Summer Squash


Zucchini, yellow, pattypan, and crookneck squashes are everywhere! Here are some great ideas for serving them.

By FamilyTime

 

Summer squashes are tender and mild. Their skins are so thin, they require no peeling, and their seeds are soft enough to eat.

If allowed to stay on the vine beyond their summertime prime, these squashes develop hard skins, tough seeds, and coarser texture. A gigantic zucchini is good only for stuffing and baking, or perhaps for soup.

It’s best to pick and cook summer squashes while they are young. Look for small specimens at farmers markets and supermarkets. They should be smooth and unblemished, too.

Preparing Summer Squash
If you pick squash from your garden, it needs little or no washing -- perhaps a rinse under cool water to rid it of garden dirt. If you buy it from a market, rinse it well.

Trim the stem end and then slice the squash for the recipe you are making. Squash can be cut into discs, sticks, slivers, or shreds.

In its most basic form, eat squash raw in salads or on crudités platters. Otherwise, plan to cook it.

Cooking Summer Squash
Luckily, summer squash happily marries with other summer flavors. This means it’s lovely with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, sweet corn, eggplant, garlic, and fresh herbs such as basil, dill, rosemary, and tarragon.

Summer squash also loves to be cooked with cheese, butter, olive oil, lemon, capers, and olives.

Perhaps the most classic summer squash dish is ratatouille. This mélange of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs is a summer right of passage for many home cooks. Summer is not summer without it.

Sweet crookneck and yellow squash are tasty sliced and layered with butter, salt, and pepper for a very simple, fast-cooking casserole. Add some chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs, minced garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to replace some of the butter and the casserole becomes more interesting.

Similar layered casseroles are great with zucchini and pattypan, too. Add some sweet corn, mushrooms, and melting cheese such as Gruyére

Pattypan squash, which is also called scallop squash, and its larger, green cousin, the scaloppini squash, are delicious grated or finely chopped, steamed, and then mashed with butter, herbs, and salt and pepper.

All summer squashes are lovely lightly sautéed and tossed with pasta, grains, fresh herbs, and chopped tomatoes. Or sauté them with garlic, lemon or orange zest, fresh herbs, and scallions for a light side dish with fish or chicken.

Zucchini blossoms, which appear in profusion in the summer garden, are great stuffed with a light mixture of mild cheese such as ricotta or fresh goat cheese, Parmesan, and herbs.

Deep-fried zucchini blossoms are a treat. Sticks of zucchini, dipped in batter, are also wonderful when deep fried in vegetable oil.

Baking with Summer Squash
Zucchini bread, muffins, and snack cakes are delicious. The vegetable adds subtle flavor and moisture to the baked goods.

For baking, scrape out the seeds from large zucchini and then grate it. If the squash is small, grate the entire vegetable after trimming the ends. To do so, use a hand grater or the food processor.

Mix the grated zucchini with other quick bread ingredients and bake marvelous breads and muffins. Grated zucchini or yellow squash is also delicious stirred into pancake batter. It adds body and mild flavor - and no one will guess the griddlecakes are full of vitamins.

Now is the time to enjoy this simple culinary pleasure, when the squash is fresh and at its peak of flavor and goodness.