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In This Issue

Feature Articles

Making heads & tails of

the squash kingdom

6 Tricks to Take the Bland

out of Summer Squash

Zucchini Overload:

how to turn over-abundance

into advantage

5 Fast Ways to Cook Squash +

5 Simple Ways to Dress It Up

In Every Issue

Why We Love It

Top 10 Questions about Squash

The Green Kitchen

Picky Eater Tips

Money Saving Tricks

News from the Farm


Cooking School

Cooking Classes:

    Greek Potato Salad

    Zucchini Salad Americana

Buying the Best

Storing for Flavor

Prepping Tricks & Tips

Cooking Basics

Recipes, Recipes, Recipes

14 Easy, Creative Dishes Using Summer Squash

Making Heads & Tails of the Squash Kingdom 6 Tricks toTake the Bland out of Summer Squash Zucchini Overload: how to turn over-abundance into advantage Zucchini Saute with 5 Variations Recipe List for Zucchini Buying The Best Storing For Flavor Prepping Tricks & Tips Cooking Basics Why We Love It The Green Kitchen Picky Eater Tips Money Saving Tricks News From The Farm #CookingClassPotatoSalad #Top10Questions In This Issue

When it comes to squash, some confusion is warranted.  All sorts of things are called “squash” that don’t seem to have much in common.  The word refers to vegetables soft and hard and huge and small.  It covers things striped and solid, in all sorts of curious shapes and in a every hue of yellow, green, orange and brown.  

How’s an everyday cook supposed to get a handle on this wildly diverse grouping, and know which to buy at the store, what to do with them at home, what taste to expect, what flavors to add, and so on?

Winter vs. Summer Squash

For starters, understand the distinction between  “summer” and “winter” squash.  Fortunately, this one distinction provides most of what you need to get a handle on the squash kingdom and, more importantly, to transform a particular specimen into a delicious dish.  

Summer Squash

Winter Squash

Thin soft skin is edible; cut and cook

with flesh

Leathery skins are inedible and eventually turn into hard shells; remove before or after cooking

Seeds and pulp are soft and edible

Seeds are hard and pulp is stringy; remove before eating

Soft tender flesh cooks up quickly

Dense, hard flesh requires long cooking times

Comes into season in summer

Comes into season in autumn

Eaten fresh like other summer vegetables

(e.g. cucumbers, peppers eggplant);

will go bad quickly

Hard skin and dense flesh make it suitable for long storage–all winter, in fact.  Hence the names “Winter Squash” and “Hard Squash.”

Summer squash are dominated by zucchini, but actually include many other varieties.  

Winter squash include pumpkins as well as butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash  

Do the Different Sizes Make a Difference?

Just as the different varieties of squash are generally interchangeable, different sizes of squash can be generally be substituted for each other, but again with a few exceptions:    

1.  Tender Baby Squash–No Substitutions When It’s the Star  As with other baby vegetables, baby summer squash are the sweetest and most tender (although Farmer Richard has a different opinion).  So if a recipe calls, e.g.,  for a quick braise of whole baby zucchini to highlight their prized flavor, avoid substituting another sized squash if at all possible.  Ditto if a recipe calls for small or medium squash because it will be eaten raw.  Don’t substitute a large squash.      

On the other hand, if baby squash will just be stir fried with other ingredients, baked in a casserole, or shredded for meatballs, you’re probably safe substituting another size.  

2.  Large Squash–Scoop Out Seeds and Pulp, Peel if Necessary  As squash get bigger, the seeds inside get bigger and tougher, and the pulp around the seeds gets stringier.  So when substituting large squash for small, first cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the inner seeds and pulp.  Then peel each half with a vegetable peeler if skin has also begun to get thick and leathery.  

3.  Stuffing Squash–Monster Sizes Best  In recipes for stuffed squash, larger sizes are obviously best since their large cavities can be filled with a generous amount of stuffing, creating a good ratio of stuffing to squash.  Medium-sized squash can be substituted if, once the seeds and pulp are removed, the remaining cavity is large enough and the shell is sturdy enough to hold a decent amount of stuffing.

For squash that aren’t big enough for stuffing, consider transforming the recipe into a casserole-style dish, as explained in the recipe for Chili-Stuffed Squash.    

Summer Squash–License to Buy Adventurously

Although summer squash are a colorfully diverse lot, they are all fairly similar in taste and can generally be substituted for each other with good success.  So it’s a pretty low-risk proposition to be adventurous and try varieties other than the familiar zucchini.  You might well discover a more intriguing flavor in one variety or another.

There are just a couple minor exceptions to the substitution rule:  

1.  Patty pans:  Firmer and Denser   Patty pans are denser and meatier than other summer squash, so they won’t cook down quite as much, nor will they get as soft in your dishes.  This means you can get by with a little less in terms of weight.  Also consider cutting in smaller or thinner pieces for equivalent cooking times.  

For faster cooking of pattypan’s dense flesh, slice off the top, then cut into thin wedges.  

Large Magda squash are ideal stuffers with their broad and deep cavities.  Medium-sized yellow squash (on the right) can be made to work if the shell is scraped to just ¼” thick, making a decent-sized cavity.   

Scoop the innards from very large squash whose seeds and pulp have become tough.  

The denser texture of patty pans make it suitable for a wider range of dishes than the other summer varieties.  It can better withstand longer cooking times, for casseroles and sauces.  Cooked slices are also firm enough to serve as low-carb substitutes for taco shells in these Black Bean Tostadas.   

2.  Shape:  Adapt Cuts to the Shape  The more unique a squash’s shape, the more limited are the cutting options.  For example, while all sort of cuts are possible with a straight, even squash like zucchini (see “How to Prep Summer Squash”), a Tromboncino’s curly shape makes it tough to do much besides shred it or slice in full rounds.  If the cut is critical for presentation purposes, be sure to get the squash variety called for in a recipe; otherwise, simply cut as closely as possible to the method called for in a recipe.

3. Color:  Keep the Palette Pleasing When substituting squash, be mindful of the recipe’s color palette.  Although logic says that color shouldn’t affect the taste of a dish, experience reveals more than a casual eye-to-taste bud connection, which explains why a meal with a pleasing array of color stands a much greater chance of delivering on taste.  That’s why the recipe for Fresh Corn Souffle with Caramelized Onion and Zucchini Topping pairs green zucchini with yellow corn.  The recipe wouldn’t be nearly as pleasing if yellow squash were spread on a yellow corn canvas.  

The same principle is at work in the recipe for Yellow Squash and Green Pepper Stir Fry (pictured to the right.)  The dish would lose something if the green peppers were paired with green zucchini.   

Of course, we are talking here about the difference between optimal and doable.  In a pinch, use whatever squash you have available.  That would always be better than dialing for pizza.       

Pork Stir Fry celebrates the colors of freshness and summer.

The Summer Squash Review


Patty Pans - yellow and green

Different Sizes

Green  Zucchini

Yellow  Zucchini

Monster Zucchini

8-ball Squash

 Yellow  Crookneck

© 2009 Culinary Concepts, Inc., Boulder CO

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