Zucchini come in many different shapes and colors at the farmer’s market right now.
They are in the squash family and botanically the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.
(right now you'll find plenty of different zucchini at a vegetable market)
If you have grown your own zucchini you know that they grow plentifully -- in fact I suggest you pick a good amount in the blossom stage before it grows mature otherwise you’ll have more than enough zucchini on hand.
A zucchini by any other name
Courgette is the French term for zucchini, the Italians call squash zucca, and calabaza is the Spanish term. There are numerous famous dishes that use zucchini in their recipes like ratatouille, a famous Provencal vegetable stew where zucchini is one of the main vegetables used next to eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. Flor de calabaza – zucchini flowers -- are popular in Spanish cuisine especially stuffed with delicious items, and zucchini fritti – fried zucchini sticks - are well integrated in the Cucina rustica in Italy. Most likely you’ll find them next to a classic veal cutlet. “Milanese”.
(crispy soft-shell crab with ratatouille vegetables)
I have a beef with zucchini
I like zucchini but every once in a while I have an issue with the cooking of it. When zucchini is cooked too long the inside tends to get to soft and will have a mushy texture – THAT turns me totally off to this vegetable. So instead try cooking it lightly or eat it raw if it’s an heirloom one!
(swordfish with flash fried zucchini sticks spiced with pepper flakes - remember don't cook them to soft)
‘Heirloom’ refers to a pure zucchini meaning it has not been cross bred. Selected seeds have been passed down for several generations. One of my favorite zucchini heirloom varieties is named Costata Romanesco. I like them when they are seriously large – to the point where it takes over your shopping basket. It has ribbed skin which is greenish- yellow, and is clearly better textured and more importantly better tasting with a nutty complexity compared to ordinary zucchini. This type of zucchini is even very good when raw. I like it thinly sliced with a drizzle of a good olive oil and a few grindings of fresh pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt – voila.
(thinly sliced heirloom squash with pigs tongue and water melon)
Fried zucchini sticks
(4-6 plentiful snack portions)
1 zucchini such as Costata Romanesco (20-inch long)
salt such as Baline (to taste)
fresh pepper grindings (to taste)
2 large eggs
1 cups flour
1 cup bread crumbs
2 cups vegetable oil such as canola or grape seed
1. Cut zucchini into match sticks (2x1/4-inch sized).
2. Line a bowl with a kitchen paper towel then season cut zucchini with salt and pepper and let sit for five minutes (zucchini will start to “sweat”)
3. Prepare three shallow bowls one with flour, second with cracked whisked egg and the third with bread crumbs.
4. Coat cut, seasoned zucchini in first bowl with flour then transfer to eggs and then transfer to bread crumbs (when transferring zucchini sticks from bowl to bowl shake off excess flour, egg and bread crumbs).
5. Heat oil in a pot a on medium heat setting (350ºF) then fry zucchini for 3-5 minutes or until golden in color. Season fried zucchini sticks with salt while they are hot (so that salt will stick to the sticks).
Chef's Tip: serve fried zucchini sticks with a classic tartar sauce or a cocktail sauce spiked with tequilla.