Zucchini – Ways to Spice and Prepare This Prolific Garden Vegetable

Needless to say I will be giving away some of my summer squash (yellow zucchini) and tomatoes to friends again this year. But I do hate waste and I do love the taste of fresh veggies straight out of the garden. If you have to get your zucchini and summer squash from the store, remember to buy them medium-sized (7 inches). If you can easily cut the skin with your fingernail, then you know they are fresh.

Summer Squash and Zucchini as Appetizer

If you have crackers, you'll find that they make a great foundation for an easy finger food type of appetizer. If you have run out of crackers, use slices of zucchini as a base. Top them with cream cheese and sprinkle with onion or garlic powder. Add sesame seeds for a crunch or add your own favorite spices, such as chopped fresh basil or cilantro leaves, a bit of chopped chives, half a cherry or grape tomato (also great from the garden) or a sprinkle of paprika or dill. Be creative. The neutral flavor of these prolific vegetables allows you to perk things up by experimenting with all those spices that have been hiding away in your cabinet.

Zucchini Bread (2 loaves)

Why make one loaf, when you can make two? It doesn't take any extra time, and you know you have plenty of zucchini. With air conditioning, baking is not as bad as it used to be during those hot summer months. Mix 3 beaten eggs, 1 cup of applesauce, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 cups of grated, packed zucchini or summer squash and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Separately mix 2 1/4 cups of flour, 1 cup of rolled oats and 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda. Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon cloves. Add 3/4 cup raisins or 1 cup of nuts. Bake in two loaf pans at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. Let cool and remove from greased and floured pans after 10 minutes. You can experiment with other spices by substituting the three spices above for 3 teaspoons of allspice or ginger. (Cardamom by itself is another possibility, but a little of this goes a long way. Start with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom and see how you like it.)

Zucchini Breakfast Scramble

Sauté diced zucchini in curry powder and shallots or chives. Add peppers and sauté, if desired. Add all and some diced garden tomatoes to eggs. You can pair this with shredded zucchini that you can brown on both sides with a little butter. Spice it the same as the eggs if you like. Now you have eggs and hash browns.

Zucchini Salad

Add sliced raw zucchini or summer squash (yellow adds a contrasting color) to an assortment of mixed greens or lettuces. Add peanuts and tomatoes. Crunched up fried bacon is also very good.

Zucchini Stir Fry

Slice and core 2 apples and 4 zucchini. Add allspice, Chinese five-spice powder or mint to taste. For contrast add onion. Serve over pasta or rice and add pork or ham if desired. Cabbage is another veggie that goes well with zucchini. Try caraway seeds when using cabbage with zucchini.

Hopefully this will get you thinking outside the box. You can stuff a hollowed out zucchini and fill it with meat and spices and bake it for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also grill the zucchini on a kabob with tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms. Feel free to slice large chunks beforehand and let them marinate overnight.

After trying all of these different ways to use up your garden veggies, you can still save them for later use by freezing them. Just slice them in 1/4-inch slices, blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes, then quickly dip them in ice water for another 3 minutes to stop the cooking. Drain and freeze in plastic bags. Leave about 1/2 inch for expansion. Now you can continue to amaze your family with new flavors by spicing that cooperative and plentiful vegetable differently for the next six months.

The Author:

Copyright 2011 by Linda K. Murdock. Linda Murdock is the best-selling author of A Busy Cook's Guide to Spices, How to Introduce New Flavors to Everyday Meals. Unlike most spice books, you can turn to a food, whether meat, vegetable or starch, and find a list of spices that go well with that food. Recipes, ethnic spice blend formulas and buying tips are also included. To learn more go to http://bellwetherbooks.com

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