Game of Thrones is over, and whether you found the ending satisfying or lacking, or even if you never watched, one thing will last: “Winter is coming.” That little phrase, simple yet sinister, reminds us all that certain things are inevitable. And it is a not-so-subtle message to prepare, to focus on readiness, to not blithely wander through life with blinders on so that we get caught unawares. So, let me tell you, one and all, as the summer sun begins to shine and gardens begin to bloom… zucchini is coming.
I always wonder why my friends who garden even plant zucchini. They seem to mostly spend weeks pawning it off on anyone who will agree to accept. Not being possessed of a green thumb myself, but as someone who genuinely likes zucchini, this is a blessing for me, because I get amazing fresh squash all season long, and all I have to do is open the door to frazzled pals, who always seem to also sneak in tomatoes and basil, which also apparently have a tendency to overrun.
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
Never fear, as a zucchini fan, I remind you that it is a very versatile vegetable, and easy to prepare in myriad ways. You can make long planks for the grill, or thin slices for a raw salad. Chunks for stir fries or kebabs, long sticks for pickling or crudités.
But I am here today to talk about the magic of shredding. Shredding, as far as I am concerned, includes spiralizing. And breaking down a zucchini into small bits makes it an ingredient you can use nearly endlessly. So here is a handy guide to the various shreds of zucchini to help you prep for the season.
Prepping zucchini is very simple. The skin is thin and edible, so unless you don’t want the dark green color, feel free to just wash the outside well and use them whole. Then cut off the blossom end, that little belly button where the flower was attached. If you are going to be grating by hand or spiralizing, leave the stem end attached, as it gives you a great handle that keeps your fingers away from the blades, and leave the zucchini whole. If you are planning on using the food processor, you will want to remove the stem end as well and cut the squash into lengths that will fit into the feeder tube of your machine.
From fancy, Japanese crank gadgets, to simple handheld devices, spiralizers are widely available (as is, in many stores, pre-spiralized zucchini in the produce section). This method creates very long strands of zucchini that look a lot like pasta. Which makes it an ideal sub in for noodles if you are looking to cut carbs or up your fiber. Some people do only zucchini strands instead of pasta, but for me, unless you are celiac, I think a 1:1 ratio of regular pasta to spiralized zucchini noodles makes for a satisfying bowl with half the carbs and calories, but all the toothsome twirl. This style is also great for making nests, or fritters, since the long strands hold together. If you have a hand crank machine, follow the directions that came with it, if you have a hand version, just insert the cut end into the spiralizer and twist to get long strands. Cut as you go if you have a specific length in mind.
Get the recipe: Zucchini Fritters
Using the largest holes on the box grater is good for when you want shreds of zucchini that don’t totally disappear in a recipe. It works well for things like zucchini breads or cakes or muffins; in slaws; or lightly pickled as a sandwich topping. You can make a different style of tzatziki or raita by subbing grated fresh zucchini for the usual cucumber. It is also good for bulking up fried rice or making light pasta salads. Just hold the zucchini firmly by the stem end and run it up and down over the blades. For short strands, hold the zucchini perpendicular to the grater, for longer strands, hold it on an angle.
Get the recipe: Grilled Yellow Squash and Zucchini Pasta Salad
You should use the smallest side of the box grater when you want the shreds to disappear into the finished dish. I’m looking at you, parents, sneaking veggies into your cakes and cookies for your little ones. You’ll barely notice them in your brownies or muffins. They are also great for use in pancakes, patties, or croquettes. Use the same technique as for the large shreds.
Get the recipe: Zucchini Cookies
These are great if you are doing a lot of volume, and most have at least two or more sizes of shredding discs. Place the cut zucchini chunks into the processor tube vertically for short strands or horizontally for long strands.
Get the recipe: Zucchini Bread
Unlike other cuts of zucchini, shreds and strands tend to create a lot of moisture, so it is important to really squeeze them dry, especially if you are going to use in baked goods or other recipes where excess water will not be welcome. Not a necessary step for spiralized if you are using as a pasta substitute or add-in. Simply place the shredded zucchini in a large clean tea towel and twist it over the sink until the water is released. I often place the ball in the bottom of the sink and apply some serious pressure to help really get them dry. Once you have gotten out the moisture you want, break the strands back apart and fluff them up before using so that they are not clumped together.
Get the recipe: Sesame-Cashew Zucchini Bread
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