Eek. It is the invasion of the summer squashes. Turn your back for five minutes and some crookneck or straight-neck yellow, zucchini or patty pan squash will balloon in size and then hide, laughing, under a huge squash leaf, when you finally find it and wonder how you are going to find 20 other people to help you eat it.
Nancy Harrington in Millbridge wrote to say she was looking for recipes made with summer squash. “Wondering if you could help me. Have a lot of summer squash in garden.” Me, too, and probably a lot of us.
Mostly, I think, we need recipes less than we need strategies. Here are my ideas, gleaned mostly from personal experience and helpful hints from friends.
First, only plant one zucchini, one yellow and one patty pan. One of each plant keeps two people amply supplied, and in my instance, even provides enough for freezing. If you have a whole row of them you will lose your mind unless you have a family of 10 or are growing for market.
Second, pick them when they are little. Get them at five to eight inches long. It means crawling around on your hands and knees and peering at ground level into the plant practically every day, especially when the weather is warm and sunny.
Third, remember they are mostly water and cooking them to dry them out a little helps with the sheer mass. When in doubt, roast them in a hot oven or, when they are 12 or more inches long, stuff and bake them. Slice them thickly and put them on the grill. Conversely, turn them into soup by adding a little broth or cream, seasoned up to taste. Specifics will follow.
Treat them like a cucumber and slice them into discs or make them into spears to dunk into dips. Dice them finely or grate them to add to salad or slaw. Grate and freeze them raw by the cupful in a small plastic bag to use as a stealth vegetable in winter. Dumped into spaghetti sauce, chili or soup, for example, they disappear as if by magic leaving behind only their nutrients and fiber; it’s a great way to sneak veggies into the resistant. Squash frozen this way works in zucchini bread or muffins, too, if you squeeze excess liquid out after it thaws.
If you end up with leftover roasted squash, remember that you can make it into soup by pureeing it in a blender and adding a little broth or cream, or you can scrape it into a freezer bag and use it next winter by just thawing and heating it.
Roasted Summer Squash
Optional seasonings such as onion, garlic, herbs
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and dribble olive or vegetable oil in a roasting pan. Take your choice of summer squashes, cut into slightly larger than bite sized pieces and put them into the pan. Toss, adding a little more oil until there is oil on each piece. Add optional slices of onion or whole peeled cloves of garlic. Put into the oven and turn them every 10 minutes or so until they are as tender as you wish, usually 20-30 minutes. Add herbs such as oregano, basil or cilantro at the very end.
Summer Squash Soup
Olive or vegetable oil
Chicken or vegetable broth or stock, or water
Herbs or seasonings to taste
Salt and pepper
Chop or grate the squashes, onions and garlic. Put oil in a heavy pot and cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes to soften them, then dump in the squash, add a couple of spoonfuls of water to prevent sticking, put a lid on the pot and reduce the temperature. Cook until the squashes are thoroughly softened. Mash them, add the broth or water and simmer for a few minutes, then add herbs or spices to taste. Puree if you wish, or leave the soup a little chunky. Finish with cream if desired and heat through without boiling before serving.
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