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Carrie's Kitchen: Three ways to enjoy the mild and versatile zucchini

We’re into full summer produce season, and I had a hard time picking what I wanted to write about this week. I thought I should tackle one of the most plentiful summer vegetables now because you’re probably going to be dealing with them for many weeks to come: zucchini.

I really like zucchini, because it’s mild and versatile and doesn’t take very long to sauté. My go-to, when dinner’s in 15 minutes, is to cut it into thin spears, sprinkle it with Italian seasoning and a little Parmesan and bake it in my toaster oven at 400 degrees until it just resists being pierced with a fork. Don’t go past that point or you’ll get that mush that so many people associate with summer squash, which is often why they don’t like it.

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This first recipe is for a zucchini soup that’s filled with the Indian spices of turmeric and curry powder, giving it a bright yellow flavor, a full cup of coconut milk for a nice creamy texture, and some fish sauce for salty umami and lime for bright acidity. It’s not super filling, but when we get this 90-degree weather, I don’t want something heavy. I kind of want just enough food to keep me alive until the hot spell stops.

The second recipe is for a savory zucchini waffle, which reminds me of these zucchini fritters I used to make, but less messy, because there’s no oil splattering out of the pan. The recipe calls for almond flour, but you can do an equal volume swap with wheat flour if you prefer. Plan ahead to make these because you need time to let the salt pull some of the water out of the grated zucchini. Take the time to do this step or else the ratio of wet and dry won’t be right.

And finally, because I’ve been craving it, a chocolate zucchini bread. This recipe uses half butter and half oil, which will keep it moist and still flavorful, and more zucchini than flour or sugar, which is pretty amazing. The batter gets a half cup of cocoa and another half cup of chocolate chips in it, with even more chocolate chips on top. This is one of those great desserts that you can pretend is a healthy snack and people feel good about eating it at 10:30 a.m., whereas they may turn down a brownie at the same time of day so as to not look gluttonous. And it tastes delicious.

Enjoy!

Turmeric zucchini soup

1 tablespoon ghee (or coconut oil)

1 large onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 medium zucchinis (about 1 pound), diced into cubes

3 cloves garlic, diced

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

1 teaspoon mild curry powder

1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black)

1 cup vegetable stock

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1 cup coconut milk (shake the can of coconut milk well before using)

1 teaspoon fish sauce (or Tamari)

Juice of 1/2 small lime (about 2 tablespoons)

Fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish

Heat the ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring a few times, until softened and golden.

Add salt, zucchini and garlic and stir through the onion. Then add the turmeric, curry powder and pepper and stir through a few times to release the aromas.

Add the stock, coconut milk and fish sauce and stir. Bring to boil, then turn the heat down to low. Cook for 10 minutes, simmering and covered with a lid.

Finally, add the juice of 1/2 lime and stir through. Serve with a few fresh coriander leaves on top.

Zucchini waffles

2 ½ cups zucchini, shredded

2 ½ teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup almond flour

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

Shred the zucchini on a box grater into a strainer. Set strainer over a bowl or in the sink and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Liquid will begin to sweat from the zucchini and we want as much of this liquid to drain away.

Turn on your waffle iron to medium high heat.

Once the zucchini has sweat for at least 30 minutes, place zucchini in the center of a clean and dry cotton dish cloth or a piece of cheese cloth. Twist the zucchini into a ball to squeeze out as much of the water as possible from the zucchini. Really put some muscle into it and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.

In a medium clean bowl, add the zucchini, along with the almond flour, shredded cheddar, garlic powder, baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, garlic powder and the egg. Mix with a regular spoon until fully combined.

Take small spoonfuls (about 1 tablespoon each) and roll each spoonful into a small ball. Place 4 balls into the waffle iron. One ball in each quarter of the waffle iron. Close the lid and set for about 5 minutes. You can go less or more depending on the heat of the waffle iron and your desired crispiness.

Serve with sour cream if you like.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini, tightly packed*

1 cup flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 - 1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 5-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, brown sugar, and sugar until completely dissolved. Stir in eggs and vanilla and whisk well.

Add zucchini (see notes about blotting zucchini with a paper towel to soak up some of the moisture) to bowl and stir.

Stir in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fold in a heaping 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Reserve the remaining chocolate chips to sprinkle on the top.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes, if it is getting too done on the sides of the bread, lightly place foil over the top to allow the center to become fully cooked. The bread may need longer to cook once the foil is placed over the chocolate zucchini bread.

Set aside to cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Let cool before slicing. Serve with sweet cream butter or chocolate hazelnut spread.

*Note: Take a paper towel and lightly dot it on the zucchini to soak up some of the moisture.

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