When used for food, zucchini are usually picked when under 20 cm (8 in) in length, when the seeds are still soft and immature. Mature zucchini can be a metre long or more. The larger ones are often fibrous. A zucchini with the flowers attached is a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and it is especially sought after for its sweeter flavor.
Unlike cucumber, zucchini is usually served cooked. It can be prepared using a variety of cooking techniques, including steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued, fried, or incorporated in other recipes such as soufflés. Zucchini can also be baked into a bread similar to banana bread or incorporated into a cake mix similar to carrot cake. Its flowers can be eaten stuffed and are a delicacy when deep fried, as tempura.
Zucchini has a delicate flavor and requires little more than quick cooking with butter or olive oil, with or without fresh herbs. The skin is left in place. Quick cooking of barely wet zucchini in oil or butter allows the fruit to partially boil and steam, with the juices concentrated in the final moments of frying when the water has gone, prior to serving. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, sliced or shredded, in a cold salad, as well as lightly cooked in hot salads, as in Thai or Vietnamese recipes. Mature (larger sized) zucchini are well suited for cooking in breads. Zucchinis can be cut with a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles for low-carbohydrate recipes.
In Bulgaria, zucchini may be fried and then served with a dip, made from yogurt, garlic, and dill. Another popular dish is oven-baked zucchini—sliced or grated—covered with a mixture of eggs, yogurt, flour, and dill.
In Egypt, zucchini may be cooked with tomato sauce, garlic, and onions.
In France, zucchini is a key ingredient in ratatouille, a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and cooked for an extended time over low heat. The dish, originating near present-day Nice, is served as a side dish or on its own at lunch with bread. Zucchini may be stuffed with meat or with other fruits such as tomatoes or bell peppers in a dish called courgette farcie (stuffed zucchini).
In Greece, zucchini is usually fried or stewed with other fruits (often green chili peppers and eggplants). It is served as an hors d’œuvre or as a main dish, especially during fasting seasons. Zucchini is also stuffed with minced meat, rice, and herbs and served with avgolemono sauce. In several parts of Greece, the flowers of the plant are stuffed with white cheese, usually feta or mizithra cheese, or with a mixture of rice, herbs, and occasionally minced meat. They are then deep-fried or baked in the oven with tomato sauce.
In Italy, zucchini is served in a variety of ways: fried, baked, boiled, or deep fried, alone or in combination with other ingredients. At home and in some restaurants, it is possible to eat the flowers, as well, deep-fried, known as fiori di zucca. (cf. Pumpkin flower fritter)
In Levantine countries, zucchini is stuffed with minced meat and rice plus herbs and spices. The dish, called محشي (mahshi), is then boiled in tomato based sauce, commonly cooked with ورق دوالي (warak dwali; stuffed grape leaves). It is served with yogurt or laban. Zucchini is also used in various kinds of stew. Stews that have low salinity are favorable in such cooking.
In Mexico, the flower (known as flor de calabaza) is often cooked in soups or used as a filling for quesadillas. The fruit is used in stews, soups (i.e. caldo de res, de pollo, or de pescado, mole de olla, etc.) and other preparations. The flower, as well as the fruit, is eaten often throughout Latin America.
In Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries, zucchini usually is coated in flour or semolina and then fried or baked in vegetable oil, served with a sour cream. Another popular recipe is zucchini caviar, the squash spread made from thermically processed zucchini, carrots, onions and tomato paste, produced either homemade or industrially as a vegetable preserves.
In Turkey, zucchini is the main ingredient in the popular dish mücver, or “zucchini pancakes”, made from shredded zucchini, flour, and eggs, lightly fried in olive oil and eaten with yogurt. They are also often used in kebabs along with various meats. The flowers are also used in a cold dish, where they are stuffed with a rice mix with various spices and nuts and stewed.
In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed zucchini (courgette) to be Britain’s 10th favorite culinary vegetable.
Ritz Zucchini Cheddar casserole
4 c very thinnly sliced zucchini
1/2 c diced sweet onion
1 sleeve (about 35 round crackers, like ritz crackers)
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