There are many foods that begin with the letter Z. While zucchini is probably the most popular, others include zander, zapiekanka, zongzi, zuccotto, ziti and zitoni. Many foods that begin with the letter Z come from outside the United States, especially Italy, and they include deserts, pastas, sandwiches, dumplings and more.
This whitefish is a popular food in parts of Europe, where it’s usually steamed or broiled. It’s sometimes prepared with a mustard crust in Bavaria, Germany. Because it has firm flakes when cooked, zander is great when served baked, grilled or fried.
Zander is related to pike, perch and walleye and grows up to two feet long. While native to Eastern Europe, it was also introduced into rivers in England in the late 19th century, where it is now treated as an invasive species. Other parts of the world, ranging from the United States to China, have also seen zander introduced to their lakes and rivers.
This hot open-faced sandwich is made from sliced baguette topped with grated semi-hard cheese and any number of other ingredients, somewhat similar to pizza. It’s then grilled under a broiler.
The sandwich was first created in communist Poland in the 1970s in part to cope with food shortages. Today, however, the zapiekanka is enjoying renewed popularity with more toppings than ever. The original sandwich came with sauteed mushrooms and cheese, but you can now get them with meat, olives, pineapple and more. Most come with a drizzle of ketchup. While you can get a zapiekanka in most parts of Poland, the sandwich was first made in Krakow, where it remains a popular form of fast food from street vendors.
Ziti and Zitoni
Ziti is another food beginning with the letter Z that you may have been able to guess, although its slightly wider cousin, zitoni, is less well known in the states. These pastas are often associated with Southern Italy, and they were traditionally used for celebratory meals, such as weddings.
Ziti pairs well with olive oil or a simple tomato sauce, although in the United States, it’s often cooked “al forno” — baked in an oven —in an Italian-American dish known as baked ziti. Besides pasta, it often includes tomato sauce, cheese, meat, onions, mushrooms, peppers and more.
Zongzi, or sticky rice dumplings, are made from sticky rice and other ingredients wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They’re made throughout China, although they vary greatly from place to place. Zongzi in the north often taste sweet and may be filled with red beans, Chinese dates or even left plain for dipping in sugar, while southern zongzi are more likely to be savory and filled with meat, egg, nuts or mushrooms. People in Sichuan often fill theirs with pork and chili powder for a spicy treat. The leaf wrapping is removed before eating, similar to a tamale.
Zongzi have particular significance for China’s Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. In addition to dragon boat racing, the festival commemorates the death of famed poet Qu Yuan. According to legend, he tried to warn his king of an impending invasion but failed, so he drowned himself in his grief. His admirers visited the spot where he died and poured rice into the water to pay their respects, but a water dragon ate the rice before it could fall to his body. The spirit of Qu Yuan visited the people and told them to wrap the rice in leaves or bamboo stocks to keep the dragon from eating it, and zongzi were born.
While treated as a vegetable, zucchini is technically a fruit since it comes from a flower. This versatile plant comes packed with Vitamin C and potassium for a healthy meal, and it can be grilled and served as a side, sliced and baked for a healthy french fry alternative, added to pasta and more.
Zucchini is believed to have been created after Italians experimented with imported New World squash. In fact, “zucca” means squash in Italian, and older recipes sometimes refer to zucchini as Italian squash.
This Italian dessert is sort of like a pound or sponge cake filled with creamy, chocolatey goodness. It’s traditionally made with ricotta cheese, cocoa, citrus peel and Alchermes liqueur and is served “semifreddi” — semi-frozen.
Zuccotto was first made during the Renaissance in Florence. The city’s famed rulers, the Medici family, purportedly invented the food to impress visiting dignitaries.