Zucchini can be purchased all year round, but its prime time in Canada is from July to October. Here are tips for how to buy, store and cook delicious summer zucchini

By Victoria Walsh

10 ways to cook zucchini

How to buy zucchini

Select firm, heavy and blemish-free zucchini that aren't too large. Large zucchini—often found in your garden—are best saved for baking since their size usually indicates a more mild flavour. When selecting both yellow and green zucchini, the ones with the brightest colour are more flavourful.

How to store zucchini

Keep unwashed zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. Zucchini should keep for up to a week. If they become soft, their time has passed.

10 ways to cook zucchini

Grilled Zucchini Parmesan
Layer thick slices of grilled zucchini with warm tomato sauce, basil leaves and grated Parmesan for a delicious meatless main course.

Zucchini Carpaccio
Create an impressive appetizer by slicing zucchini into thin rounds. Whisk 1/4 cup (50 mL) white-wine vinegar with 1 small dollop of honey and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle zucchini with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving to allow flavours to infuse. Top with shaved asiago cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Crisp Zucchini Gratin
Slice zucchini into long strips. Layer in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (or Japanese panko). Top with a light sprinkle of Parmesan or asiago. Roast until zucchini is tender and breadcrumbs are lightly golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Zucchini Crostini
Create a healthy and easy appetizer by broiling thick zucchini rounds until slightly tender. Sprinkle with pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper. Top each round with a small dollop of light ricotta and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Noodles
If you’re cutting back on carbs, try pappardelle-style noodles made from zucchini. Simply peel long thin strips of zucchini with a vegetable peeler. Cook in boiling water until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss with your favourite pasta sauce and vegetables.

Zucchini Shrimp Stir-Fry

Create a light dinner by coating a frying pan or wok with a little sesame and vegetable oil. Add strips of zucchini and quartered baby bok choy. Stir-fry until almost tender. Add a generous amount of minced garlic and a squeeze of lime juice. Add shrimp and stir-fry until shrimp are pink and vegetables are tender. Serve over cooked buckwheat soba noodles. Taste and season with hot chili-garlic sauce, more sesame oil, garlic and lime juice, if you like.

Zucchini Quinoa Salad
Cook quinoa following package directions. Steam zucchini chunks and broccoli florets by scattering over quinoa for the last few minutes of cooking. When quinoa is done, let cool slightly. Stir in a dollop of Dijon mustard, pinches of cayenne pepper and squeeze in lots of lemon juice. Stir to evenly coat and serve alongside your main course.

Grilled Zucchini Ratatouille
Grill ratatouille vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop. Toss with fresh lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh oregano, salt and pepper. Boost the protein by adding navy beans or top with cheese such as goat or feta. Great served warm or at room temperature.

Zucchini Slaw
For a light side dish, cut zucchini into thin bite-sized strips. Stir light mayo with lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Drizzle enough mayo mixture over zucchini strips to lightly coat. Stir to mix. Serve immediately.

Edamame, Zucchini and Chicken Salad
Create a delicious supper salad by boiling edamame, following package directions. Add chunks of zucchini to edamame for the last minute or two of cooking. Drain well. Cool slightly, then toss with chunks of cooked chicken breast and baby greens such as spinach or arugula. Top with your favourite low-fat dressing.

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Web exclusive, August 2010

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