Zucchini is a cheap, delicious, and healthy summer staple. Gardens overflow in warm weather, leaving gardeners with a surplus while driving the prices down at the market. Better yet, zucchini is versatile enough to use for traditional grilling and baking as well as more creative zoodles and tarts. Include the oblong green fruit in everything from breakfast to dinner to refreshing beverages this season.
13 Ways to Make the Most of a Zucchini Surplus
We call it bread, but zucchini bread probably belongs in the cake family. The high water content of zucchini creates a moist and light cake that uses less oil, making it a healthier option than a traditional pound cake. Zucchini bread can be flavored with cinnamon, clove, and mace, or simply infused with vanilla and a bit of sugar. A recipe from the blog Wake Up and Eat features spice, plus nuts and raisins.
For the carb-sensitive, zucchini noodles are a game changer. With the cheap, one-time purchase of a spiralizer, fresh zoodles can be enjoyed as a salad, thanks to their crunchy texture. To cook zoodles as you would lo mein or ramen, it's best to salt and drain them. Once drained, they will keep in the fridge for up to a week. The longer they sit, the drier they become, giving them a chewiness that could pass for wheat-based pasta.
A Mediterranean-style stuffed zucchini by chef Sara Moulton is a complete meal, combining vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices with hearty, rich lamb. No one will miss carbs, thanks to the recipe's bright flavors. Zucchini's own subtle flavor complements nearly any cuisine or combination of ingredients. Cooks can make stuffed zucchini regularly until the supply runs out and never serve the same dish twice.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to boost the flavor of zucchini is to grill it. First, cut the vegetable into chunks or thin slices. A charcoal grill will caramelize the surface of the zucchini, enhancing its natural sweetness. A touch of oil, salt, and pepper make this a tasty side dish, and feel free to add spice blends and other flavor enhancers such as citrus or vinegar, too.
Use a vegetable peeler to make thin sheets of zucchini for this sophisticated appetizer. A roll-up recipe from the blog The Well Floured Kitchen uses ricotta and pesto, but any savory filling would work. The zucchini sheets offer a subtle flavor and slight crispness but are pliable enough to roll up for a fun party food.
Zucchini takes on tangy and sweet flavors in a marinated salad recipe posted on Taste of Home. Because zucchini is mostly water, it can easily absorb flavorful ingredients such as vinegar and spices. The rounds hold their shape nicely, too, as they soften. The entire family will enjoy this salad as a side dish for barbecue.
A recipe for crunchy zucchini fries from the blog Damn Delicious isn't the healthiest take on a seasonal vegetable, but it's an easy and inexpensive crowd pleaser. And baking the fries keeps the amount of oil in check. Even with breading and cheese, these tasty treats aren't too much of an indulgence -- especially compared with french fries or mozzarella sticks.
A big batch of ratatouille is a prime way to use up extra zucchini and feed a crowd at the same time. Serve Martha Stewart's recipe as a side dish, or pile it between two pieces of bread to make a hearty sandwich. Leftover ratatouille keeps for a few days in the fridge. Loaded with garden vegetables, this comfort food can be combined with everything from eggs to pasta to create vegetable-forward entrees from breakfast to dinner.
Don't let the bright orange zucchini flowers go to waste, as they are delicious, nutritious, and happen to be free from your garden or cheap at green markets and specialty stores. In Mexico, a traditional and tasty recipe uses them as a quesadilla filling. Their mild vegetal flavor and soft texture work well with fresh cheeses. A recipe from the blog Simply Recipes uses corn tortillas for authenticity.
A simple Fine Cooking recipe combines basics such as flour, salt, and butter with tangy goat cheese and lemon thyme for an impressive dish that tastes as good as it looks. Although this version calls for lemon thyme, cooks can use any fresh herbs plus lemon zest for results that are just as tasty.
Eating vegetables for breakfast is a healthy habit, and zucchini makes it easy. Use leftover cooked zucchini in an omelet or scramble, or try a "brunch bake" posted on Allrecipes that's full of herbs and onion. Adding tomato and breakfast meats, such as bacon and sausage, is a good way to use up other leftovers and customize the flavor of the versatile base recipe.
The light flavor of zucchini lends itself well to a crisp summer drink. An agua fresca recipe from the cooking site What's Cooking America combines cucumber and zucchini for layers of earthy sweetness. Adapt this idea by combining zucchini with fruits and herbs to create refreshing beverages. Kick it up a notch by adding a splash of the spirit of your choice.