What to Do with Zucchini!

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Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Got Zucchini?

zucchini with tomatoesWhether purchasing or picking zucchini -- choose firm, slender zucchini with a bright green color and free of wrinkled skin and soft spots. For best quality, harvest zucchini when it is young and tender, about 6 to 8 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter.

As zucchini gets longer and bigger around, it becomes tougher and develops more seeds. These larger zucchini can be used to make zucchini bread; scoop out seeds and pulp with the tip of a spoon.

Store unwashed zucchini in perforated plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator; wash zucchini just before preparation. "You can either purchase perforated plastic bags or make small holes with a sharp object in unperforated plastic bags (about 20 holes per medium-size bag)," according to the Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center, Department of Pomology, University of California, Davis.

For best quality, use zucchini within about three to four days. Wash the squash just before preparation. Zucchini makes a quick addition to meals as it doesn't have to be peeled!

Before you try to give your zucchini away, here are some suggestions plus four recipes:

Quick Links:

Quick Tricks with Zucchini

The Produce for Better Health Foundation suggests:

  • Slice, marinate (try balsamic vinegar) and grill a variety of vegetables including zucchini, asparagus, green onions, eggplant, and mushrooms. They’re delicious!
  • Cut up veggies like carrots, zucchini and potatoes. Add them to your favorite meatloaf or soup recipes.
  • Take your favorite lasagna recipe and try adding different combinations of your favorite vegetables between the layers: mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, onions, or eggplant. Be creative.

Additional tips include:

  • Add raw zucchini to lettuce and pasta salads.
  • Cut zucchini into sticks and serve with a dip.
  • Slice zucchini, saute in oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes until tender crisp; toss into heated pasta sauce for a veggie-packed pasta topping.

Freezing Zucchini

To freeze grated zucchini for baking, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends: Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch (directions below) in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze. If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.

To steam blanch: Use a pot with a tight lid and a basket that holds the food at least three inches above the bottom of the pot. Put an inch or two of water in the pot and bring the water to a boil. Put the vegetables in the basket in a single layer so that steam reaches all parts quickly. Cover the pot and keep heat high. Start counting steaming time as soon as the lid is on.

Recipes

Skillet Zucchini with Chopped Tomatoes

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fruits and Veggies Matter Website)

Recipe Summary:

  • Preparation Time:  10 minutes
  • Number of Servings:  4
  • Cups of Fruits and Vegetables Per Person:  1.0

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon whipped light butter*
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 small (6-in/15cm) zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet, melt margarine over medium heat; add onions and cook, stirring until softened. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender-crisp. Season to taste with pepper.

*Alice’s notes: If you don’t have whipped light butter, substitute a teaspoon of vegetable oil.


Tuna Pasta Salad


4 servings, about 1-1/2 cups each

(Source: Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion)

  • 2 cups macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 6-1/2 ounce cans tuna, canned, water-pack
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup salad dressing, mayonnaise-type
  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Drain tuna.
  3. Wash vegetables. Chop zucchini; slice carrots into thin slices; dice onions.
  4. Mix macaroni, tuna, and vegetables together in mixing bowl. Stir in salad dressing.
  5. Chill until ready to serve.

Alice's Notes: Drain and rinse the pasta under cold, running water until cool. To allow flavors to blend, chill the salad for about a half hour to an hour before serving.


Lemon Rosemary Zucchini


Makes 4 servings

(Source: American Institute for Cancer Research and featured in the revised edition of The New American Plate.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini (2 medium)
  • 1-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In medium non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper and rosemary and saute 2 minutes. Add zucchini and salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to saute for another 4 to 5 minutes or until zucchini is just tender. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Nutritional Information: Per serving: 46 calories, 3 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 6 mg sodium.


Beef & Parmesan Pasta


Makes 4 servings

(Source: Kaiti Roeder, RD, Nebraska Beef Council and Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association - Beef, It's What's for Dinner. For more recipes made with zucchini, enter the word "zucchini" in the Nebr. Beef Council's recipe search feature and at www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com).

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 can (14 to 14-1/2 ounces) ready-to-serve beef broth
  • 1 can (15-1/2 ounces) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
  • 2 cups sliced zucchini (1/4-inch)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Brown ground beef in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is not pink, breaking up into 3/4-inch crumbles. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off drippings.
  2. Combine broth, tomatoes and pasta in same skillet, pushing pasta into liquid; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in zucchini; continue cooking 5 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  3. Return beef to skillet. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese; heat through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese before serving.