Summertime is Zucchini Time.
Every July it seems we all have an overload of squash, a surfeit of summer vegetables and not enough friends to share our treasures.
Even if you have just one or two squash plants and a few tomato plants, I bet you've got enough to share with someone. And if you don't, your friends will be happy to load you up, I am sure. If your garden didn't get planted or you live in a gardenless world, just head to the farmer's market.
Now is the time to turn vegetables into your main meal. They are fresh, flavorful, healthy and cheap—perfect for anyone on a budget. And you can even use them in place of pastas or meat if you are clever about it.
Last week, I discovered a zucchini the size of a Louisville Slugger in the garden.
You know the type.
An innocent small squash one day that grows all out of proportion by the time you go to cut it the next day. It might have made enough zucchini bread for a battalion, or even a frittata big enough for an entire church supper.
But, with just a few folks eating that evening, I had to come up with a better answer than dumping it on our neighbor's porch (after all, they have a garden of their own.)
That's when I thought of it.
Why not use squash instead of pasta in some flavorful Italian styled dish or even make steaks out of the monster and grill them. Add a few other veggies and I'd have a great meal—with calories left over for a yummy dessert!
Here are some ideas you might want to try with a giant from your own garden.
Brush thick slices with olive oil and herbs, then grill them. Use them for a grilled veggie sandwich, serve them as steaks or get more creative.
Layer the grilled squash as the “pasta” in your favorite lasagna recipe.
Or forget the grill and shred the squash to toss it with your favorite slaw dressing—it will make a refreshing change from the usual cabbage and carrots.
If you want to try make zucchini the entrée or center of a big meal, enjoy one of my easy recipes below.
Zippy Zucchini Baked Spaghetti with Meatballs or Mushrooms
2-3 fresh zucchini
3-4 cups spaghetti sauce
2 cups precooked meatballs or 1 cup sautéed mushrooms
1-2 cups shredded hard Italian cheeses such as Asiago, Fontina or Romano
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Using a spiralizer or mandoline, cut the zucchini into “zoodles” or spaghetti shaped noodles. Toss the with the spaghetti sauce and meatballs or mushrooms (I actually use both meatballs and mushrooms. But lazy woman I am, I use precooked chicken meatballs!) Put the entire mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with the shredded cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until the cheeses are melted and golden on top and the casserole is hot all the way through. Let the dish rest for 5 minutes, then serve hot with the Parmesan cheese for garnish.
Zucchini "Fettucine" Primavera
1 or 2 large zucchini or summer squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
10 ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or two large tomatoes, roughly chopped)
1/ 4 cup pre-made basil pesto
1 /2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/ 4 cup chopped roasted pistachios or pine nuts
Extra cheese for garnish
With a mandoline, spiral slicer or very sharp knife, cut the washed zucchini into long thin “noodles”. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion, peppers and cook for five minutes over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and pesto and toss the vegetables together to combine them all and distribute the pesto throughout the dish. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes get a bit soft. Add the cheeses and stir them throughout the dish. Then, add cream and gently toss it through the dish. Finish the dish with salt, pepper, toasted nuts and a sprinkling more of cheese. Serve hot. You can keep this in a warm oven for a bit and serve it like a casserole if you need more time for your guests.