January 18, 2010

The Versatile Zucchini

I've been baking a lot of cakes and cookies lately, so I wanted to make something healthy for a change. I also wanted to use up my feta cheese, so I though salad would be idea. After my lunch with Charu, my old co-worker, I stopped by Trader Joe's and picked up some organic produces for dinner. I decided to make a salad recipe I found on the Food Network. The recipe asks for about 1 pound of zucchini only, so after making the salad I still have about 2 small pieces left. It's not very often that we have zucchini in the fridge, and I have been wanting to try zucchini cake for a long time. Zucchini really is a versatile vegetable, you can eat it raw, cooked, grilled, sweet or savory.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta and Mint

1 red bell pepper cored and cut into 4 pieces
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cut across into 1/4-inch rounds
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
Olive oil cooking spray
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a tray or work surface. Lightly spray both sides with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat a grill or grill pan over a medium-high heat. Grill the vegetables in batches until both sides are nicely charred and the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes for the pepper, about 8 minutes for the eggplant and onion, and about 6 minutes for the zucchini. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and oregano. Pour over the vegetables and toss. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Gently stir in the tomatoes and mint. Divide the salad between 4 plates and sprinkle with the feta.

 This dish was quite delicious even though I'm not a fan of red peppers. I did not add any salts, but instead, I doubled the amount of feta cheese and it was plenty flavorful. One thing I would change for next time is to add double amount of grape tomatoes because they added some sweetness to the whole dish.

Zucchini Bread Recipe

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

I really like this cake a lot. It has the texture of a banana bread unsurprisingly seems many of the ingredients are the same. But it is better because it doesn't have the overshelming banana flavor! I didn't have nutmeg so I didn't add any. Many other similar recipes out there ask for vanilla extract, so I would probably try adding that too the next time! As for zucchini, I added added another cup of it just because I didn't want to have leftovers, and since you can't really taste zucchini to begin with, it doesn't make much of a difference. It really is one healthy packed cake.

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