I love a good challenge and thinking of five different ways to prepare an abundance of summer squash without feeling like I’m eating the same meal over and over was a contest I felt ready to take on. Eating seasonally means just that. When produce is in season, that’s the time to go for it even if it means getting to the point that you never want to see another zucchini, at least not until next year. For my self-imposed squash challenge I set some additional guidelines — I used one squash each day, choosing from any type of summer squash. I tried several different methods to cut the squash (don’t ask me why but that alone actually makes it tastes different). I shredded it, grilled it, pickled it, shaved it into ribbons, stuffed and rolled it. For any additional ingredients, I used things that I already had on hand. Sound like fun? It was and here are my results.
Day 1: Shred it.
This was kind of a revelation for me. I love slaw and although this recipe is lightly cooked, it doesn’t have to be. I saw this recipe for Summer Squash Saute in Bon Appetit. It gave 4 different variations using summer squash cut with a mandoline with a julienne attachment. I put mine into my food processor and shredded it along with a carrot I found hiding in the fridge, cooked it with fresh garlic from the farmers market and dressed it with miso and brown rice vinegar, once again, ingredients that I had on hand.
Shredded Summer Squash & Carrot Saute
Ingredients: 1 medium summer squash – I used zucchini/ 1 medium carrot/ 1 clove garlic, minced/ 1 T olive oil/ 1 T white miso/ 1 T brown rice vinegar/ Sea Salt
Directions: Shred or julienne summer squash and carrot separately/ Salt the shredded squash and set in a colander on a plate or in the sink/ Let it stand for 10 minutes and then squeeze out as much excess liquid as you can (don’t rinse it)/ Heat olive oil in medium skillet/ Lightly saute the garlic until fragrant, but not brown, around 2 minutes/ Add squash and carrot and cook very lightly, still crisp not limp/ Remove from heat/ Whisk together miso and vinegar and stir into shredded vegetables.
Day 2: Grill it.
The next day I used a scallop or patty pan squash cut into slices that were somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick, brushed them with olive oil infused with garlic and red pepper and cooked them on my grill pan. These could also be cooked on an outdoor grill, whatever’s easier.
Grilled Summer Squash
Ingredients: 1 scallop squash cut into slices/ Olive oil/ 1 clove garlic, minced/ Sliced red pepper or pepper flakes/ lemon wedge/ crumbled feta cheese
Directions: Set grill pan on medium heat/Saute garlic and red pepper in olive oil in a small saute pan/ When the grill pan is hot, brush squash slices with infused olive oil/ Cook on one side without disturbing for 5 minutes/ Turn each piece 45 degrees and continue to cook on same side 3 or 4 minutes longer/ Turn slices over and cook the same way on the second side/ Remove slices to plate, drizzle with garlic, peppers and olive oil/ Squeeze lemon wedge over the top/ Season with salt and pepper/ Serve with crumbled feta cheese.
Inspiration for this and the following recipe came from Deborah Madison’s amazing new book: Vegetable Literacy.
Day 3: Pickle it.
Quick zucchini and shallot pickles were something I could eat for the rest of the week but were ready to go after only 3 hours. The original recipe called for cucumbers and onions, I used zucchini rounds and shallots instead, because that’s what I had on hand.
Lazy Zucchini and Shallot Quick Pickles
Ingredients: 1 medium zucchini cut into rounds/ 1 shallot, thinly sliced/ 1/4 t sea salt/ freshly ground pepper/ 1t organic cane sugar/ 1/2 cup brown rice vinegar/ 1/2 cup water/ 1/2 t mustard seeds/ 1/8 t turmeric/sliced dried red pepper or pepper flakes to taste/ 2 small fennel flowers (recipe called for 1/4 t celery seeds which I didn’t have and I’ve been dying to use these beautiful flowerheads.
Directions: Put salt, a few twists from the pepper mill and sugar into a bowl/ Add vinegar and water, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt/ Add zucchini, shallot, mustard seeds, red pepper, turmeric/ Pack in glass jar with fennel flowers and cover with lid/ Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to about a week.
Day 4 : Shave it.
As the week goes on, I’m letting go and really getting into experimenting with my theory that the difference in taste lies in the cutting — even when you use basically the same ingredients.
Summer Squash Ribbon Salad
Ingredients: 1 or 2 summer squashes or zucchinis/ Fresh lemon juice and zest/ Chopped pistachios/ Crumbled feta cheese/ Olive oil/ Sea salt & freshly ground pepper/ Parsley or mint garnish.
Directions: Cut a squash in half lengthwise and cut off the outside peel so it will lay flat while you shave it/ Shave it as thinly as possible into ribbons — I started out with a wide vegetable peeler which made thinner ribbons but wouldn’t go down the full length of the squash. I ended up using my cheese slicer — a little thicker, and more even.
Arrange ribbons on a plate, squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and drizzle with some good olive oil/ Garnish with chopped pistachios, lemon zest, parsley, feta cheese — whatever you think might taste good.
Day 5: Roll it.
After 5 days of summer squash, I can honestly say I’m not the slightest bit tired of it and I keep finding new ideas for other ways to eat it. On my final day of this challenge, I found myself wishing I had made more of this appetizer — lots more.
Summer Squash Rolls
Ingredients: 1 or 2 medium summer squash/ 1 Avocado/ Lemon juice/ Crumbled feta cheese/ Olive Oil/ Balsamic Vinegar/ Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Directions: Cut squash into ribbons as in recipe above — in this recipe the ribbons should be on the thicker side so they won’t fall apart when cooked and rolled/ Preheat oven to 400 degrees/ Place ribbons on a baking sheet, brushed with olive oil, salt & pepper, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar/ Roast for 5 minutes, then flip over and roast for 5 minutes on other side/ Remove from oven and let cool/ Mash avocado with some lemon juice, salt & pepper/ Using a butter knife, spread avocado on each ribbon then crumble feta cheese on top/ Roll the ribbon up/ Mine stayed together but if you need too, you can secure with a toothpick.
These would make an excellent vegetarian appetizer for your next summer party, if you don’t eat them all first.