In the United States, squash is generally lumped into two categories: winter and summer squash. Summer squash includes zucchini, crookneck (or “yellow”) squash, and pattypan or scallop squash. These are typically harvested during the growing season when the skin is soft and the fruit has not reached maturity, whereas winter squash (butternut and acorn squash as well as pumpkins) are harvested at the end of the growing season and then cured to harden the skin.
Squash was one of the “Three Sisters” planted by Native Americans: maize (corn), beans and squash. The Native Americans planted these together with the corn stalks providing support for the climbing beans and shade for the squash. The squash helped prevent weeds from interfering with the three crops.
Summer squash are high in vitamins A and C and also niacin. All of the summer squashes have a high water content, tender flesh, a sweet mild taste and require little cooking. The seeds can be left in or scooped out before cooking. Squash should be salted 15 minutes prior to cooking to remove some of the water content, and then blotted dry. Because of their high water content, they do best when cooked with dry-heat methods such as stir-frying, grilling or sautéing to avoid the mush factor. But cooking by steaming, simmering in a sauce, baking or deep-frying is perfectly acceptable.
Now onto some recipes to use up all the summer squash you buy and/or are given!
Golden Summer Quiche
1 store-bought pie crust, preferably whole wheat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 medium summer squash or zucchini, cut into thin rounds (about 2 cups)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3/4 cup half-and-half, preferably organic
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, saute the onion and shallot over medium-high heat in the olive oil until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add squash and continue to saute another 5 minutes or so, until squash is no longer opaque. Spread vegetables evenly in the bottom of the pie crust.
3. Sprinkle cheeses over the vegetables, then sprinkle the thyme on top of the cheese.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and half-and-half until blended. Pour over the cheese, sprinkle quiche with salt and pepper to taste, and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
5. Serve warm, room-temperature, or cold.
Summer Squash Carpaccio
(Great side dish for a hot summer night!)
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (any combo of thyme, oregano, basil, chives, parsley)
½ - 1 teaspoon lemon juice (to taste)
½ - 1 teaspoon olive oil (to taste)
1 T grated pecorino cheese
1.Arrange a few slices of the yellow squash and zucchini on a plate in a single layer.
2.Sprinkle squash with minced shallots and chopped mixed herbs.
3.Drizzle with lemon juice first followed by the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
4.Repeat to make about 5 layers.
5.Top with grated pecorino.
6.Let marinate for 20 minutes before serving and garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs.