Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Let me be the first to invite you to a Simply Fresh cooking demonstration at the CSA barn on Saturday, 7/11 at 12 noon.  I have no idea yet what I will be making as it depends on how next week’s harvest shakes out (ahh, the joys of farming!).   Hope to meet you then!

Featured Item—Zucchini

You know it is truly summer when the zucchini is ready. 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:

Raw  

Sliced for crudités or in salads

Shredded and mixed with favorite coleslaw ingredients

Sliced very thin and sprinkled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper, and a grated or shaved sharp cheese (e.g. Asiago).

Shaved with vegetable peeler into ribbons and tossed with a vinaigrette

Spiralized and served with your favorite pasta sauce/ingredients (see information on spiralizers below)

Shredded and used in place of cucumber for Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce) or added to favorite dip recipes for texture.

Cubed and added to vegetable or grain salads

Boiled or Steamed

Sliced, diced or shredded and blanched until just tender –many people do this before freezing

Boiled or steamed, drained and mashed for puree with favorite add-ins (herbs, cheese, butter, cream)

Boiled in broth and then pureed into a soup

Used as a late addition to chilis, soups, stews

Stewed with tomatoes or tomato sauce

Sautéed

Ratatouille

Stir fry

Sliced, diced or shaved into ribbons and sautéed with olive oil or butter with garlic and your favorite herbs.

Spiralized, sautéed briefly, and then tossed with your favorite pasta sauce/ingredients (see information on spiralizers below).

Mixed with breadcrumbs and other “crab cake-like” like ingredients, shaped into patties, and then sautéed until brown in butter or oil.

Cut into “planks” and sautéed in oil/butter, herbs, and a splash of lemon juice until golden and soft (this is farmer Joe’s favorite method).

Baked

Halved, hollowed out, and stuffed with your favorite stuffing (e.g. breadcrumbs, sautéed vegetables, cooked sausage or ground meat, rice mixtures, quinoa). Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes

Sliced and baked into casseroles, quiches, or tarts

Sliced or left whole and baked until tender

Fried

Tempura battered

Breaded and either oven or deep-fried (see recipe below)

Grilled

Shish-kabobs

Sliced lengthwise and tossed in your favorite marinade or oil before grilling

Baked Goods

Shredded and added to muffin and cake batters. It is good to use specific recipes because the added moisture in the squash can affect the finished product.  See recipe below for a killer chocolate zucchini cake recipe.

Other

Shredded, cooked, and added to marinara sauce

Shredded and added to meatloaf or meatball recipes. Use it to increase moisture with leaner meats. (i.e. turkey) or increase volume and/or nutrition in any ground meat.

Cut in ribbons, sautéed briefly, and used in your favorite fettuccini recipe

Cooked, pureed and mixed into hummus for a lighter dip

Sliced thin and baked into noodle-less lasagna

Sliced thin and cooked, then used as wrapper for rollatini

Spiralized

 

71IcG+PYs-L._SL1500_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.

Here are some of my favorite recipes for zucchini. Enjoy!!

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These baked “fries” make a healthy, delicious alternative to fried potatoes.

Baked Zucchini “Fries”                                                Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (Can use gluten free brands)

– 1/2 (scant) teaspoon garlic salt

– 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

– 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

– 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

– 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

– 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

– 2 egg whites, lightly beaten

– 2 medium zucchini, washed and sliced into 1/8-1/4″ slices

METHOD:

  1. Position oven rack in center position. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil. Spray foil generously with high-heat resistant cooking spray (like grill or canola spray—avoid olive oil).
  1. In a small shallow bowl, mix breadcrumbs, seasonings, and Parmesan cheese until well blended. In separate small shallow bowl, whisk egg whites and Dijon until smooth.
  1. Dip squash slices in egg mixture and coat completely. Allow excess egg to drip off. Toss in breadcrumb mixture and coat completely. Place on prepared baking sheet. Continue with remaining squash.
  1. Spray tops of coated squash slices generously with cooking spray. Place in oven and bake about 7-8 minutes or until tops and edges begin to brown. Turn slices over and continue to bake for 2-3 more minutes, or until slices are golden on both tops and bottoms, about 10-12 minutes total. Cool for 5 minutes. Best when eaten immediately.

NOTES:

The thinner the slices, the crispier the fries. Fries are great dipped in ranch dressing.

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This cake is pure decadence. It is a Simply Fresh favorite so I decided to reprint itagain. No one will know it is rather healthful and light.

Healthier Triple Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake         20 snack slices

INGREDIENTS:

– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

– 1 3/4 cups sugar

– 2 large eggs

– 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 cup white whole wheat flour

– 1/2 cup good quality Dutch Process Cocoa, like Drost

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

– 1 cup bittersweet baking chocolate chips, like Ghirardelli 60% cocoa

– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 cake pan.
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave chopped chocolate in 10-15 second intervals at 50% power, stirring well after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat oil, sugar, applesauce and vanilla on medium-low speed for 1 minute. With mixer on low, gradually add melted chocolate (mixture may look curdled). Add eggs, one at time, mixing just until incorporated. Alternate adding buttermilk and flour mixture on low, mixing just until combined before continuing. Do not overbeat.
  1. With a spatula, fold in zucchini and chocolate chips until incorporated. Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter evenly and smoothing top.
  1. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. (do not over bake or cake will get dry). Cool on wire rack for 1 hour or serve warm.

NOTES:

Most supermarkets now carry King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour. This flour has all the nutritional properties of regular whole wheat flour, but leads to more tender baked goods.

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I came up with this recipe when looking for a lower carb breakfast item. I love these “hash browns” served with one fried egg.

Zucchini Hash Browns                                                                         Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 large zucchini, or two small

– 1/2 medium onion

– 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced thyme

– 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

– 1 clove garlic, minced

– 1 tablespoon coconut oil

METHOD:

Grate zucchini and onion. Place in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove as move excess liquid as possible. Place zucchini mixture in to a medium bowl and mix in thyme, salt, and garlic.

Heat coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet (if you use a regular skillet, you will need to use more coconut oil).   Spread zucchini mixture into a single layer over the pan and using a spatula, press mixture down until you have made a patty without any holes or breaks. Cook for about 10 minutes or until zucchini is well browned on the bottom. For the best browning and flavor, resist the temptation to turn the cake too soon. Spray top of mixture with coconut oil spray and then, using a large spatula, turn zucchini cake in parts until all sections have been turned upside down (cake will not hold together, which is fine). Again spread and pat mixture into a large patty covering the bottom of the pan and allow to cook until once again browned on the bottom, 5-10 minutes more. Break up mixture with a spatula and cook until desired level of browning. Serve immediately.

1 thought on “Simply Fresh by Julie Wern”

  1. Susan LeClerc

    The zucchini “fries” look like something I’ll definitely need to try! Thanks for sharing.

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