Also Known as
Courgrette, Summer Squash
Zucchini is a variety of summer squash. The zucchini is a long, cylindrical vegetable, slightly smaller at the stem end, usually dark green in color. The flesh is a pale greenish-white and has a delicate, almost sweet flavor. Zucchini fruit grows quickly and is harvested within 2 to 7 days of flowering. Tiny, flavorful baby zucchini and their flowers would appear in the markets in mid-spring, to be joined by larger zucchini by early summer, and all three remained a fixture of the Italian table throughout the rest of the summer months. They are tender and tasty when young, but most varieties are tasteless when large and overgrown
Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top and then cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and remove the seeds from centre. Chop by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger.
Diagonally cut zucchini
Using a sharp knife cut the zucchini vertically into 2 halves. Place flat on a cutting board and start slicing at an angle into thick or thin equal diagonal slices.
To grate the zucchini, first remove the top and bottom end of the zucchini.
As per your recipe requirement use a grater with big or small holes, run the zucchini up and down against the coarse-holed side of the grater while pressing down firmly, grate the zucchini.
Holding zucchini vertically on a chopping board, cut using a sharp knife into two equal vertical halves. Place each halve flat on the chopping board and slice them thinly or thickly as per the recipe requirement.
Dice or cube zucchini by cutting them into uniform strips. Line up the strips with your non-working hand and cut them into square pieces. Cube them as per the recipe's need regarding the size of the cubes, (for example, "cut into ½-inch cubes").
You can also boil the zucchini cubes as per the recipe requirements.
For thick and long zucchini fingers cut it into half lengthwise. Place one half of the zucchini on a chopping board and cut vertically at right angle to make 1" thick fingers lengthwise. Repeat the same to make more fingers as per the recipe requirement. Depending on the size of the zucchini, you can make approx. 8 to 10 from one zucchini. Use as required.
Place the zucchini on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife cut the stem of the zucchini and discard. Cut the zucchini horizontally to get 3 mm thick slices or roundels. Thicker slices can be cut as per the recipe requirement.
For thick and long zucchini strips, peel a zucchini and cut into half lengthwise. Place one half of the zucchini on a chopping board and cut vertically at right angle to make 1/4" thick strips lengthwise or as per recipe requirement. Repeat the same to make more strips as per the recipe requirement.
How to Select
Zucchini can be found in the section of health food stores and supermarkets. Select smaller zucchini, from 2 to 8 inches (5-20cm) in length, with smooth, unblemished skins. As a general rule you should select the smallest possible zucchini that can be used for the recipe, because larger zucchini are less flavorful and can have bitter overtones
When buying zucchini, look for squash that is firm and heavy for its size. Do not wash until ready to use. Peeling is not necessary and the skin is thin and very fragile. Although it is available year-round in most markets, prime season for zucchini is May to August. This is why it is often called summer squash. Handle zucchini with care as they are easily damaged. Look for a moist stem end and a slightly prickly, yet shiny skin as indicators of freshness.
· Zucchini are the basis for all sorts of dishes, from pasta sauces to main courses.
· The round variety is especially suited for stuffing, though the elongate ones will also work well.
· Come time to cook them, wash them, pat them dry, and trim off the ends (especially the stem end). If they're small there should be no need to remove the seeds.
· They can be eaten raw or cooked, making them a fast and easy addition to your cooking experience.
· Shred or grate raw zucchini into salads, or cut it into spears for vegetable platters.
· Grill it: Slice zucchini lengthwise, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle both sides with whatever fresh or dried herbs suit your fancy and some salt and pepper to taste. Grill outside on your barbecue or indoors on a grill pan for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp-tender.
· Chilled Zucchini-Basil Soup is the perfect starter for a hot summer night or an afternoon brunch. Make it ahead of time and dish it up right before serving. Add a sprig of fresh basil for a simple but beautiful presentation.
· The Italian version of an omelet, this Zucchini and Leek Oven-Baked Frittata is simple to prepare and versatile. It can be eaten hot or cold, taken to picnics, packed for lunches or served as an appetizer at your next brunch.
· Vary the herbs and cheese and make it a main dish with a salad!
· Here's a super side dish: Sautéed Zucchini with Spinach and Basil Pesto. Whether you make or buy pesto, it's great on just about any summer vegetable.
· A kid-friendly recipe for Broiled Zucchini with Cheese. It's got only three ingredients and it will use up a lot of extra zucchini!
· Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes are so moist, you don't need frosting. Scatter a few chocolate chips on top or dust them with powdered sugar and you're ready for a party!
· Slice zucchini lengthwise and roast with sliced onions, add to soups or crudités, or stew with tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
· Roasted zucchini, cauliflower and potato dish with freshly crushed black cardamom, chili powder, garlic, cumin and S&P, lemon juice and was roasted in the oven, for about an hour
· Thinly slice the zucchini, lightly brown then on one side in a pan with olive oil, then turn over, add chopped tomatoes and minced garlic. Cook until tomatoes and zucchinis are cooked, stirring all the flavors together. Salt and pepper, serve. Good hot, good cold, good two days old.
How to Store
Zucchini are perishable and should be used promptly, but they can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days. It can be kept in the fridge for up to one week. When you're ready to use it, wash the zucchini, then slice both ends off. If the skin of the zucchini has been waxed (to extend its shelf-life), peel the skin, but leave the skin on if it's unwaxed. Larger zucchini should be peeled first because the skin can be bitter. Softness is a sign of deterioration.
Cooked zucchini should be covered and refrigerated up to two days. To freeze, slice zucchini into rounds, blanch for two minutes, plunge into cold water, drain, and seal in airtight containers or baggies. Frozen zucchini can be kept for ten to twelve months.
Health Benefits of Zucchini
1. Powerful Antioxidant : Zucchini helps to cure asthma as it contains Vitamin C, which is a powerful Antioxidant , and has anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Low Calorie Food : Zucchinis have high water content (over 95%), so they make perfect food for people on diet.
3. Good for Eyes : Zucchini contains Vitamin C and Lutein, both of which are good for eyes.
4. Lower Blood Pressure : One Zucchini has about 45% of your daily Vitamin C levels which maintains the lining of your blood cells and Lowers Blood Pressure.
5. Good in Potassium : Potassium in Zucchini maintains the acid balance and promotes muscle and nerve function.
6. Produce and maintains new cells, mainly Red Blood Cells : Since one Zucchini provides 15% of your daily Folate requirements, your red blood cells count will go up. More RBC, more energy you feel.
7. Rich in Riboflavin : One Zucchini has about 15% RDA of Riboflavin, Vitamin 12. Having a diet rich in Riboflavin can keep up the red blood cell count! Thats what gives us the energy.
8. High in Fibre : Zucchini has about 2 grams of Fiber . It has a Fibre called Pectin which improves the healthy of your heart.
Glycemic Index of Zucchini
Zucchini has a Glycemic Index of 15 which is low. Glycemic Index are for foods you eat, ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how quickly they digest and raise your blood sugar or glucose levels. Foods rank from 0 to 50 are low GI, 51 to 69 are medium and 70 to 100 are high. Foods that are high in GI are not suitable for weight loss and diabetics. Foods like Zucchini have a low GI and hence don't spike your glucose level as they are absorbed slowly. Great for weight loss and diabetics.