Zany Zucchini: The Low-Carb Fruit That Eats Like A Vegetable
This post is brought to you at the request of my sister-in-law, Lisa.
Lisa is an avid gardener and a plant whisperer. Whether she's living in a large house with a yard, an apartment with a tiny terrace or a place with a community garden plot, she grows gorgeous herbs and vegetables.
Lisa is now in the midst of a crisis known as "the green tide." If you have experience growing zucchini then you know that "the green tide" is that time of year when you are harvesting so much zucchini that you don't know what to do with them.
Because weeds (Not the recreational or medicinal kind - the invasive uninvited guests.) are the only things I've ever grown in abundance, I have never had this problem.
As far as problems go, having too much zucchini was one I enjoyed thinking about.
In my kitchen zucchini most often shows up as a side dish sautéed with sweet onions and basil, or as an ingredient in low carb chocolate cake.
When considering what else I could do with them, zoodles were the first thing that came to mind. Using a spiralizer, fresh zucchini becomes a healthy, low carb pasta replacement or base for a salad.
And then there are the usual suspects: ratatouille, minestrone, zucchini bread, casseroles, frittatas, quiches and muffins.
But unless you've lived off the grid for the past few years, you know about zoodles and are well versed in these other options.
As for preparations, you can shred 'em, slice 'em, dice 'em, or cut them into circles or half moons. You can also hollow them out and make a boat or an entire fleet of meat and cheese or grain stuffed vessels.
Photo of Lisa's Flowers
And of course zucchini flowers are not only gorgeous, but fantastic stuffed and fried, stuffed and baked, or lightly battered and fried like a tempura.
Though the majority of zucchini preparations are savory in nature, the squash is botanically a fruit.
The swollen ovary of the zucchini flower, the squash we know and love is technically a botanical berry called, "pepo."
Europeans refer to zucchini as courgettes, while aficionados sometimes call zucchini "zukes."
Archaeology shows that squash originated in the Americas 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.
It was a mainstay of Native American diets, and one of the "three sisters," winter squash, corn and climbing beans.
Each of the three sisters contributed something to the growth of the other crops, and together their harvest formed a balanced diet. Pretty impressive.
Squash was then brought to Italy by European explorers. The long zucchini that we know today was cultivated from the round, plump squash that were brought to Italy.
It journeyed back to the United States via Italian immigrants and began showing up on restaurant menus in the 1920's. Marketed as "Italian squash," it quickly gained popularity.
Though zucchini is beloved all over our country, it is celebrated in the Northeast.
Fried zucchini sticks served with a side of marinara is a ubiquitous menu item in Pittsburgh restaurants. Which restaurants serve the best is a hotly debated topic.
During non-quarantine years, the town of Obetz, Ohio hosts a free, four-day zucchini festival.
The festival features performing artists such as Ted Nugent, cooking competitions in the dessert and bread categories, and prizes for the best homegrown zucchinis.
Meanwhile in Easton, Pennsylvania, residents gear up for their annual veggie race. Here prizes are awarded for the fastest zucchini carved cars and trucks that "squash the competition."
Speaking of squash, Lisa's crop of yellow, or crookneck squash are almost ready for harvest too.
Though different in color and shape from zucchini, yellow squash has similar flavors and textures. It pairs well with zucchini in most dishes, adding additional color and subtle flavor.
My son-in-law, Kenton, uses this combo to make his beloved zucchini lasagna. It is a tasty, keto friendly, low-carb dish that even the kids love.
Below is his recipe, along with one of mine for a zucchini and green pea side dish.
I've also included links to other recipes that you may want to investigate.
If you have no garden from which to harvest your squash, local farmer's markets and grocers are well stocked this time of year.
Take advantage of the season and have some fun. You can make a scrumptious new dish and freak out your kids or family members at the same time.
"Here, honey. Try some pepo. It's a swollen ovary, berry dish that I've made for you. "
No? Sweet. More beer battered zucchini fries for me!
4 yellow or green zucchini (I usually use half and half for the extra color)
1 pound ground beef (You can substitute ground sausage. I prefer half and half. Can use tofu if you are vegetarian.)
Jar of marinara sauce of your choice (Or 2 cups homemade marinara.)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 package shredded mozzarella (8 ounces)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl mix ricotta with half of the mozzarella and half of the parmesan cheese. Mix in the egg. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, combine and refrigerate.
Brown the beef in a large sauté pan and then drain. Mix in marinara and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
While the meat sauce is cooking, cut off the ends of of the zucchini and then cut lengthwise into lasagna noodle like strips. If you have mandolin that will help keep them even.
Slightly grease bottom and sides of a baking pan. I use usually make mine in a big Pyrex glass pan.
Start layering zucchini, cheese mixture and spoonful’s of the beef sauce into the baking pan. Make sure you keep the layers even so everything cooks together nicely.
Garnish the top layer of the lasagna with the leftover mozzarella.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
When removing the lasagna let sit for a few minutes for everything to settle. Sometimes I use a turkey baster to suck up some of the water as it cooks (or after) but it is not necessary.
Slice up and enjoy
Here is a lovely summer side dish I created to utilize some mint and basil that I had on hand.
Crookneck Squash and Green Pea Sauté
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/2 large onion, diced
3 yellow squash cut in circles
1/2 bag frozen green peas (around 6 ounces)
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the onion in oil on high heat until.it begins to be translucent. Add squash and continue to sear until the edges become brown. You need to give a gentle stir every so often so that the squash doesn't burn.
Turn heat to low. Add peas and continue to cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss. Serve hot.
Potato pancakes are one of my favorite dishes ever. Past attempts at zucchini fritters have flopped. When I saw this recipe using Old Bay seasoning for "crab" flavor, I thought I'd give it a try.
I enjoyed it on a bun, as I would crab cake sandwich. It's a recipe I'd definitely make again.
Zucchini Mock Crab Cakes
This lemon orzo soup is quick, easy, light and bright. I love just about anything with fresh herbs and lemons.
I haven't tried the soup recipe containing coconut milk yet, but plan to do so soon. It also calls for red curry. One of my favorite flavors.
Zucchini Lemon Orzo Soup
Heidi Swanson's Summer Squash Soup With Coconut Milk
Zucchini flowers are hard to come by in my neck of the woods. If anyone tries these I'd love to hear about it.
There are lots of keto and low-carb recipes out there utilizing summer squash. This quiche is gluten-free as well.
These cheesy zucchini waffles are on my list to try.
For more low-carb fun, check out these taco boats.
Try blackened zucchini inside your tacos, as a flavorful filling.
I'm not much of a smoothie fan, but my kids are. Zucchini is a great addition to smoothies or green juices. Here's a blueberry version from The Minimalist Baker.
This recipe uses zucchini in place of garbanzo beans in hummus. It’s a wonderful substitute for paleo peeps or people on restrictive diets.
The polar opposite nutritionally of raw, zucchini based hummus, I give you beer battered curly zucchini fries.
This is an awesome compilation of zucchini recipes from A Taste of Home.
If none of the above appeal to you, I offer the following list from All Day I Dream About Food.
At Laura's request, I made Carolyn's low-carb blondies this week. Though they have nothing to do with zucchini, they are a fantastic low-carb version of a beloved classic.
All Day I Dream About Food is not only my favorite blog name; it's also a great blog. I've made many of the recipes here with much success.