Zucchini grows so fast that, seemingly overnight, a finger-sized squash can become as big as your arm. Fortunately, this versatile summer squash can be baked, grilled, fried, sautéed, or stuffed. Look for zucchini about 10 to 25 centimetres (4 to 9 inches) in length for maximum taste. They should feel heavy and have a shiny, vibrant skin, either green or yellow in colour. The yellow is milder, and I prefer to mix them with the green for best flavour.
Tiny zucchini can be grilled or sautéed whole. Brush them with herb-flavoured oil before grilling. Larger fruits have a more developed flavour. If your zucchini is wilting a bit, or on the larger side, make zucchini soup or chocolate zucchini bread.
The best herb matches are tarragon, basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. Garlic, goat cheese, feta, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon and lime also enhance their taste. They pair well with onions, tomatoes, eggplant, pasta and eggs.
Zucchini noodles make a great gluten free lasagna. Thinly slice about 8 zucchini with a mandolin or slicer. Layer with tomato sauce, a layer of cheese of your choosing – mozzarella works well – and finish with Parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350 F oven.
Note that zucchini contain a lot of water; if you have time before cooking, briefly salt them and let sit for 15 minutes, then pat dry. If you’re craving spaghetti, a spiralizer will make zucchini noodles (zoodles), which pair well with light pasta sauces, seafood and pesto.
Mix about 250 grams shredded zucchini with 1 egg, ¼ cup whole wheat flour, any herbs that you have around and salt and pepper. Use about 2 tablespoons for medium-sized pancakes. Fry about 2 to 3 minutes per side in oil over medium heat. I like to snack on them, but they make a good hors d’oeuvre topped with a little feta, or a side for roasted or grilled lamb.
Chocolate zucchini bread
Zucchini makes bread moist and nutritious, and no one will recognize it as the secret ingredient in this recipe, which makes one loaf. Omit chocolate if desired.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Melt 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (64 per cent to 70 per cent) in a small pot over medium-low heat.
Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup whole-wheat flour, ⅓ cup quick-cooking rolled oats and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a bowl. With an electric mixer, cream together ½ cup soft unsalted butter and ½ cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
Add 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and ½ a teaspoon of grated lemon rind, beating well. Stir in 2 cups shredded zucchini. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions, then beat in ½ a cup of chopped walnuts (optional) and the melted chocolate.
Spread the batter in the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
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