Grilling is such a simple way to prepare veggies, and it seems to appeal to everyone. The caramelization adds sweetness to veggies that might otherwise be a little bitter; it adds flavor to veggies that are kind of bland. Zucchini tend to fall into that "kind of bland" category. But it's that lack of strong flavor that makes them such a good foundation for so many dishes. In this dish, I pair the lightly charred squash with creamy, tangy goat cheese and the sweet and sour balsamic syrup.
It's a very low-calorie dish (if you ate the entire platter it would only be about 500 calories) that is flavorful and fresh—perfect for a summer lunch with some crusty bread and fresh fruit, as an appetizer for a dinner party, or as a side dish at a barbecue. Summer squash are loaded with carotenoids, which are key antioxidants, as well as Vitamin C and manganese. Zucchini also offers a significant amount of lutein, which is key for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, as it helps protect babies' eyes and has also been found in infants' brains in the regions associated with memory and learning.
Need I also mention that zucchini are usually very inexpensive, especially in the summer months? Because it's true.
*I should note that I used a stovetop grill for my zucchini; if the weather is cooperating, feel free to throw these on your outdoor barbecue. Or, if you've got a panini press, you can try grilling them on that, as my friend Yani (of Help! Mom's on a Health Kick) does with her veggies.*
- 2 medium to large zucchini
- 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
- about 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- freshly-ground pepper
- a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp honey
Slice your zucchini into rounds on a slight diagonal, about 1/2" thick.
Toss in a large bowl with the oil and some salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, if using). I like to mix them around with my hands, to make sure that the oil is evenly dispersed among the slices.
Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat. When it's fairly hot, place your zucchini rounds on it. You don't want to overcrowd the pan, so you'll probably have to grill these in batches (I find after the first batch, I usually have to turn my heat down to medium, as the pan is very hot). Leave them to cook for about five or six minutes on the first side before flipping them and cooking for another three to five minutes on the second side, until they're tender and show grill marks on each side. Note: leave the slices undisturbed when they're cooking or you won't get the grill marks. And, believe me, you want those cool lines!
While you're cooking your batches of zucchini, put the balsamic vinegar, honey and some freshly-ground pepper in a small pot. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer, stirring often. Let it reduce by about 1/2-3/4; it should be thick and syrupy. Take off heat.
Arrange on a large plate or platter. I like to do sort of a flower pattern, but whatever floats your boat!
While the slices are still warm, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese all over, so that it gets a bit melted. Nom nom. If you're grilling the zucchini before you plan to serve it (it keeps just fine for a day in the fridge), just warm it slightly before you toss the cheese on top. Then drizzle a few tablespoons of the syrup over the top and you're good to go!
You'll probably have some syrup left over; try serving it over a chunk of salty cheese like parmigiano reggiano, on top of steak, or even on desserts like fresh berries or our Strawberry Basil Sorbet.
Fresh and light and easy and good for you. What else do you want from me?!? (I'm kidding, people, just kidding.)