sauteed shredded zucchini

The side I originally served with Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic was shredded sautéed zucchini with tomatoes and basil. While it’s a very good dish, in retrospect, I don’t think the Italian bent in the zucchini matched the flavors and French feel of the chicken. My goal for the vegetable served alongside this flavorful garlicky chicken was something that would play backup well while offering a bit of contrast in flavors. While any simply prepared vegetable would work nicely, I also wanted something that my guests probably hadn’t made for themselves.

I do like the shredded sautéed zucchini, so I didn’t want to completely alter my original meal plan. I love when vegetables get just a little crispy and browned, and something about shredded zucchini instead of slices makes me happy. All of the prep work for this dish can be completed a few hours before dinner, which means the vegetables just need a quick stay on a hot burner and a few turns before they’re ready to be served.

The problem is that it’s not a simple task getting something as watery as zucchini to caramelize. Just like cabbage, the best way to get water out of zucchini is to sprinkle some salt on it and set it aside in a strainer. Then squeeze the hell out of it. I made only two servings of this recently, and squeezed out almost half a cup of (vividly green) water.

The original recipe makes this a bit more work than I like to put into a side dish. For one, it gives instructions for shredding the zucchini by hand. That isn’t happening; that is why I have a food processor with a shredding disk. You’re also supposed to discard the watery middle of the zucchini where the seeds are, but I disregard that too, so that I can just throw the whole vegetable through the feed tube of the food processor.

Once the zucchini are shredded and squeezed, you can mix them with your flavorings and some oil and set them aside until you’re ready to cook them. For serving with the chicken, I like to use just olive oil and minced shallots with a bit of lemon juice squeezed on at the end. It’s the perfect side dish – interesting and flavorful on its own right without overpowering the star of this show, which is the chicken.

Zucchini with Shallots and Lemon (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 4

Bridget note: Five zucchini for four servings sounds like a lot, but you lose a lot of volume with the water, so it really is the right amount. I’ve added all of the oil to the zucchini mixture and added all of that to a preheated, non-oiled pan, and that works too.

5 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each), ends trimmed
Table salt
2 shallots, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper

1. Shred zucchini with shredding disk of food processor or large holes of a box grater. Toss zucchini with 1½ teaspoons salt and place in colander set in medium bowl; let drain 5 to 10 minutes. Wrap zucchini in kitchen towel, in batches if necessary, and wring out excess moisture.

2. Place zucchini in medium bowl and break up any large clumps. Add shallots and 2 teaspoons oil to zucchini and toss to combine thoroughly.

3. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Add zucchini mixture and spread evenly in pan with tongs; cook without stirring until bottom layer browns, about 2 minutes; stir well, breaking up any clumps with tongs, then cook until “new” bottom layer browns, about 2 minutes more. Off heat, stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

For the tomato-basil variation: Combine 3 cored, seeded and diced plum tomatoes, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves in small bowl and set aside. When the zucchini has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and stir in tomato mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan, and serve immediately, drizzling with additional olive oil, if desired.

Other recipes part of this recommended dinner party menu:
Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Pain a l’Ancienne (baguettes)

Just about any dessert works well with this meal.
Many wines work well with this meal, but I especially like full-flavored whites such as Chardonnay, and medium-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir.


  1. I love zucchini and that sounds like a great way to prepare it! I have some in the fridge so this is going on the menu this week.

  2. This looks like an awesome side dish.

  3. I have some zucchini I just bought so this is a great idea to use them! thanks!!

  4. looks delish! I’m headed to the farmers market next weekend and will hopefully get more yummy zucchini!

  5. Wonderful post, Bridget. I love your text that explains why you did certain things and how you made the recipe more efficient. Thanks!

  6. Thank you for posting this. It looks good and a nice alternative to cooking zucchini.

  7. Whoa, that green water looks lethal 😛 Good job caramelizing the zucchini. I haven’t tried that before, but it sounds like a really good way to go!

  8. Ooo yum what a tasty looking side dish! Shredded zucchini looks and sounds more fun than discs.

  9. Your zucchini looks great! I love shallots too.

  10. did you then chug the neon green water? i’m sure it’s full of healthy stuff, and undoubtedly delicious…or not. 🙂

  11. grace – Yeah, I thought about how healthy the zucchini juice probably was too. If I could have used it in some sort of broth or something, I probably would have, but there was no way I was going to drink it straight!

  12. mmmm looks delicious

  13. Lindsey says:

    I made your recipe tonight- with the tomato-basil variation… it was sooo wonderful!!

  14. With two 1-gal bags of shred in my freezer, this looks good.


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