“It’s been a great year for squash!” wrote reader Ginny Mott. I’ll say. We pick the plants clean and two days later, it seems, there is another crop of generously sized yellow summer squash, golden patty pans and zucchini.
Several of the largest yellows have been ground into Tangy Golden Relish, the recipe I offered here a couple weeks ago when I spoke about freezing some as well. So Ginny went onto say, “I’m intrigued by your mention of freezing summer squash. Can you tell me how you do that, please?”
It occurred to me that it probably isn’t just Ginny and I who have a lot of squash so I wrote back to tell her I’d dedicate a column to squash freezing advice. So here it is.
For several years now, I have turned some of my summer squashes into a form — sometimes raw, sometimes cooked — that I can use in winter. The very easiest is grating it raw, and freezing cupful blobs wrapped in waxed paper and stashed inside a zipped plastic bag. I can thaw it out then add it to soups, tomato sauce, even chili. It quietly adds a vegetable to a dish without intruding on the flavor. Larger packages of grated squash with three or four cups can become a soup unto themselves — a nice hot lunch soup in any season — made with chicken or vegetable both, some cooked onion and garlic, seasoned with herbs like dill, chives and parsley, with or without added milk or cream, or even cream cheese dissolved in it.
Frozen raw grated summer squash makes a dandy fritter if you add a little flour and egg to the squash and drop it on a hot oiled pan to brown on both sides. Or, drain thawed squash well, and use it for your favorite zucchini bread or cake recipe. Yesterday, a friend of mine told me triumphantly that she substituted yellow squash for zucchini in her favorite zucchini bread, “And it came out just fine,” she said. Sure enough. You can reduce a heck of a pile of squash into useful food for winter by grating it raw for the freezer.
Then there is cooking it. While daintier summer squashes, the ones that are six inches long, for example, are wonderful for chopping to steam or sauté for immediate eating, the larger ones are perfect for roasting. And once roasted, they freeze beautifully, can be thawed, warmed and served up. Sometimes, if I think they are a bit too juicy, I sprinkle a little couscous into the pan to absorb the liquid. Some parmesan or bread crumbs sprinkled on top with a quick run under the broiler perks the flavor up nicely. Adding corn, peas, or green beans to the pan as you rewarm the squash makes for a terrific side dish vegetable. Stir the thawed roasted vegetables into cooked pasta or rice, taste them and add seasonings you like.
Grilling squash slices before freezing them adds great flavor. As you grill them, brush them with vinaigrette dressing, or even barbecue sauce. Slide them into plastic freezer bags, lay them flat on a cookie sheet to freeze them, then store until use. You reheat them the same way you do the roasted squash, with or without additions.
Mainly, it’s best to expect frozen summer squash to cook and taste different from fresh; sample it as you go along and season to taste. The primary idea is to stretch summer’s bounty into the colder months long after Jack Frost has visited your garden.
Roasted Summer Squash with Couscous
1 small onion, chopped
1 quart bag of thawed roasted summer squash
2-3 tablespoons couscous
Salt and pepper
Parsley, finely chopped, optional
1 tablespoon melted butter
2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
Cook the onion in a little olive oil until it is just soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the thawed summer squash and heat it through.
Sprinkle the couscous into the pan, toss with a spatula, and cover to allow the couscous to absorb the liquid from the squash.
Add optional corn, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter and distribute lightly over the squash mixture.
Run under the broiler briefly to brown the crumbs.