Zucchini has a way of making even novice gardeners feel downright heroic. The green squash is easy to plant and nurture and can grow explosively -- to two feet or more in length and as thick around as firewood. Zucchini is a cucurbit (a plant of the gourd family), so it's related to melons and pumpkins, those other county-fair-contest-worthy supergrowers. Like them, zucchini has a clean, subtle sweetness. When raw, it's a superb counterpart for summery herbs and citrus. And when roasted or baked into breads and cakes, zucchini takes on a nuttiness that's enhanced beautifully by a multitude of spices.
In late summer, zucchini is abundant in produce aisles and backyard gardens. While those gigantic homegrown specimens might make great centerpieces (or sight gags), they're often tough and unwieldy. You're better off with medium ones, about half a pound each. Also look for smooth, unblemished dark-green skin.
The dishes here offer a clever new approach, beyond good old grilling. Just remember the vegetables are loaded with moisture that releases when cooked, so you'll need superthin slices for the tart on this page to keep from swamping the dish. Grated zucchini, meanwhile, should be wrung out in a towel or pressed in a ricer before cooking. In any case, bringing these dishes to the table will likely make you feel as much the hero as growing a 13-pound zucchini would.
This crisp phyllo-crust tart filled with basil-infused custard and topped with long, thin ribbons of zucchini showcases some of late summer’s most vibrant flavors.
Sweet and Sour
The fresh oregano and parsley in these fritters offset the tang of yogurt and the sweetness of apricot jam.
Fit for a King
The crunchy, sweet candied zucchini that crowns this cake is optional, but takes the presentation to stunning, fun heights. Perfumed with orange zest and cardamom, the cake swings to a gentle Moroccan beat.
Easy and Green
Greek salads are the inspiration for this simple tossed mix of diced zucchini and dill, which marries the sweetness of the vegetable with refreshing, tangy hints of feta cheese and lemon.