I am a novice gardener. This spring, after years of sitting on the waitlist, we finally got a note that our number was up for a small plot tucked away in the back corner of the park. I was giddy. We planted some seedlings — probably too many — and I started to daydream about all of the wonderful dishes I could cook with these treasures.
Fast forward through a hot spell, several monsoons, and about 1,000 hours of weeding later, and my squash plants (delicata, zucchini, and a mysterious hybrid something) plants look like something out of Jurassic Park. These things are monstrosities. They’ve taken over the entire back corner of my plot, and now, I’m faced with a reality I never thought I would be: I have too many squash.
Faced with a comical amount of zucchini and other squash cousins, I’ve had to get creative in the kitchen to use up all of these crops. As the squash invasion at the farmers’ markets around the cities continues, here are five of my favorite ways to use up large amounts of zucchini and other thin-skinned summer squash.
1. Make pasta salad.
On hot summer days, the last thing I want to do is spend hours at the stove cooking. That’s when I make a huge batch of one-pot pasta using all of my garden treats, including mountains of thinly sliced zucchini. I usually make this dish in the morning and let it marinate in the fridge all day, serving it at room temperature for a cool, delicious summer dinner. Grab the recipe.
2. Make zucchini butter.
A few years ago, we stayed at an Airbnb on an organic farm in Wisconsin, and they introduced me to the idea of zucchini butter. Using the same basic idea as apple butter, this technique slow cooks zucchini in, you guessed it, gratuitous amounts of butter until it melts into the fat and creates a beautiful spread that goes perfectly on everything from toast with eggs in the morning and to bruschetta before dinner. It takes some patience, but the reward is worthwhile — and a great way to use large amounts of zucchini at once.
3. Get grilling.
As a vegetarian, grilling season can be touch and go. Having a ton of zucchini on hand makes it much, much more tolerable. Invest in a halfway decent mandolin (and a protective glove!) and slice the zucchini into long, thin slices. Soak them in a marinade for about 20 minutes, then grill them up with all of the meat. Don’t be surprised if the carnivores want to share! PS: Need help brushing up your grilling skills? Take a grilling class at The Chopping Block!
4. Bake up a storm.
Everyone’s heard of zucchini bread (rightfully so!) but try stirring shredded, well-drained zucchini into brownies, muffins, and even chocolate chip cookies. It may sound crazy, but zucchini is generally mild enough in flavor to be masked with vanilla and lemon extracts and chocolate. Make sure to do your research and reduce moisture in other areas of the recipe to compensate for the zucchini’s watery nature, but otherwise, go wild!
5. Pickle it.
I should have known better about the voracious nature of zucchini because my parents experienced a similar flood of squash last year from their farm. My mom made the best of it, though, with her grandfather’s recipe for bread and butter zucchini pickles. They’re so good that I ran out before the summer had even ended. This year I’m planning on a big day of canning to preserve this goodness well into the fall.
Want to learn how to preserve more of summer? Don't miss Hands-On Summer Canning and Pickling on Saturday, September 2 at 11am at Lincoln Square. You'll make and take home:
- Blueberry Preserves
- Red and Green Hot Pepper Jelly
- Pickled Zucchini and Yellow Squash
- Fresh Tomato-Herb Sauce