2016-08-11 / From The Garden

The Ubiquitous Summer Squash

By Cynthia Gibson


Zucchini and summer squash come in a variety of colors and shapes Zucchini and summer squash come in a variety of colors and shapes It’s just not summer without zucchini or squash on the table, and August is the prime month for harvesting these excellent vegetables. However they’re sliced, summer squashes are so delicious and good for you.

Naturally sweet, zucchini and other summer squashes are neutral in flavor. The hot July and August sun gives them their sugary taste, much like sweet corn. They can replace pasta or rice in a number of Italian dishes, or come out tasting like a roasted cracker when baked in the oven with Parmesan cheese.

Summer squash is indigenous to Mexico and North America. Early American farmers adopted its name, “askutasquash,” from Native Americans. The word means “can be eaten raw” – and it can be.

The varieties that grow in France are called courgettes. In Italy they are zucchini, and in England the large green summer squashes are referred to as marrows. While you can stuff any summer squash, the round varieties from Italy are brilliant for stuffing – great for taste, as well as presentation.

Zucchini and summer squash also make great slaw, a sweeter version than that made from cabbage. Adding freshly chopped mint or dill makes it even more delightful.

The versatility of these vegetables is why people grow them. One day’s harvest can produce an entire meal, from soup to cake. Some recommendations: cold squash soup, baked zucchini Parmesan sticks, stuffed zucchini or summer squash, zucchini and shrimp scampi, more casseroles than you can imagine, and zucchini bread and cake. Despite the sweetness (the smaller, the sweeter), they are low in calories.

Squashes become more watery with size, so it is best to pick them when they are no more than six inches long. This is the perfect size for making baked zucchini sticks.

If growing your own zucchini next year, I suggest the green Romanesco and the yellow butterstick. In the farmers markets, in addition to typical green and yellow varieties, look for a two-toned zucchini called zephyr. This is for those who may have a difficult time making up their mind; there is indeed a summer squash for everyone.

In summer, everyone wants hassle-free recipes, and this one takes little to no time. It will be your new go-to hors d’oeuvre with a chilled glass of rose. Children are far more adventuresome in their tastes these days, but for those who still wince when you mention vegetables, try this.

Baked Zucchini and Parmesan Sticks

Three medium zucchini or
six smaller zucchini
One large egg or 1/4 cup
of egg substitute
3/4 to 1 cup of Panko
bread crumbs
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese,
finely grated
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste.
The Parmesan makes salt
unnecessary.

Slice the zucchini into quarters, then cut them in half. You should get 8 small sticks from each zucchini. Whisk egg in a bowl until it looks like a scrambled egg. Place the Panko, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder in separate bowl. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 3750. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Dip each stick into the egg, then into the dry ingredients and place each stick on the cookie sheet. Dip and coat all sticks, place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sticks are golden brown. Be careful not to overcook.

Let cool so the crust does not fall off the sticks. Place on a serving platter, give a twist or two of fresh pepper, sprinkle the fresh parsley on top, and serve. Ranch dressing or marinara sauce are great for dipping, but they are excellent au naturel!

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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