Zucchini, which is slightly hardier, will take a little longer to cook than softer yellow summer squash, so be prepared if you go that route. And although it seems like a lot of salt for the squash, it’s needed to coat it well and give it flavor — besides, most of it will fall off once you squeeze and dry the squash. If you don’t have an air fryer or want to make this recipe in a conventional oven, see the Variation, below.
If using summer squash, cut the crooked neck section in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1½- to 2-inch pieces. For the larger bulb section, halve it lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-inch chunks. If using zucchini, quarter large ones or halve smaller ones lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1- to 1½-inch pieces. Place all the squash pieces in a colander set in your sink or over a bowl, sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons salt, then toss to evenly coat. Let the squash stand for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs: In a medium nonstick skillet, combine the breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic, then place over medium-high heat. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper and cook, tossing often, until golden brown and toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape the crumbs into a bowl, then stir in the zest while warm. Let the crumbs cool to room temperature, then stir in the chives.
Pick up handfuls of the squash and squeeze them with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible without completely smashing the squash before transferring them to a bed of paper towels or a kitchen towel. Once all the squash is on the towel, lightly press with more paper towels or another kitchen towel to dry off the outside of the squash.
Transfer the squash to a large bowl, drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season with pepper. Toss to coat the squash in the oil, then transfer the squash to the basket of a 3- to 6-quart air fryer, spreading them out in as even a layer as possible. Set the temperature to 425 degrees and the timer for 20 minutes. Cook, tossing the squash in the basket once halfway through cooking, until blistered and caramelized all over.
Once cooked, transfer all the squash to a serving platter or individual plates and top with the breadcrumbs. Serve while hot.
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