Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's National Zucchini Day - Celebrate!

Yes,  August 8th is a day dedicated to the Zucchini ~ botanically it is a fruit, but in a culinary context, it is treated as a vegetable and served as a savory dish or an accompaniment. 

My sister and I were talking the other day of the zucchini patch our grandfather had.  Many times, I helped plant the seeds for him, pushing 3 to 4 seeds into each mound and looking forward to seeing those beautiful sprawling plants with big yellow blooms spring up.  We ate a lot of zucchini growing up and preserved a lot of pickles as well.  This day brought back memories of cooking in my mother's kitchen, deciding on a dish to include this wonderful vegetable from the garden for our meals.

Today, I went a little crazy and will show you three ways, starting with a cupcake for dessert.  I decided to add zucchini to one of my favorite desserts, English Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It's a cake that has some caramel sauce poured over it when nearly done, thus becoming the "sticky" part with additional caramel sauce drizzled over it and a dollop of whip cream. It was invented by a hotel operator by the name of Francis Coulson of the Sharrow Bay Country House in Cumbria, England.  I also did a side dish called Torta di Risotto from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks~ New Vegetarian by Celia Brooks Brown and an appetizer of crispy zucchini sticks, baked in the oven instead of frying, to show off its versatility.

Zucchini Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces and softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped dried dates
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 cups grated zucchini (approximately 2 medium zucchinis)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.

To begin, add boiling water to the dried dates.  Add the one teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture and set aside.

Grate two zucchinis into a colander in case any liquid oozes from it.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat again.

Add the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and salt and pour the date mixture over it.  Beat on medium one minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl, then, beat one minute more.

Add the grated zucchini and mix just until combined.
Scoop the batter into 18 muffin openings.
Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes; until golden brown and when lightly touched, springs back.
 Let cool completely before proceeding to the filling and frosting.
Since typically Sticky Toffee Pudding has a caramel sauce, I used some of the remaining caramel I had made for the Cinnamon Sticky Bun Cake.  You can also use a store bought version.
Use an apple corer to create a "well" for the caramel

Pipe in the caramel, then place the cupcake "plug" over the hole before frosting

Caramel Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
2 T meringue powder
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup homemade caramel (or you can use a store bought)
3 to 4 T milk

In a stand mixer, cream the butter until fluffy.  Add the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder and blend (mixture will be stiff).  Add the caramel and 3 tablespoons of milk and beat to combine.  If needed, add an additional tablespoon of milk to give a light a fluffy frosting.

Pipe on the cupcakes.
To decorate, I added some edible honor of the Queen, of course!

Next, was my side dish...

Torta di Risotto 
1 cup arborio risotto rice
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 oz. Fontina cheese, cut into 1/4 cubes
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The 3 cheeses: Mozzarella, Fontina & Parmesan
 Add the rice to a saucepan with about 4 cups of boiling water and let simmer 10 minutes until the rice is tender, but still firm (al dente).  Drain.

1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch long slices (I used my mandolin)
Brush slices with olive oil and place on a hot grill pan to sear.
Brush the top side with additional olive oil and when the grill marks show on the cook side, turn over the slices, using tongs.  Repeat grill marks and then remove.

3 to 4 T Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. dried basil or 1/4 cup of fresh basil torn or coarsely chopped

Heat the olive oil.  Add the minced garlic, then, the canned chopped tomatoes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.  Stir in the basil.

Add the rice and cheese and stir to mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble:

Oil a 9" x 5" loaf pan.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs on the bottom.  

Spoon in half of the rice mixture and smooth flat.  Layer the zucchini (corgettes) in a single layer over the rice.
 Spoon remaining rice mixture over the zucchini, then sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
At this point, you could wrap the mixture with aluminum foil and refrigerate and cooked later.
Preheat oven to 425F-degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Run a long-bladed knife around the edges, then turn our onto a serving platter.  Cut the torta into slices and serve.

Finally, I did an appetizer...

Breaded Zucchini Spears with Lemon/Chive Dipping Sauce

Preheat oven to 425F-degrees.  Once the oven has come up to temperature, heat a baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Prepare zucchini.

2 zucchini (washed and ends trimmed)
1/2 cups King Arthur flour
salt and pepper
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs

Cut the zucchini in half horizontally, then, cut each section into thirds and each of those sections into half--you should get 12 spears from each zucchini.

Divide the flour with salt & pepper, eggs, and bread crumb mixture into 3 dishes.
To begin: Roll the zucchini spears in the seasoned flour, then into the beaten eggs, and finally roll in the bread crumbs.  Open the oven and place the spears on the heated baking sheet.
Bake in the oven, turning once about 15 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Lemon-Chive Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
juice of one half lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped chives

Mix all ingredients together and get refrigerated until ready to use.

So, there you have my tribute to a vegetable that was a big part of my life growing up and remains so today--Happy Zucchini Day.  Enjoy!



  1. Susan,you went all out on this post. It is hard to decide, but I will have to go with your risotto torta or maybe the zucchini spears. Please don't make me choose. They all sound so good.
    Thanks for your lovely comment on my Hugo post. You are the best. I know that we will meet one of these days. Your home state is on my list to visit!

    1. I would love to have you and your family come for a visit and see my beautiful state--and you could bake together. Now that sounds perfect! XOXO

  2. Wow, Susan! Ode to zucchini!! These all look wonderful, of course. Dinner and dessert at your house? Sounds lovely...I made chocolate zucchini cake with chocovino yesterday. We must have been channeling, yet again! Lv, me

    1. I know--we're twins separated at birth! LOL!! Love you, XOXO

  3. Years and years ago, the only way I knew to fix zucchini was to fry it in bacon grease with onions. The kids would not eat it (maybe they knew about high cholesterol!) so I tried to disguise it by cutting the zucchini in strips, dipping them in pancake batter and deep frying them!! Now I lightly saute the zucchini in olive oil with garlic and onions, sometimes adding tomatoes and of course, fix the strips in the oven like you show in the post. There are so many healthy and versatile recipes---and the Torta di Risotto is a good example. I made it last summer along with several other zucchini recipes that you sent me. Thanks for a great post!!

    1. I'm still working on that book--100 ways to use zucchini!! I wish I could send these cupcakes your way for your birthday celebration, but sadly weather and postal services are not reliable enough. I'll just have to make a batch when I come for a visit! XOXO

  4. I love zucchini and all of those look so good! The only problem is deciding which to try first. :) Have a fantastic day!

    1. I agree - that's why I did them all! I will say, always start with dessert:-D

  5. OK, that's it - be at SEATAC on call - I'm moving in with you!

    1. I think that's an excellent idea! Cashie and Dale are welcomed too:-D

  6. I am going to bookmark this page. Our zucchini crop failed this year - no sun, constant rain - but next husband is not going to believe his luck. He'd be very happy to eat any of these, but I have a feeling that the spears and dip will become his favourite.

    1. We don't have enough sun either here in my area, but thankfully the Farmer's Markets (coming from the eastern part of Washington) have had beautiful ones. XOXO

  7. Hi Susan! Yes i certainly do share my recipes. If you highlight on "peach salsa" it will take you to a link. I am happy to share any and all my recipes to any and all :-)

    1. I'm "peach" hunting tomorrow at our farmer's market to make some jam and this beautiful salsa--thank you Zaza, XOXO

  8. This is zucchini heaven, Susan. Those swirls on the cupcakes are so dang sexy! I love these crunchy zucchini sticks too.

    1. Thanks hubby did have a big smile after eating one:-D!!

  9. Hello Dear friend

    I love zucchini~! Winter is coming to an end shortly and I am coming to an end of all creative Wintery baking. Cant wait for Summer to try these with our own zucchini's. Sending all my love your way. Blogging came to a stand still for a while until the Snow kicked started a new post!

    Love you

    1. I loved seeing the photos of your snow day! How much fun that must have been for the children. I'm so happy it brought you back to blogging...I've missed you, XOXO

  10. Susan dear,

    Why aren't you my neighbor?? I would love that!



    1. Oh Sharon, me too! I'd get the best of that deal with your beautiful gardens! XOXO

  11. I definitely need to make those cupcakes! :)

    1. It was a great combination of flavors--Hail to the Zucchini!!

  12. Hello Susan
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my latest post. Curiouser and curiousor as the White rabbit said to Alice---- another Lewis Caroll quote LOL ..... I love his quotes! anyhow I never would have thought you could use zuccini in muffins!!!
    What a wonderful cook you are!!! I am very mediocre in comparison.
    Wonderful recipes and now I don't think I'm going to have lunch as I'm full!

    keep well

    Amanda :-)