The onslaught of zucchini and summer squash has arrived. Everywhere I turn, there’s another gardener that can’t wait to proudly present me with his or her latest masterpiece. Other times, if they sense your fear of more zucchini, they will send small children to deliver a squash nearly as big as they are—in those cases, how can I say no?
Personally, I love receiving and eating zucchini, but the rest of my family is not so keen on it. At times I’ll disguise it in zucchini bread, but that to some degree cancels out the benefits of eating a green vegetable. I’ve found that the best way to prepare zucchini in a savory application is to grate it before cooking it. That way, I can wring out all of the excess moisture with a dishcloth, and any traces of spongy texture get eliminated.
A simple roasted garlic vinaigrette and some toasted almonds adds a burst of flavor to the mild zucchini, and a few shreds of crispy pan-fried zucchini add some textural contrast. The thin shreds of caramelized zucchini marry well with the orzo—there are no large slices of zucchini to remind anyone of just how uninspiring plain zucchini really is.
This dish is packed with two and a half pounds of zucchini, which is a satisfying number in terms of both your health and the status of your vegetable bed. Zucchini lovers will sing your praises, and zucchini haters will have two servings before asking, “What’s in this?”
Zucchini with Orzo
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
6 oz. orzo pasta
2 ½ lbs. zucchini (center core cut out if you are using a single zucchini the size of a bowling ball)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon roasted garlic, mashed into a paste with a fork (if desired, you can substitute 1 minced garlic clove for a more pronounced garlic flavor)
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons flour
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil and add 2 teaspoons table salt. Cook the orzo until al dente, then drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater and place the zucchini in the center of a clean dishcloth, then wring out the excess moisture.
- In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini, reserving ½ cup of the raw zucchini in a separate bowl for later in the recipe. Sprinkle the zucchini in the skillet with salt and let cook for 15-20 minutes until softened and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Transfers the cooked zucchini to the bowl with the orzo and toss the two together with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the white wine vinegar, roasted garlic, toasted almonds, few grinds of fresh pepper, and ¼ teaspoon table salt.
- Wipe out the skillet and set it back over medium high heat with the canola oil. Toss the remaining ½ cup zucchini with the flour and spread it in the pan into an even layer. Pan-fry for about 5-6 minutes until golden brown and crispy on both sides, then let drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
- To serve the orzo, adjust seasonings to taste, then top with the crispy fried zucchini just before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.