The legend goes that people used to leave zucchini on their neighbors’ porches in the late summer to get rid of the prolific vegetable. It’s easy to grow and gets a bad reputation among farmers and gardeners for its overwhelming abundance.
The summer squash can grow up to three feet in length, which is a lot of vegetable for anyone on their own. Around here, they seem to grow a bit smaller. At the farmers’ market, golden zucchini are sold alongside the green version. They’re low-calorie, and high in folate, potassium and vitamin A.
Fresh zucchini has an unmistakable taste and is often so flavorful they need little spicing up to make a delicious meal. On its own, sauteed zucchini in olive oil with salt and pepper makes an excellent summer side dish. But, there are 100 other ways to use up the surplus of zucchini this time of year.
The “problem” with zucchini has become such a topic there’s even a movement called “Sneak Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch.” The official day was Aug. 8, and we missed it. I happen to love zucchini and could eat it year-round. It’s a versatile veggie and has an Italian name — what’s not to adore? In case you have some some extra in your kitchen, here are some recipes, sourced from my Benedetti family, for your zucchini issues.
Francesca’s Zucchini Fingers
Wash and trim them and then cut them into finger-like pieces, about 3-inches long.
Coat the bottom of a pan with olive oil and heat over high to medium-high heat. Add the squash in a single layer, if you can; they can be packed tightly together. Sprinkle with a little salt and cook undisturbed for about five minutes, or until you smell them or if they’re browning on the underside. Turn the pieces over and let the other side brown as well.
Meanwhile, finely chop some oregano and basil. Mince and mash a clove or two of garlic with some coarse sea salt. Mix the herbs, garlic and another splash of olive oil in a small bowl. Add some minced jalapeno, or a pinch or two of red pepper flakes if you’d like, as well as some black pepper. Toss this mixture gently with the browned squash and serve, topped with finely grated parmesan.
Nonnie’s Breaded Zucchini
What to do with a big zucchini? Slice into 3- to 4-inch diameter zucchini pieces, crossways in ¼- to ½ inch thick rounds. Coat them with flour, shaking off the excess. Dip them in beaten eggs to coat them completely. Fry in oil over medium heat until golden brown on each side. Remove to paper towel to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice and sugar.
Shred one to two zucchini manually or in a Cuisinart. Sautee over medium heat with an onion and a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil. Cook until all are golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
On the side, make three to four servings of polenta, pasta or orzo salad. Stir in the zucchini and cover with parmesan cheese.