There is More to Summer Squash Than Zucchini
I'm Always Ready for Summer Squash
Right around May the Farmer's Market opens. That means the fresh produce is back and I get my fill of Summer Squash. I'm not talking about zucchini, which is okay as far as things go. I mean patty pan, eight ball, crookneck, and all the other varieties that are out there to try. You'd be surprised how many different varieties of there are--and most of them haven't even seen their way to an American grocery store shelf.
The season usually runs from May to October. Then, it gives way to the Winter varieties. Though I like them both, I find the Summer varieties more versatile. I can't wait to add them to my steamed vegetables, pilafs, and other dishes.
Wow! I'm ready to make some right now. What about you?
[All photographs are the property of Melody Lassalle copyright 2014 - All Rights Reserved]
This is my favorite pot for cooking in the microwave
Though this pot is billed as a pasta cooker, it's the perfect pot for cooking produce in the microwave. It boils and holds steam just like a regular pot. It cooks foods thoroughly so you don't have to worry about hard and soft spots.
The perfect pot has holes in the lid for real steaming in the microwave. The lid then serves a second purpose. It allows you to drain the liquid without scalding yourself.
You can also use a pot that has the vent top that you open. These are handy because you can store your cooked food int them as well. Just close the vent hole and it's ready for the fridge.
There are So Many Varieties
Have you had zucchini? If you have then you've eaten Summer Squash. If zucchini is the only one you've tried, you're missing out on some of the tastiest produce out there!
There are so many shapes and sizes I don't even know where to start. They can be round like globe and eight ball, saucer shaped like patty pan and scallopini, or elongated like zucchini and crookneck.
The are variations within each type. There are at least twelve varieties of zucchini.
The colors vary within each group. Common colors are green, yellow, gold, and white. You might be surprised to find that some regulars come in something besides green and yellow.. Patty pan, which is one of my favorites, comes in yellow, white, and green.
People have different opinions about how best to select them. I prefer smaller squash. They seem to have more flavor and they're easier to prepare. Larger ones tend to be a bit bland. That jumbo sized zucchini your neighbor grows every year works great for bread but it's not all that tasty as a side dish.
Winter or Summer Squash?
I've noticed that people tend to relate to Winter Squash more than Summer Squash. While they are familiar with zucchini, they're better acquainted with pumpkin, acorn, and butternut. Most people have had pumpkin pie, but many of those same people have not tried steamed Eight Ball.
Are Summer varieties better than Winter varieties?
What Do You Do with This Delicious Fruit?
We all know the hassle of dealing with Winter Squash. It has to be scrubbed, peeled, seeded, and baked. Cooking It can take an hour or more to cook.
Not so with Summer Squash. It only needs to be scrubbed. You can leave the skin on. The fruit isn't as hard as their December cousins so it can be steamed, boiled, grilled, broiled...and yes, you can even bake it.
Most of the time I steam mine in the microwave. I have a pot made especially for this purpose. All I need to do is clean it, cut it, and cook it. That's it!
After I've cooked it, I add it to vegetable sandwiches, team it up with some basmati rice, mix it with pasta--you name it! It's versatile and works with many dishes.
Let's Prepare It!
Before you cook your squash, you need to do a couple of things...
Remove any bad spots and cut off the ends. You don't need to remove much, just the brown spot on the bottom and the stem at the top. Be careful! Some have little stickers in the stem. They will poke you pretty good.
There usually some dirt and sticky leaves stuck to them. Be sure to wash it and scrub off the gunky stuff.
Getting It into the Pot
Next, you need to get the squash into chucks that will fit into your pot.
1. Cut or break them into chunks so that they will fit.
2. Add about a half inch of water to the bottom of the pot.
3. Cover the pot with a lid or plastic wrap. Be sure to leave a vent hole if covering with plastic.
Let's Cook It!
The water in the bottom of the pot will boil over, so place a microwave safe plate in the microwave. Then, place your pot on top of that.
Cook for 5-8 minutes depending on how large your chunks are and how much you have. Pierce with a fork to see if they are tender.
Let cool, then move to bowl, and place in the refrigerator.
Doesn't It Look Tasty?
This batch turned out really well. You can see how juicy the chunks are. The fruit is tender. I can almost taste the gentle sweetness. I want to dive in right now.
You can do so many things with cooked squash. Add it to pilaf, mix it with vegetables in a pita, throw some in a tortilla, or eat it by itself.
It's okay. You can still have some zucchini, but be sure to give the other varieties a try. You will not be disappointed.