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Is zucchini worth eating? ;-)

b
bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 06:22 AM

This is a 2-part question.

1) Does zucchini have any nutritional value?

2) Is there any way to cook zucchini that makes it better than so-so? This is the main problem I have with the vegetable. I find it blah. Watery, fairly tasteless. Occasionally I'll grill it, and the grill flavour makes it better, but the zucchini itself just doesn't produce much taste. Am I missing something?

Thanks!

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  1. FoodChic RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 06:50 AM

    I sauté mine with garlic, olive oil , S&P, and top with blue cheese crumbles. It's wonderful.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FoodChic
      Cookiepants RE: FoodChic Nov 7, 2009 02:00 PM

      I am totally addicted to Zucchini fried in butter and topped with lots of Parm Chese on top. Blue cheese sounds wonderful! Ill have to try that.

    2. g
      gordeaux RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 07:19 AM

      No, you're not missing anything. I like it grilled, or sauteed in a super hot pan.
      Decent amount of fiber, and a good amt of vitamin C

      1. JEN10 RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 07:36 AM

        zucchini bread is awesone, my husband likes it sauted as FoodChic but with cheddar and salsa as a topping. I like the idea of blue cheese, I will try that next time. Marinated and grilled with other veggies with good cheese on a panini, oh ya!

        1. linguafood RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 08:30 AM

          I just recently made kolokithokeftedes, also known as zucchini fritters: grated zucchini mixed with fresh mint, feta, a bit of flour & panko and one egg. Drop into oil and fry golden brown. Dip into tsatsiki, and it's heaven.

          It's also great as carpaccio, sliced paper-thin, and drizzled with olive oil or walnut oil. Add some crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts. OK, I guess I'm one of those people who really like zukes. My favorite prep is grilled and marinated with olive oil & herbs.

          1 Reply
          1. re: linguafood
            paulj RE: linguafood Oct 11, 2009 08:42 PM

            There's a Chow recipe for this carpaccio style. I like to use the smallest gray Mexican squash (like zucchini, but with lighter skin, and slight taper) for this. But I also taste a slice first, to make sure it isn't bitter.

            Today I mixed oil, vinegar, salt and pepper on a pretty plate, and then arranged the squash slice on top of that, along with colorful slices of bell pepper and tomato. It's an easy way to create a visually pleasing salad.

          2. mbfant RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 08:53 AM

            I would guess that your problem is that you are using zucchini that isn't very good to start with. First of all, try to get it on the small side. The larger it gets, the more water, more seeds, and less flavor it has. Then, look for varieties that are striped and ridged and shades of light green. Here in Rome, where I live, the zucchine romanesche, are far superior to the ordinary dark green, smooth-skinned ones. I have seen romanesche types in the US in farmers markets, but the farmers tend to let them get too large and seem to be unaware that they are not exploiting an excellent variety. I believe there are Mexican varieties that are comparable.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mbfant
              f
              foreignmuck RE: mbfant Oct 11, 2009 10:13 AM

              Actually its one of my favourite vegetables.

              I usaually slice them, stick them in a roasting dish, coat in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, mixed herbs and sometimes throw in a whole garlic clove (with skin on) to add a bit of flavour. then bake in the oven for about 20-30 mins.

              This draws out the moisture and you get a great result.

            2. b
              bellywizard RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 10:14 AM

              Thanks for the good ideas! I might try the fritters & bread. And I'll look for the small ones.
              Do you recommend sautéing quick & hot (crispy) or long & warm (soft)? Just curious.

              Topping them with robust ingredients sounds like a good way to make them edible. :-)

              5 Replies
              1. re: bellywizard
                kubasd RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 10:45 AM

                I love mine sauteed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and onion at a high heat. I add the oil,onions, salt, and pepper first until the onions start to turn brown. I then add the zucchini and crank the heat to get a slight char on the zucchini. Then i turn the burner off and add the garlic with a bit more s&p and cook the garlic with the residual heat without burning it....

                Or i marinate it in balsamic vinegar and grill it.

                layer it in a lasagne with ricotta, tomato sauce, spinach, and mozzarella

                raw sticks dipped in your favorite dip.

                yeah, def one of my favorites

                1. re: kubasd
                  scuzzo RE: kubasd Oct 11, 2009 05:21 PM

                  Get your brown on! I find browning zukes to add a ton of great flavor! But don't brown the garlic.

                  1. re: scuzzo
                    kubasd RE: scuzzo Oct 11, 2009 05:24 PM

                    hence why i add it at the end :-) That bit of char in my mind mimics some of the flavor grill marks add, I don't consider it done before it has browned, hence the super high heat to avoid over cooking into mush. Can i say enough about how much i love zucchini?

                2. re: bellywizard
                  l
                  LauraGrace RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 12:41 PM

                  Hot! I think they key to zucchini is not overcooking it. Mushy zucchini is slimy, i.e. nasty! ;)

                  I've done fritters too -- a huge pile of grated zucchini with an egg and just enough flour to hold it together, salt and pepper and maybe a bit of cayenne. Fry until very crispy and serve hot.

                  I also think they're great with a tomato product of some kind. And of course they make a delicious addition to marinara sauce, especially when shredded. Also good in curries, stir-fries, and soups. Minestrone wouldn't be the same without zucchini!

                  1. re: bellywizard
                    alanbarnes RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 02:56 PM

                    I like it cooked until it begins to get soft but not mushy. At that stage it absorbs flavors like a sponge while still retaining its own shape, texture, and flavor.

                    As far as flavors go, onions, garlic, and olive oil are classic. So's ratatouille - add some tomato and eggplant. Yum.

                  2. linguafood RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 02:11 PM

                    ETA: It's also great raw in a salad combined with cukes. It has a bit of a nutty flavor, and adds interesting crunch(ier) texture.

                    1. k
                      karykat RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 03:32 PM

                      This is a quick side dish we really like. You cut the zucchini into matchsticks. Brown some slivered almonds in olive oil. (Watching carefully so it doesn't burn.) Then stir fry the zucchini in the oil and season.

                      Really fast, really easy and somehow it doesn't really taste like zucchini (in a good way):

                      http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/08/my-...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: karykat
                        cookieluvntasha RE: karykat Oct 15, 2009 06:49 AM

                        Or once you cut the zukes into matchsticks you can roll them in an egg wash, bread with italian bread crumbs (think 4c) and fry in very hot oil. Dip in horseradish sauce and you have zucchini fries!

                      2. pikawicca RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 03:37 PM

                        Young zucchini fresh from your local farmers' market is a delight, simply sauteed or grilled. Supermarket zucchini is meh, and I avoid it.

                        1. nofunlatte RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 03:42 PM

                          For a quick side dish, I simply sauté a small zucchini in a bit of olive oil, adding some thyme and finishing with a quick splash of red wine vinegar (not too much).

                          The advice given regarding zucchini size is well worth taking.

                          1. q
                            Querencia RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 04:49 PM

                            Try slicing it (unpeeled!), sauteeing it in real olive oil (sort of stir-fry, popping a cover on it between stirs so it cooks in its own juice), and serve it with grated Parmesan and some wedges of lemon or lime. It definitely has a flavor and this method keeps that flavor intense. Definitely not watery. My mother-in-law used to peel zucchini and boil it until it was dead: this method is the exact opposite of that.

                            1. u
                              uptown jimmy RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 05:52 PM

                              Lord have mercy. You must not be from the South. Round here, fried summer squash and fried zucchini are a staple. Love that stuff.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: uptown jimmy
                                t
                                Tripper RE: uptown jimmy Oct 11, 2009 06:22 PM

                                Love fried zucchini with apricot dipping sauce, pasta zucca with shredded zucchini, mascarpone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, chicken broth and garlic, and the Rick Bayless recipe for stuffed zucchini with corn, salsa and cilantro. I agree that alone it may not be the most exciting veggie...but it is fun to grow, prolific, and good to cook with.

                                1. re: uptown jimmy
                                  alanbarnes RE: uptown jimmy Oct 11, 2009 08:33 PM

                                  Fried zucchini. And all the rest of us asleep at the switch. Heads hang in shame. Thank you.

                                  And to offer a variation: zucchini tempura.

                                2. enbell RE: bellywizard Oct 11, 2009 06:24 PM

                                  Perhaps if you try browning it until crispy on the outside you may like it better. To answer your nutritional question, yes it has nutritional benefits
                                  http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/ve...
                                  I really enjoy zucchini actually, as it take on a variety of flavor profiles with minimal effort. Do you actually hate it or do you just need more ideas?

                                  1. p
                                    phoenikia RE: bellywizard Oct 12, 2009 08:55 AM

                                    Slicing/dicing/shredding the zukes, salting them, letting them drain for 30 minutes in a colander, squeezing, rinsing, then squeezing dry, before using in recipes (especially in fried/baked recipes) brings out the zucchini flavour, and adds a firmer texture to zucchini. Not watery or tasteless at all, if you take these steps.

                                    1. c
                                      chitodc RE: bellywizard Oct 14, 2009 01:41 PM

                                      I make what I think of as zucchini hash browns. I grate way more zucchini than I think I will need, sprinkle salt (lightly), let stand, squeeze out the water (someone else mentioned that and it is KEY), repeat until I successfully get most of the excess moisture out, mix together with a big handful of pecorino romano. I spread it out in a heated pan w/ a little bit of olive oil and let it cook until brown, then flip and do the other side. Yum!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: chitodc
                                        scuzzo RE: chitodc Oct 16, 2009 08:52 PM

                                        I tried this this a.m., as you described, but used some dry Mexican cheese instead and this was wicked! Thanks a ton for sharing. I'll be adding this to my arsenal. I didn't even add that much cheese. Excellent.

                                      2. l
                                        lgss RE: bellywizard Oct 14, 2009 06:07 PM

                                        I made a modified version of Quinoa/Mango Salad from Hippy Gourmet cookbook tonight for supper. It calls for lettuce, which I currently have to avoid, so I substituted zucchini.

                                        Other ideas: Top it with hummus!
                                        Saute it with onion, garlic, mushrooms, (broccoli or snow peas), and red bell pepper and serve with tamari.

                                        Make zucchini bread, carrot/zucchini bread, or zucchini/tahini bread. I think it's Vegan Lunchbox cookbook which has a recipe for muffins which contain both zucchini and banana.

                                        1. ChristinaMason RE: bellywizard Oct 19, 2009 04:32 PM

                                          This will sound weird, but zucchini is really tasty in fajitas. It adds this buttery, creamy quality to the mix and absorbs the flavors of the sauce really well.

                                          My favorite way to do it is to slice some peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini into bite-sized pieces. Get the peppers and onions searing in a very hot pan with a little oil (can add a pinch of sugar to enhance caramelization). When these are about halfway done, toss in the zucchini and mushrooms. Season everything with lots of cumin, black pepper, smoked paprika or chipotle, some fresh garlic, dried orange peel, and a pinch of cayenne. Add sliced marinated meat (if using).

                                          When everything is cooked through, whisk about 1 tsp. flour with about 1/4 c. water or broth and a splash of soy sauce in a cup. Stir this into the pan and cook another minute or two to create a sauce.

                                          Zucchini is also good in curries, for similar reasons.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ChristinaMason
                                            paulj RE: ChristinaMason Oct 19, 2009 07:05 PM

                                            Speaking of fajitas, finishing zucchini with a bit of lime and freshly chopped cilantro gives it a nice Mexican touch.

                                            1. re: paulj
                                              d
                                              dfrostnh RE: paulj Oct 20, 2009 05:42 AM

                                              We love zucchini and home grown is better than supermarket but with winter, supermarket is better than none. For plain zucchini, I try not to overcook it. After draining it, I let is rest while I finish other things. Then I drain a second time because more water is coming out of it and I don't like to serve it sitting in a bed of liquid.

                                              I think I love zucchini so much because it is so versatile and works so well with other things whether a stir fry or this year's newly discovered zucchini potato gratin flavored with fresh oregano and parsley. If a garden zucchini gets too big, it gets grated into some kind of baked goodie. This year I grew a variety with grey stripes and ribs and agree that it was a better tasting squash.

                                          2. roxlet RE: bellywizard Oct 20, 2009 07:07 AM

                                            We rarely make zucchini at home, but in Cairo they have these small, white zucchini and my son has become completely addicted and asks for some almost ever night. Who know. I slice them fairly thinly in rounds and saute in olive oil in a pretty hot pan. When they are almost done and fairly nicely browned, I just strew some fairly finely chopped garlic, cook it a minute or so, and serve. Very simple, very tasty and very popular just now!

                                            1. plum RE: bellywizard Oct 20, 2009 07:14 AM

                                              My dad loved zucchini so much he planted fourteen hills of it every year - I developed a very bad attitude toward zucchini! My problem was mainly textural - I don't like its seeds, and I hate soggy squashes. Then I married someone whose favourite vegetable hands-down was the dreaded marrow itself - and over time, I learnt to love zucchini myself.

                                              Part of the battle is buying small, crisp zucchini - they're not very seedy to begin with. If it's the size of your own forearm, forget it.

                                              You can improve the texture before sauteeing by chopping the zucchini up, salting very well, letting it drain half an hour, rinsing it and wringing it out in a tea towel or patting it dry using multiple layers of paper towels - after doing this, you can sautee it very crisp with surprisingly little olive oil and then top it with some fresh herbs.

                                              Another technique that has worked very well for me is the Cooks Illustrated ratatouille recipe. I liked the recipe so much I stole its roasting technique and use that all the time just to make roast zucchini.

                                              This recipe calls for slicing zucchini up into 1" wedges, tossing with olive oil/salt, and roasting at 500F for 30-40 minutes. Every ten minutes, switch the baking sheets top to bottom and rotate front to back. To minimize sticking, I line the baking sheets with oiled tinfoil, don't crowd, and make sure each zucchini wedge is SKIN DOWN (the seedy/fleshy bit tends to stick). The high heat produces a lovely roasted zucchini with just charred-enough skin. (You can mix half and half with eggplant, but the eggplant must be salted, drained and patted very dry first. Both ways are very good!)

                                              Another thing I make all the time is a Persian zucchini omelette called kuku. For this, you grate zucchini coarsely, salt it very well, let it weep out all the juices, and then wring the bloody hell out of it with a tea towel. Really - two pounds of zucchini compresses to large baseball size. Then fluff it up, mix it with eggs, a few spoonfuls of flour, as much chopped parsley/dill/coriander leaves/mint as you like, and bake it in a buttered dish at 400F or fry it up into a solid cake-sized omelette with butter in a good nonstick pan. Serve it with plain yogurt. It makes a very good lunchtime leftover, and can be eaten hot or room-temperature.

                                              Consider so-called "yellow zucchini", which is really a related marrow, sometimes with a crookneck - I think it has a nicer texture than green zucchini, a bit denser and crisper. I think it has a slightly sweeter flavour too, but this may be interpolation on my part because it's just so pretty.

                                              On a related note, consider an Asian squash called bottle gourd - it has a similar mild flavour, but stays absolutely tender-crisp when cooked. You might like the texture a lot more - this squash is beloved in southern Italy for a reason! Bottle gourd has a million different names - cucuzza, opo, lauki, dudhi, huzi, calabash etc - and can be found in nearly any Asian grocery. It needs to be peeled and unless very young, you need to cut out the spongy center. I like to braise it in a spicy tomato sauce and use it as a stuffing for roast fish.

                                              1. EbonyEyedEnigma RE: bellywizard Oct 23, 2009 10:36 AM

                                                1 - Zucchini helps to cure asthma as it contains Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
                                                Helps to prevent diseases, like scurvy, bruising etc., caused by the deficiency of Vitamin C.
                                                Eating zucchini also helps to support the arrangement of capillaries. Regular intake of zucchini effectively lowers high homocysteine levels. Prevents the risk of having multiple sclerosis (MS).
                                                It contains useful amounts of folate, potassium, and vitamin A, necessary for a human body. Contains Vitamin C and lutein, both of which are good for eyes.
                                                Zucchinis have high water content (over 95%), so they make perfect food for people on diet. One medium-sized zucchini has just 25 calories, making it an ideal stomach-filler.

                                                2 - Zucchini makes great breads or a cakes.
                                                Put in any salad, and top with some Balsamic Vinegar instead of cream based salad dressings.
                                                In a Vegetarian Lasagna, do not forget to add a dash or two of Red Pepper Flakes.
                                                Cut or grate into small slivers and add into a type of slaw.
                                                Use as a side or appetizer, with sliced Jicama and Celery, sprinkled with Cayenne Pepper, Salt and Lime Juice.
                                                I generally like my zucchini sautéed in butter, with onions and garlic and top with some Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, or in a stir fry with a lot of other vegetables.
                                                However, everyone else in my home - or those visiting ... Prefer to have it deep fried in my cayenne and garlic tempura batter, then dipped in my homemade chipotle mayonnaise.

                                                Basically, it really depends if someone is growing it, or if I am purchasing it from the Market. If they are giving me a few, or giving me a box full - but we can always think of great ways to enjoy the zucchini!~!!

                                                Be well,
                                                Annie

                                                1. MandalayVA RE: bellywizard Oct 23, 2009 10:53 AM

                                                  Go to Bed Bath and Beyond and get a OXO julienne peeler (they're about six bucks), or you can use a zester. Run it over a zucchini until you get to the seed core. Saute the strands in butter or olive oil until softened. You can actually twirl this like spaghetti and I've even topped it with sauce, sausage and meatballs.

                                                  1. s
                                                    sarahNC RE: bellywizard Oct 23, 2009 12:39 PM

                                                    I found a recipe called Zucchini Pasta in the NY times last year that has become our all-time favorite. It's deceptively simple - use a vegetable peeler to make wide, thin ribbons of zucchini (cutting down all four sides until you get to the seeds in the middle). A little olive oil in a skillet, a little garlic if you like, salt and pepper. Cook just until the ribbons soften, seve with a splash of fresh lemon juice. It's even better cold, seriously! I don't know why this preparation is so much better than stir frying or grilling, but we think it's amazing.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sarahNC
                                                      ChristinaMason RE: sarahNC Oct 26, 2009 02:22 AM

                                                      I tried this recipe last night, and found it to be just OK. I can see how someone avoiding pasta might like it as a substitute, though. Also, maybe my zucchini were too industrial. Who knows.

                                                    2. l
                                                      lil magill RE: bellywizard Oct 26, 2009 08:49 AM

                                                      I cut mine lengthwise then on a diagonal making thick slices so the shape is a bit more interesting than blah, then sautee in olive oil tossing with onion rings until just before the last bit of crispness is gone.... (and please don't tell, but i use adobo -- the salt, garlic, pepper and cumin blend in the import aisle). one minute before it's done i throw in fresh spinach to wilt. nice combination and it perks up the plate too!

                                                      1. ChefJune RE: bellywizard Oct 26, 2009 10:53 AM

                                                        I like to shred it, saute in butter with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. A topping of freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino is tasty, too.

                                                        1. c
                                                          condie RE: bellywizard Oct 27, 2009 06:23 AM

                                                          Zucchini is nutritious and versatile. It has a wonderfully subtle flavor that complements virtually any recipe that includes meat and veggies. Recipes including zucchini are endless. Grill it, smoke it, fry it, or bake it. Add it to chili, soups and sauces, or use it to top pizza. Use it in pasta or lettuce salads.
                                                          Our favorite is a casserole with zucchini, onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, herbs and spices, parmesan and tomatoes placed in layers. The bottom layer is something to absorb the moisture – toast, dried mushrooms, etc. The top layer is Co-Jack or cheddar cheese and sprinkled with paprika for color, added after the casserole is finished cooking a few minutes before serving.

                                                          1. s
                                                            sccrash RE: bellywizard Nov 7, 2009 06:59 PM

                                                            Saute with onions and garlic till lightly brown, add salsa and some cheese, and even kids eat it.

                                                            1. chef chicklet RE: bellywizard Nov 8, 2009 03:15 PM

                                                              oh yes, yes. And cook it with olive oil, fresh garlic, butter salt and pepper and a fair amount oregano, it's just delicious.

                                                              1. CHEFINTHECLOSET RE: bellywizard Nov 18, 2009 06:33 PM

                                                                I make my own 10 minute ratatouille with zucchini. One large very fresh zucchini peeled, sliced in 1/2 inc slowly sauted in good olive oil. Add thin slices of shallots. Fry until golden brown on each side. Add salt/pepper and about 1/2 cup of good spaghetti sauce. Cook until heated through and bubbly. Serve as a side dish with omelets, roast, or chicken. Yummy.

                                                                1. m
                                                                  miki RE: bellywizard Nov 18, 2009 08:06 PM

                                                                  Zucchini pie, one of my husband's specialities. It explains itself: A pie crust, layers of zucchini, whatever else you want (sausage, onion) and pasta sauce. Top with cheese.

                                                                  Yum.

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