On Your Table: Zucchini is fresh, local and tasty

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By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times

Zucchini come in all shapes and sizes.  Try stuffing one of these globe varieties with rice and vegetables for a new take on summer taste.

Zucchini come in all shapes and sizes. Try stuffing one of these globe varieties with rice and vegetables for a new take on summer taste.

There’s no shortage of locally-grown zucchini this time of year, whether from home gardens or farmers markets, and while zucchini is available at the grocery year-round, it tastes best in season. Guess what – it’s in season. This is the great news. Now for the challenge. How to use all that bounty. Of course there is the old cliché about depositing over-abundant zucchini on neighboring porches. But really. There are many wonderfully creative ways of using delicious zucchini in savory or sweet dishes.

I am here today to sing the praises of zucchini and to share some of those creative recipes.   Zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables around. It can be equally delicious raw, battered and fried, grilled, marinated, baked or pureed into soup. It also is a healthy and low calorie vegetable, a verdant squash that can be a crowd pleaser no matter how it’s prepared.

Personally, and being of Italian heritage, zucchini is a favorite vegetable of mine. I enjoy them in the traditional dishes my grandmother made, such as roasted zucchini boats stuffed with ground meat, grated cheese and fixins or sliced and double cooked in a saute, or as the Italians say, in a ripassati. In such a preparation, the zucchini are sliced and steamed first then braised with olive oil along with summer companions tomatoes, onions and garlic and topped with basil as a garnish. To tell the truth I enjoy zucchini any way it is prepared.

But before moving on to the recipes, here is some advice. Choose zucchini that are firm fleshed with smooth, shining skin and that are free of blemishes or brown spots. These are the freshest. Use small size ones, perhaps six to eight inches in length. These will have the best taste, with less water content. As to varieties, just eyeball it. Today’s farmers markets offer not only the traditional long squashes, but also zebra striped ones, pattypan scalloped-shaped ones and globe-shaped “cue ball” varieties.

In any case, make sure to enjoy these amazingly delicious squashes while they are in peak season.

Stuffed Zucchini Globes

These are prepared just like stuffed peppers and are easy, quick to prepare


6 “cue ball” zucchini

2 tbs olive oil

1 small onion diced

2 cloves garlic

1 pint cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 tbs tomato paste

1½ cups cooked rice (basmati or jasmine are great)

1 patty Italian sausage

Salt & pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes (optional)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Finely sliced chives

(Omitting the sausage can make this a vegetarian dish)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off tops of zucchini but do not remove. Rub zucchini with olive oil and wrap in foil. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes till tender. Set aside and let cool.


Spoon out insides from zucchini, leaving a sturdy shell. Chop and combine with onion and garlic. Saute till onion is softened. Season with salt & pepper and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking, adding chopped tomatoes and paste till tomatoes are wilted.


Remove from heat. Add cooked rice and stir to combine. Check seasoning. Spoon mixture into zucchini shells until over-filled. Place tops back on the zucchini rounds and place on baking sheet. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for approx. 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lift off tops. Sprinkle with cheese and top with chives as a garnish. Tops can be used for individual presentations or reserved in order to use the baked zucchini.


Here are more ideas for zucchini treats. Recipes are readily available:

Zucchini Soup a la Vichyssoise

Zucchini corn and black bean quesadillas

Goat cheese parcels wrapped in zucchini ribbons

Zucchini frittata

Zucchini muffins with grated carrots

Zucchini pickles

Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

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