Monday, July 23, 2018

Summer Squash

There's an old joke about living in a town so small that, if you leave your car unlocked at the shopping center lot, somebody will put a bag of summer squash in the back seat. Anyone who has ever grown yellow crookneck, zucchini, or any of several other variations on summer squash likely has also been overwhelmed by the productivity of these plants. To help relieve the glut, here are some ideas for preparing summer squash.

For many of us in the Southern Appalachian region, summer squash is prepared only two ways, battered and fried, or in squash casserole. But there are plenty of other ways to enjoy squash.

Simple Squash Salad

Choose two or three small, perfect summer squashes. Wash and slice into rounds. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Leave to sit on the counter for 30 minutes. Top with a little freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy as a salad. You can also add fresh herbs, if you prefer. The salt draws out some of the moisture from the squash, creating a "dressing" for the salad.

Squash Pickles

You can use firm summer squash to make pickles with most recipes that call for cucumbers. Do not use squash with well-developed seeds.

Stuffed Squash

Slice a summer squash lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Chop the flesh and reserve it. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and add some chopped onion. When it is softened, add the squash flesh, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender. Combine the cooked vegetables in a bowl with bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and minced fresh parsley. Stuff the squash shells with this filling, pour any oil remaining from cooking the vegetables over the top, and place in a preheated 375-degree oven until the stuffing browns nicely and the squash is tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

The squash is delicious served as shown in the photo, with white beans, pesto and a garnish of fresh tomatoes.

Ratatouille

This classic French vegetable stew combines all of the best summer vegetables into one delicious dish. Cut into bite size pieces onions, summer squash, eggplant, and sweet peppers. Use a variety of types and colors. Saute each vegetable separately in olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and removing each batch from the pan with a slotted spoon before adding the next one. Place the cooked vegetables on a plate to keep warm. While the vegetables are cooking, peel, seed and dice two medium tomatoes to yield about a cup of dice. When the last batch of vegetables is finished, add a minced clove of garlic and the tomatoes to the pan, increase the heat, and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes break down to create a sauce. Add the vegetables back to the tomato sauce, toss to combine, and remove from the heat. Garnish with a generous portion of chopped fresh herbs. Ratatouille is better when made ahead and reheated the next day.