A variety of summer squash, 8-ball zucchini, as its name suggests, resembles the black ball used in billiards and features a richer, more intense flavour than traditional zucchini. Nutritionally, the veggie is low in calories and contains Vitamin C.
IN THE FIELD
Harvest begins in June and runs until first frost. "Chefs like these zucchini bigger than an eight ball, so they can stuff them," said Brenda Sovereign, who, with her husband, Wes, operates Sovereign Farms in Waterford, Ont. They pick them when they're between an eight ball and softball.
IN THE PANTRY
Choose firm, smooth zucchini with blemish-free skin. Sovereign recommends storing the veggie in a Tupperware-type container and placing it in the fridge – away from the freezer, so it doesn't get too cold – where it will last about three weeks.
ON THE PLATE
John Horne, executive chef at Toronto's Canoe restaurant, fills the hollowed-out zucchini with braised, shredded lamb shank mixed with black olives, and garnishes it with the puréed, scooped-out flesh. He'll also shave and blanch the zucchini and layer it with shrimp, crab or eggplant.
At Toronto's Luma restaurant, chef de cuisine Michael Wilson constructs an elaborate salad of marinated, roasted 8-ball zucchini, house-made ricotta, shaved, raw zucchini and frisée.
He adds the summer squash to the seasonal roast-vegetable plate and also incorporates it into quinoa with leeks and peppers.
It also works well in stir-fries, and is delicious grilled. It can be chopped and pickled or used in chutneys and relishes, and excels in breads and muffins, like traditional zucchini.