Our favorite way to cook zucchini

It’s that time of year again.

Put aside those zucchini bread recipes and try this instead.

This recipe–or technique, rather– sounds too simple to be good, but it really works. As one friend said of the dish, “It tastes like there’s a lot going on, but there’s not.”

All you’ve got to do is shred your zucchini up on the large holes of your kitchen grater. Saute the shreds in an uncovered skillet with lots of olive oil and some chopped up garlic, until there’s no water in the pan, and the volume of the zucchini is reduced by about half.

This transforms the zukes into a savory, glossy, succulent mush. Maybe that’s not the most elegant way to phrase it, but it’s the best I can do. Yes, it does have a baby food texture, but it’s really, really good, so you don’t care.

I can’t begin to tell you quantities–we’ve never measured. Just guesstimate. It will work. The one rule of thumb I can offer you is that you will lose about half the volume of the zucchini through cooking, so grate up more than you think you can eat.

The central idea here is to cook off all that water. This can’t be emphasized enough. That’s what makes this dish taste good. The zucchini will release a lot of water as it cooks–at least ours does, because it’s very fresh. Older zucchini may be more dry. So keep it simmering at a good clip, stirring occasionally, until the water bubbles off.

Saute until there’s no water pooling at the bottom of the pan. Until you start to run the risk of browning the zucchini. Then take it off the stove. Add salt and pepper to taste.

How long will this take? It varies by how much zucchini you’re cooking, and how wet it is, how deep the pan is, etc., but for a general guideline, when we shred up one big boy, enough to fill a 11″ skillet, it takes 20-30 minutes to cook it down.

Starting out…

Note: This year we’re growing a type of zucchini called Albarello di Sarzana (Little Tree of Sarzana) from…as usual…Franchi. We’re really liking it. It’s a pretty, light green, spotted squash, and the leaves have silver patterning on them. But more important that looks, it’s tasty, and seems to be resistant to powdery mildew.

ETA: Love all the recipe suggestions we’re getting in the comments! Please do tell us how you like to cook zucchini.

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  1. Ah ha! Resistance to powdery mildew would be a very good thing. I will have to try your recipe.

    I also like to shred zucchini, squeeze handfuls of it as hard as I possibly can (over the sink) and mix it into potato pancakes.

    And my favorite way to cook zucchini is to cut it into piece about the size of my thumb, saute it in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil on a fairly high heat so that the outsides get golden brown, but the insides are just warm, and then sprinkle it with garlic salt (I like Penzey’s , ’cause it doesn’t have any crap in it). I could eat that several times a week during zucchini season, which is probably a good thing, because I have it several times a week during zucchini season, zucchini being what it is, and all…

  2. Yum! What I love as a topper on my zucchini is a little hot sauce and Crème fraiche (you can get Crème fraiche in local hispanic markets).

  3. Yummy! We like to just slice zukes into coins and saute them with garlic in a little olive oil until browned. Mmmmmm! 🙂 I will try your method — it looks good!

  4. We like to add grated zucchini to ground meat along with onions. Makes a little meat go further and seems to help bind it a bit.

  5. Thanks I’ll definitely give that a try, it seems like we just make the same ole stuff. My daughter’s favorite (yep the daughter that pretty much just eats carrots and celery with peanut butter)is grilled. Cut the zucchini in to 1/2 or quarters depending on how big it is, then slice into lengthwise pieces, brush them on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill on both sides, it’s better if still kind of crunchy.

  6. I have a great powdery mildew cure! Use milk. Yes, I said milk. About 30-50% milk diluted in water, spray it on the leaves. Whole milk is better, but skim and 2% work too. It was actually published in a scientific journal and it really works.

  7. The best recipe for everyone who hates zuchinni – grate or slice, cook in oil with garlic (of course!), then when most of the water is gone add corn (fresh, canned, frozen, even cream corn works) and salsa (or chopped tomatoes if you have ’em). Sprinkle in some beans if you want (go for some color) and you have a true 3 sisters dish.

  8. I’d love to try this but our first zucchini crop has been a sad lot at best and that was before the TX summer kicked into gear. We definitely need to revise our gardening plan. – Damian

  9. My favourite recipe for courgette (zucchini) which I keep telling people, as Kate from The Frugal Life can probably testify, is very similar to yours, but I serve it as a soup.

    I grate the courgette and saute with butter(no garlic). When softened, but still liquidy, puree and season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.

    You’re right about it tasting as though a lot is going on- friends usually think it contains cream and sometimes asparagus.

    For what it’s worth, DH thinks courgettes are entirely pointless as a vegetable (‘courgette’ is a synonym for ‘why bother?’ in our house) but he really likes this soup.

  10. Kelly, how many plants do you have?

    As our household is also split on the zucchini issue, I only grow 2 zucchini(Romanesco from Franchi) and 1 scallop. Also, I pick within 2-3 days of pollination so there is no chance of the dreaded spongy texture.

    It goes over best when grilled with some thai peanut sauce spooned over it. Or cut into matchsticks, sauteed(in butter if you use)then tossed with balsamic vinegar and mint leaves.

  11. I’m not a very good cook, but I have millions of squash at the moment (second bag just got sent to friends lest our fridge be too full), and I’ve mostly been frying them up with red onion, sprinkling them with salt and eating them with mac&cheese. I have yet to become tired of this. One of the reasons I don’t mind growing so much is because squash is so versatile, it doesn’t take much effort to make it awesome.

  12. Thanks, I’ll have to try all of these! Another great recipe: grate the zucchini- let it drain some of the water in a colander- add an egg, a little curry, S&P and mix it up. Fry little “globs” in a skillet, to make zucchini cakes. Curry is a surprisingly delicious spice with zucchini!

  13. Thanks for the recipes, all of you! I want to try it all–salsa, cakes, grilled cheese…

    @hazel: I can see this becoming soup easily–great idea. And nutmeg!

    @ginny: We have three plants. I suspect 1 per person per household may be enough for reasonable people.

  14. I cut zucchini into small pieces and steam in a small pot. Sometimes I add pieces of yellow squash too. While the squash is cooking I add chopped onion and some seasoning and herbs. When it is all soft and most of the liquid is cooked off I use my potato masher to make it more like chunky mashed potatoes. Then I add some cheese stir till it is melted. Yum.

  15. Yum. I modified your recipe a bit. I added some spicy berbere seasoning (just a little) when the shredded zucchini was about done, and I cooked up some couscous. Great combination! Thanks for the shredded zucchini idea. I’m sure there are lots of opportunities for various seasonings.

  16. @Sarah: We just eat it as a side. It’s not too exciting over pasta–the textures are too similar. Might be good on crispy toast or something like that, though, or as part of a sandwich.

  17. Moosewood Cookbook has a recipe for Zucchini Pizza which is our favorite way to eat it!

  18. Prepared the first big zuc from the garden last night according to this post. Added jalepenos, a cup of black beans, and cup of red quinoa. In recent years I’ve been aggressively seeding zucchini to try and rid it of that watery texture, this is a great solution – thanks.

  19. I will give this a try. My problem is usually what ever seasoning I am adding makes the zucchini bitter. I can’ wait to try this.

  20. I will definitely try all these ideas. My kids are picky eaters and refuse to eat zucchinis altogether, but I think corn and salsa might be just the incentive they need.

    As for my favorite ways of cooking zucchini, it has to be a tie between thick, marinated grilled zucchini slices (think olive oil with italian seasonning for the marinade) and sauteed zucchini with butter, garlic and a splash of white wine.

  21. A word in the beginning, this may read like it takes forever but really is done in half an hour tops.

    Cut up two or three big onions into rings and chop some garlic. Half two or three zuchinis and slice them into 1/8″ discs. Same goes for 2 carrots. Put olive oil into a deep pot, heat up. Into the really hot oil, throw a few slices (2ounces) of butter and let it heat until the butter turns a little bit brown. Right now, you´ll have the first visits into the kitchen, the smell is intoxicating. Throw the onions into the pot, too and heat at two thirds ahead until they turn glassy. Add two glasses of white wine, one into the soup, one into your glass. Let it reduce a little bit. Now add the zuchis, the carrots and the garlic, stir from time to time. While doing all this, bring up half a quart of chicken soup to a boil and add 1/4 of a quart of cream to it and let it sit at a slow rolling boil for a few minutes. Now put in the spices you like and add pepper, vigorously. When you think you have added enough freshly ground pepper, give the mill another turn. Put the soup/cream mix onto the zuchis (take out a few large spoons before if you like chunks) and run a stirring staff through the soup until it´s to you like. Cut up one sweet red pepper into dices and throw back the chunky stuff with it, let boil for a few more minutes. Done. This can be a soup, a sauce for stuffed peppers, a sauce for spaghetti, whatever you like. I serve it with white bread (usually) or with homemade noodles that I cook half time in saltwater and half in the soup, they soak up the soup and taste like heaven. What else is there to say? The soup can be refrigerated but usually, the pot won´t leave the table until it´s empty. The rest of the bottle of white wine does go well with the soup…
    If you throw in tomatos with this throw in a teaspoon full of sugar, too.


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