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5 Not-Boring Things To Do With Zucchini

Move beyond zoodles and muffins and get the most out of this summer squash.

Midwesterners know the old joke: Keep your car doors locked in the summer or you'll find a bushel of zucchini on the front seat. (The same is true of your front porch, back porch, and patio.) Zucchini has gotten a reputation as a boring summer stapleā€”the salad bar cantaloupe of squash. But a new cookbook from Cynthia Graubart has some surprisingly not boring ways to use it, and her methods extend beyond the typical bread, ratatouille, and salads.

Graubart, a James Beard Award winner and television host, turns the spotlight on the beleaguered squash in Zucchini Love: 43 Garden-Fresh Recipes for Salads, Soups, Breads, Lasagnas, Stir-Fries, and More from Storey Publishing. (Amazon named it an Editor's Pick.) When I dove into the recipes, I could see what makes this cookbook stand out: Rather than treat zucchini as a prolific backyard garden veggie that must be off-loaded onto others, Graubart uses it in innovative ways.

"I think because of its mild flavor, most people don't think of it as exciting," Graubart tells The Takeout, "when in fact it's the prolific summer garden vegetable that loves to play with others."

She says zucchini can be paired with corn, tomatoes, and even peaches to create unique dishes. "And it hasn't met a summer herb it doesn't love, mint being the one that makes zucchini such a tasty no-cook and very cooling summer dish," she adds.

Graubart jokes that if you make every recipe in her book, you will have used 75 pounds of zucchini. That might be too much even for the most dedicated cook, but here are some of Graubart's most interesting suggestions for your summer produce. (Best of all, Graubart says you can swap in similarly sized yellow squash if the green version isn't available.)

Use zucchini in brownies

You might be familiar with classic recipes for chocolate zucchini cake. French writer Clotilde DesoulierĀ even uses it as the name for her popular blog. Graubart deploys zucchini in her fudge brownies, which contain two zucchinis and a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. One tip: after mixing, let it rest for about 10 minutes so the zucchini's moisture can fully infuse the batter.


Try zucchini in a smoothie

Graubart's blueberry-zucchini smoothie includes a banana, which I had on hand, so I whipped one up for a post-lunch treat. It's surprisingly creamy, without any dairy (she recommends using almond milk, but I swapped in oat). The zucchini pretty much serves the purpose of yogurt or ice to thicken up the drink. Since I have a smoothie several times a week, I'm definitely putting this idea on repeat.


Pop zucchini in a pie shell

This suggestion is not as odd as you might think. Zucchini is a member of the squash family, just like pumpkin, although the texture and color of their flesh is different. In her recipe for creamy zucchini pie, Graubart mixes zucchini with sweetened condensed milk, an egg, and spices, then pours the mixture into a pecan graham cracker crust.


Pickle your zucchini

We're living in a golden era of fermentation. Any firm vegetable seems to be a candidate for pickling, and Grabart's recipe for zucchini pickles is super simple. You slice the zucchini into coins, add seasonings (including garlic and dill), and cover it with a mixture of white vinegar, sugar, and salt. You'll want to eat them quickly; they're great in a salad or added to cole slaw.


Make zucchini your jam

Everybody knows about the combination of strawberries and rhubarb, but what about strawberries and zucchini? I was a little skeptical about the idea of zucchini in jam, because I thought it might be too watery. Pectin acts as a thickener. Graubart's version isn't a classic jam, per se, because it won't solidify in the same manner as a traditional spread. Think of it as more like a chutney which can be used in a sweet or savory way.