Zucchini, or courgettes, are an excellent choice of plant for the food-loving gardener. They thrive in a wide variety of conditions, need little care or expertise, are happy in medium-to-large containers, and will produce bountiful fruits over a long harvesting period.
This generosity of produce is, however, something of a double-edged sword. As the zucchini keep appearing with seemingly no end in sight, what started out as a proud, self-grown treat can quickly turn more than a little tedious when it features in every meal. Luckily, zucchini are highly versatile, and with a little thought they can be turned into a wide array of delicious dishes. Here are just six ideas to get your culinary creative juices flowing.
The Italian take on omelette is much less fussy to make, and is ideally suited to zucchini. Either grate your fruits finely or chop them into thin rounds, then fry in a little olive oil with chopped garlic, seasoning, and some herbs such as oregano or basil. When nicely browned, sprinkle with grated cheese, then add enough beaten eggs to barely cover. Cook gently until the underside is firm, then finish under a hot grill. Frittata is delicious accompanied by a crisp green salad with a robust vinegar dressing.
The French classic ratatouille can be as complicated as you wish to make it, but the essence of the recipe is to cook chopped zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, onions, and tomatoes individually in olive oil, then combine all the vegetables together and finish off with a last fry with garlic and herbs. This makes a lovely accompaniment to roast meats, but it is also substantial enough to eat on its own with some good crusty bread.
Fritters, Part One
Zucchini are perfect for fritters, and who could get bored of these crispy, golden treats? This Austrian-inspired recipe is simplicity itself. Slice the zucchini thinly lengthwise, sprinkle with salt, and leave to sit for ten minutes. Pat each piece dry, dip in flour, and then in beaten egg to coat. Fry in an inch of hot oil until both sides are golden and crispy.
Fritters, Part Two
An alternative style of fritter which is just as delicious, but a little more substantial and great for later in the season when there’s a bite in the air. Grate your zucchini and mix with a good pinch of salt. Leave to rest for a while, then squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Make a thick batter with flour and beaten egg, and stir the zucchini into the mixture along with seasoning to taste. You could at this point add some finely grated cheese, and whatever fresh herbs you have available. Form the mixture into patties and fry until golden, crispy, and cooked through.
Zucchini and Leek Pasta
This is a simple but sophisticated pasta dish which is satisfying enough to serve as a main course. Simply saute slices of zucchini in olive oil and a little butter until browned, then remove and set aside. In the same pan, gently fry a mixture of very finely chopped leeks and garlic until soft, then add a cup or two of chicken or vegetable stock and a sprig of fresh basil. Reduce a little, then stir in cream or creme fraiche to taste, and reduce a little more. Combine with the zucchini and your cooked pasta of choice, and serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan or other hard cheese.
When all else fails and you really can’t face another zucchini on your plate, it’s time to make the traditional thrifty produce-saver of chutney. There are hundreds of recipes available online, and it’s great fun to devise your own personal interpretation, but the basic idea is to combine your chopped zucchini with onions and whatever other seasonal vegetables you have to hand, then cook them slowly with sugar, spices, and vinegar until you have a thick, sticky mixture that leaves the bottom of the pan clear when you draw a spoon across it. Your finished chutney will go perfectly with good bread and cheese, and store extremely well for months, giving you a sharp-tasting reminder of summer whenever you need a boost during the long, dark days of winter.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a thriving zucchini plant in your yard, it can seem like a gift that simply won’t stop giving, but hopefully these ideas will inspire you to make the most of one of summer’s most bountiful and generous treats.