Although zucchini is quite prolific for most of the summer (as brave growers of this hardy vining plant know), I always associate the perky green squash with late summer. I hadn’t thought about that fact until just now, but I’m wondering if it’s because I’ve been trained to simply ignore the vegetable until my gardener friends approach me ’round about September, drooping under their weight of their ginormous zucchini harvest baskets and giving off faint pheromone whiffs of desperation: “You want some zucchini? Please? PLEASE?!”
Why, yes, and thank you, I happily reply — I remember what it’s like to have squash take over your garden — and hand over some beautiful red pimento peppers or bright, crisp carrots with frilly greens in trade, remembering that entire sections of my friends’ gardens were smothered to death by this monster that just won’t. stop. producing. until murderously yanked out by its roots.
Sometimes I ponder organizing a rock concert benefit for local squash-assaulted gardeners — call it, “Zucchini Aid” — where the price of admission is free, but the price to get your car keys back from valet parking is one zucchini.
Meaning, you have to take one zucchini. (And you will be escorted to your car door to make sure it leaves the premises with you.)
Were zucchini not so innocently mild on the plate, I might suspect a global takeover plot in the offing.
But since zucchini and I are quite companionable in the kitchen, I give it all the love I can. Like most vegetables, it grills up wonderfully smoky, and its physically flexible nature means it will curl neatly into noodles — or, zoodles, as I’ve seen them called on the interwebs — creating perfectly lovely zucchini noodle bowls.
And then there’s the peanut sauce. A long while back, I researched how to make an authentic Thai peanut sauce. Most of the sites I hit that day on googs warned that a truly authentic Thai sauce cannot be accomplished by mere mortal U.S. home cooks (primarily because we don’t have access to authentic ingredients, like tamarind pulp and sweet soy sauce [true back then, but both sourceable today]). That even attempting same was foolhardy and doomed to failure, and was somehow insulting to the collective ancestry of Thai sauce-making experts.
I believed them, and went out and purchased some mediocre, bottled concoction that was surely no more authentically “Thai” than my left foot, but at least relieved me of the pressure of screwing it up (and damaging my cooking karma in the process).
Eventually, I got over it. I, along with scads of others, have been preparing my own Thai peanut sauce now with nary a sign of karmic revenge. But I’ll warn you thusly: it’s not authentic. Not even close. Highly Westernized, in fact, using peanut butter and plain ole, run-of-the-mill soy sauce. But it’s quite delicious, and we all can get our paws on these ingredients without 3 stops to specialty stores.
If you, too, are squash rich, try grilled zucchini in general (so easy, and no pre-draining required), and for a unique twist on soba or rice noodle dishes, give this grilled zucchini noodle bowl with yummy veggie toppings and peanut sauce a whirl.
I promise, Karma won’t get you.
At least not for that.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce (use more for an extra kick, to your liking)
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 pound zucchini, sliced lengthwise into flat, 1/8" strips (*see below for an alternate method)
- olive oil, for brushing
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 scallion, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup chopped peanuts, for garnish
- Preheat the grill to medium-high and prepare for direct grilling.
- Heat all of the sauce ingredients except the peanut butter (soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin, sriracha, sesame oil, ginger, optional fish sauce) in a small sauce pan over medium-high just until the mixture begins to come to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Set aside.
- Brush the zucchini strips with olive oil on both sides, and season with salt and pepper. Lay the strips across the grate, and grill until the strips soften and take on grill marks (2 to 3 minutes). Flip the strips and grill for 1 to 2 minutes more). Remove from the heat and transfer to a cutting board.
- Use a very sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice each zucchini strip into "noodles." Divide the noodles between two small-medium bowls. Spoon a generous helping of the peanut sauce over the noodles, and add the pepper dices and scallions. Top with cilantro and chopped peanuts.
- *Alternate method: if you have a vegetable grill pan handy, go ahead and julienne the raw zucchini first (this will be especially easy if you have a julienne cutter, a spiralizer, or a mandolin with a julienne blade). Lightly brush the zucchini noodles with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them in the vegetable pan.