Let Me Count the Ways

At last count, I have used this year’s zucchini bounty in at least 13 different ways, and I haven’t even gotten to slaws, pickles, smoothies, popsicles, catsup, or plain old dehydrated zucchini for the winter pantry.

The meal above was vegetable lasagna with a beautifully colored sweet potato, chard, and shredded zucchini filling, thyme-scented béchamel sauce, and fresh zucchini pasta. I adapted Marcella Hazan’s spinach pasta recipe by shredding and salting 5 oz of zucchini, using a towel to wring as much moisture out as possible, and combining it with 2 large eggs and enough flour to make a dough; the recipe called for 1 1/2 cups, but I know I used at least 2 cups. The shreds were visible in the dough but didn’t change its flavor or texture, although I did need to take care not to roll the sheets out too thin to avoid holes.

Last night’s dinner again featured zucchini in two different ways, both on the sly: simmered and pureed into a silky green soup with garlic, spinach and purslane; and shredded up to add moisture and fiber to a decadent pan of brownies. The soup had just a few ingredients and could hardly be easier to make. The zucchini adds a creamy texture without the use of dairy, and because I peeled most of the bitter skin off my monster specimen, I added several handfuls of spinach and purslane at the end of cooking to bring in that summery green color. Combined with a salty, cheesy sandwich, this was an ideal summer supper.

Creamy Zucchini-Spinach Soup

4 T butter
1 white onion, sliced
8-9 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
4 medium zucchini or 1 big one (1 1/2 lb), peeled and seeded if necessary
4 C chicken or vegetable broth
2 C tender greens, such as baby spinach and purslane
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat. When it foams, add the sliced garlic and onions and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Keep the heat low enough that the garlic doesn’t brown; you want everything to sweat.

When the onions are soft, add the zucchini, cut into 1″ chunks, with a good pinch of salt, and cook until soft. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer at a low heat for about 45 minutes. Add the greens in the last 2-3 minutes and cook just until they turn bright green.

Let cool slightly, then blend with an immersion blender until creamy, or transfer to a standing blender to puree. Be very careful if you use the latter; only fill the blender half full with each batch, and hold the lid down tightly with a towel. Taste and season with ginger, salt and pepper; you may also want to add a splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice at the end to brighten it up.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Kitchn.

The brownies employed bittersweet chocolate in combination with cocoa powder for an especially deep chocolate flavor, and because “skinny” is not at the top of my priority list, I used one whole egg instead of two whites and coconut oil in place of vegetable, adding the latter to the bowl of chopped chocolate as it went in the microwave. I also ended up needing a little extra baking time, but the brownies that came out of the oven were still ooey-gooey, just how I like them. The zucchini virtually melted into their depths, and if you added a little shredded coconut to the batter, the occasional strands would be duly explained away.

Zucchini Brownies

5 oz bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 C coconut oil
1 large egg
1 C granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 C shredded zucchini
1/2 C chopped walnuts or almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat an 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray. Place chocolate and oil in a glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until melted. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, mix together the egg, sugar, vanilla, zucchini shreds, and melted chocolate mixture until well blended. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the nuts last. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. Cool completely in the pan and cut into squares. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Source: Slightly adapted from Skinny Chef.

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