Sauteed Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes, photo by Donna

Picked up our CSA this weekend, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, lettuce, and SURPRISE! More Zucchini!

Actually, I’m starting to like the zucchini challenge.  Too hot for what I want to do for it—mix it with cheese and gratin it.  I’ll wait till cooler fall to go that route. I’ve had a nostalgic urge to make zucchini bread, which I haven’t had since my mom made it when I was a kid and the notion of a sweet cake made with a vegetable was bizarre and fascinating.

But I opted for a fallback here, and still one of the best and easiest ways to make zucchini: saute it.  I think its texture is best when you julienne it.  With my handy Benriner mandoline (left), it takes about 30 seconds per zucchini. The result is a size and shape that cooks quickly (so that you don’t have overdone mush on the outside and raw on the inside), looks good, and is easy to eat.  Also, using the mandolin allows you to take the zucchini and yellow squash just down to the seeds, then discard this central tasteless shaft (please don’t anyone tell me to pickle these).

As we were sitting down to eat this for a midday meal, Donna and I noticed a bowl of cherry tomatoes (which also came with our CSA).  The color they’d add would be excellent, as would the acidity—perfect.  And as you can eat the zucchini as you do spaghetti, the dish could fill in for a vegetarian spaghetti and meatballs dish.  Loved it.

This cooks in about 2 or 3 minutes so have the rest of your meal done if you’re serving this as a side (though it holds well, too).  You can flavor this any way you want.  I think garlic and shallot, sweated in butter without color, is a must.  But you can add flavors as you wish.  You could finish this with a chiffonade of basil, or chopped dill.  The feta works great in the fritters—no reason it wouldn’t work here.  I had some toasted slivered almonds which I added for crunch and flavor.  Next time I might increase the garlic even more and add teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

What I love best about this is not that it’s easy, and not that it makes good use of an over-abundant vegetable. What I love about it is that it’s so satisfying to eat, a blessing for someone who all but baths in animal protein and pork fat.  This is practically vegan, for godsake (swap olive oil for the butter and it is)—how uncharacteristic of me.

All the more reason for my increasing respect for the zucchini.  Now I’ve got to figure out what to do with those green bell peppers—truly an unfortunate vegetable.

Sauteed Zucchini

3 tablespoons butter

1 finely chopped shallot

salt to taste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 zucchini, jullienned

1 yellow squash, jullienned

1 large carrot, peeled, jullienned (optional; I love the color and crunch they add)

plenty of freshly ground pepper

squeeze of lemon to taste

optional: red pepper flakes, more garlic, more shallot, fresh herbs, cheese, toasted nuts

Melt half the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook the shallot and garlic till they’re translucent, about a minute (give them a good pinch of salt as you do.  Add the zucchini, squash and carrot and saute until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Give them a couple three fingered pinches of salt, to taste.  Grind plenty of black pepper over them.  Just before they’re done, add the rest of the butter and toss till the butter is melted.  Give the pan a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with additional garnish if using.

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44 Wonderful responses to “Sauteed Zucchini”

  • JW

    Excellent use of zucchini. For the green bell peppers I would suggest going Creole/Cajun. Not a bad time for a seafood gumbo or jambalaya.

  • Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)

    Looks delicious! I might have to break out my finger slicer, I mean mandoline, to make this recipe.

    FYI – You can shred zucchini and freeze it for future use in breads and muffins. It looses all texture but saves you from having to cook it all fresh in the summer.

  • Karen Downie Makley

    The zukes look lovely! DO keep us posted on ideas for green peppers. I struggle with them, too…I don’t hate them, but they are not a fave. Stuffed peppers? Minced into some cumin-laced lentils? Massive amounts of piperade for the freezer?

  • Pat

    Old fashioned stuffed peppers. Mix the meat with a little rice. You all know how to do it. It will be nice and yummy. Serve with mashed potatoes.

  • kaela

    My favorite for green peppers in season is on the grill; charred & smoky, maybe a little balsamic. Delicious. Honestly, though, I dice and freeze most of them; I appreciate them much more in January than August.

  • Michael

    Julia Child has a great method of grating zucchini, salting them for a few minutes, and then squeezing all the excess moisture out. It’s amazing how much liquid comes out. I got a huge bowl of green colored liquid. Anyway, like Julia said, it really does taste like a brand new vegetable after you do all that and saute it in butter. I used it in an omelette last week, and I might try using it in risotto. Perhaps all that zucchini water can be used for the risotto as well, if it’s not too salty.

  • Camille

    “Unfortunate vegetable” made me chuckle – I couldn’t agree more. I’ve found I can handle them if they’ve been deeply caramelized and mixed with lots of other things, like in fajitas, Philly cheesesteaks, or jambalaya.

  • PAWriter

    I’ve been putting zukes in fritattas, and last week used them, sliced thinly, on home made pizza. But I like this application for its simplicity. Plus, it will use up my CSA zukes and carrots quite nicely.

  • rockandroller

    Maybe you could make a new/alternative type of stuffed peppers. Moroccan with saffron and raisin rice, or maybe a southern twist with cornbread stuffing, spinach and chorizo?

  • joelfinkle

    Two favorite uses of zukes:
    1) Thin longitudinal slices, grilled briefly, served with skordalia or taramasalata

    2) Razor-thin discs scattered atop a thin-crust pizza before being placed in the oven. Gotta be really thin to avoid soaking the pizza, but the high-heat oven really does something nice to the flavor

  • cleek

    i do zucchini like this pretty much weekly. instead of shallot, i use some sweet onion, sliced thin – because i rarely buy shallot, onions are much more useful. and for herbs, a bit of dry marjoram or tarragon.

  • Jan

    I confess that my initial reaction to the blog post was “yuch”, but I immediately said to myself “but of course Ruhlman’s take on it will be much better that than the mush of my childhood” (cooked way too long with bacon which never got crispy and onion) So I read on and of course it is delightful, and pretty, to boot. In my teen years, Mom redeemed the poor vegetable with zucchini pancakes with feta and minced onion and mint. You really can’tgo wrong with zucchini bread, either.

  • Susan

    This is the way my family likes the zucchini cut. There’s something about a steamy pile of sauteed strings that gets ‘em every time! DH did an experiment that blew us away the other evening. He used basically this same recipe, but squeezed out most of the moisture, added an egg and a handful of regular cornmeal to it and fried them as patties. They were scrumptious. Almost tasted like a cross between a fritter and a hush puppy but in the style of a latke. Mmmm…mmm!

  • Kathleen O'Neill

    My favorite zucchini recipe this season is one I found from Patricia Wells ….zucchini carpaccio with avocado. You marinate the thin sliced
    zuchinni with lemon juice , walnut oil and olive oil and serve with
    sliced avocado. I am a caterer in the Detroit area and I have gotten rave reviews serving this dish. Look up the recipe for the exact directions. It is so delicious.

  • luis

    Michael green bell peppers are a key ingredient in Cuban black beans and rice. They make that dish, Better than fried zucchini although you are making a zucchini fan out of me. I like this idea of juliening them with other veggies and frying them in olive oil. With the cherry tomatoes chopped in half and the garlic and shallot, this is a great dish you are displaying here. I am desperatelly looking to add more veggies to my diet. As always I am copying your recipe down and trying it this week.

  • Mary-Alice

    My husband is constantly saying, what grows together goes together. I shred the zucchini and saute it quickly and then toss it with pesto. Since the basil is in the garden bed next to the zukes, this must be what he means. Zucchini is a great freeze. I just slice it and use the Food Saver to vacuum pack and drop it into casseroles (au gratin, anyone?), soups, and sautes all winter long. We get 4 to 6 a day right now and I also make zucchini pickles with carrots and onions. For a quick antipasti, I rinse the pickles, dress with a little olive oil and red pepper flakes, yummy with charcutiere!

  • poppy

    I love sautéed zucchini, I throw in a few eggs and scramble everything together, a great breakfast
    thanks for the recipe!

  • luis

    Poppy, funny you mention breakfast…. I got a huge zuke and yellow squash and as always more carrots than I can possibly consume. Been thinking of making this for breakfast in an omelet and as a side to a three meat meatloaf and saving the rest for…. more breakfast’s this week. I can not go wrong with this dish. Wonder if I were to juliene an apple and throw it in instead of the tomato?? get it nice and caramelized hm hm hm….I’ll think about it some more…

  • Peggy

    Great use of the zucchini! I sauteed our green bell peppers and added them to a garlic, white wine broth and steamed some clams… Interesting but tasty with some fresh pasta also

  • luis

    Been thinking…. this dish would pack well into a burrito with any type of protein…..any.
    Substitute cheese and it would also work as well….most any type cheese that is not too strong. Michael mentioned feta which I consider a strong cheese….Maybe a white melting cheese such as mozz or chedar or even queso blanco?

  • Tom

    Brier Hill style pizza (it’s a Youngstown thing) and Egg Pizza are both great uses for green bell peppers.

    Speaking of zucchini bread, it’s also pretty good with chocolate chips in it.

  • Bob Y

    Here’s a great recipe for those “unfortunate” vegetables. Open garbage can lid, deposit green peppers, close lid and relax. My very least favorite vegetable.

    • luis

      Bob, I used to hate all vegetables and then I learned that they as everything food and drink around us is an acquired taste.
      Simple as that… I am cooking eating and learning to love zucchini, yellow squash thanks to Michaels guidance. I only wish there was a way I could learn to love spinach… I know the more bacon and cheese I add to it the more appealing it becomes… but bro…I want it much more pure than that!

  • Kimberly

    This looks really wonderful! What a great idea. Please let us know what you come up with for the green bell peppers. We have been getting a lot from our CSA too and I agree with you they are an unfortunate vegetable unless used for say a Cajun dish such as red beans and rice. It is just too hot outside for that sort of food right now. So what to do with green bell peppers…

    • luis

      Again, not a major brain breakthrough… look up Cuban black bean soup or Cuban Congri or any thing to do with black beans… Yes eat some beans…they are good for you. Michael is willing to eat raw tripe and bitter innards to show Bourdain he has chops… but have you ever seen him try to elevate beans? of any kind? or fish?…????
      Someone recently posted how come Michael doesn’t llook like a Luciano Pavarotti or an Emeril Lagasse type?…
      Maybe good genes? maybe too many cabbage sadwiches?
      But times are catching up to him.. I think? Like it seems to all the rest of us chickens.

  • Lyndsay

    Make sofrito. It freezes well and it can be added to mofongo, soups/stews, etc.

    Julienned zucchini is also a nice alternative to pasta for gluten intolerant folks.

  • luis

    Basically I made Michels recipe today and as far as I am concerned it is ok. a starting point for me. But a work in process for sure. I loved the fact that there was substance and crunch and health to it. But I need more actual flavor in this dish before I can say It will be a hit at a potluck. Just calling it as I see it.

  • Tim

    I’ve seen this prep before exactly once before, so this came as a surprise. I saw it exactly two nights ago while watching old iron chef America episodes yon youtube. Battle Zucchini. Bobby Flay prepared them with exactly this cut. Different seasonings though. But you would know that, you were guest judge on that episode. You really panned the lowly zucchini at the start of that didn’t you? Well, seems to have worked out for the best I suppose.

  • Nicholas L. Hall

    Ruhlman, I agree with JW et all about the cajun/creole connection. Trinity is surely the best possible use of green bells. Luis is also onto something with the Cuban connection. One of my favorites is Vaca Frita, shredded flank steak pan fried til crispy with onions and green bell. The peppers’ green, slightly bitter, vegetal flavor punctuates the rich fattiness of the meat nicely.
    As for those zucchini seeds. . .
    Kidding, mostly. In all seriousness, though, do you think that it would work to toast them like pepitas, than toss with chile and lime and serve like a savory snack? Maybe dry then fry them and do the same? Seriously curious if that might work.
    Also amused that the chard stem thing haunts you. When you tweeted about the root veg ICA battle, I almost asked if it was beets, and what they did with the stems.

  • Paul Gahan

    Madhur Jaffrey has a fantastic zucchini recipe (or courgette, as we call them on this side of the Great Herring Pond), Zucchini and prawn curry, it was published in one of her earliest books, “Indian Cooking”, my copy of which is the most stained and spattered in my collection, this page in particular.

    1kg courgettes (zucchini)
    2 teaspoons salt
    750g prawns
    vegetable oil (groundnut is good)
    8 cloves garlic
    150g (large bunch) coriander (cilantro)
    2 green chillis
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    3 teaspoons grnd cumin
    1 teaspoon cayenne
    12 fresh tomatoes, diced, (or a tin)
    2 inches ginger
    Juice of 1 or 2 lemons

    1 Cut courgettes into bite size strips, chop coriander, grate ginger, measure spices
    2 Heat a 20cm pool of oil in medium high heat, crush garlic into pan and fry gently until golden brown
    3 Add all other ingredients to pan except prawns and cilantro, bring to simmer
    4 Add prawns and cilantro, simmer for 3 minutes, turn up heat and boil away a little of the liquid so that the sauce is thick
    5 Serve on a bed of white basmati rice with a glass of chilled white Rioja and a little spoon of lime pickle on the side

  • Dave

    I recently made a zucchini and feta pie, bias slicing the zucc on the mandolin. Fresh, summer zucc is such a treat.

  • chris k

    Green bell pepper doesn’t get much love because it’s misunderstood. It’s an aromatic; treat it as such. It’s not a main-course veggie. Stuffed peppers are an excuse – why not use poblano or anaheim instead?

    If your gardening neighbor gives you zucchini bread, do yourselves both a favor and punch him/her in the face. I have never, ever had good zucchini bread. You know why? It’s got zucchini in it.

  • luis

    I think I am going to grate the zucchini and yellow squash with garlic and onions then drain them in a coarse collander or spin them in a salad spinner. My ratio would be three onion/shallot to 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash. 3:1:1 ratio.
    Then stir fry the mix to get it going and let it cool.
    Then I would get a well evoo slathered pizza dough sheet going in the oven. After the bread comes around and starts to become golden I would layer up this veggie ration over this pizza pie and add a bit more evoo with whatever seasoning mix I feel I wish to use this day and layer on some three cheese shred and split cherry tomatoes and sliced calamata olives. I’d gild it with defated bacon bits for that satisfying bacon crunch.
    Based on what catches my fancy or have on hand this day I would switch it up but at the same time stay true to the recipe. Because that would be day one of zucchini pizza boot camp.

  • ruhlman

    love all these zucchini suggestions. we should do a print on demand book of these ideas for when we’re over run!