Zucchini ‘Burnt Ends’ With Herb Butter and Lemon

By Steven Raichlen
Steven Raichlen
Steven Raichlen
June 30, 2021 Updated: June 30, 2021

Your first zucchini of the season delights, as does your second, but by the fourth or fifth, you wonder why so many people have planted so much of a vegetable that is mild (almost bland) in flavor, soft in texture, and moist to the point of being watery. Russ Faulk knows why.

Russ is the head designer at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and, as such, is responsible for some of the most stylish grills on the planet. He has also devised one of the world’s most ingenious ways to grill zucchini. He slices it paper-thin on a mandoline (a necessary tool for this recipe unless you have mad knife skills), then accordions the slices on bamboo skewers. (This recipe was inspired by his stunning cookbook, Food + Fire.) This turns the notoriously limp vegetable into a series of crisp burnt edges. The result looks cool as all get-out. Add a lemon herb butter, and you may just find yourself planting extra zucchini next summer.

Method: Direct grilling

Grill/Gear: Can be grilled over charcoal, gas, or wood, but for the best flavor, work over a wood or wood-enhanced fire. If you’re enhancing a charcoal or gas fire, you’ll need hardwood chunks or chips (unsoaked). You’ll also need a rimmed sheet pan; a mandoline; and 8 flat (12-inch-long) bamboo skewers or 16 round bamboo skewers.

What Else: You’ll need a special tool called a mandoline, which is a flat slicer with a razor-sharp blade you can adjust to slice vegetables as thinly as you desire. (The back-and-forth action of slicing the vegetable mimics the strumming of a mandolin, hence the name.) Choose small zucchini—6 to 8 inches long and 6 to 8 ounces. Use flat skewers or parallel bamboo skewers, which keep the zucchini slices from spinning when you attempt to turn them.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Grilling Time: 8 minutes

Serves 4

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly flattened with the side of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon freshly and finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons stemmed, chopped fresh dill or mint leaves, plus 3 tablespoons for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 8 small zucchini (each 6 to 8 ounces)
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grate

Make the lemon herb butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of chopped dill, and the hot red pepper flakes (if using). Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Discard the garlic.

Cut off and discard the ends of the zucchini. Using a mandoline equipped with a finger guard, thinly slice one zucchini lengthwise. (The slices should be the thickness of a quarter.) Lay the slices flat on a rimmed sheet pan. Lightly brush the slices on both sides with the lemon herb butter and season with salt and pepper.

Fold a zucchini slice into an accordion shape (like multiple Ws) and thread it onto a flat skewer. Don’t worry if a few of the slices break—skewer the pieces back to back. Continue threading until all the slices from a single zucchini are on the skewer. The green skin should be on the top and bottom. If using round bamboo skewers, insert a second skewer parallel to the first. (This keeps the zucchini slices from spinning.) Slice, butter, season, and skewer the remaining zucchini the same way. You should wind up with 8 kebabs. It’s best to skewer the zucchini right before grilling.

Meanwhile, set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to high. If enhancing a charcoal fire, add the wood chunks or chips to the coals; if enhancing a gas fire, place the chunks or chips in your grill’s smoker box or place chunks under the grate directly over one or more burners. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well.

Arrange the zucchini kebabs, skin side down, on the grate and grill until darkly browned at the edges, even singed, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and grill the other side, skin side down, the same way, 6 to 8 minutes in all. Baste the zucchini skewers with the lemon herb butter as they grill. Transfer to a platter or plates for serving and spoon any remaining butter over them. Serve immediately.

Excerpted with permission from “How to Grill Vegetables” by Steven Raichlen, photographs by Steven Randazzo. Workman Publishing copyright 2021.

Steven Raichlen
Steven Raichlen