Healthy Cooking: When too much zucchini is a good thing

Zucchini roulades (rolls) are a healthy, easy and delicious way to use up your bumper crop of summer squash. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Zucchini roulades (rolls) are a healthy, easy and delicious way to use up your bumper crop of summer squash. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

People love to give me bags of homegrown zucchini. Which is a bit of a stressor, because they expect me to make something amazing with it. Also because, while I’m contemplating amazing things to make with zucchini, the zucchini takes over my fridge and squeezes out my rosé. Friends, if you, too, are the beneficiary of someone’s summer squash largesse, read on for fresh ideas to use, and use up, the season’s bounty.

Baked. Zucchini's high moisture content and neutral flavor make it an ideal ingredient in quick breads and cookies. But did you know you can also use zucchini in place of apples in your favorite crisp or cobbler recipe? Peel and seed the zucchini, cut it into 1-inch pieces, and proceed with your recipe as usual. Cook until the topping browns and the zucchini softens, about 30 minutes. It's a good swap when you're short on apples, baking for someone with an apple allergy, or simply want to use up a whopping pile o' zucchini.

Noodled. As anyone with a Spiralizer will tell you, zucchini is a fine substitute for spaghetti noodles. Toss your zoodles with a little bit of olive oil and garlic, and saute them for a quick second before topping with a fresh tomato marinara. I can use up two zucchini, and a pound of tomatoes, per person this way. Once you've mastered zoodles in Italian cuisine, try zucchini in your favorite Asian recipes. Homemade ramen soup, made from veggie or chicken broth and zucchini noodles, is a much healthier version of the dorm room standby. And zoodles kissed with brown sugar/fish sauce/rice vinegar make a fresh, filling Pad Thai.

Stuffed. Zucchini boats are an excellent low-carb delivery device, and a particularly good way to stretch last night's leftovers. Slice your zucchini in half lengthwise, and stuff it with the cooked protein you have on standby. Shredded rotisserie chicken and broccoli are a dynamic duo, as are spicy black beans and tomatoes. Resist the urge to smother the whole thing in cheese; a gentle dusting of mild white cheese keeps the meal healthy and lower in fat. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the zucchini is soft and the protein is hot.

Raw(ish). This is my current obsession. Zucchini that is raw or barely touched by heat tastes mild, light and delicious. The secret is to slice your zucchini lengthwise into super-thin strips. A mandoline comes in handy, but if you don't own one, a vegetable peeler does the job too. Run the peeler down the zuc to make a flat side. Then place the zucchini on a cutting board, peeled side down, so it doesn't roll off the workspace. Run the peeler over the top, pressing firmly to make slices that are slightly thicker than the average carrot peel. If you're too hot to cook, marinate the raw zucchini shavings for 15 minutes in lemon juice, olive oil, fresh herbs and a dab of truffle oil. Or you can use the recipe below to turn the zucchini into a tasty, can't-just-eat-one, appetizer. The quick broiler blast turns the zucchini tender, but doesn't heat up the house. A single zucchini will make around 15 roulades; go ahead and shave as many zucchini as you have on hand, because lemon-kissed raw-ish zucchini is so tasty, you may actually ask your friends and neighbors for more of the green goodies.

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