Ode to Zucchini

If I had a favourite vegetable, it would be zucchini… until I realized it’s actually a fruit. How rude! I wanted it to be a vegetable. Oh well! 

From making zoodles to adding colour to meals, there’s absolutely nothing this, ahem, fruit can’t do. It’s odd that it would top my list because in all honesty, it doesn’t have exceptional flavour so much as it’s exceptionally versatile. 

This month, I thought it would be fun to list ways to enjoy this ‘vegetable’ in your meals. Instead of sharing specific recipes, these are ideas to get your brain hooked on… zucchini! 

One of the tricks with cooking zucchini is that it has high water content. I always laugh when I say this cooking tip, but like most things in life - give it space and time! No, seriously, when cooking zucchini in the pan it can take a while for the zucchini to get browned. This is because of the moisture content which is why when you grill zucchini, it tends to get soggy if not consumed right away. You can avoid soggy zucchini (and speed up the crisping process) by making sure you have a nice, hot pan when you start cooking and make sure you don’t overcrowd it. I sometimes cook zucchini separately if I know I’m adding it to another big mixture. Otherwise, it can definitely get lost in the dish! 

  • Grate into ground beef for burgers. It adds moisture and works as a bonding agent.
  • Cut into long-edge pieces. Toss with avocado oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and grill for 7-9 minutes at medium-high.
  • Cut into coins, toss in egg, then coat in seasoned panko with parmesan. Pan fry or put in the air fryer for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Buy a spiralizer at Canadian Tire for $13. Next time you’re craving pasta, use half the amount of pasta and supplement with 1-2 spiraled zucchinis! When boiling the pasta, wait for it to be par-cooked and add in the zucchini noodles. Drain and toss with olive oil. Mix gently. Boom, half-carb pasta!
  • For your next taco night, try adding zucchini to the mixture. A classic vegetarian taco is black bean, corn, and zucchini sauteed with cumin. Top with a yogurt dollop containing honey, cumin, and lime.
  • Calabacitas! This is a classic New Mexico/Mexico dish which is a fancy way of saying “sauteed squash.” It contains sauteed zucchini, yellow squash (summer squash), garlic, onions, yellow corn, and optional tomatoes and cheese. Use a ton of garlic and onions and then some red chili powder (or sauce… Hit me up, if you know you know.) 
  • Add zucchini to your next quinoa salad! Shallot, carrot, zucchini, cored-tomatoes (diced), and parsley. Toss with rice vinegar and olive oil.

Here’s my go-to dinner (specifically on nights when I say “I have nothing to make!”).

Wilted Arugula and Zucchini Salad with Goat Cheese 

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, julienned 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste and black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (or less)
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil or avocado oil 
  • 2 cups of boiled potatoes (preferably cubed, add salt to potato water)
  • 2 zucchinis, diced as small as you are able to 
  • 1 small box of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups of fresh arugula
  • ½ cup goat cheese 

Start with the olive oil and butter in a large skillet on high. Add the boiled potatoes and allow them to start browning. Put the cherry tomatoes in an oven-safe skillet or a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. 

In the skillet with the potatoes, add the shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the crushed red pepper. Once browned, move the potatoes around the edges of the skillet to create a space. Toss half of the cubed zucchini into the center of the skillet and add salt and pepper. Cook on medium high for 5-10 minutes, then repeat by making room in the middle of the pan for the rest of the zucchini (cooking it in two batches ensures that the zucchini has time to remove moisture and not become too soggy). You can remove some of the potatoes if needed to make room. Try to get all sides of the diced zucchini browned. Return everything to the pan (if you had to remove anything to make room). Add cherry tomatoes then toss in arugula and goat cheese. Serve with your favourite grilled fish or just on its own!