Zucchini: not the hottest piece of produce on the block. Alone, it doesn’t taste like much, it often makes a mushy sideshow, and it’s almost certainly not the bin you’re bee-lining to at the store.
But when seasoned up and tricked out, zucchini can be awesome. And there’s so much you can do with it! Roast it, hash it, saute it, grill it, stuff it, fry it, spiralize it, shred it, ferment it, or even burger it (trust, it’s a thing).
I’m on a zucc kick right now for two reasons. First, my local farmers market is bursting with them so I feel obligated to indulge. (Love you, $10 bag guys!).
And second, my host mom in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, home of the Beach to Beacon 10K, inspired me with a few delicious zucchini creations the weekend I stayed with her. (Shout-out Kathy!) She also plucked an infant-sized zucchini from her garden just before I came, which is just silly.
To get an idea of just how versatile the humble zucc is, check out the dinner menu I recently built around it. For once, zucchini played a starring role, and I’d say it did quite well!
Appetizer: Oven-Baked Zucchini Coins
While the recipe I used needs a little tweaking in my opinion, the flavor of these oven-baked zucchini coins was great, thanks to a mixture of breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, and cracked black pepper. I had a hard time removing the super thin zucchini slices from the pan, so next time I’ll chop them into slightly thicker 1/2-inch slices. Rather than a chip, they’ll be more of a savory chomp, which is fine by me! It was also tricky to get the breading to adhere to the coins before baking, so I might try using a lightly-scrambled egg next time. Other than that, I’m a fan!
Side: Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
My inspiration for this side dish—which can totally be a main if you use a big zucchini and add some protein on top—came from this recipe. As usual, I improvised with what I had in my pantry and fridge, and I was pleased with the outcome! After cutting two larger zucchinis in half vertically, scooping out the flesh, and baking the shells for about 12 minutes, I filled them with a mixture of cooked quinoa and sauteed onion, red and orange bell pepper, zucchini, and corn. Then I added a drizzle of olive oil, a few twists of salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of feta, and finished it off for another 10 minutes in the oven. (Note: Boat consumption is optional but recommended!)
Condiment: Zucchini Relish
I’d never heard of zucchini relish before my visit to Maine, but after one bite of Kathy’s, I was hooked! She makes several jars from her garden zuccs every summer and shared a trusted recipe from Andrea Chesman’s Summer In a Jar cookbook to get me started. I halved the recipe (and it still made a ton), omitted the horseradish (since it’s polarizing) and mace (what even is that?), and skipped the processing part since I knew we’d be eating it within a couple of weeks. Otherwise, I just followed the instructions and am still using it as a topping for grilled chicken, burgers, grain bowls, sandwiches, and such. Mine didn’t turn out very spicy, but next time I may add another hot pepper or two. You could definitely omit them if heat’s not your thing.
Dessert: Zucchini Bread
I’m a Smitten Kitchen fan through and through, and this Ultimate Zucchini Bread recipe was predictably on point. I love how easy (one bowl, no wringing out of the zucc, no electric mixer), zucchini-loaded, and crusty on top my loaf turned out. When eaten as dessert, we smeared it with vanilla frosting that I stored in the freezer the last time my mom visited. At breakfast, a quick toast and a dollop of Kerrygold butter on top was just right. I’ll definitely be making this again, and would be interested in trying a carrot version too.
What’s your favorite way to get your zucc on? I’d love to know!
*Thanks, Rochelle and Matt, for indulging my zucchini dreams!