Is That a Zucchini, or............
If you are a gardener, or know someone who is, you are probably more than a little familiar with the August ritual of trying to unload extra produce onto friends and neighbors. In the early spring, gardeners are wide-eyed with anticipation of bountiful harvests. As they poke tiny seeds down into the cool soil or tenderly pat transplants into their summer home, the planting beds look a little bare. The tendency is to want to fill in the blanks, to utilize every square foot of soil. Often times, they do, and that is the genesis of the August ritual. When the first tomatoes ripen, a proud gardener will carry them to work in a pretty basket, hold them up for all to admire and explain in exquisite detail the history of the variety, the flavor profile and how many days of rain there were in the growing cycle. After a sufficient period of admiration, the gardener will select special tomatoes for a few lucky friends and hand them over with much fanfare and ceremony.
By the time August rolls around, the once proud gardener will be tiptoeing into the office break room with a cardboard box full to heaving with misshapen tomatoes, zucchini the size of your leg and all manner of overabundance. Gardening neighbors will drop a bag of veggies on your doorstep, ring the bell and run rather than risk you declining twenty two pounds of zucchini. Less aggressive gardeners might just toss their overabundance on the compost pile.
My frugal Yankee roots MAY allow me to turns produce into compost, but I will never be able to turn down a bag of ugly tomatoes. I’ll make sauce or salsa! I will accept your weird, curly cucumbers. It will make a refreshing agua fresca! Need to get rid of a jumbo zucchini? I’ll take it off your hands. I’ll turn it into ZUCCHINI CARROT BREAD, ZUCCHINI ENCHINADAS and GARLIC PARMESAN ZUCCHINI NOODLES, also known as “ZOODLES”. Check out my recipes below and never shy away from a gardener’s bag of overabundance!
Serves 4 (makes 12-14 enchiladas)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 cup red (or green) enchilada sauce, divided
4 zucchini (about 2 pounds)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream, for drizzling
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
On a cutting board, use a Y-shaped (harp) vegetable peeler to make thin slices of zucchini going end to end. Make the first slice and set aside. You will not use this one. Turn the zucchini over so that the cut side is flat on the cutting board. This will make the zucchini stable and easier to slice. Make the first slice on the top of the zucchini and set that one aside as well. The slices with skin are not easy to roll. Save them for salad or snacking. Alternately, you could slice the zucchini on a mandoline. After you have sliced halfway through the zucchini, turn it over and slice the same way from the other side. (You will probably not use the whole zucchini. Save for another use.) Repeat with the 3 remaining zucchini. The zucchini may be sliced earlier in the day and kept covered in the refrigerator until ready for use.
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add chopped onion, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and sauté until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and chili powder and stir until well combined. Add shredded cooked chicken, juice of 1 lime and 1 cup of enchilada sauce. Stir until chicken mixture is evenly coated. Remove from heat.
To roll enchiladas: On a cutting board, lay out 3 slightly overlapping slices of zucchini and place about 2-3 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture on the bottom third. Roll up the zucchini from the bottom and place in an oven safe casserole or baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat with remaining zucchini slices and chicken mixture, fitting the enchiladas close together in the casserole. Spoon remaining ½ cup of enchilada sauce over zucchini and top with the cheeses.
Bake until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro and serve.
GARLIC PARMESAN ZUCCHINI NOODLES (ZOODLES)
Makes 4 servings
4 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
Salt to taste
Trim the ends off zucchini and spiralizer to make zoodles. Cut extra long zoodles to the length of spaghetti. If you do not have a spiralizer, you can use a julienne vegetable peeler, a mandolin or you can use a regular vegetable peeler to make wide noodles or ribbons. Set aside.
In a large skillet with high sides, heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat. When the oil begins to bubble around the garlic, add the zoodles. Toss the noodles in the pan using tongs and cook until al dente, 5-7 minutes. The zoodles should be wilted, but still have some crunch. Keep tossing throughout the cooking time. Do not overcook or the zoodles will become mushy. Stir in tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese. Cook, still tossing, for one minute more. Use tongs to transfer zoodles, tomatoes and basil to a serving dish. Leave the liquid in the pan.
Bring pan liquid to a simmer. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl, then whisk into simmering liquid. Cook, still whisking, until the liquid thickens into a sauce; about 1 minute. Taste the sauce and season with salt if desired.
Pour sauce over zoodles. Finish with more Parmesan cheese on top and serve immediately.
ZUCCHINI CARROT BREAD
Makes 1 loaf or 10-12 muffins
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup coconut oil, melted (may substitute vegetable, canola or avocado oil)
½ cup white sugar (may substitute coconut sugar)
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shredded zucchini
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup pecans, chopped (may substitute walnuts)
½ cup dried cranberries (may substitute dried cherries or raisins)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 9x5x3 loaf pan by greasing with butter or cooking spray. If making muffins, prepare muffin tin by greasing with butter or cooking spray or simply using cupcake liners.
Grate zucchini and carrot either in a food processor using the shredder blade attachment, or on the coarse side of a box grater. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat together eggs, sugars, oil and vanilla. Combine these wet ingredients with the dry. At this point, the mixture will be thick and hard to stir.
Add in zucchini and carrots and stir until incorporated into batter. It should become more mixable at this point. Add in pecans, dried cranberries and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
Bake for 50-60 minutes for a loaf, 18-22 minutes for muffins, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Start checking the bread early as baking times will vary with your oven. After baking, allow to cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack until cooled completely.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup of powdered sugar. Stir until creamy. Add up to 1 additional Tablespoon of lemon juice if needed to achieve desired consistency. Glaze top of loaf or muffins after they have cooled COMPLETELY for best results. Garnish with additional lemon zest if desired.