As the summer winds on many gardeners find themselves with armloads of various kinds of soft-rind squashes. In the growing region we live in—Northern California—this means lots of zucchini & yellow crook-neck squash. Last week, I had no less than twenty-three of the former type on my counter, stacked next to thirty-one fine examples of the latter. Whispering enticements they wait on the counter, in their skins of striking emerald-green and brilliant yellow hues, hoping to be precisely prepared in a ‘showcase’ dish.
What is a gardener to do with all that lovely ripe veg? I admit to being rather partial to battered deep-fried zucchini, but because of its high saturated fat content I only allow myself to consume it once a year, at the state fair. I can’t give any away, for all of the other folks on my block have the same problem; the local homeless shelters are chock full of squash already. After reaching out to my family, friends and contacts, however, I came up with several recipes and tips for dealing with an overabundance of summer-type squashes that will help promote healthy eating–and diminish both waist & waste—for several months to come.
One ~ The French provided this first great idea, a timeless recipe every cook should learn how to make, and one that the kids (if they like Pixar animation films) will readily try: Ratatouille. A “peasant” dish of deft simplicity, it takes less than an hour to prepare & cook and can be served up as a healthy lunch with crusty bread and soft cheese, or as a side dish at dinner. Ratatouille can be frozen for later use, but—like most garden-borne dishes—is best consumed fresh.
Free recipe Here.
Two ~ Adding in chopped or sliced soft-rind squashes to couscous or bulgar wheat as a side dish gives the beige-brown lumps a bit o’ color, as well as contrasting texture. My children like couscous very much and don’t mind eating the squash in it as long as it tastes good.
(Note: soft-rind squash tend to break down quickly in heat so add chopped veg a minute before grains are ready to serve. You may find that the squashes also soak in more salt, so remember to taste your dish again once you’ve added the veg.)
Three ~ The most common answer to my zucchini problem that I received back in reply were various stir-fry-type dishes, leaning toward anything from Szechuan to Thai. Again, add your soft-rind squash slices in at almost the last minute.
Four ~ Anyone with a food grinder will already know all the things you can do with this nifty mixer attachment, but some of my contact s take grinding to a whole new level. I’ve long put ground zucchini into my ‘Italian-style” hamburgers (along with ground olives, rosemary, mushrooms, onion & garlic) but the idea of incorporating soft-rind squash into dessert struck me as daunting. Zucchini ‘bread’ I’d already heard about–and tried with marginal success–but into my Inbox came suggestions of Ginger Apple Cupcakes, an outstanding recipe to which one simply adds finely-ground yellow squash. Apparently a small amount of zucchini (and beets) can be cached in brownies completely unnoticed by even the pickiest of children. I also successfully added a fair amount of yellow squash to Velvet Spice Cake (Joy of Cooking recipe.)
Five ~ If–like me–deep-frying is not an option for you, then a ceramic-coated outdoor grill comes to the gardener’s aid. Sliced long-ways, brushed with EVOO and sprinkled with bruised rosemary & sea salt both zukes and crooks are transformed into both form and function… food and art with golden-brown grill marks, pale insides and crisp edges. I’ve tried using an indoor grill-type electric grill, a few times but I’ve never managed to get my squashes to un-stick, even with a slathering of oil.
Six ~ For all those squashes left over, I’ve given into grinding them down by color—using the largest screen—and storing them away in double-thick zip-bags in my freezer. These bags lie wonderfully flat on the shelves and look remarkably fetching in their alternating yellows and greens, livening up any freezer. Said bags can be brought forth all winter long for bright, vitamin-rich ‘bits’ to add to the many cold-weather soups my family is so fond of. Even clam chowder can be “enhanced” with ground, sautee’d yellow squash.
Until the Weeks of Zucchini cease, may you find ever more creative ways to use these bright and nutritive gifts to their best advantage. Please feel free to post any more suggestions in the comments area. Link to recipes welcome.
L. R. Styles is a writer for Belator Books