Zucchini Zip for Your End-of-Summer Table

Zucchini comes into its own in late summer - and there are plenty of things you can do with it.

On The Early Show Wednesday, in the final part of the "Summer Harvest 101" series, Doc Willoughby, executive editor of Gourmet magazine shared everything you need to know about this late summer garden favorite, including how to buy and enjoy them.

Zucchini is a small summer squash. It can be green, dark green or yellow in color, although the flavors do not vary all that much. Most commonly, it is similar to the shape of a cucumber. If you're buying your zucchini from a local farmer's market or grocery store, the best yields are usually available in August and September. Zucchini typically is at its best within the first few days, so it's best to wait until you're ready to use it to buy the product.

Immature zucchini fruits are the best to select for the best taste. If you're using the zucchini in recipes or are planning to fry or bake them, it's best for them to be between four and six inches in length. If you're going to be stuffing your zucchini, opt for a slightly larger fruit of about eight inches or so. The best zucchinis should be dark in color. Select those which are firm and heavy for their size in order to guarantee the best taste. As they grow, zucchini become softer and less tasty, so bigger is not always better when picking zucchini. Zucchini is best fresh. There is no good way to store zucchini for the winter.


RECIPES:

Zucchini with Lemony Crumbs


Serves 4
Active time: 20 minutes
Start to finish: 40 minutes

2 lb zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups coarse breadcrumbs (from day old baguette)
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp chopped thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced

Toss zucchini with 3/4 tsp salt in a colander set over a bowl and let drain 20 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of zucchini in a kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, then cook breadcrumbs, zest, thyme and 1/8 tsp salt, stirring until crumbs are golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out skillet, then cook garlic in remaining 3 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and sauté until softened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve zucchini topped with breadcrumbs.

Grilled Zucchini Pepper Salad

Serves 4
Active time: 20 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour

1 1/2 lb zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices
2 red bell peppers, quartered
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp chopped basil

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas) or heat a 2-burner grill pan over medium heat until hot. Toss vegetables with 2 Tbsp oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes total. If using grill pan, grill in batches, 10 to 15 minutes per batch. Transfer peppers to a bowl and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Peel peppers and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cut zucchini crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a large bowl. Stir in vegetables and basil. Let stand 15 minutes for flavors to blend.

Zucchini Lime Slushee

Makes 4 drinks
Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 10 minutes

2 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 cups ice cubes
zucchini slices for garnish
Purée zucchini with sugar, lime juice, and 1/8 tsp salt in a blender. Add ice and blend until ice is finely crushed. Serve in 10-oz glasses.

Zucchini Whoopie Pies

Makes 12 (dessert)
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour

FOR CAKES:
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (10 ounces)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup walnuts (4 ounces), chopped

FOR FILLING:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

MAKE CAKES:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Butter 2 large baking sheets.
2. Squeeze handfuls of zucchini wrapped in a kitchen towel to remove moisture.
3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt until combined. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl
4. Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined well.
5. At low speed, mix in flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until smooth. Mix in zucchini and walnuts until just incorporated.
6. Spoon 1/4 mounds of batter 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake, switching positions of sheets halfway through, until tops are puffed and golden and spring back when touched,18 to 22 minutes. Transfer with a spatula to a rack to cool completely.

MAKE FILLING:
1. Beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

ASSEMBLE PIES:
1. Spread a rounded 2 Tbsp filling on flat sides of half of cakes and top with remaining cakes.

Note: Whoopie pies keep, chilled in an airtight container, 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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