Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Zucchini Chips -- a great way to use up a lot of zucchini!

If I had to give one good reason to own a dehydrator, Zucchini Chips would be it! Yes, I use the dehydrator to dry fruits like nectarines and cherries, vegetables such as cabbage and potatoes and treats like fruit leather and jerky but since mid-July we've learned to grab those mid-size zucchini (before the skin gets tough and the seeds develop too much), cut them into 1/4"-thick slices, sprinkle with a little seasoning (latest favorite is Zatarain's Creole Seasoning) and dry for about 12 hours at around 135F. Summer squash will work like this, too, but the seeds in it are often large almost before the squash is of a good size for drying. Since it shrinks you want to use the slightly larger ones, perhaps 9- or 10-inches in circumference, rather than the small ones. They're just as tasty but make tiny slices once dried!

The zucchini chips are crispy and tasty by themselves, work like a chip or cracker when served with dip or salsa and DH says cream cheese spread works, too. DS even tested a tray with cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top the zucchini. I didn't try any of those but he swore they were excellent and they went immediately. That's why I didn't get to taste any... Usually we just go with the creole seasoning, Old Bay or a homemade seasoning salt. All it takes is a light dusting. The slices shrink as they dry and too heavy a hand with the seasoning can make the seasoning flavor too pronounced.

Of course, there are a lot of good ways to use up zucchini and summer squash. I like to dry lengthwise slices of zucchini for use as "noodles" in lasagna and larger, thick-sliced zucchini slices, when dried, can be rehydrated and fried like fresh squash or green tomato slices (dip in batter or roll in flour or seasoned crumbs). I dry a lot of large, seeded and sometimes peeled, zucchini in slices or shreds for use in soups, spaghetti sauce, quick breads, etc. in the winter. (I used to freeze the shredded zucchini and that's still a great way to preserve it but drying doesn't take up my freezer space -- always valuable real estate around here.) Depending on how I plan to use it I soak it in water for 30-45 minutes before using it in a recipe. If I'm adding it to soup or a tomato sauce, I usually just throw it into the mix as is without soaking. Perhaps adding a little extra liquid to the recipe as I go.

Our favorite way to prepare it is to slice lengthwise, marinate in something flavorful (italian dressing, teriyaki sauce, balsamic vinegar and oil, whatever) and grill. I included another of our favorite oamc uses for zucchini in a previous post, Zucchini Cheese Squares, but I also make a zucchini quick bread similar to banana bread, use shredded zucchini or yellow squash as an ingredient in yeast rolls and salmon cakes and make squash fritters with fresh shredded zucchini in the summer or dehydrated zucchini in the winter. Lots of casseroles have zucchini added as part of the measure of vegetable ingredients. Small cubes of the squash sub for peas in tuna casserole, cubes or shreds get layered into a pan of yamazetti (does anyone know the standard spelling for that old favorite?) or lasagna and show up as an ingredient in any version of Spanish rice we throw together. On occasion I've canned a great mock crushed pineapple by combining shredded zucchini, pineapple juice and a bit of sugar or honey if the juice is unsweetened. With the price of canned pineapple going up I'm thinking of putting some up again this fall.

When they get large and the skin is difficult to pierce with your fingernail, don't despair. The really large zucchinis will even keep for a couple of months if stored without touching. Stack them like firewood along a wall in a protected spot in the garage, shed or, even better, a root cellar. Then when you want to make fried squash or zucchini bread, all you have to do is go get one. The large squash will need to be seeded and peeled for most recipes and they will rot eventually so keep an eye on them and discard any that develop soft spots. If you have chickens or other livestock that like squash this is a good way to keep the last of the crop through to early winter. Years when the squash vines keep producing right up to frost, we've had zucchini to chop up for the chickens right up till Thanksgiving with no problem. Our sheep are divided on the squash issue -- Happy-lamb and Andy, the llama, like zucchini, the rest of the sheep won't touch it.

I don't think we'll have too many to store this fall as we're getting very good about checking the vines daily. Those zucchini chips have changed the way we think of zucchini these days!

For more Kitchen Tips check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammy's Recipes.

11 comments:

Azul said...

This is a great idea! We're flush with zucchini right now, so I will definitely be trying this.

Carolyn said...

Yes, try them! No surplus zucchini here anymore...

Karen said...

Thanks for the advice. I have some
dehydrating right now.

Liberty said...

Thankyou, this is very useful! How rare to find so many uses for zucchini beyond zucchini bread!

lekkercraft said...

I popped over here after seeing your post about the dried zucchini over on the homesteader's rav. board. Thanks for the idea - I'm definitely storing it away as a snack idea!

Carolyn said...

Glad it's helpful! If I had to rely on only zucchini bread as a way to use up excess zucchini, we'd be overrun in about two days.

Nice to see a fellow rav-er, lekkercraft. Check back again sometime -- I really do more than just garden and cook but that's how summer is around here.

My BIL stopped by this afternoon and had to use zucchini chips to test the fresh salsa DH made earlier today as we'd run out of tortilla chips. Looks like we may be able to cut back on buying those things as the zuke chips were excellent salsa dippers, too.

Cindy Marsch said...

I know it's been a while since you posted this, but with today's first harvest from the garden, I need zucchini ideas and Googled to find yours for the dehydrator. Thanks! You're now mentioned on my blog, nutritarianrecipes.blogspot.com .

Carolyn at Walnut Spinney said...

Thanks for the link, Cindy! Hope you enjoy the zucchini chips.

I made a sort of sampler platter for a potluck a couple weeks ago and everyone liked the zucchini. Different seasonings seem to make a lot of difference in what's liked -- this group didn't care for any of the seasonings with hot peppers. Even the Old Bay was too strong for some but I had a batch I'd flavored with Herb'n Renewal's Good'n Garlicky seasoning and that was a hit all around.

And then there's always the purists who don't want any seasonings -- except maybe salt -- because they're going to use the chips for dipping tzatziki or salsa or whatever. :)

Well Armed Housewife said...

BRILLIANT! I just blogged my fave zucchini overload recipes too, http://familyfoodandfirearms.blogspot.com/2011/08/attack-of-killer-zucchini.html but the chips are really creative. Can't wait to try them!

Carolyn at Walnut Spinney said...

They are good with salsa! And no guilt... :D

brthomas said...

I'm generally not that fond of zucchini, but I sure like the zucchini chips! I'll have to try sprinking them with Creole seasoning. Lately I've been making spicy zucchini chips by spreading various liquid sauces on the slices before dehydration.