THE NOT-SO-NEEDY ZUCCHINI
5 Reasons to eat more of this versitile vegetable and 3 ways to do it
Zucchini has a lot going for it. It's a relatively inexpensive, highly adaptable vegetable that is easy to find in stores and easy to grow yourself. Zucchini doesn't have a very pronounced flavor, leading some to say it's boring, but it's anything but. Zucchini adds both substance and texture to any number of dishes. It's also highly versatile, becoming sweet when it's roasted and adding a mild, satisfying flavor when used in breads and muffins. Zucchini is also really good for you.
1) It's good for your digestion. Zucchini is high in fiber, electrolyetes and water, all of which keep things moving in your system. Regular consumption of Zucchini has been reported to lower the risk of colon cancer, IBS and ulcers.
2) It keeps you young. Zucchini is full of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants which help rid the body of toxins, free radicals and inflammation.
3) It helps keep your heart healthy. Zucchini is low in sodium and fat but high in potassium and fiber, both of which help support blood circulation. Potassium also helps maintain blood pressure while fiber helps lower cholesterol levels. Healthy blood pressure and good circulation = healthy heart.
4) It's an energy boost. Zucchini is a great source of the B-vitamins, like B6, riboflavin and folate. These are all known to reduce fatigue and improve your mood. People need B-vitamins to metabolize protein and carbs, all of which gives the body and extra energy boost.
5) It aids in weight loss. Fiber and water are great for those who want to lose weight. Zucchini is high in both, and very low in calories. It has no fat whatsoever. Easing foods high in water content fills you up, which means you tend to eat less, which promotes healthy eating and weight loss.
Now that you have five reasons to eat zucchini, here are a few ways to do it.
Zucchini bread – makes one loaf
1 ½ cup grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
1/3 cup sugar
¾ cup neutral oil
1 large egg
1 ½ cup flour (or one to one gluten free flour)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8 ½ inch loaf pan. Mix the sugar, oil and egg in a large bowl. Add the zucchini and zest. Blend in the dry ingredients and the nuts. Don't over-mix. Pour into loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour, or until the top springs back when you touch it and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
Roasted Zucchini with thyme, lemon and feta cheese – serves 4
4 medium zucchini
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
½ cup crumbled feta – preferably French (which is milder than Greek) but any feta will do
Zest and juice of one small lemon
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 415 degrees. Slice the ends off of the zucchini and slice in ¼ inch pieces on the diagonal. Place the slices on a rimmed baking sheet (don't overcrowd) and cover will olive oil and salt. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Flip zucchini over with spatula, and sprinkle on thyme leaves and lemon zest and a bit more salt. Roast in oven for 10 more minutes. Remove zucchini from oven and place on a platter. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top, followed by the crumbled feta. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pasta with zucchini, pesto and peas – serves 4
1 lb. of pasta of your choice – gluten free works great with this recipe
1 cup fresh basil leaves, removed from the stems
¼ cup toasted pignoli nuts
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup good quality olive oil plus a bit more for cooking the zucchini
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (or more or less depending on how much garlic you like)
2-3 zucchini, cut in ¼ inch cubes
1 cup peas, cooked and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt generously. Place the basil leaves, garlic, nuts, zest, a big pinch of salt and about one tablespoon of oil in a food processor. Process the mixture into a paste, adding more oil as you go until you have a smooth consistency. Put aside. Place the zucchini in a large sauté pan with a good glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini softens and brown a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and remove from heat. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water as pasta is cooking. Drain and place pasta in large serving bowl. Mix in the pesto, adding a bit of pasta water if you find pasta is sticking or that the pesto is too thick. Fold in the zucchini, peas and cheese. Be gentle with the zucchini as it tends to fall apart. Check seasoning and add more salt and some pepper if desired. Serve warm or at room temp.