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Our first little zucchinis appeared on the scene a couple weeks ago. Yeah, I know. This recipe is a really, really quick saute that requires very little effort to deliver a dish with restaurant-quality good looks and a lovely flavor and texture.

ONE FOR THE TABLE: Don't let your zukes go to the dogs

Our first little zucchinis appeared on the scene a couple weeks ago. We picked them, put them out at the farm stand, and someone bought them.

Yeah, I know. That won't last forever. By late August, I won't be able to give away a summer squash, they'll be so ubiquitous. Just don't do what I did a few years ago and try to feed them to your dog. (Poor Gus.) Honestly, there are plenty of delicious things to do with summer squash, and I'm determined to convert a few squash-bashers this summer.

This recipe is a really, really quick (did I say quick?) saute that requires very little effort to deliver a dish with restaurant-quality good looks and a lovely flavor and texture. The only caveat is that you have to hop yourself over to a housewares or kitchen store and pick up a groovy tool called a hand-held julienne peeler. It's not expensive (about $6), and is just the coolest thing. Drag it along the outside of a summer squash, and it makes beautiful zucchini "ribbons." (Use it to make strips of Parmigiano cheese for a salad, too, or to grate beautiful strands of carrots.)

The zucchini ribbons need only a quick toss in a hot saute pan to be perfectly cooked -- tender, but still al dente (sort of like linguine!). I like to make a little brown butter in the pan first, and to finish these sautes with a squeeze of lemon or lime, a few chopped toasted nuts, and a smattering of chopped bright, fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, basil or tarragon.

Zucchini Ribbons With Lime, Garlic, Cilantro and Mint

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

1 pound young zucchini or yellow squash, ends trimmed, washed and dried

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pine nuts or toasted sliced almonds

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, mint or a combination

Set out a large mixing bowl. Working over the bowl, peel the squash lengthwise with the julienne peeler into thin strips. Work all the way around the squash until you get to the thick seed core. (See note.) Discard the core. Break the strips up with your hands, as they can tend to clump together.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the smashed garlic clove and cook, occasionally flattening the garlic clove with a spatula, just until the butter and the garlic clove start to turn a light brown. Remove the garlic. Add the squash strips and the 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook, tossing with tongs, just until the squash have become pliable, about 1 minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice and most of the chopped nuts and herbs. Toss well. Taste and season with more salt if desired. Serve garnished with remaining nuts and herbs.

NOTE: It takes a few peels to get the hang of the julienne peeler. I like to run the peeler all the way down the length of the squash for the longest pieces, but it's easier on the fingers to hold the squash at one end and peel half way down and then flip it around and do the same thing. The shorter ribbons are just as pretty as the longer ones. Whatever you do, discard the core -- you want most of your ribbons to have a bit of skin on them for the best texture.

(Susie Middleton is the author of cookbooks Fast, Fresh & Green (Chronicle Books, 2010) and The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, June 2012). She lives, writes, cooks, and grows vegetables on Martha's Vineyard. Her blog is Sixburnersue.com. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com)


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