Summer Squashes—So Much More Than Zucchini

Summer Squash is about more than zucchini, although we do grow a couple of fine zucchini varieties (also known as courgettes in France, marrows in England, or cocozelle in Italy). The word “zucchini” is derived from the Italian word meaning sweet.

The squash family is divided into four species but all the summer squashes are grouped into the same one, Cucurbita pepo, the group that also includes pumpkins, and some winter squashes, like the ever-popular Acorn, Delicata, and pumpkins. Flavor-wise, summer squashes have little in common with the winter varieties.

In addition to the standard green zucchini, look for the Gold Rush (an all-yellow zucchini), pale green Lebanese, and Costata Romanesco (the striped Italian ribbed zucchini). There are also many others that aren’t commercially grown. Also try the old-fashioned, full-flavored Yellow Crookneck and the firmer, crisper pattypan, or scallop family that includes bright yellow Sunburst, pale green Peter Pan and dark green Starship

How to Choose: The stem end of a squash will tell you how fresh it is. Ideally, there should be a little juice coming out of the stem, indicating that it was recently harvested. Steer away from limp or very scratched squashes. The skins should be tight, shiny, and brightly colored and will scratch easily with a fingernail if fresh—handle them gently.

How to Keep: Keep squashes in a plastic bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator. If buying baby squashes with blossoms attached, refrigerate them in a plastic bag but leave it open so they can get air.

How to Eat: Non-organic squashes should be rinsed and dried with a towel before using. Otherwise, rub any dust off with a damp towel. Don’t wash the squashes in a lot of water because they will absorb it and become mushy. Trim the stem and flower end with a knife before proceeding with your recipe.

The simplest way to cook summer squash is to cut them into evenly sized pieces, then steam just until tender—a few minutes. If the squashes are quite small, you can leave them whole. I like to sauté them in fairly hot olive oil until the sugars caramelize and brown. Try eating little zucchinis like this with eggs for breakfast. Stuff squash blossoms with mozzarella and herbs and fry them, or slice and sauté in olive oil and toss with pasta and fried zucchini.

Summer Squash with Garlic & Herbs

Very Fresh, Small Squashes
Olive Oil
Fresh Garlic
Fresh Lemon Juice
Basil (or other light-flavored herbs, such as marjoram or thyme)

1.Trim the squashes and cut into slices of equal thickness.

2. Sauté in olive oil until tender & just beginning to brown.

3. Add a generous amount of freshly-chopped garlic and basil (or other herbs), and season with salt and pepper.

4. Cook just a minute more, until the garlic releases its aroma; squeeze over a bit of lemon juice, and serve.

Grilled Zucchini with Tomato & Olives

1 pound Zucchini
2 dozen Cured Olives, pitted
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. chopped Capers
1-1/2 tsp. Fresh Thyme, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1/3 pound Tomatoes, diced
Salt and Black Pepper
1 large clove Garlic, minced
8 to 10 fresh Basil Leaves

1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire. Cut zucchini lengthwise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Put them on a large platter or baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Toss to coat them evenly with oil and herbs.

2. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, vinegar and remaining olive oil. Set aside.

3. Season zucchini with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter in a single layer. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, then spoon it evenly over the zucchini. Tear the basil leaves and scatter over the surface.

Zucchini Fritti

1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Corn Oil
3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Fresh-Ground Pepper
3 Zucchini (or other squash), in 3- to 4-inch julienne
Lemon Wedges

1. Combine the oils in a skillet, and heat until hot but not smoking.

2. Stir together the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl.

3. Dredge the zucchini in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Sauté it in the hot oil, in batches, until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels, and serve immediately with the lemon wedges alongside.

Summer Squash and Corn Pasta

4 to 6 Small Summer Squashes (zucchini, pattypan, etc.)
5 to 6 ears Sweet Corn
1 handful Cilantro Leaves
2 cloves Garlic
2 tbsp. Butter
1/2 Jalapeño Pepper
4 tbsp. Water
3 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 pound Fresh, Thin Fettuccine
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Lemon

1. Cut the squashes into small dice. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs. Peel and chop the garlic ine and chop the jalapeño fine.

2. Sauté; the squash in olive oil until tender & a little brown; season with salt & pepper. Add corn, garlic, and jalapeño to squash. Continue cooking a few minutes more.

3. Finely chop the cilantro, reserving some leaves for garnish. Add the cilantro, butter, and water to the pan. Taste, and correct the seasoning.

4. Boil the fettuccine, add it to the pan, and toss all together. Add a squeeze of lemon if the corn is very sweet. Serve immediately, garnished with the reserved cilantro leaves.

Stuffed Summer Squash

4 small (1/2#) or 2 large Summer Squashes
1/4 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Minced Garlic or Onion
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Butter
3 tbsp. Dry Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup Grated Cheese
a tiny pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1/8 tsp. Curry Powder or Dry Mustard
or
Heated Creamed Chicken, Ham, Fish, Spinach, or Swiss Chard

1. Steam the squashes, leaving them whole. When almost tender, drain the squashes, cool them. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers, leaving a shell about 1/2-inch thick. Chop the removed pulp. Combine the other ingredients with the squash pulp.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°.

3. Refill the shells with the pulp mixture or the creamed meat or vegetable mixture. Place the filled squash shells in a pan, in a very little water or on a rack above the water. Bake until hot, about 10 minutes. The stuffing possibilities are endless. Try a little sausage, pasta sauce and/or pasta, or even potato. Be adventurous.

 

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