Monday, July 23, 2012

Zucchinis – gotta love ‘em

One zucchini plant taking over my yard
A while ago I was pondering world hunger and among the solutions I came up with was to provide every needy family or community one zucchini plant (climate permitting). One plant would quickly grow to elephant-sized proportions and provide endless vegetable matter.  It can be eaten raw, stewed, sautéed, stuffed and roasted, or baked into moist and delicious breads.  Adding grated zucchini to a cake batter makes it moist and delicious without imparting any strong flavor.  I make a chocolate zucchini cake that is too die for (but I don’t tell anyone the secret ingredient for fear they won’t eat it).

Zucchini truly is not a difficult vegetable to swallow; it has a fairly bland taste like many vegetables in the Cucurbit family (not strong like broccoli from the Brassica family). It makes for great culinary company when mixed with onions, garlic, basil, fennel, tomatoes, or other squashes. Here are some fun facts about this vegetable:

7 Fun Facts About Zucchini
  1. One average-sized zucchini is just 25 calories (17 calories per 100 grams) and they are fat-free and cholesterol-free.
  2. Zucchini is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and manganese and has more potassium than a banana. 
  3. They also contain the B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin.
  4. The beautiful yellow flowers are edible – fried squash blossoms are epicurean delights.
  5. Wash your zucchini but don't peel them because most of the nutrients are in the skin.
  6. Every year there is a Zucchinifest celebrated in Obetz, Ohio, with food, music, motorcycles, parade and pageant. This year it is set for August 23-26!
  7. In France and England the zucchini is known as the courgette.
To finish off today’s tribute to the “Z” plant here is a quick and easy recipe for zucchini soup.  Put in the blender or food processor, it is a take on Vichyssoise (blended cold leek and potato soup) and can quickly make use of all those enormous zucchinis a gardener is faced with every day.

Zucchini soup - ready to serve!

Blended Zucchini Soup (need an electric blender or food processor)

6-8 Cups of sliced fresh zucchini (wash and scrub but leave skins on for color)
1 large onion sliced (or 2 medium onions)
3-4 leeks cleaned and sliced
3-5 thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes
2 cloves of fresh garlic

1 quart container organic chicken broth
1 quart container organic vegetable broth (only need half quart)
¾ - 1 Cup milk (or half and half)
A handful of fresh fennel chopped (or substitute chopped fresh basil, oregano, or dill)
Olive oil for sautéing
Salt and pepper

Step one: saute all the veggies, then add the broth.
In a large soup pot add in about 3-4 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the sliced potatoes, onions, leeks, and zucchinis over medium heat. While the vegetables are cooking add salt, pepper, and ½ of the chopped fennel or basil. Stir often and cook until veggies are starting to get soft but zucchinis still have beautiful green color (about 5 minutes). Add in garlic and sauté for a minute.  Next, add  the chicken broth and ½ container of vegetable broth to the pot.  Bring to boil and simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes or until the potatoes and zucchinis are tender yet still have vivid color. Remove from heat. Next, transfer approximately ¼ of this vegetable/broth mixture to the blender. Blend until fairly smooth – pour blended soup into a large bowl (or another pot) to save while blending the remaining ingredients in the pot in batches.  Place all blended soup back into pot. Add in the milk or half and half.  Stir and serve topped with chopped fresh fennel or basil.  This soup can be served at room temperature or hot.
Zucchini soup served with fennel and bread.


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