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The joys of zucchini. (The country kitchen).

A long, slender, dark green variety of summer squash belong to the cucurbitaceae family of the genera cucurbita pepo, zucchini, in shape and size, resembles a cucumber. In Great Britain it is known as vegetable marrow, in France as courgettes and in the Arab world as kousa. However, in North America it carries its Italian name, zucchini, which in that language is a diminutive for squash.

This attractive vegetable, like all other types of squash, originated in Mexico. After the discovery of the Americas, these were introduced into the Old World of Asia and Europe by the Spaniards. In Italy, zucchini, which was a development of an earlier, more primitive squash, caught on like wildfire. It became a favorite vegetable in that land and was extensively grown. In later centuries, Italian immigrants were largely responsible for its wide dispersal in both North and South America.

Today, fresh zucchini are found in abundance, especially in the Italian markets located in the cities of the western hemisphere. It has again become a common vegetable in the continent where it originated. Generally sold by the pound, it is offered for sale year-round and always at a modest price. The extensive yield of each plant of up to three dozen fruits makes this summer squash lavishly abundant in the parts of the country where it is cultivated.

The plant is bushy with deeply lobed leaves and is one of the simplest of all vegetables to grow. It thrives in most types of soil and takes about 60 days to mature. The fruits produced are smooth and very dark green in color with specks of gray. These cylindrical-shaped vegetables are tender-skinned with a firm light greenish flesh. They are at the optimum of flavor if they are picked when they are tender, about four to six inches long. At this stage they can be utilized in all types of dishes from omelets to being stuffed with a wide variety of fillings.

Zucchini have a relatively low calorie count--two cups cooked contain 75 calories. When eaten raw, the fruit is low in sodium content and has a fair amount of calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. A healthy vegetable, it is heaven-sent to people who are looking for a wholesome, light and nourishing food.

One of the greatest appeals of-zucchini are their versatility. They can be cooked in a wide variety of ways. Baked, boiled, broiled, fried, pureed, steamed, stewed or even raw, they are always delectable. At times, they are cooked alone. However, in the majority of cases they are combined with other vegetables and meat, or stuffed with a multitude of fillings. Nevertheless, no matter how they are prepared, their fresh, delicate flavor imbues an appetizing aura to any dish in which they form part of the ingredients.

Zucchini cooks very quickly; hence, they should be cooked only briefly and not overcooked. To be at their utmost flavor, they must be utilized in the immature stage when the rind is very soft. As the vegetable matures it begins to lose some of its sapidity. On the other hand, when picked at a tender stage and stored in a cool place it tends to retain its crisp and delicate flesh. To help preserve these qualities, the fruit should be washed and dried, then placed in plastic bags before being put away until used.
Pureed Zucchini
Serves 8 to 10

1 extra large zucchini about 16 inches
long, washed
2 cups yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh
coriander leaves
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Puncture zucchini a few times with
a fork, then bake zucchini in a 350[degrees]F
preheated oven for 1-1/2 hours or
until the skin is crisp, turning it over a
few times. Remove from oven and
peel, then mash in a mixing bowl and
allow to cool.

Add yogurt, garlic, coriander,
lemon juice, salt and pepper, then
thoroughly mix. Spread on a flat serving
plate, then sprinkle with cumin.
Decorate with parsley, then serve as
an appetizer or side dish.

Zuccchini and Basil Soup
Serves 8 to 10

4 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb. beef or lamb, cut into 1/2 inch
cubes
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 hot pepper, finely chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes (19 oz. or 540
ml.)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
7 cups water
1 large zucchini about 10 inches long,
diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
or 2 teaspoons dried

In a saucepan, heat oil, then saute
meat over medium heat until it begins
to brown. Add onion, garlic and hot
pepper, then saute for further 8 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, except
the zucchini and basil, then bring
to a boil. Cover and cook over medium
heat for 50 minutes, then add
zucchini and cook for a further 20
minutes. Remove from heat and stir in
basil, then serve hot.

Artichoke and Zucchini Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz. 39 ml.),
drained and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 medium sized zucchini, each about
6 inches long, peeled and diced into 1/2
inch cubes
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced into
1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
coriander leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Place all ingredients in a salad bowl,
then gently toss and serve immediately.

Note: If the salad is not served
immediately, it will become too juicy.

Cooked Zucchini Salad
Serves about 6

4 medium-sized zucchini about 6
inches long, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced into
1/2 inch cubes
1 large avocado, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
coriander leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 black olives, pitted and halved

In a pot, place the zucchini and
cover with water, then bring to boil.
Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and
allow to cool.

Place in a salad bowl, then add
remaining ingredients, except olives
and toss. Decorate with olives, then
serve.

Zucchini Breakfast Delight
Serves 6 to 8

This dish is excellent as a breakfast
treat or served as a main course
with mashed potatoes.

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb. beef or lamb, cut into 1/2"
cubes
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 hot pepper, finely chopped
3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large zucchini from 10 to 12 inches
long, chopped

In a large frying pan, melt butter,
then saute meat over medium heat
until it turns brown.

Add onion, garlic and hot pepper,
then stir-fry until onion turns limp.
Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper, then
saute until tomatoes turn soft. Stir in
zucchini, then cover the frying pan
and cook over medium heat for 15
minutes. Remove cover, then cook for
further 10 minutes or until the zucchini
are well done. Serve hot.

Cheese Stuffed Zucchini
Serves about 8

16 zucchini from 4 to 6 inches long,
washed
1-1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 cup finely chopped green onions
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
coriander leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
mint
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
6 eggs, beaten
16 large grape leaves
1 can stewed tomatoes (28 oz. 796
ml.) mixed with 1 teaspoon salt

Trim stem ends of zucchini, then
core with a corer and set aside.

Make filling by thoroughly mixing
remaining ingredients, except the
grape leaves and stewed tomatoes.
Stuff zucchini, then seal open end with
a grape leaf.

Place in a saucepan, then pour in
stewed tomatoes and enough water to
barely cover the zucchini. Place on
heat and bring to a boil, then cook
over medium heat for 35 minutes.
Serve hot with a portion of the sauce
accompanying each serving.

Zucchini Egg Patties
Makes about 30 patties

2 cups pulp from the stuffed zucchini
or an equivalent amount of peeled zucchini,
finely chopped.
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
coriander leaves
5 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 clove garlic, crushed,
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
oil for frying

Squeeze water out of zucchini by
hand, then place in a mixing bowl.

Add remaining ingredients, except
oil, then thoroughly mix, adding a
little water if necessary to make soft
batter.

In a small saucepan, place cooking
oil to 1-1/2 inch depth, then with a
medium sized wooden spoon drop
some of the mixture into oil. Fry a few
at a time until patties turn golden
brown, turning them over once. Remove
from oil and drain on paper
towels, then continue until all the
mixture is finished. Serve hot as snacks
or as a side dish.


The following recipes are from Keeping the Harvest by Nancy Chiofi & Gretchen Mead, available from Countryside Bookstore. (See page 101 for more details.}
Zucchini Bread-and-Butter' Pickles

2 pounds fresh firm zucchini
2 small (or medium) onions
1/4 cup salt (canning salt is best}
Ice, cubes or cracked
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups cider vinegar

Wash zucchini and cut into thin
slices. Peel onions, then slice very thin.
Add to zucchini. Cover zucchini and
onions with water and add salt. Cover
with ice and let stand 2 hours. Rinse
and drain thoroughly. Bring sugar,
mustard and celery seed, turmeric,
and vinegar to a boil. Pour over zucchini
and onions. Let stand 2 hours.
Bring all ingredients to boiling point
and heat 5 minutes. Pack into hot,
sterilized jars. Leave 1/2 inch
headspace. Adjust caps and process in
a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes,
up to 1,000 feet altitude. See page 35
of the cookbook to determine processing
time for higher elevations.
Yields about 3 pints.

Zucchini Relish

4 cups chopped zucchini
3 cups chopped carrots
3 cups chopped onions
1-1/2 cups chopped green or red sweet
peppers
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons table salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2-1/4 cups white vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a large skillet.
Cook for 15 minutes, or until all
vegetables are tender but still crisp.
Pack in hot, clean pint jars, leaving
1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and
process in a boiling-water bath for 15
minutes, up to 1,000 feet altitude. See
page 35 of the cookbook to determine
processing time for higher elevations.
Yields 4-5 pints.

Nancy Merrill's Blue Ribbon
Award-Winning Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cups vegetable oil
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts
3 teaspoons vanilla

Beat eggs. Add sugar, zucchini, oil
and mix. Sift all dry ingredients together
and add to mixture. Add
chopped nuts and vanilla. Bake in
greased loaf pans in a 350[degrees]F oven for
1 hour and 15 minutes. Makes two
small loaves.

Hominy
1/2 gallon water
1 tablespoon lye
Bring water and lye to a boil, add
1 quart of corn

Boil until the hulls loosen by
testing a few kernels. Pour off the
hot lye/water, rinse several times,
rubbing until the hulls and black
tips are off.

Remember to use enamel, iron
or stainless steel pots when using
lye.

Soak the corn and change the
water until all the lye is gone, then
cook gently until tender.

Use only open pollinated corn
for the best hominy. -- Goldie
Hansen, Bellevue, NE


RELATED ARTICLE: When should you harvest zucchini?

Summer squashes are most tender and delicious when six to eight inches long. If you pick them all at that size, your plants will continue to produce until frost. However, if you turn your back on the plants for even a few days, you will have overgrown, tough-skinned monsters that must be peeled and the seeds and soft core removed before they can be used. At the same time, there will be fewer tender little squash, since the plant has now produced its seeds. Large zucchini aren't useless; the thick flesh can be cut into cubes and used to form the base of many casseroles or substituted for ripe cucumbers in pickle making. However, wait until the end of the growing season before letting the zucchini grow.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Salloum, Habeeb
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:2139
Previous Article:The herbs of autumn ... and preparing for winter. (The herb garden).
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