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Don’t fear the zucchini

Squash is incredibly versatile, which is great because it’s everywhere

Don’t fear the zucchini

We can just cut straight to the point, because there isn’t much time. We are surrounded.

Behind the usual pleasantries, your neighbors are probing you for weakness, trying to decide who among you or your spouse would be most likely to break, and accept a bag-load. Gangs of farmhands will soon be roaming the streets, leaving zucchinis on porches and in unlocked vehicles.

One way or another, you have or will have zucchinis on your hands. And that’s why I’m here.

There is your pep talk; the ideas are out there. Oh, are they ever.

Goes in everything

Anyone with access to a web browser can search for “zucchini __”. Fill in the blank with whatever you have on hand, or whatever you can imagine.

And if you draw a blank, reverse the question and try to name a food, any food, that cannot be made with zucchini. You can’t.

Bread, soup, salad, pasta (as in, shredded into noodles) or steak (fried, grilled, broiled or breaded). Parmesan, ratatouille and other Italian ways, as well as Thai style (in curry), Vietnamese style (with cold noodles), Chinese style (with oyster sauce), Russian style (fried) or Ari style (chocolate zucchini mayo cake).

In fact, since it is my style, why not start with that Chocolate Zucchini Mayo Cake? It is so simple.

Step 1: Prepare chocolate mayo cake batter*

Step 2: Mix grated zucchini into the batter before baking it

Step 3: Proceed

*I got my chocolate mayo cake recipe from the jar of Hellmann’s mayo that we always had in the fridge growing up (this was one of several recipes that rotated through the labels on such jars). But the essence of mayo cake is you substitute mayo for the eggs and oil in virtually any cake, including from a mix.

The shreds of zucchini melt into the batter, where they act as the secret glue behind the moist glitter. They don’t interfere with the baking process, and they add moisture, fiber and density to the finished product, even while hiding in the background. Consider peeling the larger individuals, as squash skins will toughen as they age.

Main course

In summer, my quick and tasty go-to recipe is one that works with the honker monsters of summer, with no need to peel them. It works equally well in a pan, under the broiler or on the grill.

Slice a large zucchini thickly, up to an inch, and lay the slices on a tray. If there is room, add thick slices of onion as well. Sprinkle zucchini lightly with salt on both sides, and then pour on some olive oil (about ∑ cup for a decent-sized one), white balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon), red balsamic (1 teaspoon) and soy sauce (1 tablespoon), and many hard shakes of garlic powder.

Turn over the zucchini slices as a way of mixing the marinade and coating the slices, and then let them sit for a moment while you heat up your grill/pan/broiler. Don’t mess with the onions: Just leave them on the tray while you flip around the zucchini, and transfer them gingerly to the heat when it’s ready.

Lay the zucchini and onions on the heat, and cook them until soft. In a pan they need no extra oil. On the grill, where they can be placed among the hamburgers, beware of flare-ups.

At the other end of the size spectrum, if you are so lucky to acquire some, are the baby zucchini, finger-sized individuals that still have beautiful, edible flowers attached. They would do fine in the above marinade, as would any size of summer squash, but because they are so delicate they’d be more effectively enjoyed by a slow, gentle frying in butter, intact with the flowers on.

Turn when brown, and add minced garlic before the final minutes of cooking. Or, if you want to batter-coat and deep-fry them, I most definitely won’t stop you.

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