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Farm fresh: Zucchini madness on the march

Thursday, June 24, 1999

It's summertime and chances are pretty good there's zucchini in your immediate future: zucchini chopped up in casseroles; layered in tians, thinly sliced in fresh salads, marinated and grilled to golden perfection; battered up and glistening as fritters; sautéed in just a smidgen of oil; hollowed and stuffed with bread crumbs and mushrooms; grated to tiny slivers and cleverly disguised in quick breads and muffins; julienned and primed for dipping on crudité trays. Just try to avoid it.

But why would you want to? This versatile summer squash (it takes its name from the word zucca, Italian for little squash) adapts to just about any cooking method from frying to stewing, braising to grilling.

Nutrients: Low in calories and high in phosphorus, iron and vitamins A and C, zucchini is the dieter's friend (unless it's already gone for a swim in the deep-fat fryer).

Buying: Look for straight, firm fruit with glossy, blemish-free skins. The smaller ones (6 to 8 inches) tend to be more tender.

Storing: According to "The Vegetable Bible" by Christian Teubner, zucchini keeps up to three weeks in the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator. Because zucchini are sensitive to ethylene gas, do NOT store them near tomatoes.

Recipe tested by Betsy Kline

Zucchini Gratin

We liked the ease of this recipe and the fact that it doesn't rely on mayonnaise or other fatty fillers for flavor.

1 pound small zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and black and cayenne peppers, to taste

Remove stem ends of the zucchini but leave the skins on. Shred in a processor or use the large shred edge of a hand grater. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and let the zucchini drain for 10 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Put in a shallow, buttered baking pan or casserole and sprinkle with the olive oil, wheat germ and seasonings. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from "Home Bistro" by Betty Fussell

If you have a fruit or vegetable that you would like to see featured between now and Sept. 30, please call food editor Suzanne Martinson at 412-263-1760 or e-mail us at aburnett@post-gazette.com. or bkline@post-gazette.com. We're also looking for easy-to-make, quick recipes that highlight the fabulous flavors of fresh produce. Send to Farm Fresh, PG Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

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