Secret Zucchini

Alanna Preussner's zucchini side dish

This description is more a method than an exact recipe. Itâ??s adapted from one I learned years ago from Julia Child. (See From Julia Childâ??s Kitchen. New York: Knopf, 1975.) It may actually hide a vegetable well enough for kids to eat and enjoy it!

The basic method can be adapted in many ways, and it even works with those huge squash that you somehow missed seeing in the back of the garden. For monster zucchini, start by cutting the squash in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds with a tablespoon. If the skin is extremely tough, you may need to peel the zucchini too.

Some suggestions for yummy variations follow the directions:

3-4 zucchini (6-8 inches long)

¾ t. salt

3 T. butter or olive oil

1½ C. sliced onions

1 clove garlic, minced

½ yellow bell pepper, sliced in long strips

½ red bell pepper, sliced in long strips

1 t. chopped fresh thyme

(or your favorite herb or mixture)

Freshly ground black pepper

Serves 4 people.

Remove the stem and blossom ends of the zucchini and then grate the squash, using the big holes on your box or flat grater. Put the grated zucchini in a colander over a pie pan and toss it with the salt. Be sure to get the salt distributed well, since it will draw out the excess water. (You are now macerating the squash.) Let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the other vegetables.

Melt the butter and/or olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onions, covered, till theyâ??re tender and translucent but not browned. Add the minced garlic last but donâ??t brown it. (Otherwise, it will get bitter.)

Meanwhile, squeeze more liquid out of the zucchini. Use either an old-fashioned potato ricer or a dish towel. For the ricer, just spoon the grated zucchini into the device and mash the handle down, catching the liquid in the pie pan. If you donâ??t have a ricer, spoon the squash in a line in the center of an impeccably clean dish towel, roll it up, and then twist the towel to squeeze out the juice.

Sauté the zucchini with the onions and garlic over medium-high heat for just a couple of minutes, stirring and tossing constantly. Then add the julienned peppers and stir-fry a bit longer, till both the zucchini and the peppers are crisp/tender. If you want the vegetables a bit softer, cover the pan, lower the heat, and cook for just a couple more minutes. Season with pepper and fresh herbs. Taste to see if the mixture needs salt; it may not require any more, since youâ??ve already used it in the maceration phase.

Spoon the mixture into a serving dish and sneak this delicious concoction past your vegetable-averse kids!


Omit the peppers and use peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomatoes instead. If tomatoes are out of season, whack up some high-quality canned ones.

Make just the basic squash-onion-garlic base, omitting any other vegetables.

Add about ½ C. of sour cream to the mixture and fold in a handful of sunflower seeds.

Add a basic cheese sauce: melt 1 T. butter to the pan after the squash is cooked, add 3 T. flour and cook about 2-3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the squash liquid and whisk carefully to avoid lumps. Add milk or cream to thin the sauce slightly; then stir in a handful of grated cheese (Swiss, mozzarella, pepper jack, or whatever you like). Spoon the mixture into a shallow buttered baking dish, sprinkle with more grated cheese and several tablespoons of bread crumbs. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of melted butter and bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes, till bubbly and nicely browned.

Use the mixture in vegetarian lasagna.

Use it to make zucchini cakes or pancakes.

Try different flavor combinations: to the basic zucchini-onion preparation, add red pepper flakes and chopped cilantro, or maybe golden raisins and slivered almonds instead.

Spoon the hot mixture onto toasted English muffin halves and top with poached eggs and cheese sauce: Eggs Kirksville!