Heart-healthy eating resolution Part 2: Eat more vegetables. Try this ‘most-requested’ recipe for large zucchini or other types of squash.

Jan. 9, 2024
Long-cooked vegetables on a bed of couscous. This is a great recipe for large zucchini or other types of squash and will help with your mission to eat more vegetables. Photo by Bill St. John, for UCHealth.
Long-cooked vegetables on a bed of couscous. This is a great recipe for large zucchini or other types of squash and will help with your mission to eat more vegetables. Photo by Bill St. John, for UCHealth.

It’s that time of year again. The start of it. And its resolute resolutions, for purposes here about cooking and eating healthier than over or during many of the previous 51 weeks.

We chuckle, we sigh, we shrug. But we also let go, we try, we list.

If we’re truly good about it, the list is very short:

‘Eat your vegetables.’

This is — full stop — the most sensible healthy eating resolution for any year, anytime, any eater.

As Michael Pollan, the mood- and food-focused journalist, says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He nails it.

So, simply, I here offer the plant-based recipe most-requested from me over the past 40 years of writing on food and cooking. I name it, plainly put, “Long-Cooked Vegetables.”

Enjoy these other great tips and recipes by Bill St. John.

One friend says of it, “Looks like hell. Tastes like heaven.” (I disagree with merely the first portion of his description.) Another friend says, “The wife has an aversion to stew-like dishes. But she had to admit that this recipe is awesome!”

What is most interesting about this recipe, to this cook, is that over the many years of making it, the recipe has taught me about itself.

It is, in two senses of the word, “organic.” It is all about vegetables, as you will read, but it also is about how vegetables allow themselves to be used in various ways, given various seasons — picked fresh, “over” grown extraordinarily large, frozen, saved in cellars, or dried, and so on — and give themselves to us to be flavored as we choose those flavors.

That is the gift of vegetables: We choose them, we think, but they already have chosen us.

In need of a recipe for a large zucchini?

In the beginning, “Long-Cooked Vegetables” came to me as a gift, rather quite literally as a gift, a bazooka-sized green giant that a friend “gifted” me from his garden one September long ago. “What to do with it,” I asked myself.

Well, I looked around in cookbooks from other countries and USA regions and discovered what Italians, Chileans, Brooklynites, and others did with such so-called overgrown vegetables. What a wonderful beginning — just as this recipe can be as a beginning to your New Year.

For the first couple of go-arounds on this recipe, I would suggest that the anchovies were optional, understanding people’s wariness for these (what I often call) misplaced eyebrows. However, I must insist that you use them; they add gobs of umami (and the taste of fish simply disappears, trust me).

Vegans and vegetarians can get by using vegan fish sauce or other umami-adding seasonings that are vegan, perhaps one made from dried mushrooms.

Happy New Year, cooks!

Long-Cooked Vegetables

Substitutions for (or, indeed, additions to) zucchini or other “summer” squash, in total to amount to 2 pounds of vegetables: yellow squash, chayote, pattypan, crookneck; long beans, green beans, pole beans; sweet peppers, yellow or red, or additional more spicy-heat peppers, although of these latter, only a judicious amount.


2 pounds zucchini or other fresh or previously frozen vegetables, cut up or chopped (if summer squash or zucchini, seeded if necessary and with some, though not all, of the peel removed)

1 rounded tablespoon kosher or sea salt

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

2-3 anchovy filets
(or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste)

3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (such as Urfa or Aleppo)

1 cup tomato sauce or the same quantity of peeled ripe tomatoes, crushed

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Healthy pinches of dried green herbs (oregano works, so do herbes de Provence or thyme; rosemary is a bit strong)

10 medium fresh basil leaves, torn

More flat-leaf parsley, chopped or chiffonade basil, for garnish


If using summer’s end squash or zucchini: Cut up the zucchini into 1-inch thick chunks. Place a colander in the sink, sprinkle the chunks with the salt, tossing to mix well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 hour. (Do not rinse.) Then, lay and roll the chunks over paper toweling to dry them somewhat.

In a large Dutch oven or similar pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, anchovies and red pepper, stirring. When just sizzling, lower the heat and cook until the garlic is golden and the anchovies have dissolved, 5-7 minutes. (Do not brown or burn the garlic.) Add the tomato sauce or tomatoes, parsley, herbs and basil, stirring.

Add the dried-off zucchini pieces (or whatever other vegetables you are using) and mix everything well, bringing the lot up to a good simmer.

Cover the pot. Lower the burner to the lowest possible flame and cook for up to 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes in order to combine the flavors but not so vigorously as to break up the ever-softening vegetables, using a heat diffuser over the burner if it helps. The total time will depend on how gnarly the vegetables were at the beginning.

To finish: Remove the lid; turn up the heat. Let any obvious water boil off and stir the vegetables gently a time or two until there’s a sauce of sorts coating the vegetable pieces, about 10 minutes.

Serve hot, warm or at room or ambient temperature, garnished with the chopped flat-leaf parsley, as is, or over anything you think works, such as steamed couscous, brown or white rice, orzo pasta, or cooked bulghur wheat.

Reach Bill St. John at [email protected]

About the author

For more than 40 years, Bill St. John’s specialties have been as varied as they are cultured. He writes and teaches about restaurants, wine, food & wine, the history of the cuisines of several countries (France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and the USA), about religion and its nexus with food, culture, history, or philosophy, and on books, travel, food writing, op-ed, and language.

Bill has lent (and lends) his subject matter expertise to such outlets as The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Chicago Tribune, 5280 Magazine, and for various entities such as food markets, wine shops, schools & hospitals, and, for its brief life, Microsoft’s sidewalk.com. In 2001 he was nominated for a James Beard Award in Journalism for his 12 years of writing for Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Bill's experience also includes teaching at Regis University and the University of Chicago and in classrooms of his own devising; working as on-air talent with Denver's KCNC-TV, where he scripted and presented a travel & lifestyle program called "Wine at 45"; a one-week stint as a Trappist monk; and offering his shoulder as a headrest for Julia Child for 20 minutes.

Bill has also visited 54 countries, 42 of the United States, and all 10 Canadian provinces.