Zest for zucchini: Turn those summer squashes into delightful dishes

September 12, 2012

National Zucchini Day came and went on Aug. 8 and I didnít get the memo, but thatís okay since my garden had produced just enough for our family. We didnít have to worry about clandestinely placing plastic bags full of them on our neighborís porches in the middle of the night.

Itís traditional that in late summer: Well-meaning friends, family and neighbors load everyone up with giant zucchinis that look like theyíve consumed the whole bag of plant food in one fell swoop. Once those behemoth green squash reach maximum-overdrive size they are a monster to cut and slice. It can be done, but I hate wrestling with a zucchini as big as an armadillo; I much prefer harvesting them smaller. The flavor is better, they are tender, and the peeling is paper-thin.

Since the skin is thinner and doesnít have to be peeled, you can wash and grate up the whole squash. Then it can be sprinkled on top of salads, casseroles, yogurt and just about anything. The peeling makes a nice green color too, not only adding a pleasant garnish to a dish, but also nutrition.† †

With summer drawing to a close, many of us may still have zucchini lining the counter and stored in the fridge. Finding creative ways to prepare it is sometimes daunting, but Iíve found a few recipes that might make your cooking easier.

Throughout this summerís drought my tomatoes and zucchini fared the best, with daily watering. We harvested one small watermelon and several yellow crook-neck squash. The bell pepper plant never produced but the zucchini kept growing long slender green squash, the vines winding through the garden like Jackís magic bean stalk.

Once the rain came, though, the plants began to die. Magic gone. Kaput. Iím still perplexed with that result. But while they were growing, we enjoyed them usually fried in a little olive oil, with onions, yellow squash and some seasoning.

I also found some nice low-calorie recipes such as the tomato-zucchini bake. This recipe is so easy and versatile. Using only five ingredients ó zucchini, tomatoes, corn, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese ó itís a great side or main dish. The recipe doesnít call for any type of seasoning, but feel free to add your favorites. I added salt, black pepper and onion powder. Fresh herbs could be used as well. †

If you are craving zucchini cake, you might opt for a lighter version like the chocolate recipe below. Fat-free cream cheese and fat-free buttermilk help to balance out the use of chocolate chips and brown sugar that at least tips the scales back toward a healthier, lower-calorie cake.

While the weather is nice, barbecuing is still on the menu with grilled zucchini and summer squash with avocado. This recipe calls for asparagus too, blending well with the combination of grilled squash and avocado.

Another easy and low-calorie zucchini treat is a small tart. There are only 153 calories in these tasty, baked bites. Although the recipe calls for goat cheese, you could substitute a low-fat cheese of your choice.

So, if your kitchen counters and fridge arenít full of this versatile squash and you wish you had some zucchini, and no oneís left any on your doorstep, remember to visit the Sedalia Area Farmersí Market. It has a nice supply, plus many other fresh vegetables and fruits that complement and combine well with zucchini.

Tomato-Zucchini Bake

This super quick and easy side or main dish puts leftover summer veggies to great use.

Cooking spray

1 pound sliced zucchini

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 1/4 pounds sliced vine-ripened tomatoes

1/2 cup panko

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Coat a two-quart shallow baking dish with cooking spray, and alternately layer sliced zucchini, corn kernels, and sliced tomatoes. Combine panko and Parmesan, and sprinkle on top. Bake, uncovered, in the center of oven 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cover with foil, and bake for 10 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Serve immediately.

Recipe source:,,10000001906403,00.html

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

When youíre testing the chocolate zucchini cake for doneness, insert the wooden pick in several different places. You may hit a melted chocolate, which might make you think the cake isnít done.


Cooking spray

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (4-ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup fat-free buttermilk

2 cups shredded zucchini

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped walnuts


3/4 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

8 teaspoons fat-free milk

2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust pan with one-tablespoon flour.

Place sugars, cream cheese, and vegetable oil in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about five minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-teaspoon vanilla extract.

Lightly spoon 2 1/2-cups flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 1/2-cups flour and next five ingredients (2 1/2-cups flour through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in zucchini, 2/3-cup chocolate chips, and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350-degrees for one hour or until a wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare glaze, combine 3/4-cup powdered sugar and three tablespoons cocoa in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine milk, two-tablespoons chocolate chips, coffee, and 1/2-teaspoon vanilla extract in a one-cup glass measure. Microwave at medium 45 seconds or until chocolate melts, stirring after 20 seconds. Combine powdered sugar mixture with chocolate mixture, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over cake.

Recipe source: ďCooking LightĒ magazine, June 2002.

Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash with


1 yellow summer squash, sliced lengthwise into 4 long pieces

1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4 long pieces

10 spears baby asparagus, woody stem ends trimmed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar

1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into a medium dice

2 cups baby arugula

Preheat the barbecue or grill pan with medium-high heat. Season the squash, zucchini, and asparagus lightly with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with two-teaspoons of olive oil.

Grill the zucchini and squash for about two to three minutes on each side, and the asparagus for about two minutes total, or until they are slightly charred and cooked through. Transfer the vegetables to a cutting board. Cut the asparagus spears in half and cut the zucchini and squash on the bias into large bite-size pieces.

Whisk the balsamic vinegar and the remaining three-teaspoons of olive oil in a medium bowl to blend. Add half of the avocado and toss to coat, breaking up the avocado pieces slightly. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the grilled vegetables in a large bowl with the arugula and the remaining avocado. Toss the salad with the dressing to coat. Mound the salad on a large serving platter and serve immediately.

Recipe source:

Zucchini Tarts

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut one refrigerated pie dough into four, four-inch circles. Transfer to oiled baking sheet.

Spread each with two-teaspoons goat cheese and 1/2-teaspoon olive tapenade (recipe below). Top with five thin rounds zucchini and six slices cherry tomato.

Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Nutrition (per serving): 153 calories, 3g protein, 14g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 10g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 187mg sodium.

Recipe Source: ďPreventionĒ magazine.

Vegetarian olive tapenade

1/2 cup black olives

1/2 cup green olives

1 tablespoon capers (optional)

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

If youíve got a food processor, you can simply process all ingredients for a few seconds, being careful not to process too finely, since tapenade should not be smooth.

If you donít have a food processor, finely mince the olives and garlic, then combine with all the other ingredients, mixing well.

Can also be served with crackers, flatbread, baguette, or slices of a toasted artisan bread.

Recipe source: