When we saw the first big pile of zucchini at the market this past weekend, we thought of two things. One, it's an undeniable marker that summer is sneaking up on us, just when we'd started celebrating spring. And two, it reminded us of a story we read recently about a poor guy who attempted to use a zucchini in “the ancient way” to take his own life. While we don't have a whole lot of love for one of the more common and prolific summer squashes – one misguided planting was all that took – we don't advocate its use as a deadly weapon, perhaps especially in that way. What we can appreciate is its versatility and its symbolism. Weekend rains aside, summer is about here, which means sweet summer corn, cherries, peaches, and plums are just around the corner.
Calling the zucchini or courgette “versatile” is a bit like saying the L.A. city budget is “unsettled.” It's a gleefully easy vegetable to grow, which leads many would-be gardeners to plant more than a few. The resultant summer squash tsunami demands creative options, lest the family revolt after another night of tepid Zucchini Surprise. The vegetables have a lot of water inside and fry like a dream, but are also transformed when grilled with a little lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. Avoid over-salting while cooking, as they'll tend to go mushy. You can also try them raw: they have a really nice grassy sweetness. Zucchinis will range between an almost black-green color and a bright sunny yellow, with a spectrum of green tones in between (California farmers grow over 15 different zuke varieties for markets). Regardless of variety or color, you want to select for small squash with unblemished skin, no soft spots, and a juicy looking stem top. Zukes will be at the markets all summer long and into autumn, so let the creativity begin.