Your kids are wrong — squash aren’t slimy


A skillet full of yellow squash is being fried up here by Joy Billings. She went all out with green beans and “taters” on the back burner and a chicken pie in the oven.

Summer may have officially started with the summer solstice on Jun 21 at 12:39 p.m. But that’s a technicality. Summer really starts with the ripening of the first summer vegetables. Usually, the first is squash.

That early trickle of squash from the solstice is about to become a full scale flood any day now with squash growing faster than Jack’s beanstock. Pretty soon even folks without gardens will enjoy the bounty when bags of squash begin appearing on their porches as their intrepid gardening friends desperately attempt to keep in front of the flood. So one way or the other, the odds are that you’re about to have more squash than you know what to do with.

It doesn’t help that most children seem to be united in a squash hating conspiracy and refuse to eat them. Squash are not slimy. They are delicious. Keep telling your kids that and by the time they graduate, they’ll believe you.

Despite what your kids say, there is nothing wrong with fried squash. Fried squash is one of the great delights of summer. Especially the long awaited first one of the season. But now that you’ve got that behind you and don’t really fancy the idea of fried squash every night for the next month, try mixing it up and prepare them in different ways. It will keep adults from getting bored and hopefully confuse the children.

Squash is not a one-trick pony. It can handle a lot more than just frying. Just adding cheddar cheese to the breading mix can really change things up. But while the squash are plentiful, be really adventurous. Try sautéing them without breading, cook them on the grill, pickle them, bake in a savory tart or a gratin or even slice them into paper thin ribbons and serve them in a salad. There’s nothing to lose.

Cheddar Fried Squash

3 small to medium summer squash

2 eggs, beaten with a little water

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper

oil for cooking (or bacon grease)

Slice the squash into 1/4 inch thick slices. Mix together breadcrumbs, cheese and salt and pepper together on a plate. Place the egg and flour on separate plates. Heat your oil or bacon grease in a skillet over medium high heat. It should be about a 1/4 inch deep. To bread the squash dip first in egg, then flour, then egg again, then breadcrumbs. Gently place in oil and fry until golden brown on each side, 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Yellow Squash Tart

1 recipe flaky butter crust

3/4 c. chopped chopped green onions

2 yellow squash, sliced into rounds about 1/4” thick

2 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon thyme, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a skillet with a little olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped green onions and saute until slightly tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the oil. Place the prepared tart dough into a 9” tart pan and trim any extra hanging over the edges. Spread the sauteed green onions on the bottom of the crust. Layer the yellow squash slices evenly on top of the green onions until you have filled the tart shell. In a small bowl beat together the eggs, heavy cream, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over top of the squash in the tart shell so it fills in all the gaps in between. Next sprinkle the goat cheese all over the top of the tart. Place the tart into the oven. Bake until the edges of the crust turn just barely brown and the tart filling has barely set, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Summer Squash Ribbons with Thai Basil and Peanuts

2 medium yellow squash

2 tbsp. chopped scallions

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup Thai basil chiffonade

1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, left whole if small, chopped if very large

Cut the ends off the squash. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice it lengthwise into very thin ribbons. Place in a serving bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, sugar, pepper and salt. Pour over the squash and let sit for five minutes. Add the Thai basil and peanuts and stir very gently to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Yellow Squash with Blistered Tomatoes

2 pounds yellow squash, choose smaller ones

1 pint grape tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Trim the ends of the squash. Quarter each squash and slice into pieces, 1/3 inch thick. Add the butter and oil to the skillet, followed by squash and garlic. Toss and sear for 2-5 minutes, until barely cooked through. Salt and pepper to taste. Push the squash to the sides of the skillet and add the tomatoes. Cook and toss another 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes are just about to pop. Stir in the fresh thyme and remove from heat. Sprinkle the yellow squash recipe with Parmesan cheese and serve warm.

Pickled Yellow Squash

This recipe makes two pints and will keep for up to a month in the fridge but if you like it, consider multiplying the quantities and processing in a canner. Not only will you be able to enjoy summery, squashy goodness longer, it will help use up more of the bounty of squash that’s raining down.

Servings: 2 pints

3 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced

½ sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 small green or red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

4 garlic cloves, finely diced

¼ cup kosher salt

½ tbsp. pickling spices

1 tbsp. mustard seeds

2½ cups apple cider vinegar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tbsp. ground mustard

Combine squash, onions, peppers, garlic, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add a few ice cubes and enough cold water to just cover. Combine and set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse the vegetables well and place in a colander to drain. Meanwhile heat a small saucepan over low heat and toast the pickling spices and mustard seeds. When the spices are aromatic, add the vinegar, sugar, and ground mustard and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, stirring to make sure the ingredients are dissolved, and cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Gently pat the vegetables dry with a towel and place in canning jars or an airtight container. Pour vinegar, spices, and seeds over the mixture and use a knife to push seeds and spices down around vegetables. Cover and refrigerate for up to one month. Strain from brine before serving.

Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde and Gruyere

Salsa Verde

1 tsp. fresh marjoram or oregano leaves (1/2 tsp. dried)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint

1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small clove garlic

1 anchovy

1 tbsp. capers, drained (rinsed if salt-packed)

1/2 lemon, for juicing

Freshly ground black pepper

Gratin

2 pounds summer squash

1 1/2 cups fresh coarse breadcrumbs

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

3/4 cup sliced shallot

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 tbsp. thyme leaves

1 New Mexico chile or jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (or Swiss cheese)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the salsa verde. Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, pound the herbs to a paste. You may have to do this in batches. Work in some of the olive oil, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Pound the garlic and anchovy, and add them to the herbs. Gently pound the capers until they’re partially crushed, and add them to the herbs. Stir in the remaining oil, a pinch of black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste for balance and seasoning. Make the gratin. Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut the squash into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Toss the slices in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and let sit 10 minutes. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the butter and cook for a few minutes, until it browns and smells nutty. Pour the brown butter over the breadcrumbs (being sure to scrape all the brown bits into the bowl with a rubber spatula). Wait a minute or so for the butter to cool, and toss well. Drain the squash and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the shallots, minced garlic, thyme, chile, 1/2 cup salsa verde, and some pepper. Toss to combine, and add the cheese and half the butter-coated breadcrumbs. Toss again, and taste for seasoning. (The raw garlic will taste strong at this point but will be delicious when cooked.) Place the squash in a pretty 9-by-9-inch (or equivalent) gratin dish (I used a skillet). Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs over the top, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and the top is crisp.

Sage Butter Summer Squash with Dill

Fried squash doesn’t need to be breaded to be good, especially when the flavor is amped up with some fresh herbs. If you’ve had the presence of mind to grow a few herbs in your garden, this is a very economical summer side dish.

2 pounds Yellow Summer Squash

1 tbsp. garlic, chopped

2 tbsp. butter

5 sage leaves

2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

salt

splashes fresh lemon juice

Wash and chop the yellow squash into 1/2-inch chunks. Put a saute pan on the stove top burner at medium-high heat. Add the butter and sage leaves. Allow the sage leaves to infuse the melting butter for approximately 5 minutes, stirring on occasion to avoid frying the leaves. Add the chopped garlic and yellow squash to the saute pan. Mix the ingredients to incorporate butter, garlic and squash. Saute and cook until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Once cooked, sprinkle on the fresh chopped dill, season with salt to taste and, if desired, sprinkle on juice from a fresh lemon. Mix and serve.

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