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It is the time of the year when zucchini gets a bad name.  There are boring jokes bantered about, lots of eyes rolling, and tired recipes for zucchini bread dug out of old recipe boxes. While good cooks guard against eating anything but the tiny, tender cigar-tube-shaped baby bitty zukes, some of us still end up with nearly Little League-sized bats on our counters.  (Below are medium-sized squashes perfect for grating or stuffing grown by my old neighbor, Wendy Ruble.)

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I, on the other hand (as my sister’s friend Sue has noticed) never tire of zucchini. I don’t care if it’s small or large, thin or thick skinned.  The bigger, the better sometimes. If I can’t find something to do with it, it can’t be done. I love zucchini!  (Scroll down to bottom for a link to a post with my favorite recipes as well as favorites of a couple of other stellar bloggers.) If you do end up with a really big one, peel the sucker well, and seed it even better.

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10 weeks and many deer fences later, I have yellow zucchini in my garden here in Colorado.

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And while I adore it on its own or with other vegetables, occasionally it is lovely for something totally different–as in this salmon dish or in the breakfast dishes near the bottom of this post.

Spending a perfect July week in Alaska last month, I had salmon on my mind…and on my mind again..

Not that it’s ever too far away. Just as the dogs days began, zucchini and salmon were coming together as I looked toward August’s end.

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Salmon swimming upstream in Juneau.

Simple to make and faster than you’d think, my summer fish and zucchini meal comes together happily in an unusual combination. The end justifies the easy means and, if you’ve a helper to grill, you can be making the cakes while the salmon cooks.  Whether or not both come out at the same time won’t make a whole lot of difference. This dish is just as tasty at room temperature or with any part of it at room temperature. It’s particularly wonderful if you have a new, beautiful deck by Jorge and Victor Velez at Deck World on which to enjoy such healthy summer fare:

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If you’re making the meal on your own, start first with the glaze, then make the zucchini cakes (You can cover them or put them in the oven to keep warm if you like.) while you grill the salmon.  Take your time plating; there’s no hurry and this can be a stunning presentation.  Try this:

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BALSAMIC-GLAZED SALMON FILLETS ON ZUCCHINI CAKES with kale, peppers, and mushrooms   serves 4 

Crisp salmon fillets served on tender and crunchy zucchini cakes with just sautéed vegetables.  The plateful is seasoned with a piquant balsamic glaze that can be made ahead if need be.

  • Balsamic-White Wine Glaze (recipe below)
  • 4 zucchini cakes (recipe below)
  • 3 small red sweet peppers, sliced (or 1 large thinly sliced red bell pepper)
  • 12 button or other mushrooms, sliced
  • Canola oil
  • 4  Salmon fillets (4-6 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Make Balsamic-White Wine Glaze (below). Keep warm or leave at room temperature when reduced.
  2. Make zucchini cakes (below), adding peppers and mushrooms to pan–removing them as needed when tender and browned. Keep warm in oven or cover and reserve.
  3. Heat grill to medium (about 350 degrees F).  Oil grill with a rag dipped in a little canola oil.
  4. Brush salmon fillets lightly with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill 6 minutes on one side and 4 on the other OR until salmon is nearly firm, but juicy. Let rest 1 minute. (Cooked to medium done.  It will cook a bit more as it rests.)
  6. Divide kale among 4 plates. Drizzle with lemon juice and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Top with first a zucchini cake and then a piece of salmon.  Drizzle salmon with glaze. Garnish with peppers and mushrooms.  Add a slice of lemon to each plate.

 

Zucchini Cakes–Eat ’em while they’re hot.  Or not.   (above: 3-inch cakes)

 

 ZUCCHINI CAKES:

—  Fried up “pancakes” full of  shredded Parmesan cheese and grated onion, they’re hearty and healthy. Easily gluten-free with a change from wheat to a gluten-free flour mix. The first pic (above) shows the cakes in about a 3-inch size–perfect for a poached or fried egg or as a side dish. For the salmon, you’ll want to pat the cakes into perhaps a 5-inch cake–as in the second photo below:  

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If you’re just making the cakes:  You might have the cakes a time or two before they’re gone if you make the small variety.  I like them instead of sausage with fried/poached eggs, sliced up over rice and topped with chopped green onions or dill, smothered in a layer of Greek yogurt and a good dose of black pepper, graced with a dop of great salsa, just by themselves, or under a grilled salmon fillet, of course.  Yes, versatile!  Also fine hot, at room temp, or cold right out of the frig. Good picnic fare.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups  grated zucchini (This is 3 cups after squeezing out moisture in paper towels over kitchen sink first–a handful at a time so you don’t have mushy cakes.)
  • 3 tablespoons minced red onion or scallions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour or GF flour (or more if mixture looks too moist to hold together in patties)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, optional (Will make puffier cakes with and crispier cakes without)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or butter for frying (or more as needed)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Toppings:  As you choose from above listings or plain with salmon and sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl — except oil/butter and pepper.  Heat oil/butter over medium – medium-high heat.  On a cutting board, shape/pat zucchini mixture into patties about 3″ in diameter–5″ if using as a bed for the salmon– and place in hot fat with a thin spatula.  (Or spoon mixture into fat much like pancakes and smooth into shape.) Sprinkle with black pepper.  Let cook 3-4 minutes OR until quite golden.  NOTE: For the salmon recipe, you’ll also add the sweet red peppers and mushrooms to the pan to cook alongside the cakes.

Carefully turn over, dust again with pepper, and fry the other side until golden. Make sure the cakes are done through as they contain raw egg.

Serve hot, at room temperature or cold. (Use hot or room temp for salmon dish, if possible.) Have leftovers? Store tightly wrapped in the frig for up to 2 days.  Do not freeze.

COOK’S NOTES:  You can substitute small red potatoes (grated) for part of the zucchini if you’d like a part zucchini-part potato cake.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR -WHITE WINE SAUCE/GLAZE:

This is based on an old Bon Appétit recipe for salmon with a rich, but simple sauce or glaze that I’ve made for years. See link at bottom for original recipe from John Ash.  Can be made ahead (one week) and reheated gently.

Make the sauce or glaze:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • Pinch each:  kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, ground cayenne pepper

In a small sauce pan, mix the above ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and let cook 15 or so minutes until reduced by one third. Use while warm.  It should be medium-thick, about like maple syrup.

Bon Appétit recipe for Salmon Fillets with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze  (John Ash)

WINE:  While Pinot Noir is typically a lovely wine for salmon (and you might try it here), I’m not fond of pairing a really pretty bottle of wine with this much vinegar–and there’s vinegar in this sauce.  I find a white that’s perhaps off-dry  is a better match here.  You might try a drier riesling, a viognier, or even an unoaked Chardonnay.  A regular Chard would drink, too.

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                  DESSERT:  Peaches or peach ice cream if you’re having a dinner party.

                                above:  Fried Egg Zucchini and Salsa

WANT MORE ZUCCHINI? YOU KNOW YOU DO!

Click here to order Lydia Walshin’s beautiful book, 23 Zucchini: Fast, Fun, Easy Recipes from the Perfect Pantry. (Just $3.99 or $0.00 for kindle unlimited)

Click here for Kalyn’s Kitchen Ten Most Popular Zucchini Recipes (Low Carb)

Click here for a whole blog post full of my own fun, most favorite zucchini recipes–including:

Breakfast Zucchini Basil Boats

 –Scoop out the zucchini and cook it up with some vegetables-including zucchini– and fresh basil; add eggs, bake briefly, and then run under the broiler topped with tomatoes and cheese.  Heaven.

Sing a new song; love your zucchini!

Alyce