It’s that time of year when home gardens and grocery stores are sprouting zucchini. When you’re planning meals, be sure to include this seasonal vegetable.
With May through August the prime season for zucchini, they are often referred to as summer squash. The word “zucchini” is the plural of the Italian word “zucchino,” or “small squash” in English.
Zucchini, members of the cucumber and melon family, grow on flowering plants with edible flowers. Popular varieties include Cocozelle, Black Beauty, Golden and Courgette. Their skin colors range from yellow to the much more common dark green depending on the variety.
When selecting zucchini, look for a moist stem and shiny skin, firm and free from cuts or bruises. Zucchini should be approximately 6 inches long and 1-2 inches around.
Zucchini can be refrigerated in a plastic bag five to seven days. To freeze for later use, slice into rounds, blanch and store in freezer-safe packaging. Frozen zucchini can be stored 10-12 months.
Zucchini are fat free, cholesterol free and contain only 29 calories for every 1-cup serving. They are full of nutrients, including vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6, fiber, magnesium and potassium. Because of the many health benefits zucchini provide, they are an important addition to a regular diet regimen.
Due to their versatility, zucchini are popular in savory cooking, baking and desserts. They can be sautéed, grilled or roasted. They can be shredded and added to ground chicken or turkey meatballs or burgers to add flavor and moisture, often lacking in ground poultry. Zucchini are also tasty and nutritious baked into muffins, cakes and cookies.
For a zucchini dish the entire family will enjoy, try the cheesy Summer Squash Sauté recipe below as a side dish to accompany a favorite entrée.
• 1 zucchini, sliced
• 1 yellow squash, sliced
• 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon flour
• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 1 cup Colby jack cheese, shredded
• Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced zucchini and squash and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer over low heat.
Melt butter over low heat in small saucepan. Whisk in flour. Continue to whisk flour/butter mixture as you slowly pour in heavy cream. Add cheese and stir constantly until cheese is melted and sauce is thick.
Pour sauce over vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Season as needed with salt and pepper.
Heather Hunsker graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She began refining her family-friendly cooking in her mother’s kitchen at 9 years old.