While you generally find zucchini in markets year-round, they're naturally a summer squash, and right now is prime season. Not to mention that zucchini is wonderfully versatile in the kitchen and can be used in so many ways.
So what do you look for when buying? Zucchini come in all shapes, but when shopping, avoid massive, older squash. Look for smaller zucchini -- the squash is more tender with thinner skin. Also, check for squash that is firm and without any blemishes.
Zucchini slaw: Zucchini are great cooked, but they can be just as wonderful raw -- light and crisp with delicate flavor. Shred a couple (or more) pounds of zucchini. Dress it with a light sherry vinaigrette -- it's a bright vinegar with a lighter flavor that won't overpower the zucchini. Add some diced tomato; not only is the color vivid, but the soft tomato really emphasizes the crispness of the zucchini. And it's perfect served simply, with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and fresh-shaved Parmigiano.
Garbanzo and fresh vegetable salad: When you're looking to add heft to a dish, beans are always a great choice. They add depth and substance, a richness you might find with the addition of meat, but they're perfect for vegetarian diets. Garbanzos are great for adding nutty notes, here tossed with fresh vegetables and a bright lemon vinaigrette.
Lentil salad with tomatoes, zucchini and arugula: Combine tender lentils in a large bowl with fresh chives, garlic, olive oil and seasoning to flavor, then fold in diced zucchini, tomatoes, lemon juice and arugula. Stir in toasted pine nuts just before serving for added crunch. The whole dish comes together in less than an hour. You can find the recipe below.
If you are sensitive to gluten, check all ingredients to make sure they are gluten-free before using. Many may contain trace gluten (such as spices, a number of which include flour as an anti-caking agent) and/or are produced in facilities that also process gluten-based products. Some ingredients, such as mushrooms (mushroom spores are grown on gluten grains) and certain cheeses may not be suitable for those particularly sensitive to trace gluten.
LENTIL SALAD WITH TOMATOES, ZUCCHINI AND ARUGULA
Total time: 50 minutes | Serves 4
1/4 pound zucchini, cut in 1/2 -inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 cup lentils
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup torn arugula leaves
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1. Place the diced zucchini in a colander and sprinkle liberally with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat evenly and set aside to drain until the zucchini has begun to soften (the cut edges will appear slightly rounded), about 30 minutes. Rinse well under running water and pat dry with a tea towel.
2. Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under running water and add them to a large pot of rapidly boiling, liberally salted water. Return to a simmer and cook until they are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the lentils, rinse under running water to stop the cooking, and turn them out into a tea towel to dry and finish cooling.
3. Stir the lentils, chives and garlic together in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with with one-half teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper, or to taste. The mixture should be highly seasoned.
4. Stir in the zucchini, cherry tomatoes and lemon juice. Gently fold in arugula leaves. Add just enough olive oil to barely moisten the arugula (you may not need to add any). Stir in the pine nuts and serve at room temperature.
Each of 4 servings: 268 calories; 14 grams protein; 33 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams fiber; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 591 mg. sodium.