Summer Squash

History

Amazingly, scientists have found squash seeds (from the genus-species Cucurbita pepo, which includes summer squash) preserved in Mexican caves for more than 10,000 years! It was that long ago when domestication of summer squash originated in Mexico and Central America. Cultivation of squashes (including summer squash) quickly became popular in North, Central, and South America, and Native Americans often referred to squashes as one of the "three sisters" alongside of corn (maize) and beans. Squashes were one of the North American foods that Columbus brought back to Spain from North America, and Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced squashes to many parts of the world.

About

Summer squashes belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants and are relatives of winter squashes (including pumpkins), melons (including watermelon), and even cucumbers. But summer squashes are typically much more delicate than their fellowCucurbitaceae, and are more often eaten fresh and shortly after harvest.

3 Most common types of summer squash in U.S.:

-Zucchini, showcasing a dark green skin

-Crookneck and straight neck squashes, typically yellow in color

-Pattypan squashes, typically saucer shaped and often a bit sweeter than other types of summer squash

To Store

Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will lead to decay. It should be stored unwashed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about seven days.

Recipes

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Sprinkle grated zucchini or other summer squash on top of salads and sandwiches.

  • Enjoy an easy to make ratatouille by healthy sautéing summer squash, onions, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes and then simmering the mixture in tomato sauce. Season to taste.

  • Serve raw summer squash with your favorite dips.

Light Chicken and Squash Lasagna

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow squash or zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • coarse salt and ground pepper

  • 1 pound ground white-meat chicken

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano

  • 5 cups prepared pasta sauce

  • 8 no-boil lasagna noodles

  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan (3 1/4 ounces)

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in middle and upper third. Divide squash between two rimmed baking sheets. Toss each with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, 20 minutes, stirring squash and rotating sheets halfway through. Let sheets cool on wire racks.

STEP 2

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 4 minutes. Add cayenne, basil, and marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a medium bowl.

STEP 3

Spread 1 cup sauce in an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 noodles. Layer with half the chicken, then 1 cup sauce and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Top with 2 more noodles, half the squash, 1 cup sauce, and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat layering with remaining ingredients, reserving the last 1/4 cup Parmesan. Cover lasagna loosely with foil and bake on top rack until sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. (Place a rimmed baking sheet on middle rack to catch any drippings.) Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Sprinkle with reserved Parmesan and broil until cheese is browned and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before slicing.

Grilled Squash with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tablespoons buttermilk

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

  • 1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmesan

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

  • 4 medium zucchini or yellow squash (or a combination), halved and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1

Heat a grill or grill pan over high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. In a small measuring cup, combine buttermilk and 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with white-wine vinegar. In a food processor, combine garlic, basil, and Parmesan and process until basil is finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper. With machine running, add buttermilk mixture in a slow, steady stream and process until dressing is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

STEP 2

Toss zucchini with remaining tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill zucchini (in batches if necessary) until lightly charred and tender, 4 to 6 minutes, flipping once. Transfer to a serving plate and drizzle with dressing.

Two-Colored Squash Loaf Cake

Serves 12

Serves 12

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 medium yellow squashes (about 12 ounces)

  • 2 medium green zucchini (about 12 ounces)

  • 1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped (about 4 ounces)

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

DIRECTIONS:

STEP 1

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

STEP 2

Coarsely grate squash and zucchini on the large holes of a box grater onto a large piece of cheesecloth; gather edges and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

STEP 3

Spread the pistachios in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

STEP 4

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Use a flexible spatula to fold in the squash, pistachios, and fennel seeds. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.

STEP 5

Bake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until loaf is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before unmolding onto rack to cool completely.