Summer squashes are tender and mild, abundant at farmers’ markets in the summer — and they are as versatile as vegetables come. Roast, saute or grill them, or even enjoy them raw, from yellow crooknecks to vibrant green zucchini. Here are a few of our best tips for choosing and working with summer squashes, plus simple ways to prepare them from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Buy yellow squashes when they’re small for tender, seedless flesh. Small zucchini will have crisp texture and a sweet flavor; they become softer and more bitter as they grow bigger. Yellow squashes should have a bright color, while the best zucchini are dark, but both should feel heavy and firm for their size. Look for smooth skins with no blemishes. Store both squashes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Not sure which variety to buy? Check out our summer squash glossary for an overview.
Prep tips: There’s no need to peel the thin, delicate skin of summer squashes. Just rinse the squashes, trim the ends, and then slice, chop, or shred as called for in the recipe. If you plan to stuff them, cut yellow squashes in half lengthwise and hollow each one gently with a teaspoon. Some recipes call for salting zucchini, especially larger ones, to remove excess moisture. Place it in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.
Uses: All summer squashes are well-suited to a variety of cooking techniques and can be sautéed, baked, roasted, or grilled to highlight their delicate texture. They also take well to simmering in soups, quick-steaming, frying, or gentle, slow cooking to bring out their sweetness. Sliced or grated raw, zucchini are excellent in fresh salads and on antipasto plates. Sauté squash in butter or olive oil to top pasta or accompany roasted meats, poultry or seafood. (Zucchini and yellow squash are interchangeable in most recipes.)
Variations: Squash blossoms are the brilliant yellow flowers still attached to immature zucchini when they turn up at the market in the late spring. The flowers can be sautéed and used in quesadillas, pastas or soups. Alternatively, they can be filled with cheese, then battered and deep-fried.
Grilled Summer Squash: Cut squash into 1/4-inch slices; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill on high until nicely marked on both sides, then toss with balsamic vinaigrette. Serve on an antipasti platter or as a side dish.
Baked Summer Squash with Herbed Bread Crumbs: Halve squash lengthwise; sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place, cut side up, in a baking dish. Toss bread crumbs with chopped fresh herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil; sprinkle on squash. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Zucchini and Feta Salad: Using a mandoline, cut zucchini into very long, thin planks. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crumbled feta and toasted chopped pecans or walnuts.
Pasta with Summer Squash: Using a mandoline, cut zucchini and yellow squash into long julienne. Saute squash and chopped shallots in olive oil until tender. Toss with drained cooked pasta, chopped herbs and grated Parmesan.