This well-known type of summer squash is highly versatile and has a delicious, mild flavor. Served raw or cooked, it appears in many different cuisines, from its native Mexico to Southern Europe, the Middle East to Northern Asia. The vine’s large, golden flowers are also edible; they can be filled with cheese and fried or cut into ribbons for soups, pastas, and omelets.
Zucchini are at their best during the summer. They are ideal sautéed, baked, roasted, or grilled to highlight their delicate texture, but also take well to simmering in soups, quick-steaming, frying, or gentle, slow cooking to bring out their sweetness. Sliced or grated raw, zucchini are excellent in fresh salads and on antipasto plates.
Select zucchini that are dark, firm, and heavy for their size. Small ones will have crisp texture and a sweet flavor; they become softer and more bitter as they grow bigger.
Store zucchini for up to 3 days wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use delicate and highly perishable squash blossoms within 1 day of purchasing.
There is no need to peel zucchini’s thin, delicate skin; simply rinse the squashes, trim the ends, and then slice, chop, or shred as called for in the recipe. Some recipes call for salting zucchini, especially larger ones, to remove excess moisture. Place it in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).