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Zucchini

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What is it?

Zucchini, the fast-growing summer squash we all know best, is just one of many summer squash varieties. Cooked to tender perfection, zucchini is nutty-sweet and delicious, whether steamed, sautéed, poached, baked, or grilled.

Green zucchini is medium or dark green with tiny gold flecks; its skin is smooth or lightly ridged. Cousa, also called Lebanese, Middle Eastern, Magda, and Kuta is shorter and plumper than its darker relative, with a blunt, rounded bottom end. This pale green squash has thin, tender skin and meltingly creamy flesh. Golden zucchini is sunny yellow and shaped just like its green cousin. Don’t confuse it with pale yellow straightneck summer squash.

Don’t have it?

You can usually substitute other types of summer squash.

How to choose:

Zucchini, like all summer squash, tastes best when picked young; if squash is allowed to grow too big, it gets watery, tough, and tasteless. Whether you’re choosing from the garden or the produce counter, pick small, firm squash, that are plump and brightly colored. The skin should be free of blemishes and should have a smooth, glossy sheen. Smaller squash are more tender because the skin is still thin and the seeds are unformed; they also contain less water than older squash. Zucchini is best when it’s no more than six inches long.

If you see squash with fresh-looking blossoms still attached, buy them. This is a sure sign that the squash was picked and handled carefully on the way to the market.

How to prep:

After a gentle scrub under the faucet, the squash is ready to cut. There’s no need to peel zucchini. Besides contributing color and nutrients, the skin helps the vegetable hold together better when cooked.

Try cutting zucchini into different shapes, depending on how you’re 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, cut the squash into a small (1/4-inch) dice. Round or half-moon slices are good for soups and gratins. Julienne squash is perfect for stir-fries and slaws. For layering in a lasagna and for frying, cut whole squash into thin, lengthwise slices. And with a V-Slicer, you can make long zucchini strings, which are great to toss into soups or cook lightly and coat with a dressing to serve as a side dish.

How to store:

Keep squash in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. It will last for four to seven days, depending on its freshness when purchased.

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