And the Napa cabbage keeps coming…..
Try this refreshing slaw if you are looking for new ideas:
You know it is truly summer when the zucchini is running. It may be a familiar vegetable, but it is so plentiful this time of year that it is fun to come across new recipes and ideas. Did you know that zucchini is actually a fruit?
Zucchini is one of those amazingly vegetables that everyone seems to be able to get behind. Because it is mild and tends to take on rather than overpower other ingredients, it is a very versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a dizzying amount of ways. The whole vegetable is edible both raw and cooked. It just needs a bit of rinsing and off you go. Even its flower is delicious coated in batter and fried, or stuffed with cheese and topped with marinara sauce.
How great is it that such versatile and well-tolerated vegetable has such an amazing nutritional profile. I’ve read that one zucchini contains more potassium than a banana, which is great for those of us active folks who are looking for potassium sources that don’t contain high levels of fructose. Zucchini also has high levels of many other important nutrients, including fiber; vitamins C, K, B6; and minerals such as ribolflavin, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, and copper. Zucchini is also known to have significant antioxidant properties and is considered a food that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Who knew??
Farm fresh zucchini should be refrigerated unwashed and stored loosely in plastic in order to preserve moisture and retard spoilage. Supermarket varieties are often waxed, which reduces the need for refrigeration. Once refrigerated, summer squash should last about a week.
Medium-sized squash that are unblemished, firm, and heavy for their size will be most tender. As they get larger the flesh can become more fibrous and the seeds harder. Avoid overly mature or large zuchhini, especially if they have pitted skin. Also avoid spongy fruit as this suggests the zucchini is past its prime.
Preparation methods for summer squash are endless. Below are listed several ideas and recipe links:
Boiled or Steamed
Perhaps my favorite way to prepare zucchini is spiralized. If you haven’t yet experienced the joy of a spiralizer, you have to check it out. They are gadgets that cut large vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, or big potatoes into long, thin spirals that many liken to pasta. They are a favorite of those on raw food diets. True, the “pastas” are delicious raw, but they can also be quickly cooked if so desired. I really encourage everyone to try these fun gadgets as they can really stimulate variety and interest with your zucchini yields. For example, toss raw or cooked zucchini noodles with your favorite hot pasta sauce or cold vinaigrette. The spiraled zucchini also make excellent cold “noodle” salads. Just beware that zucchini will give off water over time, so it is best to toss with vinaigrettes and sauces right before serving as the finished dish will tend to get watered down as it sits. The plain, undressed “noodles”, however, keep well for a couple of days in the fridge.
I own two different kinds of spiralizers, a large free standing plastic unit that can handle many different vegetables but that takes up a significant amount of space (click here) and a hand-held spiralizer that is great for a quick job or for spriralized veggies for one person (click here) I bought the stand-alone spiralizer online, but purchased the hand-held cutter at Sur La Table in Canton. I understand that Bed, Bath and Beyond, as well as some supermarkets, now carry spiralizers as well.
To Freeze or Not to Freeze
Because summer squash grows so well, there is often a glut of it in farms and home gardens. However, there seems to be no clear answer as to whether or not, and how, it should be frozen. Some folks believe it ought to be blanched first, but others say it doesn’t matter. Most people do agree that freezing results in the significant release of water and a potentially altered texture (mushy or spongy). I personally have never tried to freeze it unless it was in a soup, in which case the release of water or soft texture wasn’t really a problem. It seems to me that it is something everyone must try for him/herself to see if the results are personally acceptable. However, it you would like to share your experiences with the CSA respond to the comment section of the blog.
Below is a surprise take on the classic Spaghetti and Meatballs, all using the humble zucchini.
In this classic dish, zucchini contributes splendidly to both the marinara sauce and the meatballs. Serve both over spiralized zucchini (or a mix of spaghetti and spiralized zucchini) and you have a zucchinilicious healthy meal.
My family LOVES this marinara because the vegetables give it natural sweetness, removing the need for added sugar, and cuts the acidity from the crushed tomatoes. This is the perfect way to serve zucchini to folks who think they hate it–they’ll never know what hit them.
If you don’t wish to cook the marinara in a crockpot, simmer on the stovetop, covered, for at least two hours.
Crockpot Marinara with Hidden Veggies
– 1 large onion, minced
– 1 medium organic zucchini, shredded
– 1 large organic carrot, shredded
– 2 organic celery ribs, small diced
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
– 3 28 oz can crushed tomatoes w/ puree, or 10 cups fresh
– 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
– 2 tablespoons freshly minced basil
Place crushed tomatoes in a crockpot insert. Stir in onion, zucchini, carrot, celery, garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook on low for 4-6 hours (or overnight) or on high for 2-3 hours. Remove insert and allow to cool somewhat. Stir in basil.
Carefully puree in batches in blender (be careful because mixture will be hot. Be sure to remove steam escape cover on blender but cover with a folded paper towel or a dish cloth while pureeing to avoid splatters). Sauce can be chilled and reheated for later use, or frozen.
Basic Baked Meatballs
– 1 1/2 cups fresh whole wheat or gluten free breadcrumbs
– 6 tablespoons organic milk (or milk substitute of choice)
– 2 pounds ground turkey, beef, or bison, organic pastured preferred
– 1 pound ground pork (organic preferred)
– 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
– 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
– 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
– 1 large zucchini, shredded and squeezed to remove as much water as possible
– 3 large eggs, organic pastured preferred
– 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
– 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1. Place two racks at least 3-inches apart in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 400℉. Place a cooling rack on each of two rimmed baking sheets and spray rack with cooking spray.
2. Toss breadcrumbs and milk together in a medium bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add ground meat, eggs, garlic, cheese, parsley, zucchini, and salt and pepper. Mix lightly with your hands until ingredients are incorporated but be careful not to overwork it or else the meatballs won’t be as tender. Shape each meatball into 1 1/2” balls and place on racks on baking sheet. Bake, switching oven racks halfway through, for 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165℉. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. Freezing Instructions: Place meatballs on parchment lined baking sheets. They can be close together but not touching. Place, uncovered, in the freezer for 1-2 hours or until frozen. Then transfer meatballs to freezer containers or baggies.
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