My friend Rachel, a Seattlite with the most gorgeous backyard garden, once joked that you can't drive around with your windows open during the summer or someone will throw a zucchini through it.
There's no doubt that zucchini gets a bad rap, both for its prolific nature and lack of flavor. But I have a soft spot for the squash.
When I was breaking out of the carrots-and-apples-only era of my childhood, zucchini was among the first veggies that I embraced--typically sauteed in olive oil and garlic with red peppers and a splash of balsamic vinegar over pasta. The blandness attracted me, and I have since come to appreciate zucchini's versatility whether on the grill, in a saute pan, or in the oven.
As an homage to this longtime staple of my diet and because I thought these yellow beauties popped at the farmer's market on Saturday, I selected golden zucchini for my first test in the 1-2 Challenge (which, you may recall, is a personal challenge that I created for myself to pick one item from a farmer's market each week and prepare it two ways).
The other reason is that I have been craving zucchini bread since Ryan bought a loaf of fresh banana bread during a recent long weekend trip. Since we had a slight break in the weather over the weekend, I ventured to bake in the oven, which has gone untouched during this hot and sticky summer.
Zucchini bread calls for a counter full of ingredients and makes a bit of a mess (although it was totally worth it - moist with a little crunch from the walnuts). So for my second recipe, I was looking for something more low-maintenance. I found this easy side dish from Good Housekeeping. Zucchini ribbons with mint works well as a side to pasta, chicken, or fish.
In all my years of making zucchini, I have never peeled lengthwise with a vegetable peeler. I have always either grated or sliced into thin discs or half moons. But I found this method showcases the color, and the mint brought out a nice, subtle flavor.
I feel like I rediscovered zucchini this week, but in the interest of bringing more vegetables back into my diet, I am keeping my windows closed.
Zucchini Bread (adapted from allrecipes.com)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup applesauce
+the original recipe called for 1 cup of oil, but I subbed most for applesauce+
2 cups white sugar
2 grated zucchinis
2 t vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 t ground cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 8X4 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat eggs, mix in oil and sugar, stir in zucchini and vanilla extract. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nuts, and stir into egg mixture. Divide batter into loaf pans and bake 60-70 minutes or until done
+my first loaf took 60 minutes; the second loaf, which had about 1/4 less batter, took only 53 minutes and it was perfect+
Zucchini Ribbons with Mint (adapted from Good Housekeeping)
2 medium zucchini
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t salt
2 T chopped fresh mint
Trim ends of zucchini and peel lengthwise into ribbons. In a skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic. Cook until golden and then discard from the pan. Add zucchini and salt and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint.
+If I make this recipe again, I will either mince the garlic and cook with the zucchini or use garlic-infused olive oil. The flavor of the garlic didn't come through.+