Sizing Up Summer Squash
It’s your choice – grill, sauté, puree or slice it up fresh – summer squash is ready.
All varieties, of which there are many, sport the characteristics of thin skin, soft seeds and high moisture content. Mild in flavor and interchangeable in many recipes, summer squash marries well with cilantro, basil, garlic, onion, pepper and tomato.
The slender green zucchini is probably the most prolific and best-known of the summer squash family. I’m first in line when the deep-yellow Gourmet Gold zucchini arrives at market. The flavor is mildly sweet with a buttery soft flesh and the perfect addition to frittatas, salads and pizza. Round green or yellow zucchini are great for stuffing with couscous, rice, quinoa or ground beef.
Scalloped-edge squash like sunburst, pattypan and scallopini add interest to the barbecue when sliced crosswise and grilled with a little olive oil and oregano. Crookneck squash, easily recognized by a full blossom end that narrows at the neck, is delicious used in cold soups.
Choose fresh summer squash with shiny skin, free of any pitting. Small squash is the most tender, but they should be firm and heavy for their size. Over-mature squash is salvageable when hollowed out for stuffing and baked like winter squash, or added to soups and baked goods.
Opo squash looks like elongated, pale green pears. They are a type of gourd and may be referred to as bottle or snake gourds. Use opo squash in curry dishes, as it holds its shape much better than other varieties and absorbs all the amazing flavors.
Bitter melons resemble bumpy-skinned, bright-green cucumbers. A type of squash, but as the name implies, they are bitter and become more so as the fruit ripens. To prepare for soups or stir fries, cut in half lengthwise, scrape out and discard the seedy pulp and blanch the shell for a few minutes. Then drain, sprinkle with a little salt and let stand on paper towels. This procedure helps to remove some of the excess moisture and bitterness.
One of my favorite summer dishes is Calabacitas, Spanish for “little squash.”
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1 tb butter
4 cups half-inch cubed squash
½ cup chopped onion
1 seeded and diced jalapeno pepper
1 chopped garlic clove
2 cups fresh corn
½ cup Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
diced tomato or pimento (optional)
Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet.
Add and sauté the squash (I like pattypan, zucchini and scallopini), onion, jalapeno pepper and garlic.
Add corn and season with salt and pepper.
Cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle with cheese, lower heat, cover and cook for another 2 minutes.
Adding a diced tomato or a tablespoon of pimento gives the dish a dab of color and flavor.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. Visit www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket, Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call 925.322.6228.
Barbara Kobsar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.