It happens each year around the same time. Summer heat arrives and then – bam! – a bushel of zucchini lands on your doorstep, courtesy of a neighbor trying to offload their backyard bounty.
Or, maybe zucchini is just one of those vegetables you have no idea how to cook.
Well, the good news is, you don’t even have to cook it; it’s great raw in many dishes. And because it kind of has a split personality, you can use it in everything from stir-fries to cupcakes.
Is Zucchini a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Bright green zucchini squash is part of the gourd family. Along with its yellow cousin, the summer squash, it is considered both a fruit and a vegetable. The fact that zucchini contains seeds makes it a fruit, but it is used as a vegetable in most recipes.
How to Buy and Prepare Zucchini
Look for zucchini that’s about 4-6 inches long, and looks firm and shiny with no breaks or cracks. Large, older fruit will be tough and bitter; the best way to use very large zucchini is in zucchini bread.
It can be kept in the fridge for up to one week. When you’re ready to use it, wash the zucchini, then slice both ends off. If the skin of the zucchini has been waxed (to extend its shelf-life), peel the skin, but leave the skin on if it’s unwaxed. Larger zucchini should be peeled first because the skin can be bitter. Golden zucchini blossoms, the flowers on the zucchini plant (pictured below), are also edible. They can be battered and deep-fried, baked, stuffed or used as a garnish for high-class dining!
Zucchini is Good For You, Too!
Zucchini is a great source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. It’s high in water content, has only 20 calories per cup and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Try Zucchini Raw or in These Recipes
- Shred or grate raw zucchini into salads, or cut it into spears for vegetable platters.
- Grill it: Slice zucchini lengthwise, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle both sides with whatever fresh or dried herbs suit your fancy and some salt and pepper to taste. Grill outside on your barbecue or indoors on a grill pan for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp-tender.
- Chilled Zucchini Soup is the perfect starter for a hot summer night or an afternoon brunch. Make it ahead of time and dish it up right before serving.
- The Italian version of an omelet, this Zucchini Frittata is simple to prepare and versatile. It can be eaten hot or cold, taken to picnics, packed for lunches or served as an appetizer at your next brunch.
- Here’s a super side dish: Sauteed Zucchini with Spinach and Basil Pesto. Whether you make or buy pesto, it’s great on just about any summer vegetable. This is also a good idea for your South Beach Diet friends! This link has lots of other recipe ideas for zucchini.
- Here’s a kid-friendly recipe for Broiled Zucchini with Cheese. It’s got only three ingredients, and it will use up a lot of extra zucchini!
- A staff favorite from Food & Wine, Farfalle with Yogurt and Zucchini calls for just 5 ingredients, plus nutmeg. This fast bow tie pasta meal is made with yogurt, instead of cream, for a unique taste sensation.
- Remember the movie Ratatouille, where Chef Gusteau says, “Anyone can cook”? Well you can, too! One-Pan Ratatouille is as easy as it sounds! Bursting with flavor and color, this dish gets its beauty from both green and yellow squash, red, yellow and orange peppers, red tomatoes and green basil. Serve over pasta, tear open a loaf of rustic Italian bread and serve with a bottle of Chianti. Your company will love it!
- This Zucchini Bread Recipe makes two large loaves or 24 muffins to eat or freeze. You can’t get much easier than this, and your kitchen will smell sweet and spicy!
- Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes are so moist, you don’t need frosting. Scatter a few chocolate chips on top or dust them with powdered sugar and you’re ready for a party! These cupcakes are so easy to make, you can put your heavy mixer away!
One of my favorite vegetables, fresh corn on the cob, is in season in the USA from May to September.
When buying corn, the husks (outer green covering) should be bright green and fit snugly around the ear of corn. The kernels should be in tight rows right to the tip of the ear of corn, and be plump and milky (if you accidently pop one!).
While in the grocery store, it is perfectly acceptable to peel back the outer green husk to check and see if the corn looks OK.
You should peel the husk off the corn just before you cook it. To do so, peel back the husk, hold the peeled ear of corn in one hand, the husk and stalk in the other and then snap off the stalk.
To remove the “silk” (the white hairy threads just under the husk) wet a paper towel and wipe down the corn – from the tip to the stalk end. Be sure to totally remove all the silk as it is really not pleasant to serve corn on the cob with the silky threads still attached.
Once the husk and silk have been removed from the corn, it is officially “shucked”.
I am going to show you three ways to cook corn on the cob:
- In the microwave
- On the stove top starting with cold water
- On the stove top starting with boiling water
You can also cook corn in a pressure cooker which is quick and (many people tell me) quite simple to do, but I still have yet to buy a pressure cooker.
Be sure to have a look in the comment section below as many experienced cooks have added some great suggestions on how they cook corn.
Method 1: Cooking Corn in the Microwave
Cooking corn in the microwave is my preferred method. I am not too fond of pots of boiling water heating up my kitchen on a hot summer day.
This method is good when you are cooking only 2 or 3 ears of corn. If you are cooking more, you should choose one of the other cooking methods or do it in batches in the microwave.
Place the corn in a microwave safe dish and add about 2 Tablespoons of water to the dish.
Cover the dish with plastic wrap, making sure to leave a small opening (a steam vent) in the corner to let the steam escape.
Microwave the corn on high for 4-to-6 minutes – depending on the strength of your microwave.
Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the corn. There will be a lot of very hot steam escaping, so you probably should use a pair of tongs to remove the plastic wrap.
Method 2: Cooking Corn on the Stovetop Starting with Cold Water
Place the shucked corn in a large pot. Cover it with COLD tap water. Cover the pot and set it on the stove. Bring the pot to a boil. Once the pot has reached a boil, the corn is cooked.
Method 3: Cooking Corn on the Stovetop Starting with Boiling Water
Fill a large pot half way with COLD water. There should be enough water in the pot so that when you add the corn, it is covered with water but not overflowing.
Bring the pot of COLD water to a boil. Using a pair of tongs, carefully drop each ear of corn into the pot.
Cover the pot and return the water to a boil.
Boil the corn for 5-7 minutes or until done.
Cooking Corn Do’s and Don’t’s:
How do I know when it’s cooked?
The cooking times listed above are general cooking times. Some people eat corn raw, and some dunk it in boiling water for 30 seconds to just heat it slightly. The simplest answer is to taste the corn to see if it cooked to your liking. Over-cooked corn does become really tough and it is also pretty rough on the digestive track!
Should I add Salt or Sugar to the cooking water?
Corn is naturally sweet. Some people add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to the cooking water to sweeten it even more. That’s totally up to you!
Salt, on the other hand, should not be added to the cooking water as it will toughen the corn. Sprinkle it on after the corn is cooked.
When blanching vegetables, like asparagus, you plunge the partially cooked asparagus into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
If you are cooking the corn for other uses than eating it off the cob, you may be tempted to submerge it in a bowl of icy water to cool it off. Don’t! It will cool the corn off BUT it will also turn your corn very soggy.
Cook and eat corn on the cob the same day as you buy it.
To freeze fresh corn on the cob you must remove the corn from the cob first. It can be cooked or uncooked when you remove it from the cob to freeze. To remove the corn from the cob, a serrated knife works best.
Corn can be frozen for up to six months.
I really like these things! They do come in all shapes and sizes. You just jam them in either end of the corn cob. If the corn is really hot, they protect your fingers. They also have other uses. I actually used the big ones in the photo below to help peel a mango!
One way to butter corn is to slide the corn in a circular motion over a stick of butter. Alas, the whole family really has to agree to this method!
Or you could butter a piece of bread and roll the corn in the slice of bread.
Or, you can of course just dab a bit of butter on each piece with your dinner knife and then sprinkle on some salt and…
There are certain food combinations that always work together: salt and pepper, peanut butter & jelly, hot dogs & baked beans, fish & chips, gin & tonic just to name a few. Spices and seasonings work that way too. Nothing goes better with apple pie than cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir fry recipes have their own unique set of seasoning ingredients.
Some may be more familiar to you than others. In my Chicken & Broccoli stir fry video, I used soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and sesame oil as the four basic ingredients. Here is a very brief introduction to these ingredients.
Soy sauce is a dark, intensely flavored, salty sauce used for flavoring a lot of different foods. Soup, sauces, meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, you name it, and soy sauce works with them all. Different brands may be saltier than others. You often see it as a table condiment at Asian restaurants.
Guess what it’s made from? You’re right! Oysters! Plus a lot of other ingredients (like soy sauce, salt, water, possibly MSG and cornstarch) depending on the brand you buy. It’s dark brown in color and very thick. It will not pour out of the jar – you need a spoon to scoop it out. It has a wonderful rich flavor that is not at all fishy. Oyster sauce helps to thicken the sauce in Stir Fries.
Chili paste (not to be confused with chili oil, chili powder, or chili sauce), is made with red chilies, fava beans, flour, and (sometimes) garlic. Different brands have different levels of “heat”, so be careful! If you like foods to be hot and spicy, this is the ingredient for you. Add a small amount at a time until you figure out what you like.
Sesame oil has a very strong flavor and fragrance. It is often used as a flavor enhancer rather than for frying. You can buy a light colored sesame oil that has a less intense flavor than the dark sesame oil.
Many people consider soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil as the basic 3 stir fry ingredients.
Buying these 3 at a minimum, is a wise choice if you plan on doing stir fry.