Zuke It Out

What to do with all that summer squash . . .

Let’s cut straight to the point, because there isn’t much time. Nobody is even trying to sell them anymore at market. We are surrounded. They are swelling as we speak, and creeping steadily closer like zombies on steroids.

If you don’t typically lock your door, now would be a good time to start. Behind the usual pleasantries, your neighbors are probing you for weakness, trying to decide who among you or your spouse would be most likely to break and accept a bag-load. Gangs of farmhands will soon be roaming the streets, leaving zucchinis on porches and in unlocked vehicles. There is zucchini growing in your compost pile, maybe. One way or another, you will have zucchini on your hands. And that’s why I’m here—if not for the ideas, then for the encouragement.

Any amount of zucchini can be handled, and probably with less effort than you fear. If you can adopt a can’t-stop, won’t-stop approach, like the legs of a running back, you will eat a lot of zucchini, and you will like it. And it will be cheaper than what you would have made if you didn’t have zucchini.

You can make anything with zucchini: bread, soup, salad, pasta (as in, shredded into noodles) or steak (fried, grilled, broiled or breaded). And you can make it in different styles: Parmesan, ratatouille and other Italian ways; Thai-style (in curry), Vietnamese-style (with cold noodles), Chinese-style (with oyster sauce and whatnot), Russian-style (fried) or Ari-style (chocolate zucchini mayo cake).

In summer, my quick and tasty go-to recipe is one that works with the honker monsters of summer, with no need to peel them. It works equally well in a pan, under the broiler or on the grill.

Slice a large zucchini thickly, up to an inch, and lay the slices on a tray. If there is room, add thick onion slices as well. Sprinkle zucchini lightly with salt on both sides, and then pour on some olive oil (about 1/4 cup for a decent sized one), white balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon), red balsamic (1 teaspoon), and soy sauce (1 tablespoon) and several hard shakes of garlic powder.

Turn over to mix the marinade and coat the slices. Let them sit a moment while you heat up your grill/pan/broiler. Don’t mess with the onions. Just leave them alone on the tray while you flip around the zucchini, and transfer them gingerly to the heat when it’s ready.

Lay the zucchini and onions on or under the heat, and cook until soft. These lusty, juicy steaks are light and fun to consume. The slices go well atop a burger or in place of a burger on a bun.

At the other end of the size spectrum, if you are lucky to acquire some, are the finger-sized, baby zucchini, small enough that they still have beautiful, edible flowers attached. They would do fine in the above marinade, as would any size of summer squash, but because they are so delicate, they’re better enjoyed by a slow, gentle frying in butter, with the flowers on. Turn when brown, and add minced garlic before the final minutes of cooking.

And if you want to batter-coat and deep-fry them, I definitely won’t stop you.