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Ways to use the Prolific Summer Zucchini

Here's a light and refreshing summer dish that features zucchini and surprisingly easy homemade ricotta.

Zucchini is not my first choice when it comes to summer's bounty. In fact, we don't even grow it in our garden. The humble green squash keeps well and is available in markets all year, so I don't feel that rush of anticipation when summer rolls around like I do for local tomatoes.

This summer squash often plays a supporting role to bolder flavors in recipes such as zucchini bread and one of my childhood favorites, ratatouille. It's difficult to find many recipes that feature the flavor of zucchini, but there are several that use its texture to enhance a dish.

So when my brother recommended Zucchini Carpaccio with Homemade Ricotta Cheese for our family gathering, I was skeptical. But this simple dish delighted everyone at the table with its fresh take on a familiar veggie.

This recipe is really two recipes, and when I read that the ricotta cheese was made from scratch, I thought surely I can buy the ricotta and not miss a thing. However, when I told my brother I was just going to buy the cheese, there was a long pause. This, of course, spoke volumes.

So I bought some cheesecloth and the few ingredients required and took up the challenge. What fun! This was the easiest recipe, and the kids (and myself) marveled at how quickly the milky mixture turned to curds, which we then squeezed into a ball.

The key to this recipe is to use a mandoline or food processor with a slicing blade to thinly slice the zucchini. Thick slices will yield an awkward salad with imbalanced flavor. Also, make the ricotta the day before so it has time to chill.

The delicate dollops of ricotta were a creamy addition to the paper-thin slices of lemony zucchini. The occasional fragrant bite of basil added another layer of flavor that worked well with this dish. I couldn't stop eating it, and was happy to have some left over.

I've bookmarked this recipe to use again, and I hope it will prove to be just as pleasing. The dish doesn't use all of the ricotta, so plan ahead to bake some ziti, top a grilled pizza or stuff some shells with the remaining cheese.

Here are some other ideas for that abundant squash known as zucchini:

Richard B. Fisher, DDS August 02, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Sounds delicious Lee! A patient of mine recommended zucchini flower fritters.
Hoa Nguyen August 02, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Zucchini flowers are slightly different as they are the actual flower of the zucchini plant rather than the fruit. (sorry for stating the obvious!) But I'll second the recommendation for zucchini flower fritters -- delicious! I've just never made them at home before.

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