Salting Zucchini Experiment Report
In the Shortcut or Heresy thread, pre-salting vegetables like eggplant or zucchini was oft mentioned as something people skipped. I’ve always skipped it; I never saw my mom pre-salt one vegetable in her or my life and so I never did either. So to me pre-salting isn’t a step you might skip, it’s just never been a step, period.
But prompted by this post To Salt or Not to Salt
I started to experiment with salting my zucchini. As the fore-mentioned Queen of Longcuts, I could not resist the chance to be even more anal retentive and laborious in my cooking. Why skip a step or look for a shortcut when you can ADD a step! Actually 2 steps, Salt and Remove Moisture! Oh boy! So below are my experiment results. (Note: I’m not a fancy schmancy chef, so sorry there are no fancy schmancy dishes here).
Experiment #1: Grilled Zucchini
Hypothesis: Salting will make zukes less mushy, so it will taste more “grilled” and less “steamed”
Slice zukes in half, lay cut side up on a shallow baking pan and sprinkle with table salt.
Wait 15-20 minutes then blot with paper towel to remove moisture from cut zucchini. Actually that’s what my recipe said but as I was blotting I felt like my paper towel just pushed the moisture back into the zuke, so I wiped the zukes pressing down very hard to get that damn moisture out. I pressed so hard I snapped one of my zukes in half. So don’t wipe too hard. Uh the zukes I mean.
Sprinkle/drizzle with whatever flavor additions you want. I used leftover balsamic vinaigrette.
Grill over high heat, rotating and flipping every couple minutes to get char marks.
Looks: Sorry no photo. It was a boring weeknight dinner, I don’t pull out the camera for everything!
Taste: Hmm. Not much different from my usual non presalted grilled zukes. Maybe a bit less mushy than usual. Maybe since these were pretty small zukes (from Farmers Market) they don’t have much moisture to begin with.
Conclusion: Not worth the time/effort. Grilled zucchini used to take 12 minutes to make (4 minutes to wash, slice & season, 8 minutes to grill). This step added 30 seconds to salt, 20 minutes to wait, and 1.5 minutes to wipe dry, totalling 34 minutes! Yeah I know I’m doing other stuff during the 20 minute wait, but still, dinner’s 22 minutes later? No thanks.
Stay tuned for the next experiment, Julienned Zucchini
These are great suggestions! I did the Julienned Zuke experiment last night, so I didn't benefit from the great tips. But it's funny because I ended up doing almost the exact same things!
After a recent trip to Vancouver where I tasted hubby’s side dish of julienned zucchini, carrots & carmelized onions, I so wanted to copy it. Photo of said dish here:
It was an example of exemplary technique applied to very boring everyday ingredients. The zucchini were crisp-tender but in soft wispy strands (as were the carrots), which made me guess salting might be the key. So here’s how it went:
Experiment 2:Julienned Zucchini
Hypothesis: Salting the zukes will result in soft yet non-mushy strands of zucchini.
I had no recipe or instructions, only what I guessed I was supposed to do. So here’s what I did:
Slice zucchini with a mandoline outfitted with the “julienner” attachment. I ran only the outer layer through the mandolin (resulting in half-green-half-white strands) since I think it’s prettier without the all-white parts. I made a thick umami-heavy zucchini soup with the insides but that’s another story.
Sprinkle with table salt and wait 15-20 minutes. Actually I think it ended up being about 30-45 minutes since I was busy with other stuff. Let sit in a colander (which I didn't know to do last night).
Squeeze dry with a cloth. Really squeeze; it will seem like wringing a wet towel. Don't be clueless like me; I naively thought blotting my handfull of sliced zukes in a couple paper towels would be enough. So you can imagine my surprise when the paper towels were soaked immediately, and upon squeezing, water came gushing out. No kidding. I think a cup of water came out. Well maybe not, considering it was about a cup of sliced zucchini.
Saute with lipid of choice for just a couple minutes. I used browned butter, getting it very hot, then turned the heat to LO, tossed with the carrots until they were just barely crisp tender, then tossed with the strands of zucchini for a couple minutes, then the onions I had caramelized the night before.
Add pepper to taste (don’t add anymore salt) and serve.
Looks: Photo here:
WOW! It was just like the dish in Vancouver. Even better if I might be so unhumble (due to the brown butter). Salting is really the key to keeping the zukes that perfect texture of soft & wispy with a bit of bouncey crisp tender. I even had to leave the veggies covered and on LO for 7-8 minutes while we finished grilling the fish and while we had our soup, and the zukes did not turn to mush in that time. It was so good, I was tempted to swap my piece of Alaskan halibut (line caught and flash frozen) for hubby’s veggies. I can see how all of those above like to salt julienned/shredded zukes. Call me a convert!
But I still want to try a 3rd experiment: Wokfried/stirfried zucchini. This time I'll read any tips before I do my experiment.
re: Alice Patis
WHEW!!! I'm so glad this one worked. I always salt my Julienned Zuchinni because I tend to use it inside things like Lasagna so any extra moisture is NOT welcome. In grilling however, the high heat zaps the moisture out so fast, there is never a 'soggy' problem.
Thanks for the experiment! Can't wait to see the results via Wok... :)
I salt zucchini to alter the texture (and to use up a whole lot at one time). I wouldn't bother for grilling, but shredded or thin-sliced, salted and VERY well drained zukes are great in a saute or sauce. Not better necessarily, but different. Given that I grow zukes and eat a lot of them, different is a plus.
Edit: When I want them well drained I start with a colander and then put them in a linen dishtowel and wring them dry.
The only time I salt zucchini is when I am serving it raw in a salad. I use a mandolin or carrot peeler to do long thin strips and then salt them for 20 minutes. You rinse off the salt and you have a lovely textured zucchini, perfect for a salad.
Otherwise, salt the really big eggplants and skip all other salting.
My favorite zucchini recipe, which I learned from my uncle in San Francisco 34 years ago, requires salting. This works best with small to moderate zukes: not swollen overgrown ones. I figure about 3/4 to one zucchini per person. Lots of shrinkage.
Wash (of course), the whole zucchini. Shred the zuke on a large hole grater, into a colander. Salt and stir to get the salt mixed in. Let the salted zuke drain for 5-10 minutes while you grate or chop some garlic, and heat it in a frying pan with some olive oil, 1/2 to 1 tablespoon or so. Then take the zucchini by the handful, and squeeze it hard to get as much moisture out as possible, and toss in the pan. Saute for maybe 3-5 minutes, and enjoy! Add some fresh ground pepper, and maybe some parmesan-reggiano, and you are in business. No soggy mess. p.j.