As the zucchini season (some say thankfully) winds down, celebrate the last of the crop. If you're feeling like you can't stand the sight of one more mammoth green vegetable, try these creative approaches; they might even leave you longing for a few more weeks.
Spicy Grilled Zucchini Banh Mi
This Vietnamese version of a sub is named for the bread -- banh mi, made from a combination of rice and wheat flour. It's available at most Vietnamese or Chinese markets; or substitute a thin, whole-grain baguette.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or raw agave nectar
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded daikon radish, shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 medium zucchini
Sesame oil for brushing
1 Vietnamese baguette (banh mi)
2 tablespoons homemade or high-quality mayonnaise
2 teaspoons red chili sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fish sauce
6 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
1. Combine vinegar, honey and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Add radish and carrot, and stir to mix. Let stand, stirring frequently to mix, for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour excess liquid out of bowl with carrot-radish mixture. Squeeze mixture to remove extra liquid.
2. Preheat grill. Remove stem from zucchini, and cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Brush with sesame oil and grill for 5 to 6 minutes, turning once.
3. While zucchini is grilling, split banh mi or baguette in half lengthwise. If using a regular baguette, hollow out excess bread in center with your fingers, leaving a trough. Place cut side down on grill for 3 minutes.
4. Remove bread from grill and spread mayonnaise on both sides. Sprinkle mayonnaise with red chili sauce and fish sauce. Arrange carrot-radish slaw over bottom half of bread. Top with hot zucchini and sprinkle with white pepper.
5. Top with other half of bread. Press down firmly. Leave whole, or cut in half on the diagonal, and serve immediately.
Zucchini Ribbons Salad with Lemon-Thyme Dressing
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound small zucchini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced lemon thyme or other thyme leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts (substitute slivered almonds)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
Pecorino-Romano or other hard, sharp cheese (optional)
1. Trim and discard stems from zucchini. Using a vegetable peeler, and holding zucchini as if you were going to peel it, slice thin ribbons from the zucchini into a large bowl, including skin and white flesh. When you get to the center seed portion of zucchini, stop peeling. Discard center and seeds.
2. Whisk oil, lemon juice and thyme together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over zucchini and toss to mix. Set aside.
3. Heat a small skillet and toast pine nuts for 2 minutes, until fragrant and just starting to turn golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Stack basil leaves and thinly slice crosswise into very thin strips. Add to bowl with zucchini. Halve avocado, remove pit and then cut each half into halves lengthwise, so avocado is quartered. Carefully peel off skin, and cut flesh lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add to zucchini, and carefully toss to mix.
5. To serve, use tongs to lift zucchini and avocado mixture onto individual plates. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts over. Top with shaved Pecorino-Romano, if desired, and serve immediately.
1 pound zucchini, or 1/2 pound each zucchini and yellow summer squash
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice or agave nectar
1/2 cup apple cider or any wine vinegar
1. Wash the squash and zucchini well; using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice them as thinly as possible. Transfer them to a large colander, sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, toss to mix, "massaging" the salt into the vegetables as you mix.
2. Place the colander in the sink or over a plate to catch water draining out, and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices. Rinse well, in several changes of cold water to remove salt. Drain thoroughly, gently squeezing out excess water and pat dry.
3. Whisk together evaporated cane juice and vinegar in a medium bowl until well blended. Add squash to the bowl and toss with tongs to mix. Refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
Summer Squash Soup with Pistachio Pistou
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Vidalia or other sweet onion, or yellow onion
2 pounds yellow squash, zucchini or a combination of the two, chopped
3 to 4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted)
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Heat oil in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium heat and cook onion for 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender. Add squash and stir to coat with oil. Cook for 5 minutes, until softened.
2. Add 3 cups of the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, until squash is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. While soup is cooking, make Pistachio Pistou: combine pistachios, basil and garlic in a small food processor and process into a thick paste. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil until incorporated, scraping down sides of food processor as needed. Transfer to a small bowl, season to taste with sea salt, and set aside.
4. When soup is done, remove from heat and puree in batches until very smooth and creamy, adding remaining stock as needed to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with sea salt and white pepper.
5. To serve, divide soup between 4 to 6 bowls, top each with a spoonful of Pistachio Pistou, and serve immediately.