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. (Does anyone remember the movie Breaking Away when the father buttered his corn this way at the dinner table?)
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…
A huge welcome to Guy Kawasaki who has shared with me his world famous recipe for teriyaki sauce, which I have turned into a video.
This blogpost contains not only the script-recipe of his video but also a description of how to use his sauce to make Teriyaki Grilled Chicken.
Script of Guy’s video:
Welcome to startcooking.com…I’m Guy Kawasaki here to make my famous teriyaki sauce!
All it takes is six ingredients – pureed in a blender:
Start with half a hand of ginger. You can peel it if you want to, but you don’t have to. Just be sure to give it a rough chop.
Cut two jalapenos in half remove the seeds and chop them up.
Trim the root ends off half a bunch of green onions and chop them up as well.
Peel an orange. But just half is needed for this recipe.
Measure out 1 cup of soy sauce and 1 cup of sugar
Now add everything to the blender. Cover it and let her RIP. Keep blending on high speed until everything is liquefied.
This is a great barbeque marinade for about 2 and 1/2 pounds of beef or chicken.
Oh and it’s got be charcoal. Gas is for wimps!
Thanks Guy, this is a fantastic recipe! Now for the Grilled Chicken!
Guy told me that from this point on, he “boils the chicken in the sauce on top of the stove, for 15 minutes – then finishes cooking it on a charcoal BBQ just to get the BBQ look”.
As many of you know, I live in a condo in the middle of Boston and have never fired up an outdoor barbeque in my life. Consequently, I’m going to show you how to do this indoors! (At the bottom of this post I have listed several links to some really great barbeque sites and recipes!)
Everyone should first take a look at my video on Grilled Chicken Indoors.
I’m going to be following that cooking procedure, but instead of a dry spice rub on the chicken, I’m using Guy Kawasaki’s Famous Teriyaki Sauce to marinate the chicken first.
For the “indoor” version of this Teriyaki Grilled Chicken, I’m using boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
You can marinate your chicken for up to 24 hours in this marinade. Be sure to use a glass or plastic dish or a plastic bag, and not a metal dish for marinating.
Remove the chicken from the marinade…
…and place on a plate. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
Put the remaining marinade in a medium size pan.
Bring the marinade to a boil.
Oops! This pan is way too small! As the marinade comes to a boil it will spill right out of this pan. I’m pouring this into a deeper sauce pan!
That’s much better. The marinade needs to get boiled for 15 minutes to kill off any of the raw chicken bacteria. If it gets too thick, add 2-3 Tablespoons of water and continue cooking.
Strain the marinade through a fine sieve. For those that want a bit more teriyaki sauce on their chicken, this is going to be delicious drizzled on top of the chicken.
Cooking the Chicken:
Non-stick pans are great in that it is not necessary to add any oil to the pan when cooking the chicken.
Be sure to follow my instructions in the Grilled Chicken video on preheating the pan. When grilling or frying you do not want to over-crowd the pan. You may have to cook the chicken in two batches.
The sugar in the marinade is making this chicken develop really lovely grill marks on both sides.
Depending on how thick your chicken breasts are you will need to cook them about 3-5 minutes on each side.
Here are the links on Barbecue-ing that I promised you:
Emily Chapelle has done a great post here at startcooking.com called A Beginners Guide to Barbeque!
Jennifer Iserloh over at Skinny Chef has a great selection of Skinny Marinades!
Steven Raichlen, is a barbecue guru, with a show, cookbooks, etc. He has a site called Barbecue Bible: http://www.barbecuebible.com/featured/
Ted Reader is a Canadian barbecue guru (also with a show, cookbooks etc). He’s got a nice site with lots of recipe videos at:
Kalyn’s Kitchen has a big recipe section on Grilling:
Here’s a single guy’s blog on “all things barbecue, food and drink”
Here’s a women-focused site called Girls at the Grill: