Give the ubiquitous summer squash another chance

Zucchini Gets a Makeover

by Susie Middleton

Zucchini Gets a Makeover

Susie Middleton

On an island like this, where lots of people grow a little of their own food, the mysterious appearance of unwanted zucchini at your back door (or on your back seat) could get to be a real problem. Solution: A repertoire of recipes that aren’t just delicious, but versatile, too. If you’re clever, your friends and family just might not realize that you’re feeding them the ubiquitous summer vegetable for dinner—again.

To that end, I’ve included three very different recipes here. Two are side dishes and one is a dessert. Chocolate Zucchini cake has to be about the tastiest destination for summer squash ever. My version of this old classic has sour cream, brown sugar, and a bit of espresso (instant, easy!) in it for a deep rich flavor. The grated squash adds moisture and nutrients, but otherwise disappears.

Of course, you can always bake zucchini into your favorite quick bread or muffin recipe, too, but after that, sweet zucchini options are limited. Most nights, zucchini will wind up in a side dish or as part of a casserole. Whatever you decide to do with it, remember zucchini’s Achilles heel—it contains a lot of moisture. It gets soggy if you don’t treat it right, so cook it hot and fast to keep the moisture in, or long and slow to reduce the juices it gives off as it cooks. I’ve also found that cutting zucchini into small or thin slices instead of big, thick slabs helps to keep it from overcooking and releasing too much liquid. To make a fun and super-fast side dish, buy yourself a sharp-toothed julienne vegetable peeler and turn zucchini or summer squash into beautiful strips that look like linguine. A quick toss in a hot pan is all the cooking they need.

Keeping that zucchini repertoire in mind, I’ve also included a few suggestions for improvising with it (or with yellow summer squash) in the sidebar on the next page. If you have a well-stocked pantry, fresh herbs in your garden, and a lemon or lime in the fridge, the possibilities are endless. Think high heat, too—the grill, the wok, a hot oven. Browning zucchini brings out its sweet, nutty side, and that’s a flavor everyone will love.