Anyone who has tasted petits farcis, the stuffed vegetable dish, at a bistro in Provence, will cheer the arrival of baseball-shaped zucchini in the United States. These and other new and heirloom summer squashes to try, clockwise from top: Eight Ball is dark green and perfect for stuffing. Goldbar is a yellow version of the common rod-shaped green zucchini. Sunburst, a relative newcomer, has yellow skin and is shaped like a flying saucer; it's excellent for sautéing, steaming or stuffing. Yellow Crookneck is an old standard that is especially good for roasting. Ronde de Nice has striped, light-green skin. Pattypan, also called cymling, is the shape of a scalloped bowl and very pale green with firm flesh.
Andrew J. Powning
Zucchini blossoms may look too dainty for the kitchen, but they're tough enough to stuff and bake or dip in batter and fry, or to sauté whole and add to an omelet or risotto. If you grow your own zucchini, pick the larger, male blossoms, which grow on stems, and leave the smaller females, which are attached to the baby zucchini, unless you want to cook the zucchini too. Remove stems and pistils before cooking. These flowers are available at farmers' markets and by mail order from Indian Rock Produce (800-882-0512).
Chefs & Zucchini
Former F&W Best New Chefs have discovered clever ways to prepare zucchini:
Acacia in Richmond, Virginia: Dale Reitzer extracts the liquid from zucchini skins, which he combines with extra-virgin olive oil and rice wine and sherry vinegars to make a vinaigrette. He uses it to dress grilled slices of zucchini wrapped around fresh goat cheese.
Annisa in New York City: Anita Lo fills a round zucchini with kimchi gazpacho, then serves it alongside a Korean-style zucchini pancake and a steamed squash blossom stuffed with a blend of tofu, garlic chives and shiitake.
Jar in Los Angeles: Suzanne Tracht likes to make a delicate tempura using baby zucchini and its attached blossom, which she stuffs with Maryland crab.
Trio in Evanston, Illinois: Grant Achatz serves a multicolored zucchini "aperitif." Achatz blanches and juices green and gold zucchini. He layers the juices in a tall glass, alternating green and yellow. The drink is topped with thyme-infused foam.
Zucchini & Health
For years, zucchini has had a bad reputation as a nutritional do-nothing. But, according to Ruth Litchfield, a nutrition expert at Iowa State University, one cup of cooked zucchini with its skin on provides 13 percent of the potassium recommended in the daily diet, as well as up to 19 percent of the vitamin C and up to 9 percent of the fiber. Zucchini is also high in carotenoids, which have been proven to ward off chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Even zucchini flowers provide some vitamin A, calcium and fiber.