Here’s How to Save Your Relationship With Zucchini

This summer fling has grown wearisome. Here’s how to reignite your affair with the squash that’s always there.

(Photo: Miniqq/Flickr)

Sarah McColl has written for Yahoo Food, Bon Appetit, and other publications. She's based in Brooklyn.

Zucchini’s glut is a cook and gardener’s cliché—albeit a delicious one. This squash is prolific enough to render a first-time gardener deeply encouraged (even in spite of periods of benign neglect), abundant enough to inspire seed names such as “cashflow,” and burdensome enough a burden to merit a holiday devoted to its generous unloading: Sneak Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night (Aug. 8). But what to do when late June’s perfect summer simplicity—zucchini sliced into rounds and sautéed with salty butter or a glug of golden olive oil—has by now reached new levels of tedium?

Coping with a bumper crop requires a nearly equal number of recipes. So the answer, as usually is the case, is to arm yourself with options. Approach the buttery New World native with wide eyes, altering its form by grating, julienning or wilting; serve it at cocktail hour; or slip it into a dense chocolate cake.

And then, by all means, leave a sack picked from the garden on your neighbor’s porch, along with a recipe or two.

Shape-Shifter: Zucchini Pasta With Green Goddess Dressing

Vibrant Food author Kimberley Hasselbrink transforms both yellow and green squash into thin “noodles” with the help of a julienne grater. “It is a game changer,” she says. Toss the entire tangle with a mess of green herbs, Greek yogurt, and lemon.

French Classic: Ratatouille

There’s a reason why Alice Waters’ rendition of ratatouille, from her 2007 cookbook The Art of Simple Food, slow-cooked its way into “Genius Recipes,” Kristen Miglore’s James Beard Award–nominated column on Food52: It’s a rustic summer classic with pitch-perfect technique (salt that bitter eggplant), elevated with a few modern flourishes, all while staying farmhouse-unfussy.

Pinch-Hitter: Lemony Chickpea Stir-Fry

This is a weeknight stalwart for summer and beyond from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Cooking. Zucchini plays well in an ensemble cast with fried golden chickpeas, earthy kale, tofu, and a generous squeeze of lemon that brightens everything. You’ll return to this one time and again.

Wild Card: Zucchini Butter

When shredded zucchini meets a hot pan and a pool of olive oil, it turns slack and sumptuous, resembling something not unlike butter. This brilliant idea comes courtesy of Los Angeles caterer and zucchini magician Jennie Cook. Spread it on the insides of sandwiches with ripe tomatoes, or on a piece of toast topped with a runny egg. Actually, use it everywhere.

Breakfast: Zucchini Bread

This is the only zucchini bread your loaf pan needs ever know, from the now-classic Silver Palate Cookbook. It is marvelously moist but feels virtuous enough to have with morning coffee. And with its whisper of cinnamon and cloves, it’s an especially excellent use of the zucchini bounty that lingers into fall.

Cold Summer Soup: Zucchini Soup

This silken soup is simple as can be—surprisingly so from gastronomical chemist/chef Grant Achatz—and it’s made without a drop of cream. Can also be eaten hot at your AC-blasted desk.

Proverbial Fried Option: Zucchini Fritters

Jenny Rosentrach, author of Dinner: A Love Story, knows how to keep things simple. Her zucchini fritters, with a blessedly brief ingredient list and a lively rice-vinegar-and-soy dipping sauce, are no exception.

Cocktail Hour: Zucchini-Parmesan Chips

Smitten Kitchen’s addictive adaptation of Ellie Krieger’s healthy snack cries out for a gin gimlet on the side, no?

Summer-Saver: Pickled Zucchini

Zucchini spears take the place of cukes in this riff on the dill classic. Or go the quick route with Zuni Cafe’s refrigerator pickles, which offer a kick with mustard and turmeric.

Dessert: Chocolate-and-Zucchini Cake

Why would you eat squash for desert? Because of zucchini incognito, a complexly sweet dish from the beloved French food blog of the same name. No one will detect the zucchini in this cake, but everyone will rave about the deep chocolate flavor, thanks to a trio of cocoa, bittersweet chocolate chunks, and coffee.

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