Summer squash harvest in September

Summer squash harvest in September.

Just to be clear, summer squash were harvested in August too. I just never got around to writing a post in celebration of summer squash. Until now.

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I don’t plant zucchini these days. They are similar to summer squash, and summer squash are my favorites, so why bother with zucchini. An Italian friend explained to me that some traditional Italian dishes require both zucchini and summer squash, so that’s a reason. I didn’t ask her if having both in a recipe was because of the lovely color combination, or if she can distinguish taste between zucchini and summer squash. I’ll have to ask her that.

For now, since I’m not Italian, although I love Italian cooking, I’ll just keep it simple and plant summer squash.

Summer squash is pretty simple to grow. It germinates readily in warm soil. There never  seems to be enough room for it. It goes sprawling, walking almost, out of its raised bed. The leaves are huge and often suffer from a powdery mildew, but the plants go on producing regardless of mildew.

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This year, after I pruned all the rusty leaves off the green pole beans, I decided to try cutting off all the mildewed summer squash leaves and discarding them in the yard trash sent to curbside for municipal pickup. I figured if the plants died from this pruning, they had already served me well with lots of yellow summer squash. But they didn’t die, as you can see from the photos above and below. They went right on producing lovely yellow summer squash fruits. And, so far, the fresh leaves have not mildewed. Humidity is not so high now. Perhaps that’s a factor. So, trimming off mildewed summer squash leaves is an experiment that has worked out OK so far. Make a note of that for next season.

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I love the Garrison Keillor monologue where people in Lake Wobegon take to locking their car doors at a certain time in late summer, even though no one ever locks their car doors in Lake Wobegon. This is because certain local gardeners have such an abundance of zucchini that they are in the habit of leaving zucchini gifts on the backseats of cars parked on Main Street. That’s the way with zucchini and summer squash. They know how to produce.

I don’t know about preserving summer squash. Maybe I could dehydrate some, just as an experiment. The best strategy, when giving it away fails, is to have lots of summer squash recipes on hand. Zucchini recipes. Yellow summer squash recipes. They are all the same to me.

Andrea Chesman’s Serving Up the Harvest cookbook does not fail when it comes to summer squash recipes. My first favorite from Chesman is her pasta with summer squash and shrimp. The secret to this recipe is saffron soaked in white wine, which adds even more yellow to this dish. I tried using scallops instead of shrimp, but decided that scallops are a bad idea. Last time this recipe was made, I used frozen cooked shrimp, a little pricey, but really easy.

Also, I don’t do the routine of salting the summer squash and draining it in a colander for 30 minutes or so. I decided this technique is for over-sized store-bought old summer squash. My summer squash are small. If I don’t catch them in time, the big ones get sent to the compost pile to make excellent soil for next year. So, small, fresh summer squash don’t need to be salted and drained, in my opinion.

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Back to Chesman’s recipe. Sauté summer squash, bell peppers, red ripe tomatoes, and garlic, Add the wine and saffron mixture. Simmer. Throw in the shrimp. Serve over pasta, or mix the pasta in. Garnish with fresh basil. What a summer garden dish. Truly delicious. There’s a photo above. I know all the photos of summer recipes start looking alike. But they have their own tastes. The saffron and the shrimp make this one special.

Chesman also has a summer squash recipe with boned chicken breasts marinated in lime juice and chipotle chile en adobe. Otherwise, it calls for similar garden ingredients as above. Summer squash, bell pepper, ripe tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and cilantro. She serves this one with tortillas or rice. Whatever suits you. The magic is the lime juice. Since the chipotle en adobe comes from a can and seems heavy for summertime, I’m thinking next time of blending the lime juice with red-ripe jalapeños from the garden instead, maybe with a little garden tomato sauce and olive oil. Maybe some garlic. Sounds like a good marinade. Why not. The lime juice is important. It gives such a fresh taste to the dish.

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One really fast summer squash dish is as follows. Lots of sliced onions in olive oil with salt in the bottom of a casserole. Then layer summer squash, red-ripe tomatoes, and peppers, either bells or chiles, or both, and more onions. Mingle in some cubed feta cheese. Basil or oregano is never wrong. Season as suits you. Top with grated parmesan or pecorino. Bake at 350°F. until veggies are cooked but crunchy, and grated cheese is golden. If you like the vegetables more well-done, put a lid on the casserole for the first 20 minutes or so. Then take it off to brown the cheese topping. The feta gets all soft and luscious, but still keeps its shape, as I hope can be seen in the photo above. I probably got this recipe from somewhere, but I’ve made it my own over the years. I claim it.

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Zucchini bread is a no-brainer, of course. If you have lots of zucchini, make bread. Same with summer squash. The New York Times is to be commended for coming up with recipes to fit the seasons. Recently, Melissa Clark gave us an olive oil zucchini bread recipe that suits me. I like to use olive oil. I particularly like this recipe because it is to be mixed with a rubber spatula. No mixer needed. I really like that.

Grated summer squash, brown sugar, olive oil, Greek yogurt, eggs, and vanilla get mixed in 1 bowl. In another, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, and chopped walnuts. Fold everything together. Bake at 350°F. until that toothpick comes clean. It’s great. A light texture. Not too sweet. The recipe can be found on the Times web site. Photo above. I received many compliments for this bread, and plan to bake it again this weekend.

Finally, another Melissa Clark recipe from the Times. This one is for polenta with butternut squash. But I used summer squash, and it worked out just fine. Combine water and polenta with seasonings. Stir in shredded squash. Simmer and stir until squash is tender and polenta is thickened. Add more water as needed. Season. A little butter is yummy. Clark serves this with pork sausage. Or just enjoy it as is. The recipe is from March 5, 2014, in the Times online. I don’t have a photo, but perhaps I will make this recipe in the near future and add a photo then. It will look like polenta.

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Above is a September 28 photo of polenta cooked with shredded summer squash, butter, salt, and pepper. I said it would look like polenta, and it does. The shredded summer squash gives the polenta a lighter texture, almost like a soufflé. It really is delicious. Comfort food.

Love summer squash. A summer garden without summer squash is unthinkable. That’s what I think.

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