Easy dinner recipes: Choosing zucchini and 3 great recipes

1/2 pound baguette

1/4 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped basil leaves

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed, bones removed and chopped

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

3 (8-inch) zucchini

12 small round tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the olive oil and the onion in a large skillet over medium heat until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, capers and one-half teaspoon salt. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

2. Trim the crusts and cut the bread into cubes. Place in a food processor or a blender with the basil and garlic and grind to fine crumbs. Pour into a bowl and stir in the anchovies and pine nuts. Set aside.

3. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and use a melon baller to carefully remove some of the flesh from the center to make a "canoe." Leave about one-fourth inch at the sides and ends and a little more at the bottom. Season the inside with one teaspoon salt, and steam over rapidly boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Cut a slice from the top of each tomato. With the melonballer, gently remove most of the pulp. Season insides with one-fourth teaspoon salt.

5. Pour the tomato sauce into a lightly oiled 5-quart gratin dish or substitute two smaller gratin dishes. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture into the zucchini and tomatoes, mounding slightly on top. It will take 1 to 2 tablespoons for each zucchini and 2 to 3 teaspoons for each tomato. Do not press the breadcrumbs or they will become pasty when cooked. Arrange the zucchini and tomatoes in the gratin dish. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.

6. Bake until the vegetables have softened and the tops of the breadcrumbs have browned, about 30 minutes. (Time will vary for the smaller dishes, so start checking after 15 to 20 minutes.) Serve hot or at room temperature.

Each serving: 308 calories; 10 grams protein; 42 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fiber; 12 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 2 mg. cholesterol; 648 mg. sodium.

ZUCCHINI, FETA AND BASIL FRITTATA

Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: Makes 8 medium or 30 mini frittatas

3 medium or 4 small zucchini

2 large eggs, separated

1 1/3 cups coarsely grated feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup flour (or slightly more if necessary)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil or oregano (or half of each)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Olive oil for frying

1. Rinse the zucchini, grate and place in a colander. Drain for 15 minutes, then squeeze to remove any excess liquid; you should have 2 packed cups.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the egg yolks, feta cheese, green onions, flour, baking powder, basil and pepper. Add the drained zucchini, and mix well. Whip the egg whites till soft peaks form and fold into the feta mixture.

3. Heat an 8-inch heavy or nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat and add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Pour enough batter to cover the base of the pan, a scant one-half cup for each medium frittata or about 1 heaping tablespoon for each mini frittata. Cook the frittatas until they are golden brown on one side and set in the center, about 3 minutes (the mini frittatas will take less time), adjusting the heat as needed so they don't brown before they are set. Gently flip the frittatas over and lightly brown the other side.

4. Keep the finished frittatas in a warm oven until all the batter is used.

Each of 8 servings: 200 calories; 7 grams protein; 10 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 15 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 75 mg. cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 335 mg. sodium. 

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