Now We're Cookin'
Zucchini is very abundant this time of year. It can be used in many different many ways: salad, main dish, snacks and desserts. Zoodles (zucchini noodles) have become very popular. One large zucchini serves 1-2 people; one small-medium zucchini serves one.
You also may freeze it for future use. Here are some tips for freezing zucchini:
Blanch Before Freezing: Place cut-up zucchini in boiling water for a minute. Too long will cook the zucchini too much and can make it mushy. The texture after freezing still isn’t quite the same as when the zucchini was fresh, but blanching means the pieces will stay reasonably firm even after thawing. You may also use a cheese grater and shred it or use a food processor.
Don’t Add Salt: The salt will absorb into the vegetable, softening the cell walls and making the zucchini mushy.
Freeze It Twice: If you have time and freezer space, freeze the cut-up zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicon baking mat. This freezes each cube of zucchini individually, so they can be stored as a loose bundle in a freezer bag or container. The smaller pieces thaw more quickly during cooking.
Cooking with Frozen Zucchini: Frozen zucchini is best used in dishes alongside other vegetables, like soups, casseroles, and pasta sauces. You can add the frozen zucchini directly to the pot, no need to thaw. Frozen zucchini is less suited for things like stir-fries, steamed vegetable side dishes, or salads.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
For the chocolate zucchini cake:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. veg. oil or canola oil
1/4 c. melted butter, cooled to room temperature
1/4 c. buttermilk, room temp.
3 lg. eggs, room temp.
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. chocolate chips
For the chocolate frosting:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
3 c. confectioner’s sugar
2/3 c. unsweet. cocoa powder
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, oil, melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined.
Stir in the dry ingredients until barley combined, it is ok if there is still some flour not mixed in. Gently squeeze out some of the moisture in the zucchini. You want the zucchini to still have some moisture, but not full of liquid. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Don’t over mix.
Pour the cake batter in the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 25-32 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center or the cake.
Let the cake cool completely. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute. In a large bowl, sift together the confectioner’s sugar and the cocoa powder. Add the mixture to the butter and beat, slowly adding in the milk. Add the vanilla extract and salt. Stop and scrape down the sides. Beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy.
Frost the cooled chocolate zucchini cake with chocolate frosting. Cut the cake into squares and serve.
Note-cover the cake and store on the counter for up to 3 days. Makes 16 servings.
Baked Zucchini Chips
4 lg. zucchini, evenly sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. hot smoked paprika, optional
1/2 tsp. cumin, opt.
Slice the zucchini. Lay the zucchini slices on paper towels in a single layer. Cover with more paper towels and set a baking sheet on top of the zucchini slices. Press down on the baking sheet, applying slight pressure, to help squeeze out some of the moisture.
Preheat the oven to 235 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper lightly with olive oil.
Lay the zucchini slices in a single layer on the parchment paper. Fit as many on each baking sheet as possible. Then lightly brush the top of the zucchini with olive oil. Sprinkle the zucchini slices with salt. You can also sprinkle with a little cumin and smoked paprika for extra flavor.
Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until crisp and golden. If some zucchini chips are still a little flimsy or damp, remove the crisp chips and place the damp chips back in the oven for a few more minutes. Allow the zucchini chips to cool on the paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Store in an air-tight container.
Zucchini Noodles with Spinach, Chicken & Parmesan Cheese
2 c. diced, herbed, baked chicken
1-2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
4 c. baby spinach
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add olive oil. Mince garlic and stir in pan for 30 seconds. Add baby spinach and stir until wilted. Add zucchini noodles and diced chicken. Toss 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
* Cooking Options: Zucchini are comprised of 95% water, so you don’t want to overcook them, just heat them up. You can microwave for 1 minute (add 30 second increments if needed), and top with sauce; sauté 1-2 minutes with 1 tablespoon olive oil; or boil for 1 minute.
Slicing Options: If you don’t have a spiralizer here are some options: use your apple corer-peeler, dicer/slicer on the mandolin or a julienne peeler. Do not use the soft middle portion with seeds.