02 Jun

Bowl of zucchini and butterZucchini picked young are more tenderZucchini are renowned for growing to gargantuan proportions, leaving people perplexed about what to do with these abundant green giants, which often seem to double in size in just a few days.

At its quarterly LBO Cooks demo at the Zaferia Community Garden Saturday, Long Beach Organic garden director Joe Corso and chef Amanda Aiton presented four options for making use of zucchini: Simple Zucchini Saute, Stuffed Zucchini, Zoodles over Tomatoes, and Zucchini-Feta Pancakes.

First off, “there’s no such thing as a big zucchini. Ini means small in Italian,” said Corso, who prefers to harvest zucchini young and toss the less-tender giants in the compost pile.

Zucchini is also full of water, and if you don’t salt it to draw the moisture out, your cooked zucchini will turn to mush. Either put the salted zucchini in a colander and drain off the water after letting it sit for about 20 minutes, or wrap the zucchini in a towel and press out the moisture.

“You will taste the difference,” said Corso.

Red and yellow peppers with zucchiniRed and yellow peppers brighten up this dish.

For the Zucchini Saute, Corso suggests cutting the vegetables into French-fry-shaped batons. First, saute the onion in a large, hot skillet with olive oil.

Then add the red bell pepper and some yellow and green zucchini. Check to see if the dish needs more salt, then toss with parsley and serve.

For the Stuffed Zucchini, cut the top third off the zucchini and scoop out the middle with a melon baller or knife. Then chop up the tops and scooped-out middles for the stuffing.

If the scooped-out zucchini is wobbly, simply take a slice off the bottom to make it more stationary.

Saute onion, garlic, and red bell pepper with oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper, and panko bread crumbs. You can also add parmesan cheese.

Fill each zucchini boat with stuffing, then bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes and serve.

Chef demonstrating a zoodlenatorZoodlenators, devices to cut spiral slices of zucchini, are available in many stores.For those who are gluten-intolerant or trying to reduce their carb intake, zoodles are an excellent substitute for pasta. You’ll need a device to cut the spirals of zucchini, but they’re inexpensive and available in many stores.

Once you cut the spirals, soak them in salt to draw out the moisture. Be sure to taste them later for salt, and rinse them if they’re too salty.

For the Zoodles over Tomatoes recipe, Aiton suggests cooking halved cherry tomatoes in olive oil and garlic until they are almost carmelized. “There’s going to be a lot of juice at the beginning, but as it cooks, it will reduce down.”

Stir in the zucchini and basil, cook for 2 minutes and serve immediately. “Don’t cook the zucchini too long,” said Aiton. “It’s already pretty tender from the salt.”

Aiton said you can also use uncooked zoodles to make a pasta salad. “You don’t even need to cook them,” she said.

Cooking zucchini-feta pancakesZucchini-Feta Pancakes are fried in butter.Zucchini-Feta Pancakes are fried in butter and can be topped with yogurt or sour cream.

While the zoodles were low-cal, the Zucchini-Feta Pancakes used eggs, cheese, and flour, and were cooked in liberal amounts of butter. The eggs had to be separated, then whisked until they were stiff. As in the other recipes, the zucchini had to be salted and stand.

The pancakes can be topped with sour cream, yogurt, creme fraiche or smoked salmon. “This is not a healthy substitute for something else,” said Corso. “This is an indulgence.”

The cooking classes are open to all LBO members and their guests, although donations are appreciated. Minimum LBO membership is $25 per year, and can be paid at the event. Participants get a taste of each dish and the printed recipes: LBO-COOKS-Zucchini-Recipes2.pdf

- Margo McCall

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