According to my parents, I have been a good eater from day one. My first sentence was, “more mayonnaise, please” and the first thing I learned to spell was “i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m.” Until it got too long, my mom kept a running list in my baby book of the foods I’d eaten and enjoyed. At a year old, my favorite foods were yogurt, bananas, cottage cheese, cheerios and plain steamed zucchini. Thirty-two years later, I still eat every single one of those items with some regularity. And I adore zucchini.
One of the things I love about zucchini (and really, any other summer squash), is its intense versatility. This time of year, people begin to complain about the influx of squash and how tired of it, but how can you be weary of something that can do so many different things and do them well?
My favorite squash application is one I learned from my friend Lucy, many years ago. You cube up several pounds of zucchini or yellow squash, combine it with olive oil, butter, garlic and a few herbs and cook it down until it has reduced by more than half. What you’re left with is a deeply flavorful, creamy spread. I eat it on toast, serve it at parties and smear it on homemade pizza. It freezes well and does an incredible job at taking a mountain of zucchini and making it feel manageable. Here’s an organized recipe for this spread, that I wrote up for Philly Homegrown last summer.
One thing I hear frequently from new picklers is how disappointed they are with the texture of their water bath processed cucumber pickles. And I can understand this, because I don’t always love the spongy texture that cucumbers can acquire when exposed to heat (these days, I tend to stick mainly to refrigerator pickles when it comes to preserving cucumbers). However, I do like the flavor of a dill pickle come January and so I’ve taken to turning to zucchini instead of the traditional cuke. It holds its texture better and tastes awfully nice.
Another way I preserve summer squash is by turning it into a relish. You won’t find the recipe here on the blog because I saved it for the cookbook, but happily, Aimee made it for a piece on Simple Bites a few weeks back, so you can check it out even if you don’t have my little cookbook. It’s good on hot dogs, tasty with cheesy toast and stirs into tuna salad just as well as the cucumber version does.
The last pickle pieces I wrote for Serious Eats before hanging up my In a Pickle hat was all about zucchini pickles with curry. This is a tasty and popular way to put up a zucchini abundance for later in the year.
Of course, if you’re pressed for time and can’t spare the moments it takes to make even the most simple pickle, shred that summer squash, measure the shreds into two-cup portions and freeze them. You can bake with it, use it in soups or make zucchini fritters when the days are short and chilly.
This summer’s favorite zucchini preservation method has been chocolate zucchini bread. I make it so it’s just barely sweet. To serve, I toast up a slice and drizzle just a little bit of honey over top. I have three small loaves in the freezer, ready for a day when I need a bit of a treat. The recipe for that bread is at the bottom of this post.
How do you preserve zucchini and other summer squashes?
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup mashed banana
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 cups grated zucchini (pack it tight)
- 2 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two loaf pans and set aside.
- Beat together the eggs, butter, mashed banana, honey, brown sugar and vanilla. Once integrated, stir shredded zucchini into the wet ingredients.
- In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Gently whisk until fully integrated.
- Add the dry ingredient to the wet in three batches, stirring well to integrate before adding more.
- Once batter is mixed, divide it equally between the two prepared pans.
- Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the loaves are baked through and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Eat within 3-4 days or wrap in several layers of plastic and freeze.