An “Easy-Prep” Veggie Summer squash is one of the “easy-prep vegetables,” the kind that’s perfect for a busy weeknight or fast lunch. Unlike turnips, potatoes, spinach or beets, there is no peeling, scrubbing, spinning or scouring required. Simply 1) wash, 2) slice off the ends, 3) taste and 4) cut.
Prepping: The Basics
Rub off dirt or debris with your hands. Squash’s tender skin would get scratched by a vegetable scrubber.
Peeling: Not RequiredA lot of nutrients are found in the skin, plus it’s the source of squash’s gorgeous color! The only exception: Squash that didn’t get picked before it’s skin started hardening must be lightly peeled or it will taste leathery, even if well-cooked.
Seeding : Not RequiredSummer squash seeds are generally small and tender enough to be eaten as part of the squash. However, if a squash has gotten very large or old, its seeds may be too hard and large for comfortable eating. See below for instruction on scooping them out along with any of the pulp that has turned stringy or spongy.
Sliver Testing: RequiredEvery now and then, a squash will be bitter, even if other squash in the same batch taste fine. While it doesn’t happen often, the consequences are awful: One bitter zucchini renders an entire dish unpleasant with random bursts of bitterness. So get in the tasting habit. Slice a sliver off the end of each squash and taste for any kind of bitterness, harshness or even just a complete absence of taste.
4 Easy Steps for Prepping Summer Squash
No need to cut off more than
¼ to ½ inch.
2. Slice Off Ends
See below for specific cutting instructions.
Taste a small sliver of each squash to ensure it isn’t bitter or harsh.
Have Some Fun Everyday cooks may wonder whether it makes any difference if they, for example, julienne a squash rather than simply slice it. Logically speaking, the answer is “no;” a squash’s basic surface taste will be the same. But I have found that “taste” has other, more subtle dimensions that are affected by how a vegetable is cut.
Most importantly, there is “mouth feel.” When a vegetable is cut in a shape and size similar to the other vegetables and ingredients in a dish, like in the Mexican Layered Casserole to the right, there is a better chance 1) that each forkful will contain some of each ingredient and 2) that chewing will release the flavor of each ingredient in a balanced chorus.
Then there is “exposure.” Cutting methods that expose more of a vegetable’s surface area allow it to both give more flavor to the dish and receive more in return.
With nothing to lose, it’s worth experimenting. Click on any of the pictures below for step-by-step guidance. Find examples of using each cut in the recipes.
The onions, green pepper and yellow zucchini are diced into 1/2” cubes to compliment the bits of hamburger that are the center point of this Mexican Layered Casserole.
Although the recipe for BBQ Chicken Pasta calls for a matchstick cut, slices will work just fine if you’re in a hurry.