As with any growing endeavor, it’s not just about the garden. The whole point is to have a reliable food supply throughout the year. As you move into the kitchen, you need to think about the meal of the moment and also have a plan for preservation. Nutrition is, of course, another aspect of growing your own food. Summer squash are a good source of fiber and of vitamins A, C, B6, K, niacin, riboflavin and folate. When grown in good, mineral-rich soil, they supply phosphorus, copper, magnesium, potassium and manganese. They’re low in calories, too, if you concern yourself with calorie counting.
Summer squash are endlessly versatile – you can saute, fry, bake, stuff, roast, puree or eat them raw. Their flavor is delicate (some people say bland), which means they take well to a wide variety of spices and herbs. Preservation options for summer squash are a little more limited, but they can be preserved, pickled, dried and frozen (grated only). All summer squash can be used interchangeably in these recipes, so just ignore any instructions about what kind of squash to use. Do, however, pay attention to size. You won’t get the same results from a ten-inch squash as you do with a five-inch squash.
Squash Blossoms in the Kitchen
Squash blossoms are edible; this is one of the benefits of growing your own. All squash plants produce way more blossoms than they can produce actual squash – by eating the excess you add to your food supply, decrease waste and prevent the plant from expending its energy in trying to produce squash that will never ripen. Squash blossoms are extremely fragile, so being able to harvest and cook immediately offers you a real gourmet delight. Harvest squash blossoms in the morning and prepare the same day. Check the insides for bugs before blanching the flowers. Male blossoms grow directly from the stalks and have a stamen inside the flower. Remove the stamens before stuffing the blossoms. Females may have tiny zucchini attached to them; leave them on if desired. Be gentle when handling the blossoms, as they tear easily.
Grilled Summer Squash
Absolute, hands-down easiest way to cook summer squash. Slice lengthwise (don’t cut in rounds as they’ll shrink and fall through the grill) douse with a little olive oil and pitch on the preheated, hot grill. Turn once. Eat hot or room temperature. If you want to liven them up, sprinkle with chopped herbs or spices after they come off the grill (otherwise the herbs will burn on the grill). You can drizzle with a little more olive oil or sprinkle on some good cheese if your fancy turns that way.
Sautéed Summer Squash
Second-easiest way to cook them. Slice in rounds about ¼ inch thick. Heat some olive oil, coconut oil or butter in a cast iron or heavy stainless steel skillet. Dump in the squash and stir until it’s slightly softened. If you like them a little more done, dump the accumulated water from the softened squash out of the pan, add a little more oil, and let them cook on one side until browned. Turn over and repeat. You can sprinkle with chopped fresh or dried herbs about two minutes before the squash is done, and add chopped green onions, chives or cheese when it’s ready to serve.
Marinated Zucchini and Summer Squash Salad
- ¼ cup cider vinegar in ¼ cup water
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 2 yellow squash (about 3/4 pound)1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, or crumbled feta cheese
Combine vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir until sugar dissolves. Since you’re eating them fresh, choose young, tender squash. Trim ends of zucchini and squash; slice into thin ribbons on mandoline or with the slicer on your box grater. Add to vinegar mixture. Cover and chill 2 hours or overnight. Bring a small pan of water to a boil; add garlic. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon after 1 minute. Rinse under cold water; set aside. Add basil to boiling water; immediately remove and rinse under cold water. Reserve 1 tablespoon of cooking liquid. Transfer garlic and basil to a food processor, and add lemon juice, olive oil, reserved water and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Process until smooth. Drain squash. Top with cubed mozzarella and drizzle with basil oil.
Shaved-Squash Salad with Tomatoes, Zucchini Blossoms, Ricotta and Thyme Oil
- 1 generous handful fresh thyme sprigs (about 3/4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 baby zucchini (3 ounces total), thinly shaved on a mandoline
- 4 baby pattypan squashes (a mixture of yellow and green; 3 ounces total), thinly shaved on a mandoline
- 4 ounces mixed teardrop or cherry small tomatoes, cut in half crosswise (1 cup)
- 6 zucchini blossoms, halved or quartered if large
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn if large, plus more for sprinkling (optional)
- Pinch of red-pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- Coarsely ground pepper3 ounces fresh ricotta (1/3 cup)
Place thyme on a cutting board and bruise with the dull edge of a knife. Place thyme and oil in a small saucepan. Cover and heat over medium heat until small bubbles appear. Turn off heat and steep thyme, covered, 20 minutes. Discard sprigs, leaving loose thyme leaves in oil. Whisk together lemon zest and juice and 2 tablespoons thyme oil (reserve remaining oil for another use; it can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks). Combine half the dressing with the zucchini, pattypan squashes, tomatoes, zucchini blossoms, basil, red-pepper flakes and salt. Season with pepper and toss. Divide half the salad between 2 plates and dot with half the ricotta. Top with remaining salad and remaining ricotta. Drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with basil.
Summer Rice Salad
- 2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely minced
- 1 small summer squash, diced1 large tomato, diced
- 1 cup spinach leaves, rolled together tightly and very thinly sliced (chiffonade technique)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 small carrot, grated or minced
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked rice
- salt and pepper to taste
Toss prepared vegetables together in a glass or ceramic bowl. Whisk olive oil into lemon juice until emulsified. Add to vegetables; cover and refrigerate for an hour. Add cooked, cooled rice; add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving time.