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This Christmas, Juls and I are celebrating in our new old home, just the two of us. Don’t be sad, we’re looking forward to the peacefulness. With just two to feed, I’m considering very carefully what to cook. I want it to be scrumptious, satisfying but not over the top. (Then again, sometimes left overs are one of the best things about Christmas.) Being summer, there will definitely be salad, and the way our vegetable garden is going, that salad will be home-grown. Perhaps it will be this one.

Before I met Juls, I was well and truly a city girl. Now I have pumpkin vines crawling across my backyard, corn & beans three feet high, and I’m picking fresh zucchini every other day. I either need to learn some preservation techniques quick smart or start getting even more creative in the kitchen. Pinterest here I come.

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Zucchini! (or if you prefer the ring, courgette.) In my younger days, I can’t tell you how many times I bought ‘zucchini’ only to get home, start chopping, and discover it was cucumber. The frustration! Thankfully these days I’m a little more discerning.

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Zucchini is a summer squash that belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family. Whole foods in every sense, you can eat the flesh, seeds, skin and in cases like zucchini, even the flower. Look for untarnished skins with vibrant colour. A gentle squeeze test should elicit firmness, but the skin shouldn’t be hard as this indicates over-maturity or a long storage period. Pick the medium sized ones. Too big and the flesh becomes stringy and bitter. Too small and there won’t be enough flavour. If, like myself, you find you have an oversupply from the garden, you can freeze them. Blanch them in slices for 2 minutes, followed by a dip in icy water and finally pat dry with a tea towel. The flesh will be softer when thawed. Not so great for salads but fine for baked goods.

The healthy bits… Zucchini are a summer vegetable for a reason. They contain 95% water so they’re great at keeping you hydrated through the hot months. They also contain fair amounts of potassium, carotenes and Vitamin C. Carotenes provide some protection against photosensitivity. Studies also show that zucchini can prevent cell mutation.* That’s right, anti-cancer properties! (I wonder how long it will be before I come across a vegetable that doesn’t have anti-cancer properties?)

Prepping & sharing… Zucchini can be eaten raw or cooked. They’re great grated into baked goods, thinly sliced for salads, chopped chunky for stews, or even baked whole when they’re little. And lets not forget the latest trend of spirilising them into noodles. Zucchini have a delicate flavour so best not to bombard them. A little butter or olive oil, salt & pepper is enough to bring their flavour out. They pair well with parsley, oregano & tarragon.

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Grilled Zucchini Noodle Salad with Lime & Coriander Dressing
Serves 4 as a light lunch

Ingredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 small zucchini – sliced thinly lengthways
250gms of wholegrain noodles
4 tomatoes – cut into wedges
1 corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 bunch of rocket
Handful of basil leaves – finally chopped.
Salt & Pepper to taste

Dressing
1 lime – juice & zest
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Melt coconut oil on medium heat on a grill. Add zucchini slices, making sure none overlap. Do in batches if need be. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt to bring their flavour out and grill until slightly charred, about 5 minutes each side.
2. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add noodles and cook according to packets instructions. Drain and rinse well under cold water to stop them cooking further. Once cold, add to your salad bowl.
3. Chop tomatoes into wedges and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, corn kernals and when cooked, the zucchini to the salad bowl.
4. Mix together dressing ingredients, and toss through salad. Finally sprinkle salad with basil leaves.

Variations
Gluten Free – choose soba or other GF noodles, but make sure they’re 100% GF
Add In’s: I think this salad would be tasty with any combination of green beans, feta, olives or watermelon thrown in.

Notes
If you don’t have a a grill pan, and can’t be bothered turning on the barbie, just lightly saute zucchini in a fry pain.
This salad can easy be made the day before, just don’t add rocket or dressing until just before serving.

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For more fab zucchini recipes check out these great blogs.

Cashew Kitchen’s – Quick pickled vegetables
Foodfulife’s – Summer Veggie Kebabs
No thyme to waste – Zucchini Bread
Cooking without limits – Zucchini soup
With the Grains – Zucchini spread for Crostini

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