And we might as well make the most of it. Because even though zucchini is available all year, the end-of-summer crop is always something special. When it is fresh from the garden and plump with natural juices, it is sweet and delicate and begs for simple preparations.
One of my favourite recipes is grilled zucchini ribbons. I first used them to spruce up a grilled Greek-style pizza. At first, I wasn't sure the thin ribbons would hold up to the heat of the grill. But not only did the zucchini grill perfectly and develop a beautiful ladder of grill marks, it was so tasty that I began adding the ribbons to other dishes.
You will find that the grilled zucchini ribbons add both flavour and visual appeal to so many things. I love pairing them with homemade ricotta cheese and grilled bread, or tossing them with pesto and serving them like a veggie pasta. As the weather cools, I turn them into a vegetable lasagna with sauce made from the last of the tomatoes.
But my favourite way is a light, delicate preparation that can be served as a simple side for grilled fish or pork, or as a warm salad — grilled zucchini ribbons with Parmesan cheese and toasted almonds.
The trick to grilling the long, thin slices is to make sure that the entire surface of each zucchini ribbon has a thin coat of olive oil on it. This will promote caramelization —think grill marks — and help prevent sticking.
Next, let the vegetable strips cook until they are ready to be turned, about 2 minutes per side. The zucchini ribbons will stick as soon as you place them on the heated cooking grates, but if the grates are clean and you've oiled the food, they will naturally release after the grill marks are made.
I toss the grilled ribbons in just a touch of butter to add a layer of flavour to the salad and bring out the flavour of the toasted almond slices. I don't add any lemon or vinegar because I find that the acid kills the delicate sweetness of the summer zucchini, the nuttiness of the almonds and the unctuousness of the cheese.
GRILLED ZUCCHINI RIBBONS WITH PARMESAN AND TOASTED ALMONDS
Start to finish: 15 minutes
2 large zucchini
1/4 pound block or wedge Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Heat a grill to medium-low.
Slice off both ends of each zucchini, then slice each zucchini in half lengthwise.
Using a vegetable peeler, start on the flat side of each zucchini half and shave the zucchini into thin "ribbons." Alternatively, use a mandoline or sharp knife to make the long thin slices. Continue until you have "peeled" all of the zucchini into ribbons. Repeat the shaving process with the cheese, cutting long ribbons off the block.
Set the zucchini ribbons in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat the ribbons on both sides.
Make sure the grill cooking grates are very clean. Carefully lay the ribbons across the grates. Grill for 2 minutes per side, or until well marked.
Using tongs, carefully remove the zucchini from the grill and return it to the bowl. Add the butter and toss gently to coat. Mound the ribbons on a serving plate and top with the cheese and the almonds. The heat of the zucchini will warm the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving: 260 calories; 190 calories from fat (73 per cent of total calories); 21 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 5 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 15 g protein; 640 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Pizza on the Grill."