This is the time of year that we are overloaded with zucchini. Whether you planted it yourself or a neighbor wants to pawn off some their home grown fruit.
That’s right I called it a fruit. I was shocked to find out that technically zucchini is a fruit. So really I should be calling this month fruit of the month. However, we culinary enthusiasts use it as vegetable.
Zucchini are part of the curbita pepo family which originated in Meso America. However, zucchini is hugely popular in French and Italian cooking. In fact if there are no blossoms attached to the summer squash most French and Italian cooks believe it is no good. (Joy of Cooking)
Squashes are low in calories, due to the water content. However, high in fiber, vitamin B6, C and K, riboflavin, folate, and minerals potassium and manganese.
In addition to your basic zucchini there are several different types of summer squash. Below are just a couple I found at our local farmer’s market.
One of the most popular uses of zucchini in recent years is zucchini noodles.
I resisted this for a long time even though I don’t eat gluten but I have to admit that I now have a big spiralizer and zucchini noodles have become one of my favorite. I often eat them raw but other will sauté briefly in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. I don’t want to dirty another pan!
Summer squash pairs well with basil, chicken, cilantro, dairy, onions, pine nuts, quinoa and many other. For a full list check out our summer squash info sheet below.
Grilling summer squash is super simple and an easy way to add some veggies to your summer dinner quick! Just slice the full length of the squash. Brush with a little olive oil and grill. You can add some seasoning or just splash with a little balsamic when done grilling.
The nice thing about grilling is the extra water in the summer squash evaporates. This is why I prefer to grill rather than to sauté the squash.
When sautéing you must draw out the water. There are two methods to achieve this. This is either done by salting first and letting it sit for about 20 minutes. Then blotting dry with a paper towel or boiling the fruit first whole.
I talked about this in our last blog. Place the whole squash in salted boiling water for 10 minutes.
Then cut into cubes.
Heat a pan over high heat. Place in some sort of fat - olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil etc. and heat until bubbling.
Place the cubes of summer squash in the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Make sure to keep a watch on the squash since it will cook quickly and over cooking the squash can cause it to become watery.
Now that you know a couple of simple ways to cook squash lets get the recipe.
Zucchini Quinoa Pesto Salad
This recipe came out of the need to use up to things that have grown in abundance in my garden this year. Basil and zucchini.
I only recently have started to like quinoa. There is no way I can just eat it as a side to my dinner as I would rice but I do find when combined with a yummy dressing and some veggies it is very tasty.
First cook the quinoa: Rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa with water. Place in a sauce pan with 1 cups of either water or stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat cover and cook until all the water is absorbed. This takes about 10-15 minutes. You can tell the quinoa is done when the germ ring is visible around the outer edge of the grain.
As the quinoa cooks either grill or sauté your zucchini. Either method will work for this recipe. If grilling slice the zucchini into cube size pieces before adding to the salad.
Next make the pesto. This pesto has a lot of lemon to it. I find the lemon goes well with quinoa.
2 cups Basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 Parmesan Cheese - grated
1/8 cup of lemon juice plus a little lemon zest
1/4 t salt
1/4 t red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic
Combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is running.
* If you want a dairy free pesto just omit the parmesan cheese.*
Next, look for any other great veggies you have growing in your garden or found at the market. I through in some tomatoes but you could also add corn, kohlrabi, sweet bell peppers, or sautéed Swiss chard.
Toss quinoa and the pesto together. How much pesto you use is up to you. I tend to use half of what I make and save the rest for another recipe.
Next, add the veggies and mix lightly.
This salad will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
You can prepare all ingredients ahead of time but just store separately until ready to serve.
FYI This salad goes really well with grilled chicken or shrimp.
We are now offering a super cool info sheets to go along with each veggie of the month.
Check it out below.
Click on the button below to download your own copy.
Next month's veggie: Garlic!
It is only recently that I have to really started to appreciate and incorporate zucchini into my diet. When I still ate wheat zucchini bread was alway my favorite. However I never really enjoyed it in it’s raw form.
The start of my love of summer squashes and zucchini started two summers ago when I was at the Spokane Farmer’s market. They had this strange small green looking pumpkin type squash for sale in July. I asked the guy what it was and he said it’s a zapallito squash from South America.
He then added it’s really good - you should try it. Which is basically what I’m going to tell all of you to do. The last two summers all I did was cut it up and grill it or sautéed it. Both were ridicioulsy delicious.
This little squash (and you do want to buy it in it’s immature stage) has the taste and texture of zucchini but it’s just a little more dense and little sweeter. Native to South America, it is often found in savory tarts, omelettes, roasted, or stuffed in Argentina. However the favorite dish in South America using this squash is called Mianesas de Zapallito. Translated to lightly breaded and pan fried.
When buying this squash or any squash at the farmer’s market make sure the outside has an unblemished, glossy, smooth skin. They should feel heavier then they look. If there is deep gashes or soft spots look for another.
All of these squashes store well in the fridge loosely wrapped in plastic for up to a week.
This year I wanted to try something besides just roasting the zapallitos. A favorite dish in Argentina is Zapallitos Rellenos. A stuffed squash. They often stuff it with beef and top with cheese. Which sounds awesome to me. However, I know that I have quite a few vegetarians that read this blog so I figured I would make Zapallitos Rellenos two ways. Black bean or Beef.
The main concern when cooking any summer squash is the water content. It is high in squash. So in order to not make your dishes mushy there is a little prep ahead of time. Next time, I’ll talk more about prepping zucchini for sautéing.
Stuffed Zapalitto Squash: Two Ways
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
For the stuffed zapallitos squash you must first boil them whole. For about 12 minutes. I first read about doing this in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 2 and I thought that sounded ridiculous. (Side note: If you want some zucchini recipes that look amazing, full of fat and totally not good for you. Check out her book.)
Boiling whole is must before cutting the squash in half, digging out the inner stuff and stuffing with some good yummy stuff!
In a large pot with heavily salted water boil the zapallitos for about 12 to 14 minutes. Don't worry they will not melt or disengrate. Unless you leave them in to long. I didn't try it but is seems like that might happen.
After the 12 to 14 minutes remove the zapallitos and place on a plate to cool before slicing in half.
Next, take a knife and slice around the inside edge. I found that there is a nice ring around the inside to cut. There should be about 1/4 of an inch of squash still intact.
With a spoon dig out the pulp. Drain as much water as you can out of the pulp. Pick out as many seeds as you can and then dice. Set aside.
Place the halves down on a plate so more moisture can drain.
To save on time I tend to make the rice and the stuffing while the zapallitos are cooking.
First the rice:
Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the 1 cup of rice along with a pinch of salt.
Reduce the heat, cover and cook until the rice is done.
While the rice is cooking I make the cilantro and garlic sauce in my small blender. Add the 1/2 cup of cilantro with 1 garlic clove and 4 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth.
Once the rice is finished fluff and combine with the cilantro and garlic sauce. Set aside.
To prepare the beef mixture you'll need to brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium/high heat.
Once the beef is browned remove and set aside.
Place the red onion and jalapeño in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes.
Next add the green pepper. Cook for 2 minutes.
Then the cumin. Cook 30 seconds.
Add the beef back to the pan along with the rice and pulp. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare the black bean mixture start by adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet.
Place the jalapeño and red onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the green pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Then add the kale until it is slightly wilted.
Add the cumin. Cook 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat and toss with the black beans, the rice and pulp in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Next comes the stuffing! Blot the zapallito halves with a paper towel. Trying to remove as much moisture as possible.
Lightly spray a cookie sheet with olive oil.
Place the zapallitos on the cookie sheet and stuff with your stuffing of choice. Top with the shredded cheese.
Bake for about 20 minutes. The tops should be a golden brown. Let cool slightly and enjoy!
A couple of notes:
In two weeks we will explore the different types of common summer squash. Plus a fantastic zucchini recipe and guidelines on how to cook zucchini.
Over the past couple of weeks you’ll notice that Veggie of the month was not being posted. In fact there was not even a vegetable for June or July!
This was due to a illness in our family. In fact my son was hospitalized for a total of 9 days in June. It was a rough go but thankfully he is completely healed.
Which means it is now time for the Vegetable of the Month to return! I actually had this blog written for July and time got away from me. Instead of waiting to post it next year I thought I would just post it now.
Look for a new post next week for the true August veggie: Summer Squash!
With the time taken off I realized that a weekly recipe is just not realistic with my work and family schedule.
Instead I am going to highlight a veggie twice a month.
This also frees up some of my time to write about other things…. like exercise and health!
Kohlrabi was suppose to be the highlighted veggie for July. It is so delicious that I want to make sure you all still go to the farmers market and try one. (Seriously I love this one! I started cutting and kept eating bites as I cut it up!)
Kohlrabi is known as a German Turnip. Although not technically from the turnip family but rather it is part of the Brassica family. Same as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Which means it's good for you!
This one is another very interesting looking vegetable. In fact its similar to celeriac in that I wonder what made someone want to eat it. They must have been seriously hungry!
First off, the outside layer is just not edible. I mean it won’t poison you but its does not taste great. So this means some peeling needs to be done in order to get to the good stuff. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy to peel. You need a very sharp peeler or a good paring knife.
Once peeled, you’ll discover a wonderful white flesh inside that is very similar to a very crisp apple. Kohlrabi comes in several different colors. A deep purple, pale green or white. However, once peeled they all look the same, and can be eaten raw if you like. For those of you needing a little crunch at night instead of chips this would be a great substitute. In fact this was our preferred way of eating it.
It also would be a great addition to any veggies you serve with hummus or dip. Or thrown into a salad for a some added texture.
Make sure to not throw away the leaves since they edible and yummy! They are perfect for going in a salad. The leaves can be substituted into any recipe that calls for spinach or collard greens.
When storing kohlrabi, cut the leaves off and eat them soon, within a day or two. Then place the kohlrabi in a plastic or paper bag and place in the crisper section of your refrigerator. It will stay fresh for 2 to 3 months. If you really love it and want to preserve it for winter you can freeze it.
One of the ways we tried cooked kohlrabi is by sautéing them with apples. Super simple recipe!
Sautéed Kohlrabi & Apples
Eat and Enjoy!
Look next week for our return of regular veggie of the month blogs!!