Thursday, June 26, 2014

Surveying Summer Squash


 



yellow squash photo: Squash 100_7541.jpg
Yellow straight neck, or crook neck and zucchini
    This week the teens and I are spending some time with summer squash; one veg people seem to have a love/hate relationship with. Many have never tried it; the ones who have believe the only way to endure it is breaded and fried (my dad would agree with you). Let's set those misconceptions and lost introductions aside and take a good long look at this bountiful summer crop.
squash photo: summer squash DSCN1266r.jpg
Squash plants are large and rather bristly plants; their flowers are edible, too
     Summer squashes are members of the gourd family, harvested while still immature keeping their flesh and seeds tender and edible. They are quick to prepare and cook, offering very few calories while providing us with much needed vitamin C and fiber. Due to it's somewhat spongy nature, summer squash readily absorbs flavors; a great carrier for spices! When experiencing a new vegetable, try it uncooked first in order to understand the texture and touch of it. (yes, summer squash can be eaten raw)
      Harvest summer squash in season, often early to mid summer, when the skin brightens and the blossom falls off. Larger squash will have more seed to them, so pick when full but heavy for their size. I like mine about the length of my hand, narrow enough around for my index finger to touch my thumb when wrapped around the largest part. Pale baby squash are perfectly fine to harvest and are excellent roasted or in a fresh veg platter. If you want blossoms, pick the larger 'male' blossom (often the one closing up). These can be eaten as is, tossed with salad, or stuffed with fresh soft cheese and herbs.
       Simple preparations are best, giving the veg a chance to shine. A little garlic, oil, and crushed red pepper in the sauté pan will enhance the squash without overwhelming it. Many stir-fry's use summer squash beautifully, allowing the slices to absorb the seasoning and carry it among other more firm produce. Grilled squash is excellent when allowed to marinade, as you would a meat. Slide them onto skewers to keep them from falling through the grates. Squash make excellent baked 'fries' when prepared carefully- removing all seeds and drying well by sprinkling with salt and allowing to sit a few minutes in order to produce a little crisp (they will not crisp as well as a potato because they lack starch).
       Before using summer squash always wash them well and pat dry. Note, we remove the seeds to prevent excess moisture when cooking- this would cause the squash to become soggy.

Wash the squash under cool running water and cut both ends off.
Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds with a spoon.
The squash can then be quartered, cubed, sliced, grated, or left in halves and then cooked.
chart credit

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