Versatile vegetable: Zucchini can create a variety of tasty dishes
2. Generously oil an earthenware, glass or enameled cast-iron baking pan approximately 10 by 8 inches. Scatter the onions across the bottom, season lightly with salt and scatter the basil leaves over the top.
3. Arrange the zucchini on top of the onions in a single tight-fitting crosswise row. Arrange the remaining zucchini following the same pattern, overlapping each successive row by about one-half. Scatter the cherry tomatoes and black olives evenly over the top and again season lightly with salt (remember, the goat cheese will be slightly salty) and more generously with black pepper.
4. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the top of the mixture, drizzle with olive oil and bake until the zucchini is very soft, the goat cheese is lightly browned, and most of the liquid from the vegetables has disappeared, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Each of serving: 166 calories; 6 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 137 mg sodium.
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WOVEN ZUCCHINI WITH FRESH GOAT CHEESE
Total time: 20 minutes, plus draining time for the zucchini
3 to 4 (6- to 7-inch) zucchini
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
10 to 12 cherry tomatoes
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Sicilian)
6 leaves fresh basil
1. Trim the ends of the zucchini to make them a uniform length. Slice them lengthwise as thin as you can, about one-eighth inch (this is most easily done with a mandoline, but if you're careful, a very sharp knife will also work). You should have at least 24 thin strips of zucchini.
2. Place the zucchini in a bowl, salt generously and toss to coat, then transfer to a colander and set aside until the zucchini have softened, at least 30 minutes.
3. While the zucchini are sitting, whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, the minced garlic and lemon juice and season with a pinch of salt. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and season lightly with salt.
4. Rinse the zucchini slices under cold running water, then pat dry with a paper towel. Return to the bowl and season with just enough of the olive oil-lemon mixture to moisten lightly.
5. Weaving the zucchini may sound complicated (as with weaving a lattice-top pie), but it is not difficult at all. You'll need 6 strips for each plate. Arrange three strips of zucchini side-by-side on the first plate. Lift the middle strip and place one strip of zucchini perpendicular to the other strips and over the two outer strips, making an "H." Unfold the middle strip over the perpendicular strip. Fold back the two end pieces on one side and lay another perpendicular strip, then unfold the end pieces. Repeat at the other end, then use your fingers to gently push the pieces together to make a tightly woven mat of zucchini. Repeat for the three remaining plates.
6. Place the fresh goat cheese in a bowl and stir in the dried oregano and the remainder of the olive oil-lemon mixture to make a smooth, creamy mixture. If necessary, add a little more olive oil.
7. Divide the goat cheese mixture evenly among the four plates, spooning it in the center of the zucchini mat. Scatter the cherry tomato halves around the outside. Drizzle lightly with a little more good olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and scatter over top. Serve at room temperature.
Each serving: 336 calories; 15 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 28 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 45 mg cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 599 mg sodium.
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A look at different sizes, types of zucchini
There are hundreds of varieties of summer squash sold as zucchini, but they break down into two main families. Though they can be used interchangeably, each has different strengths.
The familiar deep green cylindrical zucchini tends to have the best flavor, and the darker the zucchini, the better it is. But the flesh can be soft and breaks down when cooked.
The light gray-green slightly bulbous zucchini, which is common at Latino and Middle Eastern markets, has a milder taste but denser, firmer flesh that holds together during cooking.
You may also sometimes see round zucchini, such as Ronde de Nice and Tondo di Piacenza. These are not technically zucchini but summer pumpkins. Nevertheless, they have firm flesh and mild flavor and are very good for stuffing.
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