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August, 2010

Simple Sides: Zucchini

By Dennis Linden

This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children working together under the supervision of an adult with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options centered around one seasonal fresh produce item that a child can contribute to the family meal
.

Cooking with the Kids Image

While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can even be great fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever
.

Zucchini

After a whole summer of growing in commercial fields and backyard gardens, zucchini is one of the first spring plantings ready for harvest in August. This month retail displays are overflowing with this most popular of summer squash varieties at promotional prices. Plus all those backyard hobbyists who made the mistake of putting in more than one zucchini plant are now swimming in this prolific, easy-to-go-grow vegetable. Surely the zucchini bread was invented by a desperate home gardener attempting to pass some of this bounty on to a neighbor!

Here are two healthy, fun and easy recipes that kids can prepare using this versatile veggie, first as a finger food snack and then for the summer dinner table, a delicious warm salad dish. Recipe I, Crispy Zuchinni Rounds, will require some thin slicing that the adult in the room may want to do, depending on the age and aptitude of your kitchen helpers. Except for that knife work, this is a recipe that the youngest of chef trainees can participate in. To avoid the mess waiting to happen with the dredging method called for in the recipe, instead fill a medium plastic storage container half way with the breads snapped crumbs, drop 6-10 rounds in the container, make sure tha the lid tight and let your kids shake to coat! A child of any age can place the rounds on the cookie sheet; a job that could easily be turned into a practical math lesson along the way. Plus here’s a crispy healthy snack food that your kids will gobble up!

Recipe II takes the hot stove out of the preparation in favor of the most useful culinary tool invented since the spatula, the microwave. This dish is a step up in prep complexity compared to the zucchini rounds; it requires some slicing and chopping that should be done by an older child under supervision. This recipe demonstrates how the flavors of several fresh ingredients work together to form a wonderful new taste. Balsamic vinegar, when heated, really sweetens up the neutral tasting zucchini. The dish is a perfect contribution that kids can make to a family’s summertime barbeque meal.

Crispy Zucchini Rounds
Recipe I
Crispy Zucchini Rounds

(Serves 4)

Ingredients
3 cup zucchini - thinly sliced (about 1 lb.)
1/2 cup Bread crumbs - seasoned Italian
3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese - grated
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 each egg whites - lightly beaten

What kids can do:
1. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper and coat with the oil.
2. Dip the zucchini slices in egg whites; dredge in bread crumb mixture.
3. Place zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
4. Serve in as finger food after sprinkling with a little more Parmesan.

What supervising adult should do:
Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn zucchini over; bake an additional 10 minutes or until outside is crispy and slightly browned. Be careful not to burn.

Zucchini with Vidalia Onions & Balsamic Vinegar
Recipe II
Zucchini with Vidalia Onions & Balsamic Vinegar

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
2 medium zucchini, sliced into strips
2 medium sweet onions, chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
Salt Pepper to taste

What kids can do:
1. Cut zucchini into strips about 1½-inch in length.
2. Spread zucchini and onions on a microwave-safe dish.
3. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes on HIGH.
4. Cool zucchini and onions for 3 to 4 minutes
5. Combine oil, vinegar, mint and parsley in a small container.
6. Once veggies are cool, toss with oil mixture and walnuts.
7. Plate in a scoop with springs of mint arranged on top.
8. Serve warm or at room temperature,