Squash isn't posh, but it's perfect for summer dishes

September 06, 1995|By Judith Blake | Judith Blake,Seattle Times

It's so pretty that its appearance alone seems reason enough to buy it.

But summer squash, now in its peak season, offers other attractions as well: It's fun to cook with and good to eat.

The assortment is surprising if you've never taken close notice. Just about everybody knows zucchini, that prodigious over-producer of countless gardens, but there are many other kinds: yellow crookneck, chayote, green or yellow pattypan and more.

What's the difference between summer and winter squash? Winter squash, such as acorn or butternut, has a thick, hard skin and will keep a long time after it's picked if properly stored.

Summer squash is thinner-skinned, tender and more perishable -- it should used within three or four days of purchase. Some varieties actually are "summer squash" when they're harvested young, turning into harder-skinned "winter squash" if allowed to mature.

With its tender skin, summer squash can be eaten skin and all, either cooked or raw. Unlike more intensely flavored winter squash, summer types have subtle flavors and absorb the flavors of seasonings and other ingredients, to pleasant effect.

Squash is not thought of as fancy food. Yet it has a rich heritage. Native to South America, it has been a staple food of Indians in both North and South America for thousands of years.

Sliced, diced or shredded, summer squash adds a nice touch to many dishes, either sweet or savory: stir-fries, chowders, sweet breads and more. Although less nutritious than winter varieties, which are especially rich in vitamin A, summer squash has moderate amounts of vitamins and minerals and is low in calories. Because it can be easily overcooked, turning soft and mushy, careful timing is important in cooking.

Summer Squash Glazed With Balsamic Vinegar

Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 thin zucchini

2 thin yellow summer squash, crookneck or straightneck

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put vinegar into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and cook at a low boil about 4 to 5 minutes, until reduced to cup.

Trim ends of the zucchini and summer squash. Cut crosswise into halves, then lengthwise into 1/4 -inch thick slices. (The slices will be thin and wide.) Lay out onto a baking sheet.

Whisk together reduced vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush lightly on one side of squash. Place on highest rack under a hot broiler about 3 minutes, until it starts to bubble. Turn slices and brush again with vinegar mixture. Broil again about 3 minutes, until just tender. Transfer slices to a serving platter and drizzle with remaining balsamic glaze. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition per serving: calories 82, protein 2 g, fat 4 g, carbohydrates 12 g, sodium 141 mg, saturated fat 1 g, monounsaturated fat 3 g, polyunsaturated fat 0 g, cholesterol 0 mg.

From "Chic Simple-Cooking" by Kim Gross Johnson and Jeff Stone.

*

The next two recipes are adapted from "Squash -- A Country Garden

Cookbook" by Regina Schrambling.

Summer Squash Chowder With Smoked Fish

Makes 4 to 5 servings

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

1 small onion, peeled, finely diced

1 medium clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 medium yellow or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely diced

2 tablespoons flour

1 (14 1/2 -ounce) can vegetable broth

1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk

4 small, slender zucchini, cut into 1/2 -inch dice

2 small yellow summer squash, either crookneck or straightneck, trimmed and cut into 1/2 -inch dice

1 teaspoon white wine-Worcestershire sauce

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1/3 pound smoked white fish, such as black cod or trout, flaked

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Separate pieces of bacon and put into soup pot. Cook over medium heat until crisp; remove from pan.

Put onion, garlic and bell pepper into pan. Saute 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook 1 minute. Add about 1/2 cup broth, stirring well, and cook until thickened. Pour in remaining broth, evaporated milk, zucchini, summer squash, Worcestershire, thyme, hot pepper sauce and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add corn to soup.

If using fresh kernels, cook, uncovered, 5 minutes; 2 minutes for frozen. Stir bacon back into soup with the smoked fish, lemon juice and parsley. Cook gently over low heat 5 minutes. Season with pepper to taste.

Nutrition per serving (for 5 servings): calories 201, protein 15 g, fat 5 g, carbohydrates 27 g, sodium 721 mg, saturated fat 2 g, monounsaturated fat 2 g, polyunsaturated fat 1 g, cholesterol 75 mg

Creole Summer Squash

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 medium clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

2 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound baby yellow pattypan squash, or baby yellow crookneck squash, stem ends trimmed

1/2 pound baby zucchini, stemmed ends trimmed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or savory

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Saute 5 minutes.

Stir in chopped tomatoes, wine, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken. Stir occasionally.

Put the squash into the pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. The squash should still have a little crunch to it.

Stir in vinegar and thyme. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition per serving (for 6 servings: calories 75, protein 2 g, fat 3 g, carbohydrates 11 g, sodium 186 mg, saturated fat 0 g, monounsaturated fat 2 g, polyunsaturated fat 1 g, cholesterol 0 mg

-- Adapted from "Vegetables on the Side" by Sallie Y. Williams

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