Poor zucchini. It gets left behind. A friend recently told me that someone in her workplace brought in homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis to give away … and the poor zucchini was left with no takers.

Zucchini is sort of a mysterious vegetable that many people don’t know what to do with. But wait. Is it even a vegetable? Botanically speaking, it is a fruit.

Say what? Fruits are considered seed-bearing structures, so many foods that we typically think are vegetables are botanically really fruits, such as avocado, olives and peppers. But for most purposes, we group those things as vegetables because we eat them as side dishes to our main courses.

But back to the zucchini. It is more versatile than you think. Last Christmas, I received a spiral slicer from our oldest daughter. I have really enjoyed using it to make zoodles (zucchini noodles).

Zucchini noodles are good on a salad or as a replacement for noodles if you are trying to lower carb intake. For example, a cup of zoodles contains 4 grams of carbs and 18 calories, compared to a cup of pasta, which contains around 40 grams of carbs and 195 calories.

You can sauté your zoodles in a little olive oil with chopped garlic and salt and pepper for 2-3 minutes to get the desired doneness. The last time I made these, I treated them just like noodles and added homemade basil pesto along with a parmesan topping. Or you could just top with a splash of tomato sauce and basil, topped with parmesan or feta cheese. The sky is the limit on this.

Zucchini has a high water content, so it will steam in the pan while cooking, so don’t overcook. Zucchini is full of zinc, niacin, potassium, vitamins C and K, and good-for-you antioxidants, plus it’s very low-calorie.

Another great way to cook zucchini is to slice them in half longways, scrape out the seeds, slather on a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast them cut side down. The Parmesan Roasted Zucchini recipe below was very easy to make and delicious.

I have also really loved making all types of rollatini. They have been a staple in our house. Rollatini is an Italian-style dish that is usually made with thin slices of eggplant filled with cheese, then rolled up and baked. I have used eggplant in rollatini but have also used zucchini.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer, as well as a vegetarian. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. She also writes a fitness column that appears the third Sunday of each month in the Life & Arts section.

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