the zucchini “sandwich” into the flour, turning once. Lift out and tap to shake off excess flour. Using a fork, drop the sandwich into the batter, turning once. Lift from the batter with a fork and let some of the excess batter drain. Slide the sandwich from the fork into the hot oil. Regulate the heat so the Monte Cristo’s bubble briskly. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side, until the batter is a light golden brown. Transfer to a towel lined plate to drain any excess oil. Wait 10 minutes before serving as the Monte Cristos are quite hot when coming out of the oil.

Zucchini Fritters (Latkes). Grate 1 pound zucchini (1 large or 2 medium). Toss shredded zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt and place in a strainer set over a small bowl. Drain for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini firmly without crushing to extract as much of the water as possible. In a clean, dry bowl, mix together the zucchini with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup minced onion, 1 large beaten egg, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, until well blended. Film a skillet with oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop the zucchini batter by spoonful’s into the skillet. Use one tablespoon for cocktail fritters, use two heaping tablespoons for side dish fritters. Fry fritters 1-2 minutes per side, or until they are light golden brown. Remove to a towel-covered plate to rest and soak up any excess moisture. Serve immediately or cool and freeze. Place cooled fritters in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. When solid (about 2 hours), transfer to a zipper-style freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Reheat frozen fritters in a covered skillet over medium low heat or in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, for 5-10 minutes or until heated through. Serve small fritters as hors d’oeuvres, topped with sour cream and smoked salmon. Serve large fritters as a side dish with grilled meats or thick stews. Makes 12-18 small fritters for hors d’oeuvres or 8 large fritters as a side dish, serving 4 people.

Italian Style Bean and Vegetable Soup. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. If a meat soup is desired, add 1 pound sliced (hot or mild) Italian sausage and sauté for several minutes or until meat is beginning to brown lightly. Add ½ large diced onion, 2 medium diced carrots, and 1 sliced celery stalk and continue to saute for 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables soften and begin to brown lightly. Add one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, one 15-ounce can drained cannellini beans, 4 cups water or homemade chicken broth, 2 cups sliced zucchini, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoons cider vinegar or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian herbs (basil, sage, rosemary, or oregano), and ½ teaspoon crushed dried chili pepper flakes. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 40 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and vinegar or lemon juice. Serve immediately, or cool soup, package, and freeze up to 6 months. Garnish with freshly chopped herbs or a sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Italian-style Pickled Zucchini. Trim the end and cut into quarters 2 pounds zucchini. In a large mixing bowl, toss zucchini spears with 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat zucchini dry with paper or cloth towels and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Heat a grill on medium-high heat and cook the zucchini 1-2 minutes per side, or until nicely marked on all sides. Set aside in a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Heat a small (unlined) skillet over high heat until hot. Off heat, add 1 tablespoon cumin seed, 1 tablespoon black or yellow mustard seed, and 1 teaspoon fenugreek seed to the hot pan and toss for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Transfer toasted spices to a grinder or mortar, add 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper and grind spices to a fine powder. In a small bowl whisk together the ½ cup cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger root, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and the ground spices. Taste and season as desired with additional sugar, salt, cayenne, or black pepper. Pour dressing over grilled and cooled zucchini, and toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week. Makes about 3 to 4 cups pickled zucchini.

Honey-Lemon Pickled Zucchini. Combine 1 ¼ cups thinly sliced small zucchini, 2⁄3 cup thinly sliced onions, and 1⁄3 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper strips in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon pickling salt. Cover with 2 inches of ice cubes. Refrigerate 4 hours, replenishing ice if needed. Drain, rinse, and drain again. In a medium saucepan, stir together 1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup honey, 1⁄2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1⁄2 teaspoon celery seeds, and 1⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Raise heat to high, and add drained vegetables. As soon as mixture returns to a boil, remove from heat and cool 30 minutes. Transfer pickles to a sterilized 1-pint canning jar. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Use within 1 month. Makes about 1 pint pickled zucchini.

Zucchini Chutney. In a heavy 4-6 quart saucepan, add 1 pound grated zucchini, 1/2 pound grated carrots, 1/2 pound finely chopped onion, 1 pound peeled and diced peaches or nectarines, 1 medium seeded and diced sweet red bell pepper OR 3-4 seeded and diced hot jalapeno peppers, 1 cup sugar, 1 ½ cups cider vinegar (5% acidity), 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, the mixture has reduced more than half, and the chutney is thick but saucy. Cool and refrigerate up to 1 month. Makes about 1 quart. Serve with crackers and cheese, grilled chicken or fish, or as a sandwich or burger spread.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Vegetables and Feta Cheese. Split 4 medium (about ½ pound each) zucchini and scoop out some of the flesh leaving a ¼-inch shell. Sprinkle each zucchini boat with salt and let stand while you prepare the filling. Sauté 4 cups chopped vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, corn, peas, green beans, etc.) in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5-8 minutes, or just until beginning to soften. Season vegetables with ½ to 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper or cayenne. Cool vegetables to room temperature. Using a towel, pat dry the zucchini boats.Toss vegetables with 4 to 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese and 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or chives. Fill zucchini boats with vegetables, packing lightly. Spoon 2-3 tablespoon (seasoned, plain, or marinara) tomato sauce over each zucchini boat. Zucchini boats may be frozen at this point; wrap in freezer-safe packaging and freeze for 2-3 months. Preheat oven to 350°F. Drizzle 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a shallow baking pan or baking sheet large enough to hold the zucchini boats in one layer. Place zucchini boats in the pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly (allow double time if reheating frozen stuffed zucchini). Serve warm or a room temperature as a side dish or vegetarian entrée.

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Goat Cheese. Pick or lightly brush off dirt or insects from the inside and outside of 8-10 large zucchini blossoms. Reach a finger inside and press firmly but gently to snap off the stamen, shake it out and discard it. Cut any long stems to 1/2 inch. Set blossoms aside. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese, 1 beaten egg, 1-3 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt. Add just enough sour cream or yogurt to moisten the mixture and bind everything together without making it too loose; the mixture should still hold its shape. Mix in 1 tablespoon sliced fresh chives. Preheat oven to 350°F. Drizzle just 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a shallow baking pan or baking sheet large enough to hold the zucchini blossoms in one layer. Using a small spoon, place 1-2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the lower portion of a zucchini blossom. Do not worry if the flower splits down the side. Twist the flower petals above the cheese and place in the oiled baking pan. Repeat with each blossom. Drizzle 2 teaspoons oil over the filled zucchini blossoms. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until puffed, hot, and bubbly. Let stand at least 10 minutes before transferring to a serving plate. Serve warm as a side dish, or cold on a bed of lightly dressed seasonal greens. Baked cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms may be frozen. Place cooled stuffed blossoms in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. When solid (about 2 hours), transfer to a zipper-style freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months. To served, simply thaw and serve cold or bake in a 350°F for 10 minutes or until heated through.

Zucchini Muffins or Quick Bread. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a muffin tin or 9x5 or 8x4 inch loaf pan. Sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt. In separate bowl, beat together ½ cup vegetable oil, 2 eggs, beaten, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup granulated sugar. Grate 2 cups unpeeled zucchini, place in a towel and squeeze to remove most of the moisture. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until almost all of the flour is incorporated. Add the shredded zucchini and ½ cup chopped roasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.) and continue to mix just until the flour is all incorporated. Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake muffins 20-25 minutes and loaf pan 50-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven, and cool pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert pan to remove muffins or bread; cool completely on the rack. Wrap (in foil or plastic) and store in the refrigerator up to one week, or freeze for longer storage. Bread may be sliced before freezing; freeze slices in a single layer until solid (about 2 hours), transfer to a zipper-style freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months.

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