I've never owned a zucchini plant so I've never had an adversarial relationship with the vegetable. I'd happily eat zucchini all summer long. And I like a vegetable that holds both threat and promise. If you don't respect the zucchini, it will ruin your dinner, it will. It'll weep liquid and turn soggy. It'll be bitter if you don't watch out. But if you pamper this little garden diva, zucchini will return the favor and make a dish to remember.
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Now, before we get to the recipe, I have to confess: I screwed it up a little. Not in a bad way, just in a that's-not-what-I-meant-to-do way. You see, I had a terrific dish of deep-fried zucchini with mint and honey at Pies 'n Thighs in Williamsburg. I put the dish on my to-be-mimicked-at-home list, with a plan to skip the frying part and just focus on the splendid flavors of herbs and sweetness with zucchini. But then, when the time came, I forgot that Pies 'n Thighs had made a mint pesto, not mint leaves (see above for screw-up). Not that the whole leaf version is bad, it just lacks the herbal intensity of a pesto. So I leave it to you. You can go the easier, fewer-dishes route of tossing leaves on your cooked zucchini, or go the extra mile of making a pesto to spoon over top (see the last step in the recipe).
Whatever you do, don't mess up the zucchini! Here's my not yet patented method. After cutting up the zucchini, you must salt it like you do eggplant. Zucchini contains just too much water for its own good. Best to remove as much as you can before it hits a hot pan. After letting it sit for 30 minutes, take the time to dry it off in a tea towel. Get in there and really dry it, like you're mopping off a dog after a bath.
Then find a pan that holds heat well (aka nothing flimsy) and that can fit the zucchini in a single layer. Heat the pan over medium high heat, and once the zucchini goes in, see it as your job to regulate the heat so the zucchini is browning not burning, and is never steaming or stewing. It's a delicate balance but with a little effort, you'll get it right and your zucchini will thank you for it with crisp brown edges and pleasantly firm centers.
Oh, and don't forget the honey -- the honey is the secret here. Slightly bitter zucchini likes a little sweet talk.
Zucchini with Basil, Mint, and Honey
4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 teaspoon honey (a variety you like but nothing too strong)
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.