Thu. Sep 28th, 2023


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Don’t Take Zucchini for Granted

3 min read

Summer’s ubiquitous squash shines when raw, sliced and smashed into panzanella and salads.

By Tanya Sichynsky

Like many, I took in Greta Gerwig’s fluorescent “Barbie” this past weekend. No moment of the surreal film has stuck with me quite like the use of “Push,” the angsty, alt-rock ’90s hit from the band Matchbox Twenty.

For the first time in maybe 20 years, I actually listened to the lyrics. “I want to take you for granted,” lands differently as an adult, I have to say. But it is — and stay with me here — how I feel about zucchini.

Tomatoes and corn are summertime superstars, entitled to a seemingly limitless supply of admiration and attention. Zucchini, however, drifts out of focus, punished for its ubiquity instead of revered for it.

If you’re lucky enough to have a luscious backyard garden — or even a community garden plot or a small container garden — chances are you’ve recently come into zucchini of prolific quantities, enough to give some away. And even if you don’t have a green thumb, the subtly sweet summer squash is always abundant at grocery stores.

So enjoy it in a way that you might not usually: raw. I’m not talking zoodles. I mean like in Eric Kim’s zucchini panzanella, in which the uncooked squash is tossed in a garlicky dressing alongside crisp hunks of pan-fried croutons, olives and parsley.

Slice it into matchsticks for Alexa Weibel’s hearty zucchini salad with pecorino, basil and almonds. Cutting the squash this way, rather than shredding it into noodles, preserves its texture beneath a garlic-caper vinaigrette.

Or treat it as you would cucumbers in a smashed cucumber salad and crush it with a knife beneath your palm, as Ali Slagle does for her smashed zucchini salad. Lime juice, jalapeño and salt add plenty of zing to the squash, which pairs unexpectedly well with savory, toasty chickpeas and peanuts dusted in sumac or coriander.

If you’re still left with gourds after all of that, you’ll have no choice but to prepare Zuni Café’s zucchini pickles. The pickles, deeply marigold in color from turmeric, add tang to sandwiches and charcuterie boards. And maybe more important, they’ll last indefinitely in your fridge, where you will most definitely push them around and take them for granted.

Zucchini Panzanella

View this recipe.

Zucchini Salad With Pecorino, Basil and Almonds

View this recipe.

Smashed Zucchini Salad

View this recipe.

One More Thing!

To borrow a Sam Siftonism: It has little to do with squash or salad, but I can’t stop reading my colleagues’ reporting on “Barbie,” namely articles about the history of dream houses and the movie’s set design. I especially appreciated the visual gag that was food in the “Barbie” universe.

My colleague Kyle Buchanan wrote that instead of adapting the Dreamhouses to feel more real, the production designer and set decorator “played up their surreality. When Barbie opens her refrigerator, most of the foods are simply flat cartoon decals. Her oversize cup contains no liquid — why should it, when Barbies don’t drink? — and the size of her toothbrush is even more exaggerated, since it’s the kind of prop a child might find included in a dollhouse.”

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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