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Vegan Zucchini Rolls

Did the zucchini in your garden blow up to an enormous size? It can happen in what seems like an instant, and that can definitely make you feel like you don’t have a green thumb! Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out when to harvest vegetables grown in our summer garden. Some fruits and vegetables make it easy to know when it’s ripe (like a raspberry), but others, like the zucchini are a little more difficult. Hopefully this will serve as a little ripeness guide for your late summer zucchini.

Summer squashes like yellow squash and zucchini are at their best when they are just 4 inches long. Their skin is gorgeous green and shiny. Let them grow bigger and you have a monster on your hands that is well beyond it’s peak and doesn’t taste very good. In fact, always pick zucchini young and plenty more will follow. When they are perfect for picking, zucchini will feel firm, heavy for it’s size and have a bight, healthy, green skin. Discard those with dull or hard skin, an oversize body, or a dry stem…they are best left to your compost pile!

Zucchini Salad
1-2 summer tomatoes (try to find those beautiful heirlooms!)
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 sprig of basil, finely chopped
salt + pepper
1 medium zucchini

Slice tomatoes and combine with balsamic vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. Toss lightly and set aside. Using a julienne peeler or mandoline, slice the zucchini into long strands. I boil it for just a moment to take the raw edge off. You can serve it raw or boil it for a minute or two. Add a sprinkle of salt and serve.

 

zucchini_salad

Zucchini Rolls
This zucchini roll recipe sort of happened by accident because I was (and still am) trying to develop a vegan salad dressing that is similar in texture and flavor to ranch. I’ve completely bombed at least 15 times on the ranch dressing, but this cheese-like spread came out looking and tasting pretty good, so I went with it and decided to combine it with some crushed calamatas and sun dried tomatoes to enhance the flavor, then wrap it up in zucchini. This works for a nice little appetizer and you won’t even know the crushed cashews aren’t really “cheese”!

2 medium zucchini
sun dried tomatoes (about 5)
calamata olives (about 10)

“Vegan Spread with Ranch Undertones”
1 cup cashews
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. tahini
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped parsley (or 1 Tbsp. dry)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp. rice milk to consistency

Preparation Instructions
Combine all the “spread” ingredients in a high speed blender (like a Vitamix) and process until creamy, adding the rice milk as needed to establish the right consistency. I’m thinking if you keep adding more rice milk, this may give the salad dressing consistency, but that is for another day!

Dice or process the calamata olives and sun dried tomatoes separately. Slice the zucchini very thin leaving the skin on. It seemed to work best with a very thin layer of the olives/sun dried tomatoes and then a thin layer of the spread. Make sure it’s thin enough otherwise it won’t “roll” properly.

You may need to secure with a toothpick, but if your zucchini slices are really thin you probably won’t need the toothpick.

A version of this article ran in the printed version of the Reading Eagle on August 13, 2014. To view it, click here.

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