Summertime Sides

By Stephanie Politte

Produce. It’s expensive, and I’m cheap. My blood pressure rises as I walk through the produce section at the grocery store, because I am so aware that all of this fresh, whole food is what my family should be eating, but buying much of it threatens to break the bank. With 4 kids plus 1 on the way, I have to heavily consider the cost of each of the items on my grocery list. Strategic doesn’t even begin to cover my game-plan when constructing said list. It would be so much easier on the wallet to stick to all the processed, packaged foods (and believe me, I never entirely omit those things). But my 4 little growing munchkins, (not to mention my pregnant self) and my husband deserve to be fed food that’s good for them, too! Add to that the fact that veggies are my weakness, (I know, you were expecting chocolate) and shopping for produce becomes a real problem for me.

However, if you show up at my house at anytime, there is one vegetable you are likely to find gracing my counter top. It seems I cannot go very many days without enjoying a delectable zucchini. It has become my absolute favorite staple food. It’s only been about a year since making this discovery, and since that time, I’ve become quite addicted. My parents had come to visit from Kentucky, and brought with them a few of the largest zucchinis I had ever seen. The next week, our close friends Jaymee and Travis were visiting us, and Travis, being the grill-master that he is, whipped up a feast. Seeing the giant zucchini on our counter, he asked if we ought to throw one on the grill. This idea delighted me, as I was still unsure what to do with the giant mutant zucchinis now in my custody. What resulted was a beautiful introduction to the world of grilled zucchini which has fostered an addiction that would surely require a 12-step plan should I ever decide to stop. (I presently have no intentions to end this addiction.) I have tried zucchini prepared other ways since then, and they are generally enjoyable. However, grilled zucchini is most certainly the best way to eat it.

Through the winter months, I had to come up with an acceptable substitute as I wasn’t able to grill. My mother came up with the idea of broiling it, and that has worked well. Just be prepared, your kitchen will smell divine.

Now, I am a sucker for most any green vegetable. I realize that not everyone shares my love for the green veggies. I totally understand that. I can’t stand mushrooms (and contend that they were never intended to be consumed) and I don’t really care for olives, either (of any variety), though I can palate them when necessary. Aside from that, there is not a vegetable I know of that I don’t enjoy. But over the last year, several non-veggie lovers have given grilled zucchini a chance and decided they were pretty tasty, as far as veggies go.

The fantastic thing about grilled zucchini is that you can make it your own very easily. Not only that, but you can customize it to pair well with whatever main course is on your menu. I’ll share my favorite way to prepare it, then give a few other ideas for changing it up a bit.

Ingredients:
1 large zucchini (doesn’t have to be monstrous, just not tiny or it will fall through the grate)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 TBSP steak seasoning (I prefer Montreal)

Instructions:
Cut zucchini in half, width-wise (or thirds, if it’s a pretty big zucchini).
Slice each half into 1/4 in thick “fillets”.
Place zucchini slices in a freezer or storage bag with all other ingredients and seal.
Work it all around to make sure every slice is well-coated.
Marinate in fridge anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
On medium-high heat, grill zucchini on lower grate for 5-7 minutes, or until they start to caramelize. (Do not burn.)
Turn over and grill another 2-4 minutes until both sides have nice grill marks.

Enjoy this with chicken, burgers, steaks, fish, you name it! I love it with salmon grilled on cedar planks and twice-baked potatoes. My daughter Campbell loves it, too. (This is quite a feat, as she turns up her nose at most vegetables.)

Other ideas are to replace the balsamic vinegar and salt with teriyaki and soy sauce and the steak seasoning with ground ginger, OR replace the balsamic vinegar with lemon juice and honey and the steak seasoning with curry powder, OR omit the balsamic vinegar and replace the steak seasoning with cumin and onion powder.

There are a hundred other ways to tweak this dish, and you can let your creativity run wild. (Or if you are not the stray-from-a-recipe kinda person, you can stick to what you see here.) However, in the spirit of adventure, I urge you to give grilled zucchini a try this week. It’s versatile, healthy, and sooooo delicious! It might be just the thing to turn one of your picky eaters into a veggie-tolerable eater.

And in case you are concerned for the health and welfare of my family, I assure you I do purchase other fruits and veggies for their consumption, as well! They are not deprived of produce, I just cringe as I fork over the cash. But, I’m ready to hit the farmer’s markets! I usually find great deals there.

How about you? Is there a great summertime dish that makes its way to your table over and over again during the dog days? Do you have a great slant on an old favorite? Tell me about it!

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Categories: Food, Money, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Summertime Sides

  1. MacisMessy

    So, I’m at the grill on my iPod right now, and I have two questions:

    1) How long does your zucchini last on the counter? I’ve been refrigerating mine and it only seems to stay good for a week. Maybe I need to switch.

    2) Generally speaking, what are the best and cheapest year round buys in the produce aisles? I’d love to see a top ten list on this, someday! Is there like a dollars per pound goal you keep in mind when purchasing veggies?

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