It’s being served up to kids across the country every day. Doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. So how can we trick the little blighters into eating the versatile zucchini?
I HAVE learnt from having children that how you cut a vegetable renders it either delicious or something so disgusting that they’re dialling Child Services.
Nothing is more prone to this than the zucchini. Batons might be eaten one day but rounds flicked off the plate the next. It’s enough to make you scream, “It’s the same vegetable no matter how I cut it, you tiny tyrant!” – and I have.
So here are some ways to cook the nation’s most popular summer vegetable.
Fry a dice of zucchini until just browning at the edges. Add crushed garlic and cool a little. Stir into Greek yoghurt with lemon, dill and salt. Serve as a dip or on the side with grilled fish or lamb chops.
Throw a couple of handfuls of diced zucchini into a risotto as you finish it by stirring through a dollop of mascarpone rather than butter and parmesan. Serve topped with grilled scallops or prawns, a handful of chopped parsley, lemon zest and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Toss batons of raw zucchini in beaten egg then crumb in a mix of polenta, parmesan and lemon zest. Deep fry and serve hot and crunchy with dipping sauces like taramasalata loosened with a little lemon juice, melted gorgonzola or a Turkish muhammara, (roast red capsicums pureed with walnuts, cumin, olive oil, lemon and breadcrumbs).
Or steam batons and serve with basil pesto on hot penne. Garnish with a few grains of ground cloves – an old Italian trick to intensify the basil’s flavour.
Once you’ve squeezed excess moisture from grated zucchini, the obvious use is to make fritters with eggs, haloumi and dill, or a frittata with eggs, feta and mint.
But stirring grated zucchini into mac ’n’ cheese before baking, or using it in other baking like savoury muffins with goat’s cheese and ham or a zucchini cake, is also great.
If I’m not using rounds of zucchini in a ratatouille loaded with eggplant and capsicum (both in season), then I’ll fry them gently in olive oil and butter with some finely diced onion to make a summer zucchini soup.
Add a cup of warm chicken stock for every cup of cooked onion/zucchini mix and blitz with a generous handful of basil and about the same amount of parmesan. Serve drizzled with a ring of olive oil and a few drops of balsamic.
Toss raw ribbons – cut with a peeler – with lemon and a little salt. Allow these to slightly “cook” the zucchini. Drain and toss with cooked baby peas, snow peas sliced lengthwise, lumps of ricotta and loads of mint. Serve with baked white fish or a barbecued butterflied lamb leg.
Whether using a spiralizer or sexy knife work, these strands cook super-quick, making them ideal, barely poached, in a dashi broth or pan-wilted with garlic in a little olive oil to serve under steamed snapper fillets for the cleanest dinners of summer. Did someone say, “bikini body”?
Cut into 1cm-thick strips, toss in oil, and cook on the barbecue. Leave them alone so they get lovely char lines while the flesh inside becomes soft. When one side is cooked, flip and lay prosciutto and mozzarella on top. The prosciutto will warm and leach out some of its porky goodness and the mozzarella will soften.
Tear over parsley, a generous squeeze of lemon and olive oil. Eat with toasted ciabatta and a mound of mortadella warmed in the oven or microwave.