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At the Kitchen Table: 07/01/2010

Versatile summer squash

Have you ever wondered what to do with all that summer squash and zucchini that is so readily available all summer long? Squash is prolific during summer months and sometimes it is hard to get a handle on what to do with the sheer quantity of it. Harvested young, summer squash is brightly colored, with shiny skin and tender flesh that is creamy and delicate while sweet in flavor. Summer squash is a versatile vegetable and there is no lack of available recipes out there. Whether deciding to make pasta, an egg dish, grilling, pickling, or stir-frying, the ways to eat them are endless.

Cookbook author Deborah Madison dresses up squash by thinly slicing it, sauting it and then laying it on a crostini that has been rubbed with olive oil and herbs. This is a great way to jump-start the palate for an impromptu appetizer or serve it with dinner in place of plain bread and butter.

One of my favorite ways to eat squash is to quarter it length-wise, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill it. Since it cooks so fast, it can be the last thing put on the grill. I have served it this way for many years as an antipasto along side roasted beets, bocconcini, marinated mushrooms, roasted red peppers and artichokes.

For pickling, I use a mandolin or even a vegetable peeler, and slice zucchini into thin strips. Yellow squash or the light green variety would work just as well. They pickle after only a few days in the fridge and are great on or next to any sandwich (see recipe below). My favorite irresistible summertime side dish is a layered gratin of alternating tomato slices, and squashes, sprinkled with pitted nicoise olives and drizzled with olive oil, then topped with Parmesan cheese.

You can find squash available seasonally from May-September. When choosing squash, the color should be uniform and the stem ends fresh and slightly green. They should be no more than 5” or so long and no more than 2” in diameter for best flavor and little or no seeds. Squash is low in calories and it is a good source of vitamin A, C and potassium. So eat them up! They are arriving just in time for your 4th of July picnic celebrations!

Bruschetta for Summer Squash

For this recipe I used olive bread, but it’s just as tasty with a country French or Levain. This is just a base to experiment with your own favorite herbs, or toppings.

  • 1 light green summer squash, thinly sliced and grilled
  • 8 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 10 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4-6 slices of rustic bread

Using the grill or a grill pan, heat to a hot temperature. Toss the squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the squash to the hot grill pan and cook about three minutes on each side. When squash has brightened in color and is a little translucent with grill marks set aside on a plate. It will continue to cook another couple of minutes.

Using a small bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, the chopped parsley and the olive oil. Reserve some of the parsley for topping. Slice the fresh or day old bread and toast or grill it.

When the bread is toasted, add the ricotta spread, layer one or two pieces of the grilled zucchini on top and sprinkle a few parsley leaves for garnish. Bon Appetite!

Inspired by Deborah Madison’s recipe in Local Flavor.

Zuni Zucchini Pickles

Don’t be fooled by pickling. This recipe is done in a very small batch and yields about 2 pints. These yummy pickles are so good they won’t last. Trust me, I could eat a whole jar myself.
  • 1 pound zucchini or patty pan squash
  • 1 small purple onion
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt

For the brine:
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoons crushed yellow or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Wash and trim the squash, then slice 1/16 inch thick on a mandoline or vegetable peeler. Slice the onion very thin as well. Place together in a large shallow bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt.

After about an hour, taste and feel a piece of squash – it should be faintly salty and softened. Drain, making sure to remove any remaining ice cubes. Dry very thoroughly between towels, or spin, a few handfuls at a time, in a salad spinner.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside, until just warm to the touch. If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft. Replace the squash in the bowl and add the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices.

Transfer to pickle jars, preferably ones with shoulders to hold the squash and onions beneath the surface of the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the squash, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color. These keep indefinitely in the fridge.

Recipe by Judy Rogers of Zuni Café

For more recipes and inspiration, visit me at

Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at
Email: tobcaters@gmailcom

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