Creativity is the rule when using zucchini

There are many ways to use this versatile squash when making everything from breakfast to dinner

Zucchini is a vastly underrated food, perhaps because it’s relatively easy to grow and prolific in terms of the amount of produce that is harvested from a single plant.

It’s a fruit that’s often used as a vegetable and has a delicate flavor and color. Because of that, it is often seen as a supporting character in terms of cooking.

Popular in quick breads and muffins, zucchini is a summer squash with a significant amount of magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin C. It is fat free, cholesterol free, low in sodium and has more potassium than a banana.

Harvest zucchini when it is small, as it loses much of its flavor as it ages and gets larger. When buying zucchini, look for produce that is firm and heavy for its size. Do not wash until ready to use.

Store fresh picked or purchased zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for as long as one week for best quality. Be sure the zucchini is dry when you put it in the bag.

One pound of zucchini equals about four cups grated and 3-1/2 cups sliced or chunked zucchini. It will produce about two cups salted and squeezed zucchini or 1-1/4 cups mashed zucchini.

Zucchini has a high moisture content. Steaming produces the crispest, least soggy vegetable. If using zucchini in a casserole recipe, parboil or steam it to remove some of the moisture.

Some recipes call for placing the zucchini in a colander, putting the colander over a bowl and allowing the water to drain. To remove even more water, place zucchini between paper towels and squeeze.

A simple way to use zucchini is to sauté it. Try heating a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil over low heat, then sauté one tablespoon minced onion or shallots until translucent. Add one pound of zucchini sliced on the diagonal, raise the heat to medium and sauté until lightly browned and softened. Sprinkle with one tablespoon chopped fresh dill, salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.

Following are a few recipes for zucchini from


Zucchini Carpaccio With Avocado and Pistachios


For lemon zest salt:

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

For salad:

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest salt

3 tablespoons pistachio oil or extra-virgin olive oil

4 small, fresh zucchini (about 4 ounces each), rinsed and trimmed at both ends

1 large ripe avocado

1/2 cup salted pistachios

Leaves from 4 fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme sprigs, with flowers if possible

Fleur de sel


To make salt, combine zest and salt in a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Transfer to a small jar and close the lid. Store, sealed in the jar, in the refrigerator for as long as one week.

In a small jar with a lid, combine lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest salt. Cover and shake to blend. Add oil and shake to blend.

With a mandoline, vegetable peeler or very sharp chef’s knife slice zucchini lengthwise as thin as possible. Arrange slices on a platter and pour the dressing over them. Tilt the platter back and forth to coat the slices evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, until the zucchini absorbs the dressing and does not dry out.

Halve, pit, and peel avocado and cut lengthwise into very thin slices. Arrange slices of marinated zucchini on individual salad plates, alternating with the avocado slices, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle with pistachios. Garnish with thyme leaves and flowers and fleur de sel. Serve.



Zucchini Pasta Marinara


3 cups vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (if oil-packed, drain them, or use tomatoes that are dried and have been rehydrated in boiling water, then drained)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus a few extra tablespoons for garnish

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 small zucchini, spiralized, peeled or grated into noodles


Blend tomatoes, pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, maple syrup, sea salt, black pepper, thyme and basil in a blender or a food processor until relatively smooth. Drizzle in olive oil with the motor running, and keep blending until the sauce is smooth. Season to taste. Set aside.

Divide zucchini onto four plates. Top each with about 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Garnish each plate with a tablespoon chopped basil, and serve.




Grilled Cheese With Zucchini, Basil and Gruyère


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch coins


4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan

4 slices bread

4 ounces Gruyère, cut into 1/4 inch or 1/8-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves


Place olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add zucchini coins in an even layer on the bottom of the pan, sprinkle with salt and fry three to five minutes, until deep golden. Flip and fry the other side the same way as the first.

Transfer zucchini to a plate and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine soft butter and Parmesan, mixing with a rubber spatula until well combined.

Slather Parmesan butter on one side of each piece of bread. On the unbuttered side of two pieces of bread, place a couple pieces of Gruyère followed by half the zucchini coins. Top with fresh basil and a couple more pieces of Gruyère. Top with remaining bread, butter side up.

Sear sandwich in a skillet set over medium-low heat, then cook until cheese is melted and the bread is deep golden. Remove from the pan, slice in half and serve warm.



Zucchini Soufflés


1-1/2 tablespoons butter

4 zucchini

2 cloves garlic

1 white onion

1/3 cup olive or coconut oil

8 eggs

1-1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

Leaves from 10 sprigs thyme


Grate zucchini and mince garlic and onion.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add onions, garlic and zucchini and cook about 12 minutes, until completely softened. Drain  mixture in a fine mesh sieve and, using a wooden spoon, press out as much water as possible.

Separate the eggs. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or by hand, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Whisk egg yolks until creamy. Stir in the Parmesan and thyme. Add drained zucchini mixture to the egg yolks and stir until combined. Carefully fold in egg whites until just combined.

Divide mixture into six buttered ramekins and bake in a 325-degree oven for 30 minutes, until firm, puffy and golden brown.



Zuni Cafe Zucchini Pickles


1 pound zucchini

1 small yellow onion

2 tablespoons salt, a little more if using kosher

2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1-1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric


Wash and trim zucchini, then slice lengthwise into 1/16-inch-thick slices on a mandoline. Slice onion very thinly as well. Combine zucchini and onions in a large but shallow non-reactive bowl or casserole dish, add salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

After about one hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini — it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.

Combine vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and simmer three minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.

Transfer zucchini and onion pieces to three two-cup canning vessels and pour cooled brine over vegetables. Seal tightly and refrigerate at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini. Pickles will last for a week in the refrigerator.



Spaghetti alla Nerano (Spaghetti with Zucchini)


1 clove garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

5 small zucchini, sliced into very thin rounds



11 ounces spaghetti

6 tablespoons grated Provolone del Monaco or Parmesan

2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1 handful basil leaves


In a wide skillet over medium-high heat, place garlic clove and olive oil. When just golden, remove garlic and add zucchini rounds. Toss occasionally, letting the zucchini fry until tender but not brown.

Add one teaspoon salt to a large pot of boiling water, then cook spaghetti in the pot until al dente.

Drain zucchini on paper towels and season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Keep warm.

Blend about a third of the zucchini and about 1/4 cup pasta water, then pour this purée into a large serving bowl.

Drain pasta, saving about 1/2 cup cooking water. Toss spaghetti into the bowl with the purée, add grated cheese, fried zucchini and cold butter. Quickly toss, using tongs or a spatula. Spaghetti should be silky and just coated with the purée. If it’s too dry, add cooking water, a little at a time. Top with the basil leaves and serve immediately.



Canal House’s Marinated Zucchini


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound very small zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise


1/2 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


A small handful fresh basil leaves, sliced


Working in batches as needed, heat two tablespoons olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange zucchini, cut side down, in one layer in the hot skillet and cook about three minutes, until browned. Turn zucchini over, then cook about two minutes, until tender, reducing the heat if the zucchini get too dark. Transfer zucchini to a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt.

Whisk together garlic, vinegar and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour vinaigrette over zucchini and add the basil. Gently toss everything together, then adjust the seasonings.

Let zucchini marinate at room temperature about one hour before serving. Alternately, let marinate longer in the refrigerator.

Tightly covered, marinated zucchini will keep for as long as a week in the refrigerator.



Meatballs With Tomato and Zucchini


2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying

1 small onion, finely chopped


1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3/4 cup chopped tomato, fresh or canned

1/2 cup diced zucchini

1 pound 85% lean ground chuck

1 pound ground veal

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan

1 large egg, lightly beaten


In a medium sauté pan, warm two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and a large pinch of salt and cook three to five minutes, stirring frequently, until onion starts to soften. Add garlic, tomatoes and zucchini and a few more pinches of salt and cook eight to 10 minutes, until vegetables are very soft and most of the juices have cooked off. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine meat, breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Work everything together gently using two forks, being careful not to over-mix. Using your hands, gently work in the egg and cooled vegetables until just combined.

Shape mixture into 1-1/2-inch meatballs. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add about half of the meatballs, making sure not to crowd them. Brown on all sides, then cover and reduce the heat to low to finish cooking. They should take five to eight minutes total.
Drain meatballs on paper towels, add a little more oil to the pan and cook the remaining meatballs.

Serve meatballs on their own or warm them in a pot of your favorite sauce.




Dark Chocolate and Walnut Zucchini Bread


2-1/2 cups grated zucchini

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

1-1/4 cups bittersweet dark chocolate (at least 70%), chopped

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Place grated zucchini on a baking tray lined with a lint-free kitchen towel, then place another towel on top, patting it down gently to absorb moisture. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Stir in chopped walnuts and one cup dark chocolate.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together butter and buttermilk. Add the egg, light brown sugar and vanilla, then whisk until smooth and uniform. Gently fold in the zucchini.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Pour batter into a greased 8-1/2-by-4-1/2-inch loaf pan that’s lined with parchment paper that hanges over the sides. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chopped dark chocolate and bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a skewer inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes before inverting out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.



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