When it comes to zucchini and other summer squash (such as pattypan and yellow crookneck) the high season translates into big quantities of fresh goods that come with little price tags — especially if you grow your own. Your task in the kitchen is to let your mind expand and find as many clever ways as you can to prepare summer squash. These blank canvases of the summer kitchen can be served raw or cooked; shredded, sliced or diced; and can be included in practically any meal. Eventually, you’ll get brave enough to hide some in almost every dish and never tell a soul. Don’t worry — this supporting actor is happy to be part of an ensemble cast as you let other, more flavorful or expensive characters charm your audience.
What follows is by no means an exhaustive list of summer squash preparation ideas. You’ll find many more on the Web and in cookbooks, and we’d love for you to share your own tips and recipes by posting a comment below.
1. Serve raw chunks alongside other crudité veggies with creamy dips.
2. Grate raw squash into fresh green salads.
3. Drizzle vinaigrette over julienned strips for a quick summer salad.
4. Steam slices for an easy side dish.
5. Sauté slices with butter and herbs.
6. Add long strips to boiling pasta near the end of cooking.
7. Toss slices in oil, salt and pepper, then grill for 10 minutes.
8. Toss slices in oil, salt and pepper, then roast in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, turning once.
9. Grate squash instead of cheese into scrambled eggs.
10. Dip slices in egg wash, then dip in cornmeal batter and fry.
11. Dip slices or blossoms in a tempura batter, then fry.
12. Slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out enough of the seed mass to make room for filling (the scooped flesh can be added to — you guessed it! — anything else), then stuff the “shells” with breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs and cooked rice, beans or meat. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
13. Bake zucchini bread.
14. Add grated zucchini to any cake batter for extra moisture.
15. Pickle squash and zucchini slices with carrots, celery, cauliflower, onions and jalapeños to make a spicy Italian condiment called giardiniera that’s great on sandwiches.
16. Dry slices along with other veggies, then grind into a fine vegetable bouillon powder.
17. Slip peeled, puréed zucchini into fruity sorbet mixtures before freezing. No, really. Do it.
18. Add slices of squash to soups, stews, curries, stir-fries, pizzas, pasta, kabobs, and pots of beans and rice.
19. Add diced bits to fillings for Mexican stuffed peppers, Spanish enchiladas, Chinese dumplings, Polish pierogies, Italian manicotti and Latin American arepas and empanadas.
20. Add diced bits to … [insert your own idea!]
Summer Squash Tips
For Peak Flavor: The best-tasting summer squash varieties are ‘Costata Romanesca,’ which has a distinctive nutty quality, and ‘Tromboncino,’ which is incredibly rich for a summer squash. To improve the flavor of any summer squash, try grilling or roasting it. Both methods will remove water and concentrate the flavors.
For Peak Nutrition: Don’t skip the skins! That’s where you’ll find most of the flavor, not to mention fiber and other good-for-you bits.
Beware: Summer squash contains a lot of water. If you want to avoid adding liquid to a recipe, grate and salt the squash first, let it drain for a few minutes, then pat dry with a towel.
Helpful Math: 1 pound = 4 cups diced (reduces by nearly half if salted and drained of liquid)