No more zucchini drop and dash

In our region, there is a time-honored tradition of gathering up a bag from your abundant hoard of zucchini, hanging it on your neighbor’s doorknob, ringing the doorbell, and running. Every year, the gardeners and local food eaters of our river valley are overrun with these guys. That makes sense, because summer squash and zucchini are the vegetables that love our river valley weather the MOST, so their fruiting season is longer than almost anything else that grows here.  Unfortunately, summer squash and zucchini tend to have a reputation for tasting vegetable-y and watery, which is why they end up hidden in things like zucchini bread.  But I got a great tip from a chef several years ago that completely changed my approach to these vegetables and elevated them to the role of featured side dish on our table.  And that’s a good thing, because if these vegetables love it so much here, that means we need to make every effort to love them back, and to be prepared to experiment with lots of different ways of serving them.

So here’s that chef’s tip: remove and discard the seeds and slimy stuff from the middle before you cook these.  Since these are small vegetables and the seeds are edible, most people just leave them in.  But you lose very little in terms of nutrition or (cooked) bulk by removing them, and you gain a LOT in flavor.  The seedy middle part tastes very watery and vaguely vegetable-y when cooked, and the seed goo releases a ton of water into the pan, which causes the squash to steam or stew as it cooks instead of gently caramelizing in the pan.  This is the case whether you are sauteeing your squash or adding it to a casserole.  Instead, just cut off the two stem ends, cut your squash in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and goo before proceeding to slice or dice the flesh.  There’s no need to peel these.  The skin tastes great. 

Now that you know this trick, consider elevating these as a featured dish on your own table, sauteeing them over medium-high heat in oil and salt with some savory herbs until they begin to brown and caramelize, maybe reducing some balsamic vinegar to drizzle on top.  You can even use sautéed squash/zucchini as a dynamite sandwich or burger fixin’ (this is one of our favorite ways to serve it), and in pasta primavera.  No more hiding these in dessert bread recipes or doing the drop and dash (or at least, not yet – there are a lot of weeks of squash love to come!).