by Sally Yancey
When I think about summer squash, my mouth starts to water. Its buttery flavor and unique texture, as well as its easy-to-grow quality, make this vegetable a gardenerâ€TMs delight. Sometimes its prolific nature can seem like a curse, but for me it is an annual challenge to find new ways to prepare this tried and true vegetable. I have been growing some summer squash varieties for more than 40 years. Still, there are always new ones to try. Cube of Butter from Territorial Seed is a recent type of yellow squash for which I have fallen. Other yellow squash varieties include Early Prolific Straightneck and Multipik. Zephyr, with a tinge of green on the end, is another favorite of mine. Some gardeners prefer yellow crooknecks, which I also grow. Yellow squash has the best flavor and tenderness when picked at four to six inches long. When it comes to zucchini squash, there are many varieties from which to choose. My favorites include Raven, Spineless Beauty, Black Beauty and Cocozelle from Johnnyâ€TMs Selected Seed. Less familiar but equally delicious are round zucchini varieties such as Eight Ball, One Ball and Cue Ball. They are best picked at two to three inches in diameter. Finally, there is the beautifully shaped scalloped squash, Patty Pan. Park Seed has a variety called Sunburst, which is a favorite of mine. This type of squash is great for stuffing. They should be picked when they are two to three inches in diameter. A great rule of thumb, if you are going to plant squash this season, is to harvest them small, every other day. Succession planting is advised for continuous production all summer long. Pull up the squash plant when it gets past its prime or buggy, and sow some new seeds. You wonâ€TMt be sorry. If worse comes to worst, you can always leave a surprise on a neighborâ€TMs doorstep. So, what do you do with the multitudes? You make delectable dishes with them! Here are some of my favorite recipes. Squash Blossoms
Harvest the male blossoms (the ones with the thin stems) in the morning when they are still closed, or later in the morning if you want the blossoms more open. Ingredients:
12 or more squash blossoms, picked, washed, drained and placed in a towel to dry. 3 eggs
½ teaspoon baking powder
Oil (for frying)
Allow the blossoms to remain in the towel while preparing the batter. Beat together the eggs, salt, flour and baking powder. Batter should be a fairly thick coating consistency. Add parsley, garlic and cheese. Fill a heavy saucepan with one-half inch of oil and heat. Dip blossoms in the batter and fry, several at a time, in the oil until golden. Drain on paper towels. This recipe is from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook. Squash Fritters
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white flour
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Oil (for frying)
Mix together all of the ingredients except the oil. Scoop large pancake-sized spoonfuls of batter and put in a hot skillet with one-quarter inch of vegetable oil. You can fry four to six fritters at a time depending on the size of your skillet. Fry on one side until golden; flip and fry until the other side is also golden brown. Drain and place on a towel. Serve with honey mustard sauce or rémoulade. Squash Casserole
2 cups of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing mix 4 cups of steamed yellow squash, cut in half-inch slices 1 four-ounce jar of pimientos
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 small carton of sour cream
Line casserole dish with stuffing mix. Mix other ingredients together and pour in baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Skillet Squash
Heat a mixture of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat (about three tablespoons, depending on the amount of squash you use). Cut four or more yellow squash and four or more zucchini squash in half-inch slices, and coarsely chop one or two onions. Add squash/onion mixture to skillet and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Stir squash regularly until it starts to brown. Turn down heat to low and cook until caramelized, about 45 minutes. At this point, turn off stove and put a lid over the skillet and let it sit.
Roasted Squash
Cut six zucchini squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds, leaving a well, and place on a cookie sheet. Top each zucchini half with desired amounts of chopped garlic, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil over each one and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. Cook until squash is tender and done. (You can do the same with yellow squash). Grilled Squash
Slice an assortment of zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise in half-inch slices. Mix in a bowl with enough olive oil to coat them, and season with salt and pepper. Prepare your grill and put the slices on a metal sheet with holes used for grilling. Cook on one side until brown; turn over with a spatula and grill until other side is brown. Remove from grill and serve. Zucchini Bread
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9” x 5” loaf pans. Beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until light and thick. Fold grated zucchini into oil mixture. Sift dry ingredients together and stir into zucchini mixture until just blended. Fold in the walnuts or pecans and pour batter into the buttered loaf pans. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for one hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from pans, and cool completely on a wire rack. Recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Zucchini Pickles
There are several methods one can use to preserve summer squash, and most beginners start with pickling because it is the “fun” part of preserving. Pickling is easy and leaves room for creativity. Nevertheless, there are still hard and fast rules for safe and successful results. Ingredients:
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
Make a syrup of sugar, cider vinegar, turmeric powder, mustard seed and celery seed. Put vegetables in a kettle and cover with cracked ice. Let sit for three hours. Drain. Boil syrup and add the vegetables. Cook 15 minutes. Pack into hot, sterilized, pint jars, leaving one-half inch of headroom. Process in a boiling water bath for five minutes. Remove jars. Yield: six to eight pints, depending on how tightly you pack your jar. How to Freeze Squash
To freeze squash, cut into quarter-inch slices and place in a blancher or steamer with boiling water for three to four minutes. Cool immediately in cold water and drain. Pack in Ziploc bags or freezer containers and freeze. Small batches yield better results, i.e. a uniform cooking texture. Dried Squash
Finally, for an easy and nutritious snack, slice yellow or zucchini squash into half-inch slices and place them on racks in a dehydrator at 115 degrees until crispy. Alternatively, put the sliced squash in a warm oven and let them dry until crisp, then let cool.