The final harvest of the season is almost upon us so make the most of your summer veggies while you can. Sautéed Zucchini and Corn is the perfect side dish for those evenings when you start noticing the days are getting a bit shorter. With a little help from butter, garlic, fresh herbs and shaved parmesan, fresh zucchini and sweet corn get the summer send-off they deserve.
It is almost time to say farewell to summer vegetables. ALMOST. There are still a few tricks up my sleeve (and possibly a few in my freezer).
I always feel a little like Bubba from Forrest Gump when I start the season. I like to make a list and check it twice to make sure I cover all my summer vegetable preparation bases: “barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it … pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried…” and so on.
Some methods get missed – some on purpose, some on accident. (Though I’d absolutely love to try a deep-fried ear of corn, so now that I think of it, please tell me if your county or state fair serves those so I know where to plan next summer’s family vacation.)
Sometimes I forget you can actually sauté more than just garlic and onions (which are usually then just added to a whole other dish). I think most people avoid sautéing because they tend to equate it with lots of grease, but that’s a common misconception.
Unlike frying, sautéing relies on the heat from the pan to cook the food, not the heat from the grease. And unlike stir frying – and especially in this Sautéed Zucchini and Corn recipe – you’re avoiding rapid movement because (a) you want a bit of browning and (b) you do want a bit of the flavor and moisture from the fat to stick around. Otherwise, you wouldn’t sauté with sweet, creamy, delicious, fatty fat butter. Mmm.
But don’t you worry – as much as I love butter, you know I love my summer veggies even more. You’re only using enough to help the cooking process along and enhance the fresh summer garden flavors. Promise I’m not out to ruin the last of the corn. I wouldn’t do that to you. Not in what little bit of summer we have left.
But be on the lookout this autumn when I attempt the reverse and try to enhance the flavor of butter with corn. Though that sounds like it may just be a me-alone-in-my-kitchen-at-2am thing and not a blog thing.
Sautéed Zucchini and Corn Ingredients
- Zucchini: l eave the skin on and dice into ½” pieces.
- Fresh Corn on the Cob: yellow or white is fine, as long as it’s fresh; slice kernels off the cob prior to cooking.
- Fresh Basil and Parsley: coarsely chopped.
- Parmesan: thinly shaved.
- Garlic: minced, fresh or jarred is fine.
- Butter: salted, sweet cream butter is the best complement for sweet corn.
- Olive Oil: always splurge on the best quality you can afford.
- Salt and Pepper: choose between kosher salt or sea salt (see recipe for measurements).
How to Make Sautéed Zucchini and Corn
This super simple side dish is a celebration of late-summer flavor. Tender zucchini and fresh sweet corn get sautéed in under 30 minutes and finished with fresh herbs and nutty parmesan. No magic powers or special tools needed, so have your trustiest knife and skillet at the ready. Naturally gluten free and vegetarian, Sautéed Zucchini and Corn makes a great companion for grilled protein.
- Start by prepping your produce – strip the corn kernels from the cob; dice your zucchini, and chop your herbs.
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of butter in a 12″ skillet and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil once the butter foams.
- Crank up the heat and get ready to saute – corn in first, then zucchini once the corn has charred.
- Add in your minced garlic and toss rapidly over high heat for another minute.
- Stir in fresh basil and garnish with thinly-shaved parmesan before serving hot.
Can I Use Frozen or Canned Corn?
As Hall & Oates said, “I can’t go for that.” Fresh corn is worth the effort (and seasonal wait, if need be). More importantly, the water content of frozen or canned corn is going to be far too high to achieve the texture and char you want for this recipe. Mushy corn is only acceptable in corn pudding.
Can I Use Dried Herbs?
Not recommended, but acceptable. Add 1 tsp each dried basil and parsley with the garlic. A better option would be to omit the fresh herbs altogether, or substitute just one or the other. The vegetables are rich, and a fresh herb helps cut through and complement the richness.
Tips for Making This Recipe Perfectly
- I don’t say it nearly enough, but don’t eyeball your fats. More fat means more moisture (and, well, more fat, if you monitor your intake) and that’s not always a good thing, especially when you’re sautéing vegetables with a high water content like zucchini.
- HIGH HEAT is the key to this recipe. The goal is to char the corn and zucchini quickly before they release too much liquid. That’s (literally) the sweet spot for very sweet corn and bite tender zucchini that’s not mushy, watery, or soft.
- Use a large enough skillet! The key to perfectly charred zucchini is to sustained contact with high heat. This is much easier to achieve with a large 12″ skillet.
- Shave your parmesan wafer thin. If you don’t have a cheese planer, a vegetable peeler is a good stand-in that most people have in their utensil drawer.
Make It Your Way
Sautéed Zucchini and Corn is already vegetarian and gluten free. Corn is technically a grain, so it’s a personal choice as to whether or not it fits into your specific dietary needs.
Make it dairy free: eliminate the parmesan and use vegan butter or ghee.
More Easy Summer Side Dishes
- Parmesan Zucchini Fries
- Grilled Corn Salad
- Tomato Corn Salad with Avocado and Buttermilk Dressing
- Summer Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
- Grilled Zucchini Salad with Corn and White Beans
Did you make this Sautéed Zucchini and Corn? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 ears corn, kernels sliced from cobs
- 2 medium zucchini, diced to ½”
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp chopped basil
- 2 tbsp fresh basil
- Shaved parmesan cheese, to taste
- Heat a 12” skillet over medium high heat. Add the butter and heat until it melts then foams. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds.
- Increase the heat to high. Add the corn, toss to coat in the fat, then saute undisturbed for 3 minutes, or until lightly charred. Toss, then sautee 3 minutes more.
- Add the zucchini and toss with the corn. Saute undisturbed for 4 minutes, toss, then saute 4 minutes more. The corn and zucchini should now be lightly charred all over.
- Add the garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat. Fold in the fresh basil and parsley, then garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.