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Summer’s bounty: These three recipes prove there’s no such thing as too much zucchini

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about backyard vegetable gardens, it is this: Never turn your back on a zucchini plant.

To be clear, I’m not the family gardener. My husband, Derek, built the raised beds and plants the crops each year. He does the watering and weeding. I do the harvesting and cooking. And baking. And freezing. No canning. I can only Laura Ingalls Wilder so much.

But every afternoon, I grab my harvest basket and go through our glorious garden gathering its delicious bounty. Our tomatoes are ripening; carrots, beets, beans and cucumbers are coming on strong; peppers are ready for picking; and so is the summer squash.

Zucchini are the rabbits of the produce world. You start with two small plants and feel like you’ve got something manageable and enjoyable.

Next thing you know, you’re eating zucchini three times a day, bringing them as host gifts to dinner parties and trying to give the UPS driver squash when he delivers your packages. Let’s just say if you visit our home in August, you’re not leaving without zucchini.

No one wants to deal with a Goodyear blimp-size squash, so on my garden rounds, I carefully peer beneath the leaves and ferret out every reasonably sized zucchini. The next time I check, there are four or 40 more!

I’m not complaining. Much. I love zucchini, and over the years I’ve amassed an impressive selection of recipes. Even our youngest son, who scorns sautéed squash, will devour any dessert made from the versatile plant.

The challenge comes with inputting our garden’s output. At any given moment, our refrigerator holds a huge bowl of grated zucchini waiting to be baked into breads, chopped into casseroles or sliced into side dishes.

In the past two weeks, I’ve baked chocolate zucchini bread, chocolate chip-orange zucchini bread, zucchini brownies, zucchini cornbread and lemon zucchini bread.

I’ve made zucchini stuffing casserole, Mexican zucchini bake and crispy Parmesan garlic chicken with zucchini.

Yet, my son still asks most every night, “Is there zucchini in this?” Give him another week – he’ll stop asking.

Soon, I’ll start freezing shredded squash to get us through the long, gardenless months. That’s where Derek lends his muscle. For some reason, we’ve never owned a food processor, so I like to credit my husband’s massive forearms to his regular workouts with grater and squash.

We both enjoy the fruits of our combined labor, and I hope you’ll enjoy trying these three recipes. Crispy Parmesan garlic chicken with zucchini is a simple stove-top supper, doable on hot summer days.

Mexican zucchini bake goes great with grilled steak or salmon. Pro tip: I bake it in the morning and pop it in the microwave at dinner so as not to heat up the kitchen.

Lastly, lemon zucchini bread is a perfect light, summery dessert. The glaze adds a delightful mix of sweet and tart. Now I’d better head out to the garden. I’ve left the zucchini unattended for too long. I might need a bigger basket.

Crispy Parmesan Garlic Chicken with Zucchini

2 chicken breasts, sliced in half, or 4 thin chicken breasts

8 tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan, divided

¼ cup flour

2 medium zucchinis, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter.

To make the chicken, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and flour.

Dip the chicken in the butter and then coat in the bread crumb mixture and place in a skillet.

Cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes, until the outside is crispy and the chicken is cooked through. Set aside on a plate.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter back to the skillet and sauté the minced garlic for 1 minute. Add the zucchini to the skillet and sauté until tender. Salt and pepper to taste, and add 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Add the chicken back to the skillet and heat for 1 minute or so.

Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Mexican Zucchini Bake

4 eggs

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

7 cups sliced zucchini

1 7 ounce can diced green chilies, drained

½ cup minced onion

¼ cup chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup seasoned croutons

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Beat the eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and salt until smooth. Stir in the cheese, zucchini, chilies, onion, parsley and garlic.

Turn into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Combine the croutons and melted butter; sprinkle over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Lemon Zucchini Bread

1½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

1 cup finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini

¼ cup cooking oil

1 egg

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel

For the glaze:

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the sugar, zucchini, cooking oil, egg, lemon juice and lemon peel. Stir to combine.

Add dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture; stir just until combined.

Spoon the batter into a greased bread pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, or until golden brown and set.

Cool in a pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.

Once cool, combine the ingredients for the glaze and drizzle over the bread.

Note: Glaze can be doubled if desired.

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