Wednesday, May 21, 2008

THE TROUBLE WITH SUMMER SQUASH …


Article and recipe submitted by: Larry Hamby
larryhamby1@earthlink.com




THE TROUBLE WITH SUMMER SQUASH …

is that, generally speaking, only Southerners know how to cook it properly. Yankees tend to mcut up anything labeled “summer squash,” dump it into boiling water, boil it until it’s soft, then drain it, over-butter it and serve it up as a tasteless, shapeless mass. Or else, it's stewed with tomatoes and onions -- which is not much better. As a result, after the first cooking people will avoid summer squash as being a bland vegetable, and try to give away every zucchini and yellow summer squash they grow. Why grow them under these circumstances? This is one of the great mysteries of gardening! And it explains the plethora of books on what to do with all that zucchini!

Actually, summer squash properly prepared is delicious and satisfying. And it isn't difficult once one has discarded the idea of boiling summer squash.

However, there is one additional first step.

This additional step is having the right summer squash on hand to begin with. This is easy if you garden and almost impossible if you don't. The commercial zucchinis and yellow squashes are mostly hybrids developed for productivity, shipping and keeping qualities, which means they are probably tasteless. In the home garden, though, one can raise the old Black Zucchini, and the Yellow Crookneck, both of which have flavor! Even the zucchini, believe it or not. I have grown and cooked many other varieties, including the hybrids, and have not yet discovered one which had any taste at all.

Having acquired the proper summer squash, what does one do with it? My favorite recipe for yellow crooknecks when I'm not dieting is to cook it the way it was prepared in the South when I was a child. One simply cuts the squash into cubes, puts it into a large frying pan with some bacon grease, and enough water to start it to boil without burning the squash. Add large amounts of freshly grated black pepper. Cover and stew until soft, remove the cover and cook it down until it's almost dry. It will burn easily, so use a low heat toward the end. Mash, adjust salt and serve.

You’ll never boil summer squash again after fixing it this way.

Some people like to add chopped onion. I don't. When I'm dieting, I fix it with chicken bouillon in place of the bacon grease And if you don't like bacon grease, try butter. That's good too, and has an elegance bacon doesn't, but it isn't as hearty.

Zucchini doesn’t respond to this treatment, because it’s too watery. Try this: slice zucchini thinly (a mandolin or food processor is perfect for this), sprinkle it with a bit of salt and let rest in a colander or sieve. Slice several cloves of garlic thinly and heat them in extra-virgin olive oil till they are faintly beige. Add the drained zucchini and stir fry till the zucchini is limp and beginning to brown. This makes a great side dish, or you can increase the oil and put it over pasta; add romano or parmesan.

An exception to the “no boiling” rule is pattypan squash, which can be cut in wedges, boiled (better steamed) briefly, buttered, salted and peppered and served.

Here’s a delicious way to cook summer squash, taken from Mrs. S. R Dull’s Southern cooking. Don’t expect the kind of soufflé you get from the usual methods. This one is heavier, more like a casserole.

Plain Squash Soufflé


2 cups squash, cooked, mashed and measured
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 cup milk
3 T bacon drippings or butter
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter in hot milk; pour over bread crumbs, mix well, add to squash. Add seasoning, beat all together and add to mixture. Pour into a baking sish and bake 20-30 minutes in moderate oven. Serve from the dish. The top may be covered with buttered crumbs, using extra crumbs for topping.

Mrs. Dull recommends boiling the squash and draining it for precooking it. I have found that shredding it, salting it and letting is sit in a colander for about an hour, then rinsing and draining it works better so far as flavor is concerned.

Here are some of my variations:

1. Add about 3 oz. of shredded sharp cheddar (or any cheese for that matter, but remember that some are saltier than others.
2. Add oregano and/or cumin, or Old Bay Seasoning or Spike.
3. Use cooked eggplant instead of squash.
4. Dieters can use egg substitutes and fat free milk and low fat cheese, but the results aren’t as good.
5. Use crumbled saltines instead of bread crumbs (In which case, you may have to adjust the amount of liquid).
6. Use buttermilk in place of sweet milk.



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