12 Ways to Cook Summer's Most Under-Appreciated Veggie
Summer is coming, which means we’re all about to be in fruit and vegetable heaven. Corn, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peaches, plums, cherries: we can’t shovel these things in our faces fast enough. Notice I didn’t put zucchini on that list. Why? Because it’s probably summer’s most underappreciated —maybe even downright disrespected— vegetable (ok, technically, it’s a fruit). It’s abundant, nutritious and cheap (all good qualities), but there’s something about zucchini’s intensely mild flavor and the challenge of coaxing out its taste and texture that frustrates us. Plus, anyone who’s experienced the unrelenting wave of zucchini and other summer squash that comes in most CSAs will tell you that it can get hard to come up with new and exciting things to do with it.
So…here’s zucchini, 12 ways, a collection of recipes that aren’t just a way to weather the coming zucchini storm (its peak season is mid- to late-summer), but to actually celebrate the fact that zucchini has a lot going for it. It’s firm enough to stand up to all cooking methods, tender enough to eat raw, quick-cooking, and amenable to all kinds of flavors. Major bonus: Zucchini maintains firmness and freshness longer than any of the more beloved summer vegetables.
The recipes here cover my four favorite zucchini cooking methods, two (grilling and sautéing) that are likely very familiar, and two (microwaving them and leaving them totally raw) that are maybe a little less common. (The microwave thing may sound strange, but it produces zucchini that’s wonderfully silky and tender, and comes in handy when the weather really gets warm and you don’t want to turn on the oven or stove.)
A quick note on buying zucchini: I like to look for the smallest zucchini and yellow squash that I can find; they don’t necessarily have to be designated as the “baby” variety, but something under six inches long and an inch or so in diameter is ideal; it will have better flavor and smaller, less cottony seeds. If a zucchini is tender enough, you can even eat the stem. You may also come across the flying-saucer-shaped pattypan squash, which is a bit trickier to cut up but can be used in any of the recipes here.
And if zucchini happens to be your favorite food (I’ve yet to meet a person fitting that description and have probably unfairly assumed that they don’t exist), my apologies; send me an email, tell me why you love it and what you do with it. I could always use some new ideas.
I'm not sure I've met anybody whose favorite vegetable is zucchini, but if you cook it the right way (or leave it raw) it can be pretty great. Plus, in the coming months it's going to be abundant and cheap, so we better figure out some amazing things to do with it.
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