What can you do with an ordinary zucchini?
Several chefs have an answer: take the squash deliciously upscale. Put it in Thai curries, elegant salads and basil-flecked gratins.
At Palo Alto, Calif.'s Bistro Elan, Ambjorn Lindskog bakes thinly sliced green and yellow squashes in a ring mold, mixing in a little Gruyere and a dab of pesto or salsa verde for added flavor. Sprinkle in fresh herbs or bread crumbs, tossed in browned, melted butter. Just don't overpower the zucchini, he says, "You want it to be a zucchini, not something else."
Zucchini also makes a marvelous base for salads. Lindskog sautes paper thin slices with garlic, then mixes them with corn kernels and fresh fava or cranberry beans. Dress the mixture with shallots, olive oil and lemon juice, and serve it at room temperature, perhaps with a little pancetta.
"That," he says, "could be a nice little salad."
Farina Kingsley has some ideas for raising zucchini's profile. The co-author of "Organic Marin," a new cookbook that celebrates Marin's farmers and chefs, slices zucchini into delicate ribbons, and then tosses it with a lemony vinaigrette, fresh tomatoes, feta and olives. She also suggests trying other combinations, such as baby arugula and shaved Parmesan.
"I cook a lot of Asian stir fries and vegetarian curries with zucchini," says Kingsley, who teaches at San Francisco's Tante Marie Cooking School. "The zucchini really soaks up wonderful curry flavors."
Kingsley's green shrimp and zucchini curry takes just 20 minutes to prepare, and her zucchini chips, coated with a light panko and Parmesan crumb, can be either a grab-and-go snack, or a side dish served with grilled fish or steak.
Deborah Madison, founder of Greens, San Francisco's upscale vegetarian restaurant, offers straightforward zucchini recipes in her cookbook, "Local Flavors."
She cooks zucchini slowly, thinly sliced, in a little olive oil, then lavishes fresh herbs over the surface.
"The zucchini gets golden," she says, "and the more you cook it, the more its real flavor comes out. I put a shower of herbs on it and lots of other little things -- a little Parmesan, dabs of goat cheese, crisped bread crumbs to give it a little bit of a crunch. I make it all the time without even looking at a recipe, and serve it with a yogurt sauce with garlic and dill."
GREEN CURRY SHRIMP WITH ZUCCHINI
1 tablespoon green curry paste
3 garlic cloves
2 cups coconut milk
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons corn oil, divided
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups zucchini or yellow squash, cut in 1��4-inch half rounds
11��2 pounds prawns, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Thai or Italian basil leaves, thinly sliced
Steamed rice, for serving
In a blender or food processor, mix 2 tablespoons of water, the green curry paste and garlic, and blend until smooth.
Combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar; set aside.
Heat a large saute pan until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons oil and saute shallots until translucent, one minute. Add the zucchini and stir-fry until the squash just browns, five to seven minutes. Transfer the shallots and zucchini to a bowl. Reheat the same pan and add 2 tablespoons of oil and saute the curry paste for several seconds. Stir in the coconut milk mixture and simmer for five minutes. Right before serving, stir in the shrimp and basil and cook until the shrimp turns just opaque. Stir in the zucchini and serve warm with rice. Serves six.
Per serving: 250 calories, 12 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 970 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 24 g protein
-- Farina Kingsley
OVEN ROASTED ZUCCHINI
2 pounds zucchini or summer squash, ends trimmed
2 egg whites, beaten
1��2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1��4 cup finely grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1��2 teaspoon sea salt
1��4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Thinly slice the zucchini on the bias into 1��8 inch ovals and place in a large bowl.
Whisk together the egg whites and mustard, then toss them with the sliced zucchini until evenly coated.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix well. Dip the zucchini slices into the breadcrumbs and coat well. Shake off excess and place in a single layer on an oiled pan.
Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves four.
Per serving: 210 calories, 3 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 1230 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 14 g protein
SHAVED ZUCCHINI AND PECORINO SALAD
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
1��2 cup Pecorino, thinly shaved
3 cup baby arugula
1��2 cup toasted, sliced almonds
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1��4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1��3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Using a mandoline, carefully slice zucchinis lengthwise into very thin, long ribbons and place into a large bowl. Add the arugula, pecorino and almonds.
Whisk the dressing ingredients. Toss the salad just before serving.
Per serving: 320 calories, 30 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 8 g protein
-- Marche Aux Fleurs, San Anselmo
SUMMER SQUASH SHOWERED WITH HERBS
2 pounds mixed summer squash, sliced 1��4 inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
1��2 cup simmering water
1��3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram, oregano or basil
Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the squash and cook over medium-low heat, flipping the squash in the pan every 3 or 4 minutes, until it's tender and golden, about 20 minutes.
Add the water and continue cooking until the water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper, shower the herbs over all. Slide onto a platter. Serves four.
Per serving: 140 calories, 11 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 3 g protein
-- Deborah Madison, "Local Flavors"
3 or 4 small yellow and green zucchini, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon pesto or salsa verde
2 tablespoons shredded gruyere or Parmesan, optional
1 tablespoon minced shallots
Lightly grease four small molds or mousse cups. Toss the zucchini with the shallots, cheese and pesto. Layer the zucchini slices into the molds in a spiral pattern, pressing them gently into place. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then invert onto a serving plate (or place a mousse cup on each plate). Serves four.
-- Adapted from a Bistro Elan dish