Zucchini and yellow squash are hitting markets in a delicious summer-fresh avalanche. Both of these vegetables are in peak season and readily available at bargain prices, 40 to 50 cents a pound.
Most summers, area farmers plant so much of these squashes that when they come into full season, they flood the market. "This makes it very cheap," says Walter Zolotuchin of Stella Farms in Tansboro, N.J. "But it's still a wonderful food."
For the record, zucchini is the long, green squash. Yellow squash -- called yellow zucchini by some people -- comes in two varieties: straightneck, which is shaped like a small baseball bat, and crookneck, much like straightneck but with an arched shape.
With this season's huge crop, farmers are getting about $3 to $4 a half-bushel. Several years ago, when both squashes were scarce, growers were being paid more than $15 for a half-bushel.
Zucchini and yellow squash make great companions to fresh tomatoes, onions and peppers. They both react well to such seasonings as garlic, oregano, fresh basil, lemon juice and drizzles of olive oil or peanut oil.
When buying summer squashes, look for the smaller ones, which are younger, tenderer and thinner-skinned. Zolotuchin recommends selecting those that are about six to seven inches long and no more than 1 1/4 inches in diameter.
"They grow so fast, they almost seem to grow overnight," he says. "Some get so big, they're like baseball bats. Smaller is always tender. That goes for any kind of vegetable. When it gets bigger, it gets seedy."
The only time the larger squashes are recommended is when they are going to be used for dishes that call for them to be stuffed, or when they are going to be stir-fried or made into ratatouille. One pound of squash equals about three servings.
Zucchini and yellow squash will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. They can be steamed, fried, baked, sauteed or used raw in salads. They are low in calories and have good amounts of Vitamin A and potassium.
Either squash can be used in most recipes calling for one or the other. Most times, both can be used in a single recipe for color and texture contrast. Personal taste is the guide for making these changes.
Yellow Squash and Onion Omelet
1 pound small, unpeeled yellow squash
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Wash and dry squash. Cut off ends and slice thin. Cook the squash in two inches of water for two to three minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in an eight- to ten-inch skillet. Add the squash, onions and red bell pepper and saute until lightly browned.
Combine eggs, sugar, turmeric, salt and black pepper in a bowl and beat well. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cover. Cook over medium-high heat until the omelet is set on the bottom, about three minutes. Invert omelet onto a 12-inch plate. Pour off any oil remaining in skillet. Slip omelet back into skillet and cook for two to three minutes longer or until second side is nicely browned. Makes four servings.
2 small zucchini, about 1 by 6 inches
4 long white radishes
8 red radishes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Wash zucchini and trim ends with a straight cut, so each can stand on end. Cook in boiling water until tender, about three minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water; dry well. Cut zucchini in half crosswise, so each half can stand on end. Cut each half in half again with a diagonal cut. This gives each zucchini piece a flat end and a diagonal end. Scoop out seeds from diagonal ends to form a cup, with the straight bottoms as a base. Salt and pepper each cup.
Shred white and red radishes. Combine oil, vinegar or lemon juice, salt and peppers, and mix into shredded radish. Fill each cup to overflowing with the shredded radish mixture. Makes two to three servings.
Creamy Garlic and Zucchini Salad
6 cloves garlic
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup light vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound small zucchini
1/2 medium red bell pepper
Make a dressing by first coarsely chopping garlic and parsley. Blend minced garlic and parsley with the oil, vinegar and black pepper, using a blender. Peel and cut zucchini into small chunks. Finely chop the red pepper. Place zucchini in a bowl. Pour dressing over and sprinkle red pepper on top. Chill. Makes two to three servings.