Cook Club: Summer of squash

Zucchini, patty pan, crookneck and more varieties abound

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On the popular National Public Radio show “Prairie Home Companion,” Garrison Keillor joked more than once that in the small Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon, the only time residents lock their car doors is in the summer, for fear that someone would leave a bag of zucchini on the front seat.

So abundant is the vegetable this time of year, people growing it in their backyards can feel like they are drowning in summer squash.

I can relate. I didn’t plant any squash this year, but only because I knew from experience I would have plenty of it on my hands already. I have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from Bass Farms outside Mount Vernon. Two friends and I paid the farmers a fee at the beginning of the season and in return we get a box bursting with seasonal, fresh produce each week throughout the summer.

Right now, that means a lot of summer squash. We’re getting oodles of yellow and green zucchini and plenty of patty pan and Peter Pan squashes — these are flatter and round, like yellow UFOs. There are plenty of other varieties of summer squash out there, with names like zephyr, crookneck and avocado squash.

Each variety has a slightly different flavor, but the basics of cooking are the same. All of them are delicious sauteed, baked or grilled, drizzled liberally with olive oil each time.

Summer squash bruschetta is one of my favorite go-to dishes any time of year, but especially now when fresh basil and fresh tomatoes are abundant. It’s an easy recipe to adjust to your preferences and to what you have in your refrigerator. If fresh mozzarella isn’t your thing, try a different cheese, or swap out the squash for whatever other vegetable you have a surplus of — I also like using kale or eggplant, along with other fresh herbs including rosemary, thyme and oregano.

Need more ways to take advantage of the summer squash bounty? Here are a few of my favorites:

• Zucchini can be an excellent healthy substitute for pasta — use a spiralizer or a mandolin to create zucchini noodles and top with pesto, tomato sauce or olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

• Layer slices of zucchini rounds into a lasagna or dice it into a quiche.

• Grate it up and use the results to make zucchini bread or muffins.

• Save it for winter; grated zucchini can be frozen as is; I recommend freezing 1 cup portions in plastic bags to pull out for winter baking. Cubed or sliced squash also can be blanched and frozen, then pulled out to throw in a stir fry or soup when the weather gets frosty.


Summer squash bruschetta

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 4
1 baguette
1 medium or 2 small summer squash, thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, diced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
Half a lemon
16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bread into sections and slice in half, arrange on baking sheet. Rub peeled garlic cloves on bread; mince garlic and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan on medium heat, add sliced summer squash. Squeeze lemon over squash and saute until slightly translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 more minute. Arrange mozzarella rounds on bread, followed by summer squash and garlic. Top with diced tomato, fresh basil and salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bake 10 minutes. Serve warm.


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