Friday, October 16, 2009

"Z" is for Zucchini

Zucchini is about 7000 BC years old – its origins date back to Mexico.

While considered a summer squash, this vegetable is available at supermarkets year round. It appears, at first glance, to be one of those useless things with little taste. But zucchini is actually high in Vitamin C, and has useful amounts of folate, potassium, and Vitamin A.

While it comes in many sizes, choose zucchini that are 4 to 6 inches long. Larger than this and your squash will have a too thick skin and slightly bulbus texture. Look for ones with blemish free skin, as well. They can be yellow to light and dark green to black. Dark green to black versions also possess a good source of beta-carotene.

Zucchini is a fabulous ingredient to add to a variety of dishes as it contributes colour, texture and nutrition. Zucchini bread is a classic. Other dishes celebrating this vegetable are zucchini fritters and fries, lasagna, stuffed, pan-fried and an ingredient in soups.

When pairing a zucchini dish to wine, consider the more predominant flavours.

Try zucchini latkas. Use shredded zucchini rather than potato. Choose a topping of choice and pair the wine to the topping. If you decide to top the latkas with a dollop of sour cream, pair the dish with a crisp dry white offering tanginess to match. A pinot grigio would be ideal. Zucchini and goat cheese tarts can be paired with this same wine because the cheese is tangy, too.

If, on the other hand, you choose to add a spoonful of applesauce, consider an off dry Riesling. Applesauce has natural sweetness than cannot be ignored. So, choose a white wine offering some sweetness. An off dry Gewurztraminer would also harmonize.

A zucchini, bacon and gruyere quiche has lots of fattiness. Consider a big, fat white wine, such as a warm climate Chardonnay with decent alcohol (13.5 to 14%). An Australian or South African Chardonnay would be fabulous at brunch with this quiche.

Fettuccini with toasted walnuts, zucchini ribbons and Pecorino cheese has bitterness from the walnuts and saltiness from the cheese. A big red wine, such as Zinfandel would work well. This bitterness and saltiness harmonizes with the wine’s decent, but not over the top, tannin.

This squash has been known to team up with chocolate, too. How about dark chocolate and zucchini cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and cake? Pair these sweet items with an ounce of tawny port. Just make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert.

Here’s a fun Zucchini and Parmigiano-Reggiano Flatbread Recipe
Serves 4 to 6

Nonstick cooking spray
10 ounces of fresh pizza dough
3/4 cup cream cheese
1 (7 to 8-inch) green zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick rounds, divided

3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 small red onion, peeled
Olive oil as needed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; spray with nonstick spray. Unroll dough onto parchment. Spread half of cream cheese over 1 long half of dough, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Sprinkle with half of Parmesan and 2 tablespoons parsley. Using parchment as aid, fold plain half of dough over filled half (do not seal edges). Spread remaining cream cheese over top; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Cut onion into 1/8-inch-thick rings. Arrange 1 row of zucchini down 1 long side of dough. Arrange onion rings in row alongside zucchini. Arrange 1 more row of zucchini alongside onion. Brush vegetables with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the flat bread until puffy and golden, about 25 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: Pair with Sauvignon Blanc
The tanginess of the cream cheese and saltiness of Parmesan will complement the tanginess of this wine, while nicely offsetting the saltiness.

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