Do you have a zucchini plant in your garden, or love to buy zucchini at the market this time of year when it is in massive abundance? If so, I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced the drag of zucchini boredom– that feeling of fear, wondering how you can possibly eat through the massive amount of zucchini piled high in your kitchen.
I’m here to tell you fear not! I’ve been experiencing the over-abundance of zucchini for just about my entire life, and have a few tricks up my sleeve for making awesomely satisfying dishes packed full of zucchini goodness! And while it is wonderful, the tricks I’m sharing here do not include zucchini bread – I think you probably have that one under wraps.
Personally, my connection with zucchini abundance started when I was a pretty young child, my brother and I had an obsession with growing the most massive zucchini we possibly could. It was likely the only thing I really enjoyed about my parent’s backyard garden at that age. We would select a zucchini or two to let grow as big as we possibly could, always dreaming that we might one day win a prize at the fair for the largest zucchini. We never did win that prize, but we did enjoy quite a few delicious zucchini dishes in the process, my favorite of which is shared below.
While zucchini may not be a major commodity crop in Michigan, it is grown by almost all farms that grow a diverse array of vegetables and very widely in home gardens across the state. Local zucchini is hard to find in your typical grocery store, but here are a few tricks for getting your hands on some!
- Stop by your local farmers market, and you’re sure to find it en masse.
- Seek out a food co-op grocery store, or another locally owned store that focuses on purchasing from local farms and businesses.
- If all else fails, ask a friend or neighbor with a garden if they have any extra. Anyone with zucchini in their garden is bound to have a boatload!
You’ll be able to find locally grown zucchini throughout the state until mid-to-late September.
This is the one– that magical favorite zucchini recipe of my childhood. Serve this one quietly to your friends and ask if they know what’s inside. I’m fairly positive they’ll say apples (mine always do), and they might never believe it’s actually zucchini until they watch you make it! Sweet cinnamony zucchini goodness – tastes like an apple crisp but it’s full of vegetables! This is the perfect recipe to make if you forgot about a zucchini and it grew to be massive – that size makes for the perfect apple slice-like chunks of zucchini in your pie!
4 cups zucchini (notes on how to slice it below)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
3/4 cup butter
pinch of salt
To prepare your zucchini, peel and slice in half long-ways. If you’re using a really big zucchini, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds – it doesn’t have to be precise, but you want to remove most of the center so there isn’t too much moisture. Then slice each half into about 1/4in thick slices, which will be half circle or crescent shaped. Put the zucchini and lemon juice into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until they start to get tender, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Add 1/2 cup sugar, nutmeg, and 3/4 tsp cinnamon to the mixture and set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the flour using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your hands until it reaches a crumbly texture. Add 1/2 cup of this mixture to the zucchini and stir to combine.
Pour half of the remaining crust mixture into the bottom of an 8×8 inch pan and pat into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes at 375, until it is starting to brown.
Pour filling over baked crust and cover with remaining crust mixture (no need to pat this down!). Sprinkle with cinnamon if you wish then bake for 30 minutes at 375.
Cheddar Lime Zucchini Fritters
I never get sick of simple zucchini fritters lightly pan-fried to perfection, which makes them perfect for using up an excess of zucchini! These are amazing served with a generous squeeze of fresh lime and a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream.
This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
1 pound zucchini, grated
1 tsp salt
2 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
1 large egg
Freshly ground black pepper & more salt to taste
about 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (I just squeeze in the juice from 1/4 of a lime)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
canola or another high heat oil for frying
Place grated zucchini and salt in a bowl, give it a good stir, and let sit for 10 minutes. Place the zucchini into a mesh bag, cheese cloth, or just wrap it into a clean dishtowel, then squeeze it with all you’ve got over the sink until you’ve removed as much water as you possibly can. I guarantee you’ll be amazed at how much water you can squeeze out! This helps create a fluffier fritter.
Put the zucchini back in your bowl and stir in the egg and a pinch or two more salt, beating it slightly in the process. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and stir to combine (so they distribute evenly), then add that and all of the remaining ingredients to your main bowl (except the oil for frying, of course!) and stir until it is well combined.
Now, we just need to cook them! Heat a pan (I like to use cast iron for this) over medium-high heat, then add enough oil to create a thin layer over the bottom of your pan. Dollop in as many mounds of the batter as you can, flattening them a bit with your spoon. Once they’ve browned (maybe two minutes or so depending on your pan), flip and let brown on the other side. Repeat with your remaining batter, then enjoy. And don’t forget, these are best served with a generous squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt!
Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Lemon Walnut Pesto
No stove needed to make this simple salad, perfect for a hot summer day. A peeler turns zucchinis into fresh pasta-like ribbons to top with your favorite pasta-salad fixings. This recipe is best made with smaller zucchinis, as big ones can be difficult to peel into neat ribbons.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
zest from one lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice (or a splash more if you love lemon like I do)
a few tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
First, make your pesto by combining all ingredients aside from the veggies in a food processor, blender, or mortar & pestle and pulverize until only very small pieces of walnut remain. If you don’t have any of these tools, you can also just chop the walnuts as small as you possibly can then stir together the ingredients in a small bowl.
Next, use a peeler to create ribbons of zucchini and carrots. Just cut as much as you want to eat. Do this by holding the veggie in your hand and running a peeler along it long ways, just like you would if you were peeling it. Instead of turning and peeling a new section, just continue in the same place so you’ll be creating ribbons the length of the zucchini or carrot. It may take you a few tries to get them to look beautiful, but they’ll taste great no matter what they look like! The final bit is always really tricky as it starts to get thin, I usually just munch it down while I finish making the salad.
Finally, toss your ribbons with the desired amount of pesto – starting with a little and adding more until it tastes good for your dressing preference. Garnish with a little parsley if you’re feeling fancy! Any extra pesto can be saved for more salad another day. It would also be mighty tasty on pasta.
What are your favorite ways to eat zucchini?