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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Green Squash aka Zucchini

Green Squash, aka Zucchini:


About:

Zucchini, also know as simply "green squash", is a summer squash.  While we treat it as a vegetable, zucchini is actually the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.    Zucchini are dark to light green in color and can grow from the size of a finger to two feet long.   Most of the commercially grown zucchini is from four to eight inches long and two to three inches in width.


History:  

Many explorers who came to the Americas brought back what they considered strange foods.   The zucchini was one such food and it eventually found its way to Italy, where the zucchini we know today was developed.   In fact the word zucchini is the plural of the Italian word "zucchino" meaning "a small squash"

My Story:. 

My maternal grandmother, Grandma Pallini, used to make "cocozelle", another word for zucchini, by cooking it in tomato sauce flavored with onion and garlic.  I just recently found out that zucchini  cooked in tomato sauce with onion and garlic is an Egyptian dish.   Go figure!

Selecting and Storing: 

Zucchini are available in your local grocery store all year long.  Select the smaller ones which tend to be younger and more tender.  Look for skins free from blemishes with a bright color.  Zucchini should be stored in the refrigerator no longer than three days.

Nutrients: 

When preparing zucchini the skin is left on.  That's where all the nutrients are.  Just make sure you wash it well.  Zucchini has 95% water content so is very low in calories.  It also has useful amounts of folate, potassium, vitamin A ,vitamin C,  and manganese.


Health Benefits:

As an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamin C, summer squash provides a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients.  B-complex vitamins found in valuable amounts in summer squash are related to healthy blood sugar regulation.  The presence of omega-3 fats in the seeds of summer squash and the presence of anti-inflammaatory carotenoids help provide protection against unwanted inflammation.  The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients in summer squash is a logical nutrient combination for providing anti-cancer benefits. 

Uses:

Zucchini can be eaten raw, sliced or shredded in a cold salad as well as lightly cooked in hot salads.  More often it is served cooked.  It can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, roasted, or incorporated in  other recipes such as souffles.  It can also be baked into bread.

Zucchini's mild suttle flavor matches well with:

          basil                                                olive oil                                       garlic
          bread crumbs                                   onion                                          lemon
          butter                                              oregano                                      marjoram
          cayene                                            parsley                                      mushrooms
          cheese                                            pesto                                         tarragon
          cilantro                                            pine nuts                                    thyme
          cream                                             rosemary                                    tomatoes
          dill                                                  sage                                          vinegar
          eggplant                                          salmon                                      walnuts
   
So, go ahead.  Get creative!

Eat up!   Enjoy!   I'll show you how. 

Simple but good:

Zucchini Spaghetti with Peas, Pesto and Ricotta

1 medium zucchini, washed 
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
1 handfull of fresh or frozen peas
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest and Parmesan cheese to finish

Take a box grater and place it on its side with the largest grating holes facing up.  Cut the ends off the zucchini and grate it long ways to produce ribbons. 


Heat a skillet with the olive oil and gently fry the zucchini with the garlic until slightly tender.   Stir in the peas, pesto, and ricotta.  Stir until coated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a plate and garnish with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. 

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