You might think that zucchini is such an ordinary vegetable that it's hard to single out for anyparticularly alluring qualities, but then you probably haven't eaten slender, fresh-picked 8-inchzucchini. The seeds are hardly developed and the skin is tender and quite firm. In the pot they turn quite sweet. Last week on the``Today" show, Martha Stewart sliced zucchini and yellow squash very thin for a raw appetizer, but these round disks are disappointing uncooked. Take those same slices and scatter them in a baking dish with lots of fresh thyme(lemon thyme is super), salt, and pepper, then roast them witha thick striped bass fillet on top, and you have the essence of summer on your plate.
Thick -cut zucchini also make a fine saute. Heat a thin film of olive oil in a skillet and add the zucchini. Don't move them until they caramelize at the edges. When all the zucchini are browned, sprinkle the top with sliced fontina cheese and slide the pan under the broiler for a divine melted topping.
Zucchini and basil is a combination that sounds odd at first (the vegetable's flavor isn't particularly assertive, and the herb is all aromatics). In a pureed soup, the zucchini offers sweetness and body, while the basil perfumes the pot. -- SHERYL JULIAN