Food of the Week: Zucchini

My impression is that for many people, zucchini isn’t the most inspiring food around. It certainly hasn’t been for me until recently. Zucchini pancakes? Eh. Zucchini bread? I prefer other quick breads. But the recipes I’ve tried in preparation for this column have given me a new attitude about this vegetable. Each of them is something I will be excited to make again.

I ignorantly thought that zucchini was more or less a nutritional dud, but that is not the case. One cup of cooked zucchini (with skin) contains only about 30 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 40 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, and contains smaller amounts of several other vitamins and minerals.

This column is running a few weeks early for home garden zucchini in this part of the world, so by all means hold on to these recipes until later this summer.

Zucchini Pancakes

This twist on the classic, from Fran McCullough, makes a great appetizer.  

2 medium zucchini, shredded
¼ c. cornmeal
1 egg, beaten
1/8 t. salt
¼-½ t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil
Salsa and/or sour cream to serve

In a bowl, mix the zucchini with the cornmeal, egg, salt, and cumin. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, make 12 little pancakes with the zucchini mixture. When the oil is hot, add the cakes, a few at a time, and sauté them until golden on both sides. Repeat with the remaining pancakes, keeping the cooked ones warm on a platter under foil. Serve with salsa and/or sour cream.

Zucchini and
Tomato Salad

Some friends recently made this dish for me, and I love its simplicity and freshness. Aim for a 2-to-1 or even 3-to-1 ratio of zucchini to tomatoes.

Zucchini, sliced just thicker than paper-thin
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
Lemon zest, in small shavings
Salt and pepper (opt.)

Combine all ingredients and serve at room temperature.

Linguine with
Zucchini and Herbs

A nice choice for summer when someone wants pasta but without a heavy sauce.

¾ lb. linguine
½ c. fresh dill
½ c. fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, halved
5 T. olive oil
6 green onions, chopped
1 ½ lb. zucchini, chopped into matchsticks
Salt and pepper
½-¾ c. freshly grated Pecorino or Romano cheese

Cook the linguine until al dente. Reserve ¼ c. cooking water, then drain. Meanwhile, puree the dill, basil, garlic, and 3 T. olive oil in a food processor. In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 T. oil, add the green onions, and cook over medium-low heat until softened. Spread the zucchini on top of the onions, cover, and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. Add the pasta to the skillet with the reserved water (or mix everything in a large bowl). Season with salt and pepper and toss. Add the herb puree and cheese and toss well.

Note: The herb puree can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.


The vegetable amounts are more like guidelines.

¼ c. olive oil, plus more as needed
1 ½ c. diced yellow onion
1 t. minced garlic
2 c. diced eggplant, skin on
½ t. fresh thyme
2 c. diced bell peppers
2 c. diced zucchini and/or yellow squash
1 ½ c. peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 T. thinly sliced fresh basil
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until wilted and lightly caramelized, then add the garlic, eggplant, and thyme. Cook 5 minutes, then add the peppers and squash and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, and cook 5 minutes more, or until all vegetables are tender. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Summer Lasagna

This takes a while to prepare, but for the next few days’ leftovers you hardly have to do a thing. From Patricia Mary on

1 lb. ground beef
½ c. chopped onion
½ c. chopped green pepper
¼ c. finely chopped carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
½ t. dried oregano
½ t. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
5 medium zucchini
1 c. cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
¾ c. shredded mozzarella
¼ c. grated Parmesan

1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼-in. thick strips and press out excess moisture with paper towels. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground beef until evenly brown. Drain juices. Mix the onion, green bell pepper, carrots, garlic, and tomato sauce into the skillet. Season with oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
3. In the bottom of the prepared baking dish, layer half the zucchini strips. In a bowl, beat together the cottage cheese and egg, and spread over the zucchini. Scoop half the beef mixture over the cottage cheese and egg mixture, and sprinkle with half the mozzarella cheese. Layer with remaining zucchini, beef mixture, and mozzarella. Top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 45 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

North African-Style Zucchini

This incredible side dish is a reprint from my October 2012 almond column. From Angela Shelf Medearis.

3 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ c. raisins
3 T. chopped almonds
3 t. brown sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic and stir to coat. Stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10–15 min. or until zucchini is tender.