Zucchini: a variety of summer squash belonging to the gourd, or Cucurbitaceae family.
Botanical Name: Cucurbita pepo
Also goes by: courgette, green squash, green summer squash
Zucchini is among the youngest cultivars of Cucurbita pepo, with its earliest known appearance occurring around the start of the sixteenth century in France and Italy, and not even entering the US until the early twentieth century.
Many of us now are familiar with that special time during the summer when the zucchini are growing so abundantly you can't give them away! Consider the following the secret weapon to decreasing food waste, enhancing fabulous health, and creating tasty experiences. You're about to start salivating over the combination of simple yet reliable nutrition and endless culinary possibilities that this "fruit vegetable" provides.
The Nutritive Alchemy of le Courgette
There's not a whole lot to Fabulous Nutrition's favorite summer squash... It's 95% water! For a single, small zucchini weighing approximately 118 grams, 112 of those grams are strictly water! The remaining 6 grams are shared between a few carbohydrates, just over a gram of protein, a scant dose of fat, under a half a gram of minerals, and a whisper of vitamins. The macronutrients altogether are worth about 20 Calories.
Of the 4 grams of carbohydrate in a small zucchini, about 30% (1.3 grams) are fiber, and 50% (2 grams) are sugars - primarily fructose, followed by glucose and sucrose; lending just a touch of natural sweetness.
One small zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C, containing 20 milligrams (about 30% of your daily need). Vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, a primary protein present in skin and connective tissues. This is why vitamin C is so important to our immune system! It sounds like common sense, but, skin and the immune system's cells intact protect our body from invaders much more effectively than damaged skin and cells. Without vitamin C, we'd literally begin to fall apart!
A small zucchini contains moderate amounts of the B-vitamins riboflavin and B6; and smaller amounts of thiamin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. B-vitamins are supportive of metabolism and can therefore sustain our energy, they support our cardiovascular health, and they protect our brain's health, increasing our concentration, learning ability, responsiveness and memory.
Easily increase your B-vitamin intake and treat yourself to three small zucchini! Now THAT'S the way to supplement your diet! Oh yeah, and a plausible solution to the sometimes overwhelming cornucopia of zucchini.
As you treat yourself to three small zucchini, know you're also consuming 927 milligrams of potassium, a mineral that supports normal blood pressure. The recommended daily intake is 4,700 milligrams and a majority of us are not consuming anywhere near that. So three zucchini, whether at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacked upon throughout the day, will get you about 20% of the way there.
For those of us who really love to chew all day long, this gives us the freedom to do so. But if you think eating three zucchini all to yourself sounds daunting, read on to discover a few delicious things you can create with it. You might end up wanting more - and that's quite alright!
Delicious Things to Do with Zucchini
Before diving into some tasty suggestions for what you can do with zucchini, you need to know this:
Using high quality ingredients is always key to making healthy taste good, no matter what your food preferences have been all your life!
And yes, there is often a higher cost to that. But when reducing monetary cost is your priority, you end up compromising your experience with taste. As a result, your hunger never really seems to go away. Maybe your belly is full, but there's often some. thing. missing.
When you ignore the importance of high quality ingredients, you'll always be on the hunt for something more. Get yourself that amazing first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Buy that 18 year aged balsamic vinegar that's a little syrupy and sweet, unlike the $4 bottle of pure acid. Spend the money on whole peppercorns to grind fresh. Ignore the iodized salt altogether - you don't even need it to bake with. There are other ways to get iodine into your body - processed salt isn't it! Get the sea salts and the rock salts.
Buy amazing food!
Think about this: if everyone today accepted the negative impact poor farming practices and food manufacturing have on our food, and therefore decided to purchase only high quality food, what do you think the survival rate of low standard farms and food manufacturing would be? It wouldn't stand a chance, and high quality would be accessible to all of us. Not bad!
Let's buy amazing food not just to introduce joyful eating experiences into our own personal lives, but to support higher standards of health for the people we love most and the world we live in.
Finally, here's a concept that's helpful to embrace: Complex culinary creations are impressive and mind blowing, but don't ever underestimate a simple recipe. Sometimes, even the simplest concoctions can blow you into a divine experience. Even Anthony Bourdain is quoted stating, "Good food is very often, even most often, simple food."
On that note, presented here is a simple "formula" for preparing zucchini in a way that can be enjoyed as is, or as an ingredient in other slightly complex dishes.
Disclaimer: A little Italian flair creeps in here and there. It couldn't be resisted.
Slice zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half into 1/4" thick slices.
Grill zucchini dry until slightly charred. Don't have a grill? Use a cast iron skillet!
Toss charred zucchini together with extra virgin olive oil, smashed garlic, kosher or sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. That's it! That's the magic!
You can absolutely eat it as is: hot, cold, however you like! Or you can use this simple recipe as an ingredient in other recipes.
Note: you may notice that basil, parmigiano and mozzarella are all exquisite culinary matches with zucchini!
Turn simplicity into a little something more:
-Top each zucchini slice with pesto and a thin shaving of parmesan cheese.
-Toss grilled zucchini with spaghetti or farfalle, fresh chopped basil, and some shredded parm.
-Layer zucchini and sliced fresh mozzarella in a row; pop under the broiler until cheese is a little melty; garnish with fresh basil.
-Turn the previous into a more substantial meal and add thinly sliced, grilled chicken into the layers.
-Turn the previous into un panino (a sandwich): drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a couple slices of fresh bread; rub on some minced garlic (garlic powder is just eh) and sprinkle with dried oregano. On one slice of bread place a slice of mozzarella, follow with a layer of zucchini, grilled chicken, fresh basil leaves, another slice of mozzarella and the second slice of bread to close. Grill until cheese is melted. Wait 5 minutes before cutting in half to let the cheese settle!
-Make a vegetarian panino: remove the chicken from the previous! Change it up a bit if you wish by using a basil pesto in place of the garlic-oregano oil.
-Fill a pita with grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, and roasted peppers along with a lemon-garlic aioli.
-Add grilled zucchini to scrambled eggs or a frittata.
There really are no limits. With so many more delicious things to do with zucchini, this is just the beginning!
We could get into spiralizing zucchini and cooking similarly to the above formula...
Shredding zucchini for tossing on salads or to make fritters, breads or cookies...
Cutting in half and scooping out the interior to stuff, making zucchini boats...
We can make zucchini fries.
We can turn zucchini into a pesto of its own!
Even the zucchini flowers are commonly eaten!
But relying just on this simple "Grilled Zucchini" formula alone, you'll have so many uses for the summertime zucchini bounty.