Sunday, July 17, 2016

My Imperfect Plot: Attack of the Squashes

These last two weeks have been fruitful.  We got some much needed rain.  Although as I sit here on my new patio chairs, I am listening to the spitter spatter of my sprinkler because it has been a few days again, and there is no rain in the 7-day forecast that pops up on my phone.  It’s not as peaceful as real rain would be but the sound of virtual rain from the garden hose is far more productive than searching for a virtual Pokémon. I’ll take it.

This is the time of year we can eat from the garden.  I wish I could do a better job of it all and eat almost entirely out of our garden, but we just are not there….yet.  So far we have harvested 3 big heads of broccoli, 16 bulbs of garlic, a few peppers and countless zucchini and summer squash.  It’s not that I can’t count that high, even my youngest can now, but we’ve eaten a lot and given almost as much away, so I just don’t know exactly how much we’ve taken in.  I can tell you for two zucchini plants and four squash plants, it’s a lot!
I opted to put in more yellows that zucchinis, because in my experience, the green zucchini plants tend to produce more for longer periods and I often feel slighted by a lack of yellow squash when I’m overrun by the zucs.  This year however, seems to be the exact opposite—for us anyway.  My aunt called and talked to one of the girls a few days ago and showed up yesterday delivering giant zucchini.  She said they picked 28 of them in one day.  They are huge too—I’ll be shredding those for bread this week.
For mine, the kids like it simple: thinly sliced zucchini in a dry skillet or with just a touch of butter to prevent sticking, (I mean it, just a touch, any more than that and the get soggy and greasy).  Cook just until tender crisp (it only takes a few minutes, especially if they are sliced thin.  Put them on a plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese to serve.
Their (ok MY) favorite way to make the yellow squash is a bit more complicated but it is a childhood favorite.  I boil or steam the squash cut into chunks.  After it cools a bit, drain as much water as possible from it.  Mash it with a potato masher or use a hand mixer. Crush some saltine crackers (I do this by look and feel, but I’m going to suggest about ½ a sleeve for one squash, which I never do just one).  Season it with salt and pepper (you could add a little onion too if you’d like.  Mix in an egg or two to hold it all together and fry it in a bit of butter.  You’ll want more butter here than for the zucchini, but again don’t overdo it.  We are not deep frying here, just enough to add a little flavor and give a nice crispy exterior.  A note about the eggs: They serve as a binder in this dish, but can be replaced by other options for vegans or allergies.  Our twin #1 has an egg allergy that we mostly ignored so far, but as she enters adolescence, it has worsened, and she is more aware of her body.  So, for her, I used ground flax mixed with water to replace the eggs.  I have never tried this before, but it worked well and I really liked the added dimension of flax in both the health factor and the taste.
Of course there are many more ways to enjoy the squash.  I’ve had them raw sliced thin dipped in a bit of dressing, or chopped up in almost any kind of salad.  The cooking options are endless too.  I’ve added them to rice near the end of cooking, they are great in soups and I have a fantastic chili recipe that uses both squashes (but save that for late in the season when it’s not so HOT).  They are great with pasta and tomatoes with basil and a touch of mozzarella cheese.  You can grill them, stuff them, or simply sauté them with some fresh herbs.
The way you cut them can make a difference too.  There are the usual: slice, dice, chop.  But you can shred for bread or to add to scrambled eggs, or a quiche or a frittata.   You can even get one of those spiral slicers and turn it into vegetable spaghetti (aka vaghetti).
There are lots of different ideas and great tastes available for the plentiful, versatile, and inexpensive (from your local farm market) squashes.
This week I’ll be making zucchini bread (we all love that and I have a couple of nephews to spoil a bit with some—hope it mails well), and waiting—impatiently—for my tomatoes to ripen.  I also plan to try a few new ways to make the squashes, trying to get the girls (and Craig) to try different things—you never know they might like it!  If you have a recipe for us to try, please share.  If you’re in the area, stop in to see my imperfect plot and take home a squash or two we are kind of inundated with the stuff.

What’s next?  The peppers—they are starting out strong and I’m excited!

Wendy Bacon loves her squash, and her kids do too.