Got summer squash? We have it abundantly in the garden. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I made six hills of it, but we have a bounty of squash and more coming on. In honor of this year's squash bounty, I figured it would be a good time to share some ideas for using this nutritious vegetable.
I may start referring to my yellow crooknecks as our “everyday vegetable” soon. Yellows and greens with occasional whites, muddled, striped, banded and expanded, summer squash can be picked fresh from farmers markets across the state. If you or a generous neighbor planted squash this year, it may find its way to your table.
It is good steamed, roasted, sauteed, grilled or even added to succotash, casseroles or other vegetable combinations. Most often, I pick the squash on the small side, split it in half lengthwise and sear it cut-side down in a lightly seasoned skillet on top of the stove. I use a combination of butter and grape seed oil, turning the squash after it has caramelized around the edges. The result when lightly sprinkled with kosher salt is vegetable perfection. You get the lovely taste of fresh-from-the-garden squash at its best.
Sometimes I add an herb such as fresh dill sprinkled on as a garnish or thyme to the pan while searing. The squash picks up the flavor but is not overpowered by the fresh herbs. Another accompanying herb is sage. A finely minced leaf or two is nice, but simply placing a few leaves in the pan as the squash cooks will impart a light nuance of the sage without masking the flavor of the squash. Think of adding herbs to the squash to complement rather than adding squash to the herbs.
In my mind, nothing complements a medley of summer squash like onions. Searing the squash with some sliced or diced onions will minimize or even eliminate the need for herbs and other seasonings. The sweet purple ones add a colorful touch to any summer squash and vegetable combination. I find fresh, sliced peppers such as Poblano or sweet red bell peppers make a yummy saute with or without onions.
Given the amount of squash, you might consider coarsely grating it, adding a little salt then wrapping the squash in an absorbent dish towel to remove some of its excess water. Then it can be stirred into muffins or your favorite cornbread recipe. Chop up some green onions to include with it.
On the rare occasions I make homemade pizza, you will find slices of yellow squash and zucchini as I work to get as many vegetables as possible into our diet. So far, I have gotten by with this tactic as long as I don't get too carried away with the amount of squash I include in the topping. You can camouflage it with sauce and a little bit of mozzarella cheese or other ingredients such as sliced mushrooms, artichokes, peppers or onions.
When it comes to roasting or grilling summer squash, I like to slice it about a half-inch thick. The slices can be lengthwise or across, but I find this thickness works very well for cooking the squash through in good time. Put a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) in a plastic bag, add the slices of squash and manipulate them inside the bag to coat them with the oil. A bit of salt and pepper or chopped herbs can be added to the bag with the squash.
Spread the pieces on a baking sheet and pop into a 400-degree oven. Roast for 25 to 40 minutes depending on the amount of squash being prepared. The process will slightly dehydrate the squash while caramelizing the surface, bringing out the natural sugars as it browns. This method is wonderful for incorporating other vegetables in the roast. The slices of squash should be slightly crisp on the outside with a flavor-popping soft interior. Covering the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper makes for easy cleanup.
Try something new
I haven't resorted to including grated squash in pancakes yet, but they say there is a first time for everything. I hope these ideas help you enjoy squash at its summertime best. I could be celebrating National Put Squash on Your Neighbor's Porch Week this summer.
A great little recipe for spreading your summer squash love comes from one of my favorite foodie blogs, Food 52. You can spread it on about anything from toast and sandwiches to pizza and even use it as a lasagna layer or in your favorite spaghetti sauce. There is always a way to get more veggies into your diet and to do it creatively. I like it with olive oil best, but 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil works beautifully.
Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter
Makes about 2 cups
2 pounds zucchini or assorted summer squash (feel free to use less or add extra — cooking times will vary)
1/4 cup olive oil or butter
2 minced shallots, garlic, or combination of both
Salt and pepper
• Coarsely grate the zucchini. Let it drain in a colander for 3 to 4 minutes or until you are ready to begin cooking. To hasten cooking time, squeeze the water out of the zucchini by wringing it in a clean cloth towel.
• In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil/
• Enjoy on toast or as a side dish all summer long!
Source: Adapted from Food 52 blog by Genius Recipes