Very widely available from June to September, the zucchini is related to the cucumber and gherkins, believe it or not. This summer vegetable has a tender flesh, soft edible skin and tastes delicious in salads too. Zucchini vary in color and size, the smaller ones found to have more flavor and are slightly sweeter, but all are excellent baked, fried or even eaten raw or even use in a breakfast frittata.

When buying, pick ones with a bright, glossy appearance and stay away from any that are soft and blemished. This favorite vegetable has a very high water content and is extremely low in calories and fat. Keeps the pounds off but gives you lots of flavor.

Actually there is no need to peel, wash and trim the ends before baking, frying, steaming or simply eating raw, but here is a favorite recipe to try.

Zucchini Stuffed
with Spinach

5 large yellow squash, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sweet butter

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 cup chicken flavored stuffing mix

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush cut side of squash with olive oil; sprinkle with salt, and pepper. Place squash, cut side down, on a lined baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, or until tender. Scoop out pulp, keeping shells intact; reserve pulp. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until transparent. To the skillet, add stuffing mix, spinach, sour cream, cheddar and squash pulp. Mix together and add salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for 3 minutes. Spoon mixture evenly into squash shells. Place on baking sheet, and bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Yield: 10 servings

Zucchini Fritters with Corn

2 medium zucchini, coarsely shredded

kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 ears corn, kernels cut off

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

canola oil, for frying

Zucchini Fritters with Corn

Toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Wrap the zucchini in a kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and egg in a large bowl, and then stir in the corn-onion mixture and zucchini. Add the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.

Heat about 1/8 inch vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, scoop scant 1/4 cupfuls of the batter into the oil and use the back of the measuring cup to flatten the scoops. Cook until the fritters are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6-8 servings