Author: Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County
Whether 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 University of Minnesota Extension.
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 Tricks with Zucchini
- Freezing 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.
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.
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Number of Servings: 4
- Cups of Fruits and Vegetables Per Person: 1.0
- 1 teaspoon whipped light butter*
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 small (6-in/15cm) zucchini, thinly sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- freshly ground pepper
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.
4 servings, about 1-1/2 cups each
- 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
- Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.
- Drain tuna.
- Wash vegetables. Chop zucchini; slice carrots into thin slices; dice onions.
- Mix macaroni, tuna, and vegetables together in mixing bowl. Stir in salad dressing.
- 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.
Makes 4 servings
(Source: American Institute for Cancer Research)
- 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
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.
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).
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Return beef to skillet. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese; heat through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese before serving.