How to handle all that zucchini 

Be suspicious of your neighbors. Behind the usual pleasantries, they may be probing you for weakness, trying to decide if you or your spouse will most easily break and accept a gift of zucchini.

Or maybe you were silly enough to plant some of your own. One way or another, you have zucchinis on your hands. And that's why we need to talk.

If not for the ideas, then for the encouragement. The good news is they taste really good, which means you can handle any (reasonable) amount of zucchini. You can save money — and eat really healthy — by eating zucchini in every meal, and you would not regret a single bite. And in the same kitchen session, you could put away some zucchini for later.

So there's your encouragement. Now, let's turn to the ideas for how, specifically, we might handle our zucchinis.

As the comedian Joe Rogan has observed, "If you can imagine it, you can find it on the internet." He was addressing a very different topic than "what to do with zucchinis," but nonetheless, if you have access to a web browser, I suggest conducting a search for "zucchini ________," filling in the blank with whatever you have on hand, or whatever you can imagine. You will get hits.

(Or, as an intellectual exercise, try turning the question around and searching for a kind of food that can't be made with zucchini.)

Bread, soup, salad, pasta, or steak (fried, grilled, broiled, or breaded), to name some generic foods. But we can be a lot more specific — and regional. Parmesan, ratatouille, and other Italian-style, as well as Thai-style (in curry, in leftovers), Vietnamese-style (with cold noodles), Chinese-style (with oyster sauce), Russian-style (fried), or Ari-style (chocolate zucchini mayo cake).

Yeah, chocolate zucchini mayo cake. In fact, since it is my style, and my column, why not start with that Chocolate Zucchini Mayo Cake? It is so moist, simple, and fun.

Step 1: prepare chocolate mayo cake batter*

Step 2: grate zucchini to the batter before baking it.

Step 3: proceed

*I got my chocolate mayo cake recipe from the label of Hellmanns Real Mayonnaise jar that we always had in the fridge growing up (this was one of several recipes that rotated through the labels on such jars). It's a basic cake mix, in which the oil and eggs are substituted for with mayo, which contains ... oil and eggs. To do so in any cake recipe, chocolate or otherwise, from scratch or from a box, simply omit the eggs called for, and substitute the same quantity of mayo for the oil that is called for.

And then add your zucchini, the shreds of which will melt into the batter, where they act as the secret glue behind the moist glitter. The zucchini won't interfere with the baking process, while it adds moisture, fiber, and density to the finished product. Consider peeling the larger specimen, as squash skins will toughen as they age. Any extra that you can't cram into cake, cram into freezer bags, and freeze.

Like many who are sweet of tooth, I have a salty side as well. This time of year, my quick and tasty go-to recipe is one that works with the honker monsters of summer, with no need to peel even the largest. It works equally well in a pan, under the broiler, or on the grill, and turns my kids into ravenous zucchini monsters.

Slice a large zucchini thickly, up to an inch, and lay the slices on a tray. If there is room, add thick slices of onion as well. Sprinkle zucchini lightly with salt on both sides, and then pour on some olive oil (about 1/4 cup for a decent sized one), white balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon), red balsamic (1 teaspoon), and soy sauce (1 tablespoon), and many hard shakes of garlic powder.

Turn the zucchini slices as a way of mixing the marinade and coating the slices, and then let them sit for a moment while you heat up your grill/pan/broiler. Don't mess with the onions. Just leave them alone on the tray while you flip around the zucchini, and then transfer them all gingerly to the heat when it's ready.

Lay the zucchini and onions on the heat, and cook them until soft. In a pan, they need no extra oil. On the grill, where they can be placed among the hamburgers, beware of flare-ups. Serve with the condiments of your choice.

These lusty, juicy steaks are a joy to consume, and consume, and consume, and it's a beautiful thing to watch a family get full on zucchini. Those slices go well atop a burger, or in place of a burger on a bun.

At the other end of the size spectrum, if you are so lucky to acquire some, are the babies, those finger-sized individuals that are small enough that they still have beautiful, edible flowers attached. This vegetal veal would do fine in the above marinade, as would any size of summer squash, but because they are so delicate they'd be more effectively enjoyed by a slow, gentle frying in butter, uncut, complete with blossoms. Turning when brown and adding minced garlic before the final moments of cooking. If you want to batter coat and deep fry them, I won't attempt to stop you.

So now you have some ideas for what to do with squash at the extreme ranges of size and age. For all the zucchini in between, consult the internet.

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