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5 from 1 vote

Lemon-Thyme Zucchini

This is such a quick and simple little side dish. This approach also forms the foundation for a wide variety of dishes I make at home, in large part, warm salads.
The technique:
Pre-heat a large sauté pan, over high heat. The wider, the better. Make sure your ingredients are prepared and ready to go. Then, add the oil to the pan, quickly swirling it around to coat the pan. Do it quickly, so the oil doesn’t have time to burn, but not so quick you splosh some on the stove or (lord forbid) on your hands!
Then, evenly sprinkle the zucchini bits around the bottom of the pan. There should be visible space between each noogin. If you pile them up, the nibblets on the top won’t cook, while those on the bottom will. This creates inconsistency in your vittles. Also, don’t add so much that you can’t see between your nuggets. Too much “stuff” will cool the pan too much and your zucchini will just simmer and steam, releasing all its water into the pan and not getting a nice fried color on the surface. One layer... evenly spaced.
Then, don’t touch it! If you’re seeing smoke, turn the heat down a bit. Smoke isn’t good, but you do want to start with a hot pan. Each stove is different, but I personally start with high heat, add my goodies, then turn the heat down to medium. This will allow the surface in contact with the pan to cook properly and evenly, without burning or simmersteaming (yes, that’s one word).
Now, season it with a light rainfall of salt and pepper. Still don’t touch it.
After a minute, use some tongs to pick one up and look at its bottom. If it’s still kind of bland and pasty looking (like me, ‘cause I don’t get out enough), put it right back, exactly as you found it. Wait another minute and look at one of its buddies, in the exact same way.
Once one of the bits is perfectly golden, toss the pan around (or just stir it, whatever you’re comfortable with). This will roughly cause half of them to be facing up, and the other half facing down. With your tongs, grab the ones facing down and turn them right-side up, so that the raw side is facing down on all your veggies. Let them cook for roughly the same amount of time as before.
Again, sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top. And, I say “sprinkle” because seasoning with your hands too close to the pan will cause inconsistent seasoning (plus, it’s hot!). If you raise your hand about a foot above the pan, you’ll see the seasoning more evenly distribute itself over the top of the food. This way, all your food tastes just as good as the food its surrounded by, as opposed to having a salty bite, then a peppery bite, then a bland one. The height of seasoning from above helps season more evenly. Just careful, though. Not too much! You can always season a bit more on your plate, but once its in the food, you can’t undo it. Clearly “perfect” seasoning is the way to go, but if you have to pick a side … under-seasoning is the way to go.
Once both sides are nice and golden, toss your fresh herbs, spices and seasonings to this mix, while tossing the veggies around the pan. In this case, we’re adding thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss, to coat evenly, then serve!
Now, I use this technique all the time, almost for everything. I could use EXACTLY the same method for chopped peppers, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, green beans, etc. In fact, if I were doing a blend, I would pick the longest cooking veggies (peppers, for example), add them to the hot pan, season and cook. Then, when doing the first toss, I’d add in the second ingredient (mushrooms, for example) and evenly distribute it around the pan. This suggests I need quite a bit of space between my peppers, to begin with. I need to make sure there’s room in the pan for the shrooms to come! Then, maybe add some very thin green beans at the end and cook for a final minute or two (for nicely cooked and crunch haricot vert). Season as you add each goodie. Finally, add your spices, herbs and seasonings and serve!
This can even be used for denser veggies, like carrots, pumpkin or sweet potatoes. You just need a lower heat and more time on each side, but it’ll get there!
Now, all you need to do is cook, practice and eat!
Prep Time8 mins
Cook Time7 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: DJ Foodie



  • 1 lb. zucchini or any summer squash
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Make sure you’re zucchini is washed, stemmed and cut into consistent bite sized pieces. In my case, I used some baby zucchini I’d found, but any summer squash will work, provided they’re all cut into similarly sized bite sized pieces.
  • Zest the lemon, then chop the zest. Rough chop is fine. You want about 1 tsp (5mL). Set aside.
  • Juice the lemon and measure out about 2 Tbsp (30mL). Set aside.
  • Pre-heat a large sauté pan over high heat.
  • Add the olive oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Evenly distribute the zucchini along the bottom of the pan, then turn the heat to medium.
  • Lightly season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until one side of each piece is nice and golden in color.
  • Once one side is cooked, toss the zucchini in the pan, then turn any remaining pieces to face down, in the oil. Again, lightly season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 to 3 more minutes.
  • Finally, toss the zucchini while adding the lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh thyme and a bit more salt and pepper. Continue to stir or toss until everything is evenly coated.
  • Serve!