Because frankly what the world most certainly does not need are more recipes for zucchini muffins and breads and casseroles. The website AllRecipes.com, for example, lists some 244 recipes for zucchini bread alone. In fact, there are so many that users of the site have stopped even trying to come up with creative names for the recipes, instead resorting to Roman numerals. A slice of Zucchini Bread VI, anyone?
So it has been a long time since I have been impressed by a zucchini recipe. Using a vegetable peeler to turn it into ribbons for a salad is benign. Shredding it into strands for "pasta" is creative, if not particularly delicious. And I have no interest in yet another variant of stuffing and baking them, no matter how much bacon, sausage and cheese you jam in there.
But recently I was impressed by, yes... a zucchini recipe. I no longer thought this was possible.
A generous reader sympathetic to my ongoing battle to get my 8-year-old son to embrace more vegetables directed me to a recipe for zucchini hummus on blogger Kait Capone's site, LaCucinadiKait.com. The recipe is precisely as it sounds — a hummus-like spread made from ground zucchini.
The name doesn't do it justice, hence I tried it somewhat reluctantly. As is my wont, I modified the recipe the first time I tried it. The recipe calls for pureeing raw zucchini, which held little appeal for me. So I grilled it first. I also upped the garlic, and added smoked paprika and salt. The result was insanely good.
A few more modifications in round two and I had something I'd long thought impossible — an amazingly delicious, creative and even healthy way to use zucchini.
What to do with it? It certainly would make a fine sandwich spread or dip for vegetables, crackers or hunks of pita bread. I dumped some over a salad of baby greens and roasted vegetables and it was fantastic.
If you don't want to crank up the grill, you also could pop the zucchini under the broiler for a few minutes. Coat the zucchini lightly with cooking spray or olive oil, then set on the oven's lowest rack. Broil just until very lightly browned and starting to get tender.
GRILLED ZUCCHINI HUMMUS
I prefer roasted (also called toasted) tahini, but it can be hard to fine. The recipe is still great with regular tahini.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
1 large zucchini (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup roasted tahini (sesame seed butter)
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat a grill to high. Use an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to lightly oil the grill grates.
Trim the ends from the zucchini, then slice it in half lengthwise. If the seeds are large and watery, use a melon baller or small spoon to scrape out and discard most of the seeds from the centre of each half. It's not critical to get them all. If the inside of the zucchini appears firm and the seeds small, you don't need to scrape them out.
Place the zucchini on the grill, cut side up, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes, or until just lightly browned and starting to get tender. Set aside to cool.
When the zucchini has cooled enough to handle, place it in a food processor. Add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Process for 1 minute, or until very smooth.
The hummus can be served immediately, or chilled. The hummus will thicken slightly as it chills.
Nutrition information per 1/4 cup: 45 calories; 30 calories from fat (67 per cent of total calories); 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 2 g protein; 110 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.Suggest a correction