Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.
This week's harvest: Zucchini
These mild-tasting, phallic summertime beauties are ready for harvest now. We've been enjoying gazing at their pretty yellow flowers and now the fruit is finally ready. Their mild and adaptable nature lends itself well to so many different tasty and artistic applications. Calabacitas, zucchini fries, or hollowed out and stuffed - they're such a fun veg to play around with in the kitchen. Plus, the kiddos love to practice their knife skills on them since they're soft. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat zucchini.
When are they in season?
End of May through October
Selecting, cleaning and storage tips:
Since zucchini is such a popular vegetable - they're in every market - I'm sure you know what to do. Avoid ones that are blemished or dried out. The larger ones can get dry and pithy, so search out the smooth petite ones.
After they come home, store in an airtight container in the fridge and eat in a few days. Easy.
As an appetizer, zucchini breaded and fried has to be the most consumed vegetable - that and maybe artichokes. There's a reason it's on so many menus, it's scrumputous. It's warm, salty, crispy, soft in the middle and goes well with a creamy tangy dip. When you make them at home, they're even better. Here's an easy recipe for zucchini fries. Just be careful with the hot oil. Oh, and this baked one with romesco sauce looked good too.
I've never had Korean zucchini pancakes but I see them all the time on zucchini recipe lists on farms' websites and elsewhere. This will be the recipe I try this summer: Hobak Jeon.
Usually I'm not into trying to make "faux" food, but I've tried making summer squash "noodles" in place of pasta and I have to say it was a perfectly acceptable and wonderful substitute. There won't be squished noses or rolled eyes at the table, just delicious food that happens to not be made from semolina. Try this recipe for zucchini pasta.
I grew up by the ocean, so I'm into anything nautical. Making zucchini "boats" is a fun way to get my fix. Stuff it with seasoned lentils, ground meat, or more vegetables. Give this recipe for stuffed zucchini a whirl.
I also grew up in Tucson. Anyone from Tucson remember Keaton's? Their table bread was the best zucchini bread. I even liked how they sliced it into thin little pieces. There are so many recipes for zucchini bread - some pretty sweet, some more healthful. This one is a nice balance of both: Best Zucchini Bread Ever.
When I get my first zucchini of the season in my CSA share, I always make calabacitas. My childhood down-the-street neighbor friend went and stayed with her relatives in Mexico for a year. She came home with some Tarahumara baskets and her recipe for calabacitas. It's one of my favorites and such an easy way to eat your vegetables.
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1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or any other mild fat)
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 zucchini, chopped (about a ½" dice)
1-2 medium tomatoes, chopped (3 if you're using romas)
2 ears of corn, kernals cut off the cob
1 jalapeno, minced (use more or less - depending on your guests' preferences)
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheese (I always have a brick of cheddar - so I usually use that)
Preheat a large skillet (I use a non-stick) over medium heat. Add the oil and then add the vegetables to the pan as you chop them up. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the zucchini is soft and delicious. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Warm your tortillas and give each one a sprinkling of cheese. Top with a few spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture, wrap it up and eat. Serve with a cold glass of something fizzy and a side of beans if you're wanting to add some protein to the meal.
Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.