Five ways to use up zucchini

If you’re a gardener or subscriber to a community-supported agriculture farm, you probably have an abundance of zucchini or other summer squash. The classic Fifty Ways to Cook Everything by Andrew Schloss and Ken Bookman has a whole chapter on zucchini. They start with a “basic zucchini mixture” that you are supposed to cook and freeze in 1-cup or 2-cup amounts, for use later in a variety of dishes.

I’ve never been that organized about putting up food, but after the jump I’ve posted my strategies for using up summer squash before it goes bad. You’ll have to click through to learn the secret ingredient of my favorite zucchini bread.

Yellow summer squash of any shape can be substituted for zucchini is any of these recipes.  Most of the time there’s no need to peel summer squash, but you should cut away the ends and brown spots. I prefer to slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds, unless you’re dealing with a If you’re shopping for zucchini at the store or farmer’s market, try to pick small ones. The huge ones can be watery or have a woody texture.

1. Make zucchini bread.

There must be a thousand different ways to make zucchini bread. You probably already have recipes in your own cookbooks. I’ve settled on this version, which I adapted from Diana Shaw’s Essential Vegetarian Cookbook. It contains no oil or butter. I replaced whole wheat flour with a multi-grain flour, and use 2 eggs instead of 3 egg whites. I left out the nonfat dry milk in Shaw’s recipe, and added a bit of salt, ground cardamom and wheat germ instead. I also reduced the sugar and substituted brown for plain.

Desmoinesdem’s zucchini bread

1 1/3 cups 7-grain or other multi-grain flour (or just use whole wheat flour)

2/3 cup oat bran

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup sugar (I like to use brown sugar, but you can use cane)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cardamom (a little goes a long way)

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup buttermilk, plain kefir or pourable plain yogurt

2 large eggs

about 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini or summer squash (seeds removed unless the squash is very small)

Preheat oven to 420 F, or 400 if your oven seems to run a little “hot,” like my convection oven does. Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan. You can also cook this in an 8×8 square pan, but it will probably need less cooking time.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. If the brown sugar is clumpy, you may want to stir that in with your liquid ingredients instead.

You can omit the cardamom, but I think it adds a nice touch to the bread. If you can’t find ground cardamom, buy a package of whole green cardamom pods and crack a bunch of them open. Discard the hard outside of the pod and save the small seeds, which you can grind up in a spice or coffee grinder. I save the ground cardamom in a little baby food jar, and I don’t make up much at a time, because you rarely need to use more than 1/4 or at most 1/2 teaspoon.

Beat the eggs and add your buttermilk, kefir or yogurt (and brown sugar if you didn’t add it to the dry ingredients). Stir in the shredded zucchini or summer squash.

Mix the liquid into the dry ingredients until combined, but don’t over beat. Pour into your loaf pan or square pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven and what shape of pan you are baking in. It’s cooked when a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for a while before trying to take it out of the pan. Can be eaten plain, but it’s better with a little butter.

2. Use summer squash to replace some of the liquid in your favorite muffin or quickbread recipe.

For instance, if you like to make cornbread, try adding around 1/2 cup of shredded summer squash to the batter and reducing the other wet ingredients by around 1/4 cup. Just cut part of the squash off to shred; refrigerate the rest whole in a plastic bag until you need it.

3. Replace some of the cooking liquid for risotto.

Remove the seeds from a zucchini, yellow or patty pan squash, and shred until you have one or two cups. Add to risotto a few minutes after you start ladling liquid into the rice. If you also need to use up extra sweet corn, you can puree kernels from one or two cobs with your stock to give risotto a creamy texture without using any milk or cream.

4. Hide the squash in some other savory main dish.

Whenever I make my favorite chili in late summer, I throw in some zucchini, either shredded or diced, and add less water to the pot than usual. Summer squash adds fiber to the dish, but you can hardly tell it’s there. You could also sneak some into an Indian-style dish with ground meat.

5. Saute or stir-fry it.

Many people enjoy summer squash that’s been sliced and cooked in olive oil with a little salt, pepper and maybe fresh herbs sprinkled over the top. Eat as a side dish, or add to an Italian-style tomato sauce or casserole.

That’s too bland for me, but I sometimes dice zucchini and add it to a big vegetable stir fry a few minutes before the end of cooking. It doesn’t matter what kind of sauce you are using or what other vegetables and/or meat you include. Zucchini will absorb whatever flavors are there. If you like large slices or chunks, add the zucchini earlier in the cooking to make sure it cooks through. It will release water during the cooking, so you may have to adjust the other ingredients to make sure your dish doesn’t end up too watery.

Share your own summer squash ideas in this thread.

UPDATE: State Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames sent me a link to her zucchini-cilantro soup recipe.

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