Bigger Isn’t Always Better

(Zucchinis are summer squashes that are harvested early while the seeds are still soft.)Bigger isn’t always better, true words when talking about a favorite summer garden vegetable—zucchini. Even though zucchini is served as a vegetable, it’s technically a fruit because it comes from a flower. It grows from golden blossoms that bloom under the leaves. While the male flowers are there to attract bees and pollinate only the female flowers produce squash which is best harvested when medium sized, seven to eight inches long and two to three inches in diameter.

One medium zucchini has only 33 calories, less than a gram of fat, and is high in water. It also contains significant amounts of vitamins B6, riboflavin, folate, C, and K, and minerals, like manganese and potassium. In fact, it has more potassium than a banana and it also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Whether from your garden, a farm-stand, a farmer’s market, or the store; look for zucchinis with shiny skin that are free of blemishes, bruises, nicks, and soft spots. The skin should be firm to the touch, especially the stem, and they should feel heavy for their size. It occurs in several varieties, which range in color from deep yellow to dark green.

Three medium zucchini equal approximately one pound of zucchini which equals about 4 cups grated zucchini; 2 cups of salted and squeezed zucchini; about 1 cup mashed zucchini; and 3 cups chunked zucchini. Store fresh zucchini unwashed on the counter in a cool spot for one to two days. To store it longer put it in your refrigerator crisper drawer in a perforated plastic bag (remember in Life’s Solutions-Keep It Fresh we learned the University of California at Davis has done the math and 20 pin-sized holes in a medium bag will do the trick) or in a loosely closed plastic or paper bag for up to one to two weeks. You can freeze zucchini without blanching, but blanching one to three minutes deactivates enzymes that would otherwise cause the zucchini to become mushy and discolored. For more details on freezing zucchini (summer squash) go to cceschoharie-otsego.org/food-preservation and click on the Extension Fact Sheet-Handy Reference for Freezing Vegetables in right menu. When your garden abounds or your generous neighbors share their bounty it’s good to remember that zucchini is a very versatile vegetable. You can…

  • Cut it up raw and add it to salads or serve it with a dip.
    • Shred it, drain it, and bake it into breads, pancakes, muffins, or cakes.
    • Stew it with other summer fruits and vegetables to make ratatouille.
    • Stuff with rice, lentils, or other vegetables, then bake it.
    • Stir-fry solo or with other vegetables by adding a little olive oil and sautéing it.
    • Boil it, then blend it into soups.
    • Serve it as a side, grilled or sautéed with a little garlic and oil.
    • Try it breaded and fried, air-fried, or baked.
    • Spiralize it into spaghetti- or linguine-like noodles, or slice it to replace lasagna sheets.Even though Life’s Solutions says bigger isn’t always better, if your zucchini played hide and seek in your garden and grew to a mega size you can always make personal pan pizzas instead of the pizza bites described below or remove over large seeds, shred it, drain it, and freeze it for use in breads, pancakes, muffins, or cakes.

 

(This zucchini played a successful game of garden hide and seek - “Olly olly oxen free”.)

Zucchini Pizza Bites
Makes approximately 20 pizza bites- 4 servings

Ingredients
1 medium zucchini
½ cup marinara sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, garlic, or spice blend of choice to taste
vegetable oil spray

Directions

  1. Wash zucchini in cold running water. Slice into ¼ inch slices, then place slices (do not overlap) onto
    a parchment lined baking sheet then spray lightly with vegetable oil spray, flip slices and spray again.
  2. Sprinkle slices with salt, pepper, garlic, or spice blend of choice. Bake in a 400°F oven for 15-
    20 minutes. Flip slices halfway through baking time.
  3. Remove from oven and top slices with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese evenly divided
    between slices; then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes in a 400°F oven,
    and if browning is desired finish under the broiler for one to two minutes. Serve immediately.
    Leftover pizza bites can be refrigerated and reheated.

One serving (5 pizza bites) has approximately 86 calories, 4.5 grams of carbohydrates,7 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fat.

(Yummy Zucchini Pizza Bites.)

For another tasty version of sliced zucchini try our recipe for Zucchini Rounds at http://cceschoharie-otsego.org/resources/zucchini-rounds.

If you are interested in more recipes, nutritional information, or classes, visit our website at

www.cceschoharie-otsego.org or contact Michelle Leveski, Nutrition Program Educator by calling 518-234-4303 ext. 115 (please leave a message), or emailing her at mml39@cornell.edu.
To read more articles like this subscribe to the “Life’s Solutions” blog at  http://blogs.cornell.edu/efnep-schoharie-otsego/