Z is for…Zucchini

     About a year and a half ago, my 9 year old cucumber-loving son ate raw zucchini by mistake, thinking it was, of course, cucumber….He didn’t spit it out, he chewed it and swallowed it and then said, “Mum, is this cucumber?”  I asked him what he thought it was and he said, “I guess it’s zucchini, ’cause it doesn’t taste like cucumber.”  “What do you think?”  “Well, it’s okay.”

    Poor zucchini.  Veggie trays all over the place, and it always loses out to the fresh tasting water-filled cucumber, at least when it comes to kids.    I have found zucchini to be one of the vegetables that is easier to get my kids to eat as part of a meal.   They enjoy making stuffed zucchini (quinoa, lentils and sausage meat with some curry seasonings…or if you live around here, you can use the currywurst sausage from Pipers meats).  I grew up eating stewed zucchini, made with onions, tomatoes, basil and oregano.  Zucchini also takes its place beside carrots as a great addition to breads and cakes.  One of the reasons for that is the abundance of zucchini at harvest time.  Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows just how productive those plants can be, and of course, they all come at the same time!  Home cooks had to come up with uses for all those green “squash”.  While we don’t grow them, we know plenty of folks who do and they are all ready to share them with us.  A good tip if you have excess zucchini (which by the way, I am certain few people do right now…have you seen the price per pound or kg at the grocery store??  But come September, there are many many to be had), grate it in your food processor (or by hand if you have strong forearms) and freeze it grated, measured into 2 cup freezer containers.  From here, you are ready for baking or stews or sauces, or soups.

My favourite way to eat zucchini is sauteed with other veggies and served with short pasta.  One recipe that always goes over well in our house is from the book, Dieticians of Canada Cook!  I have used other similar recipes over the years, but this one was a big hit.

Veggie Bow Tie Pasta
2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta (farfalle)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 large sweet pepper sliced thinly (I use yellow because I like the colour combination)
1 cup quartered mushrooms
1 whole zucchini, chopped or sliced
2 tbsp red wine
2 larged plum or roma tomatoes (I remove the seeds by scooping them out with a spoon)
2 cups lightly packed fresh spinach
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
A good tip: have all your veggies prepared before you begin.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onions until soft (3-4 minutes).  Sprinkle with pepper and salt.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so.  Add peppers, mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened.
Increase heat to medium high.  Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits from the bottom.  Boil, stirring until most of the wine has evaporated.  Add Tomato and spinach, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Pour veggies over pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan.
To complete this meal, add some bbq’d pork tenderloin or pork chops.
Or for a vegetarian meal, add some feta or toss some tofu with the veggies before adding to the pasta.
For a great lunch dish, prepare the veggies (omit the pasta).  Allow to cool and drain away any excess liquid, then add the veggie mixture to a tortilla or flatbread, strips of cooked chicken or pork or slices of tofu, wrap and eat, for some great sauteed veggie wraps.
Enjoy!  
This is the end of my “A to Z blog challenge”, now to move on to more inspiration for the next posts.  To all of you who joined on to follow the Lunch box during the challenge, I hope you found a reason to stay.  Thanks to everyone!  
More lunch box fun to come!
Happy Packing!

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