Tomatoes are summers glamour crop, round, red and ripe. But though zucchini will never get as many magazine covers, real cooks know you cant beat it for versatility. If youve got a perfectly ripened backyard tomato, there are only a few things you should do with it (yes, admittedly, all of them are delicious). But if youve got a bag of zucchini, well, the sky is the limit.
Here are some quick ideas.
1. Bulgur salad with arugula, zucchini and pine nuts: Salt zucchini and set aside until soft. Rinse, pat dry and combine with toasted soaked bulgur and minced red onion, dress with olive oil and lemon juice and at the last minute add torn arugula leaves and toasted pine nuts.
2. Ratatouille: Saute onions in olive oil until theyre tender and transfer them to a big pot. Saute zucchini until tender and add that to the pot. Saute eggplant until tender and add that to the pot. Add peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes and red wine vinegar and cook until they thicken. Add them to the pot and heat everything through to combine flavors.
3. Zucchini-basil frittata: Saute sliced onion and shredded zucchini in a nonstick skillet until the zucchini is no longer moist. Stir the mixture into a bowl of beaten eggs along with grated Parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves. Return the mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the egg mixture sets like soft scrambled eggs. Run the pan under a broiler just until it browns on top.
4. Zuni Cafe zucchini pickles: Slice the zucchini about 1/16 of an inch thick. Combine in a bowl with a sliced onion and salt generously. Cover with ice water and set aside until the zucchini is softened, about 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Combine vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. Pour the brine mixture over the zucchini, transfer to jars, seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day.
5. Braised zucchini with mint and lemon: Braise the zucchini in olive oil with chopped onion, garlic, lemon zest and mint. When you remove the lid and turn the heat up to high, add more lemon juice and cook until the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Cool to warm room temperature and stir in more mint and toasted pine nuts.
6. Zucchini and pine nut salad: This is another very simple (and delicious) adaptation of a basic technique. Salt zucchini as in the bulgur salad and combine it with minced red onion and pine nuts and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Stir in shredded basil just before serving.
7. Zucchini in agrodolce: Cut the zucchini into large pieces. Heat olive oil and a whole peeled garlic clove until the garlic begins to brown. Add the cut-up zucchini and cook until the zucchini begins to brown, add white vinegar, sugar, toasted pine nuts, softened golden raisins and a chopped anchovy fillet and cook until the liquid reduces to a syrup. Remove from the heat, stir in chopped mint and season to taste with salt and black pepper. This can be served either warm or cold.
8. Calabacitas con crema: Cut an onion into thick slices and cook slowly until golden. Add sliced garlic, shredded roasted, peeled, seeded poblano peppers and zucchini cut into thick slabs and cook, covered, until the zucchini is tender. Add Mexican crema, increase the heat to medium, and cook until thickened. Just before serving, stir in chopped cilantro.
9. Garlic and herb-stuffed zucchini: Make a flavorful tomato sauce. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and use a melon baller to carefully remove enough of the flesh from the center to make a boat. Season lightly with salt and steam until tender. Grind fresh bread to crumbs in a food processor with basil and garlic. Pour into a bowl and stir in chopped anchovies and toasted pine nuts. Pour the tomato sauce into a lightly oiled gratin dish and spoon the breadcrumb mixture into the zucchini, mounding it slightly on top. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until the tops of the breadcrumbs are browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
A more elaborate recipe:
Total time: 30 minutes, plus draining time for the shredded zucchini; servings: Makes 8 fritters
1 pound zucchini
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 green onion, chopped, green part only
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon minced jalapeno
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
1. Shred the zucchini and put it in a colander. Sprinkle generously with salt, mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes to drain. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until they begin to pop and smell fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
2. Rinse the shredded zucchini under cold running water. Pick up a small handful, squeeze it dry and put it in the center of a linen dish towel. When youve squeezed all the zucchini by hand, gather the dish towel around the zucchini and twist, wringing out as much liquid as you can. The more liquid you remove, the lighter the fritter will be.
3. Put the zucchini in a bowl and add the green onion, jalapeno, cumin and coriander and stir to mix well. Stir in the flour and then the beaten egg. The mixture should be sticky, but there shouldnt be any free liquid. If there is, stir in a little more flour.
4. Pour olive oil into a nonstick skillet to a depth of about one-fourth inch (itll take about one-fourth cup) and heat it over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough that a little bit of zucchini sizzles immediately, drop 4 (2 to 3 tablespoon) mounds of the batter into the pan, flattening them slightly with the back of a spoon.
5. Fry until golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, then gently flip and fry until golden brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and gently pat away any excess oil.
6. Serve immediately, with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt.
Nutrition per fritter: 147 calories; 2 grams protein; 4 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 23 mg cholesterol; 1 gram sugar; 87 mg sodium.