What Do I Do with Zucchini and Summer Squash?
These aren’t necessarily unfamiliar vegetables that you don’t know how to prepare, like kohlrabi or rutabagas ... but summer squash arrive in full force, bursting from the garden by the dozen, heaped in piles at the farmers market, heavy in your CSA box at the end of the summer. How to use it all and not feel the repetition of only a few dishes?
Summer squash can be green (zucchini, called courgette throughout Europe), yellow (usually called summer squash or yellow zucchini) or striated. The flavors of all the varieties are similar, with the yellow versions being a bit more bland in taste, and sometimes a little less firm in texture. The squash range in size from babies the size of a finger to monster baseball bats. (The longest zucchini in history measured 8 feet 3.3 inches, grown by Mr. Giovanni Batista Scozzafava in Niagara Falls, Ontario, measured in August 2014. Talk about “What Do I Do with Zucchini?”!)
In general, you want smaller summer squash (8 inches or under), which tend to be less mealy or fibrous and more flavorful, but the larger ones can be shredded and used in recipes like zucchini breads, or for stuffing.
Technically summer squash is in the fruit family, though it is most often treated as a vegetable. The plants put forth a flower on each end, which is also edible. The flavor is quite delicate, so zucchini is usually simply cooked in some way — sauteed or steamed, sometimes fried, though it also can be stuffed and baked, and used in soups, stews and chilis to easily add bulk and a boost of nutrition. It can also be used in raw preparations like salads, as it’s nicely crunchy when the squash are on the smaller side.
It’s worth mentioning that the popularity of the spiralizer has given zucchini new life, with noodles (or zoodles) made from zucchinis being used in place of pasta (as in Shrimp Scampi Zoodles), either raw or lightly cooked. In any preparation, the smooth, brightly colored skin is usually left on, as it’s fully edible and quite pretty.
At the farmers market or grocery store, look for zucchini that are between 6 and 8 inches long, no more than 2 inches in diameter and firm to the touch, with smooth, taut skin. They can be stored in the fridge for several days.
Recipes to Try: