top of page

ZUCCHINI LOVE - Cooking summer's favourite squash

This is the time of year when secret zucchini start to multiply in the garden (and on the doorstep) — a great gift of summer with recipes galore!

Yellow or green summer squash, fresh from the garden, is a delicious gift.


Some may rue the day that a well-meaning friend or neighbor leaves a pile of zucchini on the front porch, but I love this summer squash in all of its many guises.

Whether yellow, green, pale coussa or baby pattypan, summer squash is a healthy blank canvass and inspires all kinds of delicious dishes.

Ruffled Patty Pan summer squash and round kousa squash

You can simply brush slices with olive oil and grill or sear in a hot pan to serve sprinkled with sea salt, but zucchini also shines in fritters, stands in for noodles in healthy lasagna, and makes a fresh addition to summer salads.

Zucchini is great to grill on skewers with onions and bell peppers,

Without zucchini, I couldn't make my favourite caponata — a Sicilian relish/sauce that's perfect to pile on toast for appetizers or toss with pasta and parm for supper (recipe below).

And you can hide zucchini in a chocolate cake or spice bread, putting local food and fibre into sweet treats.

In my last book, The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook, I outline ideas and recipes to reduce food waste — an A to Z compendium listing dozens of fresh fruits, vegetables and common foods, with tips to buy, store and use them up.

Here's the entry for Zucchini, with lots of recipes, too:


BUY: Perishable summer squash, like zucchini, grows large but should be purchased when small and young in summer. Usually dark green but may be yellow or pale green. One pound of zucchini is about 2-3 cups when grated, less volume after salting and draining, as it's a vegetable with a high water content.

STORE: Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Shred and freeze in measured portions to add to breads or cakes.

SERVE: Zucchini is a fresh, sweet summer squash that takes well to grilling and roasting, soaks up flavor, and marries well with other Mediterranean ingredients, from tomatoes to eggplant. You can even serve it raw.

A medium zucchini is 2-3 inches in diameter


  • Combine shredded zucchini and shredded potatoes with minced onion, egg, and bread crumbs, then fry in oil to make savory zucchini fritters. Serve with sour cream and chives or spicy tomato jam.

  • Sauté grated zucchini in butter until tender, about 5 minutes, then toss with cooked short pasta, chopped fresh mint, and salt and pepper.

  • Cut zucchini into thick slices, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill until tender.

  • Like carrot cake, zucchini spice bread is an easy way to use up excess squash. Grate your zucchini and freeze in 1-cup or 2-cup portions to add to your recipes.

  • Slice zucchini, toss with salt, and squeeze to remove some of the liquid, then layer with noodles, cheese, and tomato sauce in your favorite lasagna recipe.

  • Substitute zucchini for cucumbers in your hamburger relish or pickle recipes.

  • Chop zucchini into small cubes and add raw it to potato or pasta salads for color and crunch.

  • Slice small zucchini and toss with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid. Add rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and chopped chiles for a fast Asian pickle.

  • Use a vegetable peeler to create long, thin zucchini ribbons, then sauté with garlic and olive oil to toss with pasta.

  • Oversized zucchini? Slice into 2- to 3-inch chunks and hollow out. Sauté chopped onions, garlic, and Italian sausage meat (removed from casings) until brown, then mix with breadcrumbs, a little broth, and grated mozzarella cheese. Stuff zucchini chunks, top with tomato sauce, and bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes.

  • XL zukes are also perfect to shred and freeze for later use in soups and muffins.

Use a regular vegetable peeler to make zucchini ribbons



In summer, serve this fresh vegetarian dish warm or cold. From The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook, by Cinda Chavich.

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 large onion, thinly sliced

½ tsp sugar

3 lb small zucchini (2-inch diameter), sliced

6 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup bread crumbs

Optional Toppings:

1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

½ cup shredded Pecorino cheese

In a sauté pan over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and sweat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and sprinkle the onions with the sugar. Continue to cook, stirring, until the onions are nicely caramelized. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the olive oil into a shallow gratin dish and arrange a third of the zucchini in the dish, overlapping in concentric circles. Top with half of the caramelized onions. Add a layer of tomatoes, a third of the minced garlic, a little thyme, salt and pepper, and about ¼ cup of the bread crumbs.

Repeat the layers twice, ending with ½ cup of the crumbs and the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil.

Bake for 1 hour. Drain any excess liquid, top with cheese, if using, and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until bubbling and browned.

Serves 4.


In Greece, these addictive crisp fritters are passed with drinks. You will be was smitten on first bite. From The Girl Can’t Cook by Cinda Chavich.

1 1/2 pounds zucchini or other summer squash, unpeeled and shredded

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a colander, toss the shredded zucchini and salt. Set aside to drain in the sink for 1–2 hours, then place the zucchini in a clean dishtowel and squeeze to remove excess moisture.

Heat 2 Tbsp. (25 mL) of the oil over medium heat in a nonstick frying pan. Sauté the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, until soft.

Combine the zucchini and onion in a bowl. Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, feta, dill and flour. Season with salt and pepper. You should have a thick batter—add more flour or breadcrumbs if necessary.

Heat the remaining oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Drop the batter into the hot oil, a tablespoon (15 mL) at a time, and fry in batches until the fritters are brown and crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve warm. (The fritters may be made in advance, cooled and crisped on a cookie sheet in a 400ºF/200ºC oven). Makes about 30 fritters.


This is one of my favourite summer recipes — perfect to make after a trip to the garden or the farmer's market. Caponata is a chunky antipasto with roots in Sicily, great to pile on slices of crusty bread or toss with hot pasta and shredded Parmesan for a speedy dinner.

Make lots of caponata when local eggplants, peppers, and zucchini are available in August, store it in jars

or containers, and freeze it for instant eating anytime.

1 large eggplant (2 lb), skin on, diced

1 zucchini or other summer squash (1.5 lb), diced

2 tsp salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 (14 oz) can Roma tomatoes, chopped or puréed (or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup tomato paste

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup air-cured black olives, pitted and chopped

2 to 3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Put the eggplant and zucchini cubes in a colander. Toss with the salt and set in the sink to drain for half an hour. Rinse quickly and pat dry.

In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, and yellow pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and zucchini cubes and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is beginning to soften. Stir in the tomatoes, cover the pan, and cook together for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the vegetables are very soft and the liquid in the pan has been reduced, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar. Add to the pan and stir to combine. Mix in the olives. Remove from heat and add the basil. Season with salt and pepper (and a little hot sauce if you like it spicy).

Cool to room temperature and serve. Caponata will keep for a week in a covered container in the fridge, or it may be frozen.

Makes 6 cups.


These Indian-inspired appetizers are easy to make — you can add any combination of fresh vegetables to the tasty pakora batter (slivered carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, beans, etc.).

1 cup chickpea flour

½ tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp cayenne

½ tsp ground turmeric

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1 medium zucchini, cut into julienne strips

1 medium onion, cut into thin slivers

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

¼ to ½ cup water

2 cups canola oil, for frying

Coriander chutney, for dipping

Combine the chickpea flour, baking powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, salt and pepper, and cilantro. Add the zucchini, onion, and peppers to the dry ingredients, tossing to coat.

Drizzle in a little of the water, mixing with your hands, just until the batter comes together enough to hold the vegetables into a loose mass (you don’t want a runny batter, it should be quite dry).

Heat the oil in a wok over medium. When the oil is sizzling (about 350˚F), add the battered vegetables, a small handful at a time. Cook in batches to insure the oil remains hot. Cook the fritters slowly, until golden brown (if the oil is too hot they will be gooey in the center). Drain the fritters on paper towels and keep warm in an oven heated to 200˚F.

Serve hot with chutney.

Serves 4.


When you're tired of serving zucchini, here’s a great way to hide it in a tasty cake that’s fat-free, too. From the Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook by Cinda Chavich.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup cake or pastry flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 cup prune purée (or prune baby food) (see Tip)

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup corn syrup

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 lb grated zucchini (2 cups)

2 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a Bundt pan with nonstick spray.

Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and baking soda together in a bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the prune purée, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir in the grated zucchini. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the batter to lighten the mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

TIP: To make prune purée, combine 1 1/3 cups pitted prunes with 6 tablespoons water and process until smooth in a food processor.


bottom of page