I know a lot of readers enjoy growing their own fruits and vegetables, and while I grew a very simple garden this year with just 10 tomato plants and some herbs, my father has regularly been telling me about how many bushels of cucumbers and string beans he's been harvesting.

I know it's been a hot summer, but it seems like the rain has come often enough that most people's gardens are doing well. And that may mean that you're dealing with an overstock of one vegetable in particular: zucchini.


I've tried growing zucchini in the past, and some people have fantastic luck with them (or is it more of a curse?), my plants are always attacked by some pest and I've never harvested more than three zucchini per plant before these boring insects kill the whole vine off. So considering everyone else does so well at zucchini, I gave up on growing them. After all, most people are just looking for a new person to give more zucchinis to so they don't have to waste them or eat them all themselves.

As someone who is often a zucchini recipient, I have a tip for you gardeners: please pick the zucchini while they're still small. A zucchini with a 1 ½-inch diameter is so much more tender and flavorful than one the size of my forearm. You know more are coming, so there's no need to let them keep growing. Pick them while they're young and chewable, please.

Luckily this year I've been able to focus on the small zucchinis, and they taste so good I actually look forward to cooking them. And my husband hasn't griped about eating them either. (My toddler is still on the fence; some days he likes them and some days he doesn't. Often he is suspicious that I may have just cooked cucumbers, even though I tell him I have never baked a cucumber.)

So today I have three recipes to share for cooking delicious zucchinis. The first is for a grilled Hasselback-style zucchini. That's where you cut slits crosswise in the zucchini, and in this case, fill it with herbs and Parmesan cheese, then grill them on foil until tender (but not overcooked, or else they'll get too mushy — another reason many people do not enjoy zucchini). The grilling should give a nice subtle smoky flavor, and otherwise the seasonings are the traditional Italian flavors you expect with zucchini.

Secondly, I found an Ina Garten recipe for zucchini pancakes, which I'd probably call fritters because I don't think you would really plan to eat them for breakfast, though with a nice over-easy egg with a runny yolk, that could be quite delicious. Never mind, zucchini pancakes for breakfast it is. She recommends wiping the pan out after each batch, and I agree — as the zucchini cooks, it releases its water, and then it kind of sabotages the next batch from getting crispy.

And finally, baked zucchini fries. I haven't tried to make these yet, but I love it when restaurants offer zucchini fries. They get their crisp outside from panko crumbs, and flavor from Parmesan (sorry to double-up, but it's a classic combination). The recipe doesn't say this, but I plan to run the panko and Parmesan through my food processor to get a smaller, more even grain to them. A lot of times panko can be pretty uneven and I feel like that leads to it falling off or cooking unevenly, so I'm hoping grinding it down a little will help. And I think this will be a great way to get kids into zucchini.

So there you have it three ways to keep zucchini exciting. But please, only try these with the petite squash. If you've got one the size of a baseball bat, no recipe is going to save it. Feed it to the pigs, then enjoy zucchini transformed into bacon later.


Garlic-Parmesan Hasselback Zucchini

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


4 small zucchini (about 1 pound total)

1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, large pieces broken in half

Preheat grill to medium-high. Combine oil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Make crosswise cuts every 1/2 inch along each zucchini, slicing almost to the bottom but not all the way through.

Gently fan the zucchini to open the cuts wider and place a small piece of Parmesan into each cut. Brush the oil mixture over the top.

Place the zucchini on a double layer of foil and grill, without turning, until browned and tender, 16 to 18 minutes.

Zucchini pancakes

2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)

2 tablespoons grated red onion

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)

Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned.

Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used.

The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Baked Zucchini Fries

1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 zucchini, quartered lengthwise

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a cooling rack with nonstick spray and place on a baking sheet; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine panko, Parmesan and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Working in batches, dredge zucchini in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in panko mixture, pressing to coat.

Place zucchini onto prepared baking sheet. Place into oven and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.