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Less than thrilled about your prolific zucchini plants? Serves you right for planting more than one. Just kidding. We're here to help.

By now, you've turned summer's most overambitious plant into muffins, breads and enough grilled boats to sail a small army. Yet the weighty whoppers are still piling up on the kitchen counter, despite your best efforts at ding-dong-dash gifting.

Fortunately, zucchini's mild flavor and adaptability also make it a lovely addition to tarts, pastas and grain bowls. All you need is a fresh perspective and a few nifty techniques from experts, like Milk Street's Christopher Kimball, America's Test Kitchen's Julia Collin Davison and Jessica Whiteman, the new executive chef at Berkeley, California's Gather Kitchen, Bar & Market.

To start, invest in a 12-inch skillet with a tight-fitting lid, and use it to make your pasta dishes from now on. Trust us.

"Once you get the hang of the skillet pasta method, your world opens up and you realize, 'I could do this with any kind of pasta,'" Davison says.

Her current dish of choice is a light and bright Skillet Summer Vegetable Lasagna that is nothing like its heavy, cheese-laden cousin. The recipe, featured in "The Complete Summer Cookbook" (America's Test Kitchen; $33), uses the liquid of canned tomatoes to cook the diced zucchini and yellow summer squash, as well as the pasta. It's finished with dollops of ricotta and fresh, chopped basil.

"That's a recipe that keeps on giving," Davison says. "As long as the amount of liquid remains sufficient to cook the pasta, you can use it to suit whatever's coming in. Got eggplants? Swiss chard? It's a really easy recipe to personalize."

For a simple side, Davison loves a good zoodle — roasted, not steamed to avoid "a wet mess" — with lemon, olive oil and pecorino. She's also a big fan of layered tians or classic ratatouille. She'll often plop a fried egg on the latter and eat it for breakfast. But if you really want to get her excited about zucchini — yes, it's possible — talk fritters.

"Oooh, yes, zucchini and feta fritters," she says, referring to another recipe from "The Complete Summer Cookbook."

Shred and salt 1 pound of zucchini, and let it drain before adding egg, flour, dill, scallions, pepper and feta. Combine well and drop 2-tablespoon-size dollops of batter into an oiled skillet, frying until golden and latke-like.

Important tip: "Squeeze the shredded zucchini in a dish towel until completely dry," Davison says. "Otherwise, you'll have soggy fritters."

Every summer, Whiteman can count on friends and family growing squash in their backyards, and the bounty makes excellent quick breads.

"Even though I love a good homemade chocolate chip-zucchini bread, there are other ways you can prepare all that extra squash you have grown or picked up from the farmers market," she says.

A favorite of hers is layering roasted heirloom summer squash and shaved zucchini into a Late Summer Squash Harvest Bowl. The dish gets its flavor and color from chile oil, fresh-herb ricotta and a roasted tomato-red pepper vinaigrette made with heirloom tomatoes. It's currently on the menu at Gather.

"Our Harvest Bowl was inspired by spending a lazy Sunday with my 17-month-old son and wanting to feed us both something nourishing, simple and fresh," she says.

And if simple is your speed these days, look no further than Milk Street's new cookbook, "Cookish: Throw It Together," (Voracious; $35). Kimball's latest collection features simple recipes that manage to yield bold, flavorful dishes with only six or so ingredients. There are a few zucchini recipes in there, too, even though Kimball admits he's not the biggest zucchini fan.

"They get gnarly and have little flavor," he says. Stick to small, delicate zucchini, he says, and enjoy them raw and ribboned or roasted and sauteed with one transformative global ingredient, like black bean sauce with udon noodles or za'atar sprinkled atop a quick Tomato-Zucchini Tart. Made with frozen puff pastry sheets, it's ready in 45 minutes — start to finish.

Elegant and deceptively easy, the vegetable tart will have you looking forward to next year's bumper crop.

 

Skillet Summer Vegetable Lasagna

The editors at America's Test Kitchen have done it again: wowed us with a technique that makes weeknight cooking quick and easy, without skimping on flavor. The added bonus with this skillet pasta recipe, from "The Complete Summer Cookbook" (America's Test Kitchen; $33), is that it gives new life to late summer's zucchini and yellow squash. And, of course, you can make a light and healthy lasagna in a fraction of the time it takes to make the heavier, oven-baked version. Just be sure you have a 12-inch skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved

1 teaspoon table salt

10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths

1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 small yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup shredded fresh basil

8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese, divided

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add water as needed to reserved tomato juice to equal 2 cups. Add tomato liquid and salt to skillet. Scatter noodles over onion-garlic mixture, layer tomatoes over noodles, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in zucchini and squash. Cook until noodles and squash are tender, about 8 minutes.

Add basil and 1/2 cup ricotta to skillet, and stir until sauce is creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dollop remaining 1/2 cup ricotta over noodles and serve.

— Recipe from "The Complete Summer Cookbook" by America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen; $33)

 

Milk Street's Christopher Kimball is a wealth of information when it comes to cooking tricks and techniques. For this elegant, yet deceptively simple, late-summer vegetable tart, featured in Milk Street's new cookbook, "Cookish: Throw It Together" (Voracious; $35) Kimball uses frozen puff pastry as well as za'atar, the Middle Eastern herb blend, to elevate the dish.

Another tip: Poking holes in the center of the rolled-out pastry moderates the puffiness, he says. Just leave a 1-inch border around the edges so the pastry forms a light, crisp outer crust.

 

Grilled Ratatouille

Serves 8

8 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium globe eggplants, cut in medium slices

3 zucchini, sliced

4 tomatoes, sliced

1 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a cast-iron skillet on a medium-heat grill. Saute onions and garlic until soft. Remove from skillet.

Sprinkle the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes with salt, and grill them on both sides on a medium-heat grill until softened. They need not be completely cooked.

Layer eggplant and zucchini in the skillet, then onions, and finally the tomatoes. Cover and move it to the side of the grill, while you grill your main course. Let ratatouille cook for about 1 hour. Finish with pepper and stir in the herbs.

— Bruno Chemel, Baume

 

Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups grated zucchini

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts or raisins, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, then add oil, sugar and zucchini. Mix well.

Combine flour, baking, soda, salt and cinnamon, and add to zucchini mixture. Mix well. Fold in vanilla and nuts and raisins, if desired. Bake in a greased and floured Bundt pan or 2 greased and floured 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans for an hour. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on wire rack.

— Laurie Gossett

 

Milk Street's Tomato-Zucchini Tart

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon za'atar

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup zucchini, thinly sliced or asparagus, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese or finely-grated Parmesan cheese, divided use

Chopped fresh mint or basil, optional

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

Combine the oil, za'atar, tomatoes, zucchini and onion with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Roll the pastry into a 10- by 14-inch rectangle, then place on the prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, poke holes all over the pastry, leaving a 1-inch (unpoked) border at the edges.

Top evenly with half the feta and all of the vegetable mixture, avoiding the edges. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Top with remaining feta, and drizzle with oil. Top with chopped fresh mint or fresh basil, if desired.

— From Milk Street's "Cookish: Throw it Together" (Voracious; $35) by Christopher Kimball

 

For this seasonal harvest bowl, Gather executive chef Jessica Whiteman prepares the zucchini and heirloom squash two ways — shaved and roasted — and plates them in layers atop an herb-loaded ricotta. Her roasted tomato-red pepper vinaigrette adds depth and zing — and yields leftovers, too.

 

Gather's Late Summer Squash Harvest Bowl

Serves 4 or more

For the Roasted Tomato-Red Pepper Vinaigrette:

2 large heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded

1 large shallot, peeled and cut in half

2 garlic cloves, whole

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided use

1 cup Champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Maple syrup or honey to taste (optional)

For the heirloom squash and herb ricotta:

2 pounds raw zucchini, shaved with vegetable peeler

3 pounds mixed heirloom summer squash (or more zucchini), cut into 1 1/2-inch dice

12 ounces whole-milk ricotta, room temperature

1/2 bunch fresh chives, minced

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

1/2 bunch fresh oregano, minced

1/2 bunch fresh rosemary, minced

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 lemons, juiced and zested

2 tablespoons chile oil (optional)

1/4 cup toasted and sliced almonds (optional)

To make the roasted red pepper vinaigrette, heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, red bell peppers, shallots, garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss together, then spread the tomato mixture evenly in an oven-safe glass baking pan. Roast in oven for 20 to 30 minutes, stopping to gently toss the vegetables halfway through so they cook evenly, or until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred. Cool to room temperature.

In a Vitamix or blender, add the vegetables and all the liquid in the dish. Add remaining olive oil and Champagne vinegar, and blend until smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. (If you prefer it a little sweeter, you can add a little maple syrup or honey to taste.) Let chill in refrigerator.

Prepare the squash: Place the shaved zucchini into one bowl. In another bowl, toss the diced squash and toss with a little olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread evenly onto sheet pan, and roast in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes to desired doneness. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta until smooth.

Combine the minced herbs. Add half the herbs to the ricotta, along with the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, zest of 2 lemons and half the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more olive oil or lemon juice, if desired. The ricotta should have a Greek yogurt consistency.

To assemble the bowls, scoop 3 dollops of herb ricotta into the bottom of each bowl. Using the back of a spoon, spread the ricotta around the bottom of the bowl.

Place the shaved raw zucchini in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup vinaigrette, pouring it around the sides of the bowl and using your hands or tongs to gently combine, being careful not to bruise the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the shaved zucchini between the 4 bowls in mounds, leaving the herb ricotta visible at the edges. Drizzle chile oil around the edge of the ricotta, if desired.

Mound the roasted heirloom squash on top of the shaved zucchini. Sprinkle each bowl with toasted almonds and the remaining minced herbs. Serve at room temperature.

— Recipe courtesy of Gather Kitchen, Bar & Market, Berkeley, California

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