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5 Ways to Prepare Zucchini

What do you call zucchini that is made into a noodle?

A zoodle!

Zucchini is a type of summer squash that has a mild flavor and can be used in a variety of ways. Whether you make it sweet, spicy or savory, it provide a nourishing amount of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.

Select zucchini that is about 6 to 8 inches long and is firm to the touch. The squash will feel heavy and have a dried-out stem. Zucchini can be green or yellow with a glossy texture.

Be sure to rinse the zucchini under cold, running water just before you plan to use it in a recipe. You can eat zucchini raw or cook it in an oven, an air-fryer, a microwave, or on the stove or a grill. Here are five tips:

  • Use an oven as an efficient way to cook a large quantity of zucchini at one time. First, cut the squash in half and then scoop out the seeds, creating a “zucchini boat.” Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil and season to taste with salt and paper. Roast cut side down at 400 degrees until a fork inserts easily, about 30 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • For a crunchy texture, consider using an air fryer. An air fryer commonly is used to create “zucchini chips.” Start by thinly slicing the zucchini, then pat dry with a paper towel to get rid of excess moisture. Next, drizzle the zucchini with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the slices of zucchini in the basket of the air fryer. Cook at 350 degrees for eight minutes. The cook time may vary, depending on the thickness of the zucchini slices. The zucchini chips will appear slightly brown and have a crisp texture.
  • Simply steam zucchini in the microwave. Cut the squash into bite-size pieces and place them into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with a lid, but leave one corner of the lid slightly open. Cook the zucchini on high four to six minutes, until soft. If the zucchini is not yet tender, cook for another minute and repeat until you achieve the desired texture.
  • Enhance the flavor of zucchini by sautéing on a stovetop. Slice the squash into circles or quarters to create bite-size pieces. Make zoodles, zucchini noodles, by slicing into thin strips with a knife or vegetable peeler. Next, mix the zucchini with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a pan and cook over medium heat. The zucchini should be tender and lightly brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Grilling most commonly is associated with meat and fish. However, vegetables also can be prepared on the grill. To cook zucchini on the grill, slice the squash into ½-inch-thick pieces. Place in a bowl, then add a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Place the zucchini on a grill pan or wrap in aluminum foil. If you want grill marks, slice the zucchini lengthwise and place over the grates. Grill zucchini over medium-low heat for three to four minutes per side.

Still have an abundant amount of zucchini? You can preserve the crop for year-round consumption. Freezing and drying are common preservation methods.

Freeze the zucchini by slicing or grating; blanch in boiling water for one minute if grated or three minutes if sliced. Allow to dry, then package in freezer containers. Label with contents and date.

To dry zucchini, start by cutting it into ¼-inch pieces. Blanch the zucchini for one minute. Place in a dehydrator that is set at 155 degrees. Dry the summer squash for 10 to 15 hours, or until brittle.

Here is a fresh and flavorful zucchini dish to try.

Skillet Zucchini With Chopped Tomatoes
1 tsp. olive or canola oil
1 c. chopped onion
4 small (6-inch) zucchini, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add onions and cook, stirring until softened. Add zucchini and cook for two minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for three to five minutes or until zucchini is tender-crisp. Season to taste with pepper and add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if you wish.

Makes four servings. Each (1-cup) serving has 70 calories, 2 grams (g) fat, 12 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 15 milligrams sodium and 70% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

See Field to Fork: Summer Squash (FN1837) under the “Squash” tab at www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork for more information about specialty crops, including zucchini.

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Sources: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist, and McKenzie Schaffer, Extension program assistant

This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 14-SCBGP-ND-0038. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

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