Ingredient SpotLight

Less than thirty years ago, the zucchini, formerly often referred to as green Italian squash, was hardly recognized in the United States. Today, it is not only widely-recognized, but a particular favorite of home gardeners. Notwithstanding its prolific growing nature, its popularity is probably due to in large part to its versatility as a vegetable as well as in breads and desserts.

Inhabitants of Central and South America have been eating zucchini for several thousand years, but the zucchini we know today is a variety of summer squash developed in Italy. The word zucchini comes from the Italian zucchino, meaning a small squash. The term squash comes from the Indian skutasquash meaning "green thing eaten green." Christopher Columbus originally brought seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa. The French term for zucchini is courgette, which is often used interchangeably for yellow squash as well.

Store zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer four to five days and do not wash until just before you are ready to use it. At the first sign of wilting, use immediately. Softness is a sign of deterioration. To freeze, slice zucchini into rounds, blanch for two minutes, plunge into cold water, drain, and seal in airtight containers or baggies. Frozen zucchini can be kept for ten to twelve months.

Now, a couple recipes for you to enjoy using zucchini. Enjoy.

Zucchini Nut Bars

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter over low heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, honey and eggs. Beat well.

Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well. Mix in zucchini, dates and walnuts until well blended.

Spread mixture into baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly brown. Cut into 1 x 3 inch long pieces, and roll in confectioners' sugar while still warm.

  • Yields: about 40 bars
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Baked Zucchini Chips

  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound)
  • 2 eggs mixed with 2 T. water
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 T. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Cajun seasoning to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Cut the zucchini into thin slices. Mix the eggs with the water in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and pepper and Cajun seasoning in a shallow dish.

Dip the zucchini into the egg mixture then dredge through the breadcrumb mixture and place on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Bake each side approximately 5-10 minutes or until brown and crispy.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes