Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Squash

The past few weeks our local farmers markets have been overflowing with summer squash. Be it zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan and even a few sizable 8-ball varieties have been available in great supply. It seems every week the price goes down and their size increases which I consider a good thing. It is quite easy to simply sauté a sliced up squash or toss planks on the grill. But there a lot other ways to use this summer fruit, yes like tomatoes summer squash are botanically considered a fruit. The key to working with summer squash in most of recipes comes down to controlling the moisture level. This can be accomplished in a few different ways; quick high heat cooking is the simplest way to accomplish a plate of squash that hasn’t turned into a pile of mush. There is the physical method of removing excess moisture from squash which would be to simply squeeze the hell out of it. Lastly there is the chemical method off leaching out moisture which would be allowing squash and salt to come together which after some straining results in a very useful squash product.

Summer squash has it’s ancestry in the Americas. Lewis and Clark in 1804 observed great quantities of crookneck summer squash being raised by southern Indian tribes. After a trip to the Italian country side where the culinary use of summer squash became very popular it returned to the U.S. in the early 1920’s when Italian immigrants brought it to our tables and planted a large variety of squash which we are all thankful for today. While overwhelmingly abundant in the U.S. today summer squash are enjoyed worldwide in classic dished like French ratatouille, Mexican squash flower dishes, Turkish zucchini pancakes and Greek stuffed squash.

I recently acquired a rather large yellow squash. It made it into two preparations that hopefully give you a little nudge to grab some on your next trip to the market

Summer Squash Pancakes

Two pounds squash grated
Two tablespoons salt

One egg
One quarter cup flour
Pinch sugar
One tablespoon mix fresh herbs
Fresh cracked black pepper

Combine the grated squash and salt in a colander and let sit for half hour. Squeeze the squash in a clean dishtowel before combining the remaining ingredients. Working in a pan on medium heat sauté tablespoon dollops of batter in butter. Serve warm with sour cream, yogurt, topped with cheese or your favorite tomato based condiment.

Baked Yellow Squash

Large diameter squash cut into inch thick rounds

Two cloves fresh garlic chopped
One teaspoon fresh thyme
One third cup each bread crumbs and parmesan cheese
Good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Coat disks of squash with oil, salt and pepper. Top with cheese mixture and bake in hot oven for about 8 minutes.

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