Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

To me, summer and zucchini go hand in hand. Growing up, my mom always had a garden that seemed to produce endless amounts of zucchini. During one particularly bountiful summer we gave zucchini away to all of our neighbors, then piled the next crop on our front lawn with a sign: “FREE.” When even this did not get rid of all of the zucchini, my brothers and I were told to anonymously drop off the veggies on our neighbors’ front porches – I guess so they couldn’t refuse to take it! I mostly remember being feeling nervous that someone would catch us and tell us to take the zucchini back home!

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The tricky thing about zucchini is that you have to eat it fresh. Unlike other summertime favorites, it doesn’t freeze, can, or get made into any kind of sauce very well. So, if you have a lot of it, you can get creative and bake it into things – bread, muffins, cookies… This summer my mom even brought us zucchini brownies. (I’m just guessing, but I think the chocolate to zucchini ratio was pretty high.) My husband and I tend to treat it as an actual vegetable and eat it grilled or in stir fry. Probably because I am fairly lazy about baking.

But my favorite way to eat zucchini is one of the main ways that we ate it growing up – dredged in an egg wash, coated with savory Parmesan bread crumbs, then fried on the stove in a bit of oil. It’s a bit of a messy process and takes a little time, but it’s basic and un-fussy. No need to worry if each slice is evenly coated or if the edges of some pieces get a little dark; it’s part of the “rustic” charm.

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My mom served it as a side dish with anything, but I like to eat it with a thin spaghetti and marinara sauce. I don’t mind keeping this dinner vegetarian, but you could easily sautee chicken or toss in some meatballs, if you are cooking for someone who requires meat for dinner.

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Throughout this zucchini season, this has been a weekly family dinner. (The baby even gets in on the zucchini fun, although his is pureed and without the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.) What’s your family’s favorite way to eat zucchini?


Crispy Parmesan Zucchini
(Serves 4. Or 2. It’s kind of addicting, so make a lot.)

1 large or 2 small/medium zucchini, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan

1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 eggs, beaten

salt

(up to) 3 Tablespoons of butter

(up to) 3 Tablespoons of olive oil

You will need to cook your zucchini in batches. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and get an oven-safe dish ready to keep the fried zucchini slices warm while you continue to cook. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish, along with a pinch of salt. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and Italian season in another shallow dish. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Dip the zucchini slices in the egg mixture, then, using your fingers or a fork, coat with the breadcrumb mixture. When the pan is hot (the oil will be glistening), placed the coated zucchini slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Flip each zucchini slice when the bottom is lightly browned. By the time you get about half of your pan full (depending on the size of your skillet, of course!), the first zucchini placed in the pan will be ready to turn. Removed the zucchini from the skillet when both sides are browned and the zucchini is tender. Keep your cooked zucchini warm in your preheated oven. Before you begin your next batch of zucchini, quickly scrape the bottom of your skilled with a spatula to remove most leftover burnt breadcrumb bits. Then add more butter and olive oil as needed before you begin your next batch. Repeat this process until all of your zucchini is cooked.

 

 

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Parmesan and Garlic Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

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I almost didn’t share this recipe, because it seems so easy and obvious, that probably you’ve already tried something like it. But if you haven’t, you MUST. Our CSA box included two unusual varieties of cauliflower and broccoli – cheddar cauliflower and purple broccoli. Cheddar cauliflower does not taste like cheese. (It’s ok that I was momentarily disappointed about this, right?) It’s just regular cauliflower with extra beta carotene, so it’s orange in color. Purple broccoli is apparently more common in Europe; in fact, I could only find information on it from websites in Great Britain. I think it tastes the same as green broccoli, but the texture is more tender. In my opinion, the best part of these non-traditional varieties is clearly their color – purple and orange veggies for dinner look so pretty!

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Asian Pancakes with Kale and Other Veggies

Maybe it’s something to be ashamed of, and maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but I am really not a fan of kale. I know that it’s apparently a very healthy thing to eat (people give it credit for everything from lowering cancer risk to making your hair shiny!), but healthiness alone will likely never convince me to eat anything. (More on this when we reach brussels sprouts season….) An internet recipe search implies to me that the most popular ways to eat kale are: blended up in some kind of green smoothie, braised or roasted in the manner of these collard greens, or baked as chips. I was not thrilled about these choices, so when I stumbled on Smitten Kitchen’s Japanese Vegetable Pancakes, I felt this was the perfect solution to my “kale problem.”

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Just a taste

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Saturday was a beautiful spring day to get our first CSA box. Since we are sharing a full share, my friend and I divided up the veggies – and swapped our stinging nettles for some extra asparagus. (Although stinging nettles are apparently useful for making a digestive-aiding tea and a kind of hair conditioner, having to wear gloves while cooking them seemed like a rough way to start this culinary adventure.)

My husband and I are big salad eaters, so eating all the fresh spring lettuce has been amazing. Probably we are forever ruining our ability to eat lettuce from the grocery store without complaining…. And although I have plans for the asparagus, radishes, and rhubarb, I decided to start with some of the less appealing (to me) veggies – mustard greens and collard greens. I’ve never made or eaten either, so I wasn’t really sure what I was going for. Originally, I intended to just saute the collard greens with garlic and olive oil, but then I found a more “traditional” braised collard greens recipe that also involved mustard greens, and I figured “two birds,” right?

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