What’s the most plentiful vegetable of summer? Zucchini! Therefore let us celebrate the zucchini today in new ways.
I didn’t enjoy summer squash when I was a child, but as an adult I’ve really come to appreciate the zucchini. And last summer I bought a spiralizer at Aldi for about $15, so now I can make my own “zoodles,” which are really great. (If you ever buy pre-cut zucchini noodles at a grocery store and enjoy them, just go ahead and buy your own cranked spiralizer, because the cost of the pre-cut zoodles is ridiculous.)
Two large zucchini are enough to feed the whole family, but my 5-year-old won’t eat them, so I still make a small pot of traditional pasta for him and for my husband, who happily eats his first plate full of zoodles and then a second plate of real pasta. (He is an eating machine.) My 2-year-old loves zucchini though. Sometimes I wish he would eat more meat and even more carbs so he would stay full longer, but he just loves his fruit and vegetables.
This first recipe, for mango zucchini salad, combines fruit and vegetables and rice noodles, or if you’re in the mood, sub in zoodles instead. With mango, cashews, radishes and a hot chile, you’ve got some nice Asian flavors coming together here, but the homemade dressing with lime juice, ginger and maple gives it some great sweet/spicy/savory combination. It’s a nice light meal for these dreadfully hot days.
Next up, one of my favorite appetizers in summer, zucchini fries. These are made with Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, but the most exciting part of making them yourself is pairing them with a homemade garlic aioli. Aioli pretty much just means thinner mayonnaise, and this one adds some Greek yogurt to it to keep it from being too fattening. Yum!
And finally, for those who grow their own zucchini and might want to head off some squashes from taking over the garden, a recipe for stuffed squash blossoms. I’ve seen recipes for squash blossoms for years, and earlier this month I got a chance to try some at a funky restaurant down in Baltimore. The ones I tried were taco-stuffed and fried, and you couldn’t tell you were eating a flower, it just became a housing for the fry batter to stick too. So really, fried squash blossoms are just a vehicle of delivery for the interior ingredients. And the interior ingredients today are crabmeat and mascarpone cheese. I haven’t tried these, but I figured if I was going to get anyone else to try them, crabmeat was the way.
I’d like to write more, but I’ve got a chocolate zucchini bread I’ve got to go make. If you have any other zucchini recipes you love, please send them my way.
Mango zucchini salad
For the salad:
3.5 ounces vermicelli rice noodles*
½ cup cashews
7 ounces mango
2 small zucchinis
2 small spring onions, sliced thinly
1 red chili (de-seeded for a milder taste), sliced thinly
Handful of fresh mint and/or cilantro, chopped
For the dressing:
¼ cup lime juice
4 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4-5 teaspoons maple syrup, adjust to taste
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger, adjust to taste
Prepare the vermicelli noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Set aside and let them cool down.
Heat a small pan on a low-medium heat. Add the cashews and roast them, stirring or tossing them frequently, until they are browned on both sides. Take the nuts off the hot pan and set aside to cool, chop roughly.
Cut the peeled mango into same sized pieces. Slice the zucchini and radishes very thinly using a sharp knife or a mandolin.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together well. Adjust the amount of ginger and sweetness to taste, keeping in mind that the mango will add extra sweetness to the salad, so you want the dressing to be fairly tangy.
Once the noodles are cold, place them in a large bowl and toss the vegetables, spring onions, chili and herbs through them. Use your hands to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Finally massage the dressing into the salad.
Place on a large platter or divide between bowls. Scatter with toasted cashews and decorate with extra herbs.
Note: *If you would rather not use noodles, replace them with more zucchini, which you can either spiralize, julienne or shave into ribbons for a noodle substitute.
Baked parmesan zucchini fries with garlic aioli
¾ cup Panko crumbs
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 small zucchini, cut in half and quartered lengthwise
2 large brown eggs
For the garlic aioli:
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, minced
¾ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
For the garlic aioli, add all ingredients to small bowl, mix well, cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes while you make zucchini fries.
For the zucchini fries, line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Add Panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt and black pepper to medium bowl, stir until well combined.
In separate bowl, add eggs and beat well. Dip each zucchini fry in egg, then coat in Panko/Parmesan mix, before adding to aluminum lined baking sheet. Repeat with all zucchini strips and spread out in a single layer.
Bake for ten minutes, then remove pan, flip each fry, and bake additional 8-10 minutes or until zucchini is cooked through and breaded outside is crispy/golden brown.
Serve warm with garlic aioli.
Fried squash blossoms stuffed with crab and mascarpone
4 zucchini blossoms (fewer, if large), stamens and sepals removed
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lemon wedges, for serving
For the stuffing:
8 ounces lump crab meat
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces light beer
Make the filling: Whisk together cheese and egg. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Gently fold in basil and crab. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Stuff blossoms: Using a small spoon, carefully fill blossoms with crab mixture, keeping the petals as tight as possible. The number of blossoms needed for this amount of filling ranges, depending on the size of your zucchini flowers.
Meanwhile, heat 1 inch of oil in a pan over medium heat until slightly shimmering.
Batter and fry: Add flour to a medium bowl and gradually pour in beer while whisking. It’s OK if there are some lumps, just try not to allow the batter to deflate. Dip stuffed blossoms in, one at a time, allow excess batter to drip off, and immediately place blossoms into hot oil. Cook a total of 3 to 4 minutes, flipping half way through, or until golden brown. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Drain on a paper towel- lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt. You may have excess batter remaining, which you can use for any extra unstuffed zucchini blossoms, if desired. Enjoy while hot.