When summer squash and zucchini are in season, I find myself cooking with them again and again because they’re so versatile. As long as you make a couple of smart decisions about which ones to use and how to cut them, squash will be a fresh, bright ingredient in all kinds of summer meals.
Whether you’re choosing from the garden or the produce counter, pick small, firm squash, with a tight feel to them. Smaller squash are more tender because the skin is still thin and the seeds are unformed; they also contain less water than older squash.
After a gentle scrub under the faucet, the squash is ready to cut. I never peel summer squash. Besides contributing color and nutrients, the skin helps the vegetable hold together better when cooked.
I cut the squash in different shapes, depending on how I’m using it. A medium dice (1/3 to 1/2 inch) is perfect for sautés, but for a more refined look, or to add to a dish during just the last few minutes of cooking, I’ll cut the squash into a small (1/4-inch) dice. Round or half-moon slices are good for soups and gratins. I julienne squash for stir-fries and slaws. For layering in a lasagna and for frying, I cut whole squash into thin, lengthwise slices. With my trusty Boerner V-Slicer, I can make long zucchini strings, which I toss into soups or cook lightly and coat with a dressing to serve as a side dish.
Summer squash into summer meals
Probably my favorite summer squash preparation is a quick sauté with a southwestern touch, but I don’t stop there. Here are some suggestions for turning zucchini into great summer meals: