Zucchini and Green Pepper “Sabzi”

September 1, 2006 at 9:51 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes) ()

This recipe is from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey. It is the perfect dish to make in September (or whenever your summer ends), since it calls for zucchini and green peppers. The dish is quite pretty. It makes a nice vegetable dish to serve with dal, since the long skinny, slightly crisp pieces of zucchini and peppers are a pleasant antidote to “vegetarian mush syndrome.” 

Serves 3 to 4.


  • 1.5 – 2 Tbs. olive oil [originally 3 Tbs.]
  • a generous pinch of ground asafetida
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds [originally 1/4 tsp.]
  • 1 1/4 pounds zucchini, cut into 1.5-inch by .5-inch fingers
  • 1 large green pepper (about 7 ounces), quartered lengthwise, seeds removed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch wide slices
  • 2 Tbs. plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbs. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt [cut slightly? see below]
  • 1/2 tsp. chaat masala, or a generous pinch of cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice


  1. Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet or wok and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in first the asafetida and then, in quick succession, the cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
  2. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, add the zucchini and green pepper. Stir and fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the yogurt, and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Reduce the heat to low and add the coriander and salt. Stir for a minute.
  4. Add the chaat masala and toss. Taste for balance of flavors.

My Notes from Nov 12, 2018:

My CSA tore down all their pepper plants this week, and I got a kilogram of green bell peppers in my veggie box. I don’t have that many recipes that call for green bell peppers, so I pulled this recipe out. I added some red and orange bell peppers, since Alma doesn’t like green bell peppers. And I took Alma’s zucchini and peppers out before adding the coriander, since she hasn’t yet learned to like the flavor in large quantities. Alma (at 3.75) ate a large first portion happily enough, but didn’t want seconds. I then made it again about a week later, and again she ate hers without complaint. She tried our version with the coriander and green pepper, but didn’t like it (I think “yuck!” was her exact wording. I wonder where she learned that word? Mom?)

I served the dish with chana dal, which everyone liked. I actually enjoyed this dish much more than I remember. It’s simple, but tasty.

I might cut the salt slightly if using fine table salt, but Derek said it was perfect.

Notes from Sept 9, 2006:

The instructions actually say to peel the zucchini, although the beautiful photo on the next page has unpeeled zucchini. A mistake I assume, since I see no reason to peel the zucchini–it would be so colorless and limp looking. Even though the instructions didn’t suggest it, I decided to salt my zucchini as Cook’s Illustrated recommends, so that it carmelizes more easily when it’s fried. I cut the squashes then tossed them with kosher salt and let the pieces stand in a colander for 30 minutes. I patted them (mostly) dry with a paper towel. Of course, I also left the salt out of the recipe.

I used less oil than called for, but found it plenty oily. I might even try 1 Tbs. next time. A whole tablespoon of coriander seems like a lot but it was fine. The flavor was pleasant enough, but very mild. The zucchini flavor of course is always mild, and the peppers had nice crunch but their flavor kind of stood alone, and didn’t mesh with the other flavors in the dish. The chaat masala (which I’ll post in a separate recipe) was really needed to give the dish some pizzazz. The nice sour tang of the amchoor powder livened the dish up quite a bit. It’s essential I think.

Overall, this isn’t a bad dish for those times of zucchini and pepper abundance. I don’t know that I’d pass it on to a friend with excitement, but it works and it would be perfectly fine as one dish in an Indian meal with rice and dal.

Besides the discrepancy about peeling the zucchini, the other thing that bothers me about this recipe is she puts “Sabzi” in quotes but doesn’t say what it is. I tried looking it up online but couldn’t quite figure it out. It appears that sabzi means green, in some language (maybe farsi?) And a sabzi appears to be some particular type of Persian dish. But it also appears to be the name of a South Indian vegetable side? I’m not sure if it has to have any particular form, or if any vegetable side could be called a sabzi. If anyone knows the answer please post a comment.

Rating: B-


  1. divya uppot said,


    in india sabzi means any vegetable . people say they are going to buy sabzi means they are going shopping for vegetables. It is also used to denote what vegetable you have prepared for a meal , lunch or dinner. eg, if they say we had aloo subzi/sabzi, it means they had potato prepared, it usually means prepared in a dry way, with not too much gravy. if there is gravy they call it curry,

    bhindi sabzi is okra prepared in oil, gobi sabzi is cauliflower prepared in oil with not too much gravy, etc

  2. pennylane said,


    I was going to post a comment explaining what a sabzi is but then saw that someone beat me to it. But I thought I’d just drop a note anyway to say what a nice site this is. I’ve just come across it and love the detailed accounts of all the recipes. Also like the vegetarian, low-fat bias.

    I’ve noticed you seem to like a lot of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes. I come from the same part of the world as she does, and generally over there a meal consists of a meat dish, a “daal” (lentil dish), a “sabzi” (vegetable dish), and either rice or “roti” (bread). Plus “raita”, which I see you are already acquainted with. The meat dish is generally the featured item and so is referred to by a specific name rather than a generic term! Of course South Indian meals are different as they are often entirely vegetarian. So over there you are less likely to hear of vegetable dishes casually referred to as “sabzi”.

    Anyway, thanks for the great site and keep it up!

  3. maria said,

    “The nice sour tang of the amchoor powder livened the dish up quite a bit. It’s essential I think.”

    Amchoor is not mentioned in the list of ingredients.

  4. captious said,

    Good point. The amchoor is a key ingredient in the chaat masala. Sorry for the confusion.

  5. Tara said,

    sounds good. i was looking for zucchini recipe and this is the one i am going to try for today’s dinner.

    Thanks and yes, sabzi is Hindi(Indian language) term for any vegetable recipe. your recipe sounds very indian but i am not sure which part of the world u come from.. will check your about me in a while.. but thanks for now 🙂

  6. deerays said,

    yes, there word ” sabzi” does seem to have a persian/farsi link..

  7. Ballal said,

    Exactly- any kind of vegetable dish.

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