I’m a day late and a dollar short with the flavor of the week but here it is…zucchini! Granted it’s not really a flavor and not used to describe anything except actual zucchini, but our late-blooming zucchini plants have been producing and I thought I’d share some recipes this week to help get rid of any extra harvests from your garden.

It all starts here: the male flowers grow on skinny stems (left, yellow flower) while the female flower grows on a shorter mini-zucchini (right of male yellow flower.)

A couple of developing zucchini with their flowers closed.

Zucchini has never been my favorite, especially when served as enormous, unappetizing chunks in stir-frys or pasta primavera (it’s like cutting half a cabbage and asking everyone to dig in!) One way I did enjoy it was when my mother would make panko-crusted sticks of zucchini, deep fry it and serve it up with a mayo-shoyu dipping sauce on the side…delicious! But what am I doing with these zucchini plants if I don’t like to eat zucchini? Well, the initial idea was to mainly eat the flowers tempura-style, but I’ve been on a healthier-kick lately so no deep frying in the kitchen, at least for now. But there’s another way to enjoy zucchini on a healthier level, and that’s by making them into noodles!

Zucchini noodles are a great way to use up any extras you have lying around and, like any vegetable, is an extremely healthy addition to your diet. One large zucchini (about 3/4 pounds) has only 52 calories and is packed with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, and B6, to name a few. Imagine replacing your regular pasta with nutritious zucchini noodles. Not only do you get more nutrients, but you save over 200 calories per meal!!!

Ready for a step-by-step on making zucchini noodles?

If you don’t have a vegetable spiral slicer, you can achieve similar results with a sharp vegetable peeler and a good knife. First, remove the skin from the zucchini. Use the vegetable peeler to peel of wide slices of zucchini, rotating after every two “peels”:

Rotate and slice until you reach the seeds. Stack two or three zucchini slices and carefully slice them into thinner noodle-like strands.

Use these zucchini noodles in place of regular pasta, just add them to your sauce and cook them gently for about 3 minutes to heat through. Enjoy an almost raw Zucchini Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce, or add a handful to your favorite chicken soup.

What’s your favorite healthy way to enjoy zucchini?

Mac n’ cheese fans will enjoy this hearty Three Cheese Spaetzle with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.

(*NOTE: there’s actually no German way of saying ‘two thumbs up’, people would say lecker or es ist gut. But having the approval of my husband, my in-laws, and a random German student who came by to buy our bookcase we listed on craigslist made me feel like I got the ‘two thumbs up’ rating (if not more!) Yes, I fed my spaetzle to a stranger who enjoyed it so much he was going to call his mother in Germany to say he had spaetzle in Hawaii!)

So, a new favorite comfort food of mine hails from my husband’s country of origin, Germany. Spaetzle is a noodle dish served alongside roasted meats, tossed with cheese or covered in rich gravy. With a toothsome texture and simple ingredient list, spaetzle (where Spatz means “sparrow”) can be tricky to make the first time around. Some recipes suggest using a spaetzle press or pressing the batter through a colander, but I found this messy and unsuccessful. The best method for me (which requires a bit of patience and practice) is to use a smooth wooden cutting board and the spine of a chef’s knife to cut off small pieces of noodle-shaped dough, scraping it off the board and into a pot of boiling water. The spaetzle will not be uniform (proving to everyone that it is, indeed, homemade) and closer to worm-shaped than sparrow-shapped, but the taste will still be delicious.

The basic spaetzle recipe is from one of my favorite publications, Cooks Illustrated. I’ve added my own blend of cheeses and topping to make this a nice, one-dish meal. As long as you got the basics dough recipe down, everything else should fall into place beautifully.

Three Cheese Spaetzle with Broccoli, Mushrooms and Bacon
serves 4

Noodles:
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup whole milk (I also used 2/3 cup lowfat milk and 1/3 cup cream)
2 large eggs

Cheese sauce:
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese*
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese*
*or  use 2/3 cup of any hard, salty cheese

Topping:
6 strips bacon, extra fat removed, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets

To make spaetzle:

Batter will be thick; let it rest while you bring water to a boil. (This batch in the picture is only half a recipe.)

Whisk the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. Slowly stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until combined, then whisk briefly until smooth. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for 15 to 30 minutes (do not let the batter rest any longer.)

While the batter rests, bring 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and stir in 1 tablespoon salt.

Process about 1/2 cup of the batter into the water by cutting the batter from the cutting board into the boiling water.

They look more like squiggly worms than Spatzen, but oh well!

Boil the spaetzle until it floats, about 1 minute.

Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the spaetzle to a large pan and cover to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To make topping:

In a separate frying pan, cook cut bacon over medium heat for 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. In same frying pan, cook mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add bacon and broccoli florets, cook for 3 minutes, turn off heat, cover.

Meanwhile, heat spaetzle on medium. Stir in cheeses until melted. Top with broccoli, bacon and mushrooms and serve.

Guten appetit!

Comfort food at its best!