Go green! Celebrate National Zucchini Day

Photos by Emily Ryan 003: Zucchini blossoms are edible.

Gadzooks! Make that “gadzukes.” Pardon the pun, but it’s that time of year when gardens overflow with zucchini. Only 20 calories per cup and rich in vitamin C, why not celebrate this superabundant summer squash?

Tomorrow is National Zucchini Day, also known as “Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.” All zaniness aside, local chefs served up some zesty ways to cook zucchini.

“You can do it sweet. You can do it savory. You can fry it. You can bake it. You can sauté it. It is one of the most versatile foods out there,” said George Bieber of Shorty’s Sunflower Cafe in Pottstown. “And you can grill it too. It’s one of the most perfect foods.”

His homemade zucchini bread is so popular that the Cafe turns out “at least 10 loaves a day, every day.”“It’s easy enough to make. It’s delicious,” Bieber explained. “I don’t think you need more reasons than that — easy and delicious.”

“One of our favorite things is listening to people guess what we put in it,” he added. “The inside is golden in color, but I’m not going to say any more than that or I’ll be giving away our secret.”

He also grills “countless zucchini” daily.

“Every zucchini or squash we’ve been getting for the past maybe three weeks are locally grown, so they’re even tastier,” said Bieber, who’s planning extra zucchini specials for tomorrow’s menu.

Michael Falcone of Funky Lil’ Kitchen incorporates zucchini in a number of dishes like gazpacho.

“Sometimes I’ll grate it into yogurt as a garnish for a fish,” he described. “I like to do a Zucchini Parmigiana.”

Falcone also pairs a latke-like zucchini pancake with halibut at his Pottstown restaurant.

Amy Bause-Bartra of Bause Catered Events in Pottstown credits a high school friend’s mother for one of her favorite zucchini recipes: Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins.

“It’s really straightforward and simple. It’s nice and moist. The key is not to overmix it,” she said.

Bause-Bartra uses ground cloves “to give it a little twist” and suggests swapping 1/2 cup of flour with flax meal for added nutrition.

Looking for an easy zucchini side dish?

“I just like a nice sauté with tomato and onion and zucchini and salt and olive oil,” Bause-Bartra said. “I always like to sauté the onion and zucchini, and toss in some tomatoes at the last minute.”

So eat up to avoid sneaking around with surplus summer squash.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup baking raisins (or soaked to plump)

12 ounces chocolate chips (1 bag)

4 eggs

2 cups sour cream (16 ounces)

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, being sure to sift together. Add raisins and chocolate chips, and toss gently. In another bowl combine eggs, oil, sour cream and vanilla. Add zucchini and then dry ingredients, mixing only until moistened and thoroughly combined. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and bake 20 to 25 minutes until toothpick comes out dry. Yield: 24 to 30 muffins (depending on muffin size)

(Courtesy of Bause Catered Events)

Zucchini Fries

1 pound zucchini, trimmed

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups panko or plain bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and a second one in the center. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut zucchini into thick French-fry-size sticks, about 3 inches long.

Arrange three shallow, wide bowls or pie plates in a row. In the first bowl, stir together flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In the second bowl, whisk together eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In the third bowl, combine panko, Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Working in batches, first dip zucchini in flour, shaking off excess. Transfer to egg mixture, and toss until coated. Let excess egg run off, then coat zucchini in panko mixture.

Arrange zucchini, without crowding, in a single layer on the prepared pans. Bake 15 minutes and then rotate the pans. Continue to bake until panko coating is golden and crisp, 7 to 12 minutes more.

(Courtesy of Collegeville Farmers’ Market)

Tips

- Zucchini should be firm, smooth-skinned, shiny and small in size.

- Unwashed squash will refrigerate up to a week in a plastic bag, but is best within 2 or 3 days. Do not wash until ready to use.

- To freeze sliced zucchini, cut washed and trimmed squash into ½-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving ½-inch headspace.

- To freeze grated zucchini for baking, steam blanch in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack measured amounts into containers, leaving ½-inch headspace. Place containers in cold water to cool. Seal and freeze.

Source: Penn State Extension

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