What’s not to like about zucchini? You can glaze them, stuff them, roast them, fold them into a frittata, salt them for salad — see what I mean?
Although zucchini may not be much to look at, they’re wonderful to cook with. It’s hard to imagine another vegetable that gives you so many possibilities. I once put together a list of 31 zucchini dishes — and I was just getting started.
Of course, as with all things these days, a zucchini is not just a zucchini. There are many varieties. Botanists count more than 100. Generally, though, they fall into two camps: light and dark green. (There are also round squash sold as zucchini, but these are actually considered “summer pumpkins,” a kind of immature winter squash; they’re good for stuffing.)
Light-colored zucchini also tend to be smaller at the stem than at the flower end. The flavor tends to be mild and the texture firm, and they’re great for soups.
Dark green zucchini — which tend to be roughly the same diameter from stem to flower — are a little more vibrantly flavored but also tend to fall apart in long cooking. Serve these raw, or cooked only briefly.
Every zucchini lover needs to know two techniques.
Glazing zucchini means cooking it in a covered pan over medium heat with some oil, a little bit of water and whatever flavorings you prefer. When the zucchini begins to become tender, remove the lid and raise the heat to high. The water will evaporate leaving the squash cloaked in a flavorful sauce made from the oil and vegetable juice.
Salting is my preferred first step when serving zucchini raw. It draws out some of the water, softening the vegetable and giving it a slightly “cooked” texture. Just be sure to rinse it well and pat it dry before adding it to a dish.
How to choose: Look for zucchini that are small to medium-sized — no longer than 6 to 8 inches. They should be firm and free of nicks and cuts. Really fresh zucchini will bristle with tiny hairs.
How to store: Keep zucchini tightly sealed in the refrigerator.