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Squash your hunger in the garden

Sherrel Jones shares secrets of how to prepare garden-fresh squash.
BY SHERREL JONES Modified: July 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm •  Published: July 31, 2013
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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.

So versatile

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.

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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/butter. Saute the shallots or garlic briefly. Add the zucchini and toss. Cook and stir over medium to medium low heat (making sure olive oil doesn't smoke) until the zucchini reaches a spreadable consistency, about 15 minutes. Avoid scorching but scrape any browned bits into the butter for added flavor. You may need to splash in a little water to help deglaze the pan. Zucchini alone holds its bright green color and slowly caramelizes into a nice vegetable spread.

• Enjoy on toast or as a side dish all summer long!

Source: Adapted from Food 52 blog by Genius Recipes

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