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Summer Squash and Zucchini

Summer Squash and Zucchini

Favorite zucchini recipes from great food blogs. Summer squash recipes.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

Are Squash and Zucchini Actually the Same Thing?

There are a lot of close cousins in the produce world — we see you, sweet potatoes and yams. But one of the most-vexing questions, especially come late summer is: Are squash and zucchini the same? They're often used interchangeably, and are strikingly similar in flavor and texture, making it difficult to ascertain if there's actually a difference.

So, here's the thing: All zucchini are squash, but not all squash are zucchini. Are you even more confused now? The term "squash" refers to a plant species within the gourd family, which is further divided into winter squash and summer squash. The winter types — think butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash — are physically hard, with inedible outer skins and very tough seeds. Since you can eat everything but its stem, tender zucchini falls into the summer category, as do pattypan, crookneck and zucchini's closest doppelganger, the yellow squash. The resemblance between zucchini and yellow squash is the primary cause of the zucchini-vs.-squash confusion.

The easiest way to tell the two apart is color. Zucchini is generally deep green — though it can be golden yellow — while yellow squash is, well, bright yellow. Shape is another indicator. Zucchini is mainly straight, while yellow squash sports a bulbous bottom, which tapers as it gets toward the top.

As for texture, they really are similar, with off-white interior flesh that's spongy — or squashy, as it were. And zucchini and yellow squash can be prepared in the same ways, either combined together or rolling solo.

One of the simplest methods of cooking these veggies is a quick saute, a la Rachael Ray. But they can also be marinated, shaved raw into a carpaccio or diced into a salsa for ladling over grilled mahi mahi.

Since they're long and relatively sturdy, zucchini and yellow squash can stand up to a casserole, be stuffed and turned into boats, or even hit the grill. Need further proof of their culinary diversity? Yellow squash (or zucchini) is the star of dishes as disparate as Summer Squash Soup with Basil, and Summer Squash and Bacon Galette.

So while you may say "zucchini" and we may say "squash," in the kitchen you really can't go wrong with either.

  • Zucchini-I use the long and thin zucchini variety. Look for ones that are fresh and not bruised.
  • Yellow Squash-This is the squash that has a narrow neck that widens at the bottom.
  • Garlic-Add more or less depending on how much garlic you like.
  • Olive Oil-You only need a small amount to achieve a nice golden brown finish.
  • Salt and Pepper-Season lightly with salt and pepper.

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Marinated zucchini and summer squash

I don't know about anyone else, but I have some days when I am all about the mains, and others all about the sides. If it's something like chicken satay then sides are generally plain and last-minute thoughts as there's so much flavor in the chicken and peanut sauce.

But if we are grilling fish, for example, then I try to make the sides a bit more than a simple salad or grilled corn. These marinated zucchini are one of those more 'interesting' sides but one that's really easy to make as well.

This simple side is just a slight adaptation of a Nigel Slater recipe in Tender Volume 1, . a Cook and His Vegetable Patch that I first made many years ago now. It's so easy, it has become one of those go-to sides in the summer.

As you can probably tell, you grill the zucchini and summer squash, but you do this before you put them in the simple marinade. This helps them take on the flavor much more effectively and leaves them fresh and delicious. It's the traditional Italian way to prepare many marinated dishes, both vegetables like these and meat.

When we lived in London, I used to grill the zucchini (or courgettes as we know them in the UK) on my griddle pan since we didn't have any outside space for a grill.

Having a grill was high on our list when we moved and we've made good use of it, with many old and new favorites from grilled chicken gyros and grilled butternut squash and steak with chimichurri to spinach feta salmon burger.

What we did manage more often in London, though, was picnics in the park with friends. On nicer days in the summer, it was a great way to catch up and relax.

These days with the kids running around it might be less relaxing, but at least if the park has a playground or there's somewhere to ride a bike/throw a ball, they will be fairly occupied. Plus it can be easier than a restaurant (and cheaper).

These marinated zucchini and summer squash would be a great addition to any picnic table. While they are great warm after just a short marinade, the flavors get to work even more if they are left a while.

While the vegetables soften with grilling, they are still relatively robust and so transport pretty well. They're so fresh and bright, they're perfect for summer eating, whether warm or room temperature.

The bright, simple flavors of a good olive oil, lemon and basil marinade transform some simple grilled vegetables into a stunning side dish. These marinated zucchini and summer squash are definitely a side you should try soon.

What is a Gratin?

Gratin is simply a dish that has a browned topping. It is usually made in a shorter baking dish usually with a vegetable of sorts. You can top it with breadcrumbs, cheese or a combination of both. When you bake this layered dish, you&rsquoll see the browned topping which is the &ldquogratin.&rdquo You are probably familiar with potato gratin, which is one of my favorites, but gratins are made with all sorts of vegetables!

Seasonal produce

Zucchini and yellow squash are in abundance come summer time. Whether you have a home garden, frequent your local farmer's market, or shop the sales at your local grocery store, you're bound to see a lot of squash this time of year.

This recipe is a great way to use up excess summer squash, and bonus - it's super flavorful! Zucchini and yellow squash are lightly seasoned with Italian seasoning and garlic powder, then parmesan cheese is sprinkled on top.

Recipe Summary

  • 4 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds total), sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 medium yellow squash (about 2 pounds total), sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Heat grill to medium. In a large bowl, gently toss zucchini, squash, oil, vinegar, and oregano season with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, lift vegetables from marinade, and grill, covered, turning once, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Reserve marinade. (To store, refrigerate vegetables and remaining marinade separately, up to 1 day.) Drizzle grilled vegetables with remaining marinade, and serve.

How To Broil Zucchini or Summer Squash

For the toaster oven, you’ll want to adjust the rack to the top position, turn the dial to the “Broil” setting and select the “High” temperature option if your broiler has a High/Low option.

Our traditional oven and toaster oven don’t require preheating when using the Broil setting.

Next, slice the zucchini into 1/2-inch thick rounds.

The first time I tried broiling zucchini we made thinner slices (about 1/4-inch) and they turned out a little soggy instead of just softened. For the best results, you’ll want to pay attention to the size of your slices.

Now, toss the slices with a little oil, salt, and black pepper or your favorite seasoning blend.

Recently, we’ve been making our slices with the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s, it’s got a strong herb/lemon/garlic blend that goes great with pretty much any vegetable.

Now, place the rounds in an even layer on a roasting pan.

Broil the zucchini until a few pieces are just starting to brown. In our toaster oven that took about 3 to 4 minutes. The broiler in our traditional oven took a little longer, about 6 minutes.

Once the pieces start to brown in spots, use oven mitts to remove the pan (it will be very hot!) and carefully flip the zucchini. Return the pan to the broiler for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to cook the other side.

In my experience, the second side cooks a little faster than the first.

Sauteed Julienned Summer Vegetables

Zucchini, yellow squash and carrots cut into spaghetti like strands and sauteed with garlic and oil. I make this side dish ALL summer long – not just because it’s low-carb, gluten-free, clean and paleo friendly, but because it’s delicious, good for you and also happens to be my husband’s favorite way to enjoy zucchini!

This goes great with anything you grill, but I especially love serving this as a side to fish. It almost feels like you’re eating noodles, maybe you can call them “zoodles”.

The trick to quickly cutting the vegetables into thin long strips is to use a mandolin with a julienne blade. You could also do this with a sharp knife if you have serious knife skills, but I say splurge on a mandolin. My mandolin is from OXO, I’ve had it a few years and I get so much use out of it. I basically run the vegetables through the mandolin until I get the center where the seeds are, then I turn it. The carrots are a bit tougher to cut, so sometimes I just buy a bag of pre-shredded carrots. Once the cutting is done, it takes less than 4 minutes to cook, or vegetables that are tender crisp like al dente pasta.