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How to Cook Zucchini

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How to Prepare Zucchini

Sliced, shredded, or spiralized, this tender squash lends itself to a variety of summer dishes.

Zucchini exemplifies summer’s abundance. Plant this prolific vegetable in your own garden and you’re almost guaranteed a generous harvest — and if any of your neighbors grow it, they’ll likely have plenty to share with you.

It’s also among the most versatile of veggies. Zucchini’s mild flavor and pliant texture make it a natural for simple preparations, such as grilling or sautéing, as well as a nutritious add-in for soups and baked goods. It can even serve as a grain-free alternative to pasta.

The smooth, waxy skin of this summer squash, which ranges in hue from yellow to dark green and comes in solid colors, stripes, and speckles, is especially rich in the antioxidants alpha- and beta-carotene. In fact, most of zucchini’s nutritional punch — including fiber, vitamin C, and potassium — is concentrated in the skin. So whether you grow or buy organic zucchini, be sure to eat it, skin and all.

Helpful Hints

Shop: Look for zucchini that are firm, without any brown spots or deep nicks. These will have sweet-tasting, creamy flesh with few seeds.

Store: Store fresh zucchini in an open bag in a warmer part of your refrigerator for up to a week.

Prep: When you’re ready to cook, gently scrub your zucchini with a cloth or veggie scrubber. (Don’t wash before storing or it will get slimy.) Cut off the stem before using.

Pair: Incorporate zucchini into your favorite salads and sautés. It plays well with garlic, red peppers, and tomatoes; basil, mint, oregano, and parsley; almonds, pistachios, and walnuts; and balsamic vinegar, lemons, and Parmesan cheese.

Grilled Balsamic Zucchini

Grilled Balsamic Zucchini

Makes four servings 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: Seven to 10 minutes

Ingredients For the Marinade

  • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • Pinch red-pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano

For the Zucchini

  • 3 zucchini, cut lengthwise into four planks of roughly equal thickness
  • 2 tbs. chopped fresh basil

Directions

  • Preheat a grill to medium-low and lightly oil the grate.
  • In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Brush both sides of the zucchini with the marinade.
  • Cook the zucchini on one side for three to four minutes or until lightly brown. Turn and cook for three minutes more.
  • Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the remainder of the marinade. Garnish with the chopped basil and serve.

Raw Zucchini Ribbons With Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Raw Zucchini Ribbons With Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Makes four servings
Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. medium zucchini (about four)

Ingredients For the Pesto

  • 1 cup raw pistachios, shelled
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Directions

  • Trim the ends of each zucchini. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise from end to end, creating long, thin ribbons.
  • Place all the pesto ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
  • Toss the zucchini ribbons in 1/4 cup of the pesto; garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve. The remaining pesto will last in the fridge for a week or the freezer for three months.

Tip: Change up your pesto: Substitute almonds for pistachios and parsley for mint. 

Spiralized Zucchini Puttanesca   

Spiralized Zucchini Puttanesca

Makes four servings 
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: Seven to 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large zucchini, spiralized

Ingredients For Puttanesca Sauce

  • 3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp. red-pepper flakes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbs. capers, rinsed
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus 2 tbs. more for garnish
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped basil

Directions

  • Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil heats, add onions, sea salt, garlic, and red-pepper flakes, and sauté for two to three minutes, or until onions are translucent.
  • Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives, and cook for two more minutes.
  • Place the zucchini spirals into the skillet, and toss for two minutes or until the zucchini is al dente, or still slightly firm. Add the ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and toss until well combined, then add the chopped basil.
  • Transfer to bowls or a platter, and garnish with the remaining Parmesan. Serve.

Tip: Many handheld spiralizers are inexpensive and easy to use.

Chilled Zucchini Soup With Basil

Chilled Zucchini Soup With Basil

Makes six servings
Prep time: 20 to 30 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • ¾ tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3½ lbs. zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ tsp. red-pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock*
  • 2 cups tightly packed baby spinach
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
  • 2 tbs. plain, full-fat Greek yogurt

* Find Rebecca Katz’s Magic Mineral Broth recipe at “Magic Mineral Broth“.

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté until golden, about six minutes. Add the garlic, zucchini, red-pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and sauté for four minutes.
  • Pour in ½ cup of the stock to deglaze the pan, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, then remove from heat.
  • Pour one-third of the remaining stock into a blender, add one-third of the zucchini sauté, as well as one-third of the spinach and of the basil, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a soup pot over low heat, and repeat the process two more times.
  • Stir the lemon juice and the remaining salt into the soup. Taste — you may want to add an additional squeeze of lemon and a couple more pinches of salt.
  • Allow the soup to chill in the refrigerator for two to three hours. Serve garnished with a dollop of Greek yogurt, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Tip: In a hurry? Chill half the soup in the freezer for 15 minutes, then add it back to the rest of the soup and serve.

 

This originally appeared as “How to Prepare Zucchini” in the June 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

WEB EXTRA!

Zucchini-and-Olive Muffins

Zucchini-and-Olive Muffins

Makes 24 mini-muffins
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 3 large organic eggs
  • 3½ tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp. lemon zest
  • ½ tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ tbs. water
  • 1½ tsp. dark-amber maple syrup or honey
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 12 kalamata olives, pits removed, chopped

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a mini-muffin tin or line it with muffin papers.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the almond meal, salt, pepper, and baking soda.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, and maple syrup.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well to combine. Then stir in the zucchini and olives.
  • Fill each muffin cup with about 2 tablespoons of batter. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve.

Cook’s Note: To prevent the muffins from sticking to the pan if you don’t use paper liners, make sure to grease the cups well. Allow the muffins to cool completely before removing them from the tin.

director of the Healing Kitchens Institute at Commonweal, is the author of several cookbooks, including The Healthy Mind Cookbook and Clean Soups, from which the chilled zucchini soup recipe was adapted. She lives in San Rafael, Calif.

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