Posted by: A Part of the Solution | July 16, 2010

Summer Squash Sauté

It’s getting to be that time of year. The time of year I mean is when people who garden suddenly get very friendly with everyone who doesn’t. And why? Because they’re up to their parts in summer squash and zucchini, and they have families in rebellion (or with advanced exit strategies) who may riot or disappear if the next seven consecutive meals feature these products–as the prior seven did.

Both of these wonderful, if slightly overproductive vegetables, can be put to good use again and again. Sautéing is one of my favorite methods of getting the most out of my Curcurbita family fruits. Why? Because summer squash (Crookneck, patty pan, scallopini, &tc) and zucchini have delicate flavor. This flavor needs to be concentrated to be appreciated. Sautéing dries the liquids of these vegetables and lets their character shine forth.

The first step in preparing successful summer squash is to split them lengthwise and scrape all the seeds out–a grapefruit spoon is my tool of choice here. And then compost those seeds and their connective tissue. Is this wasteful? Absolutely not. The seeds make the vegetable more watery. They have practically no flavor, and what flavor they do have tends to be bitter. Is this a characteristic you wish to enhance in your Curcurbitas? I thought not.

Now you’re ready to get cooking. Once they’re sautéed, the squash (a real team player if ever there was one) can be a topping for pasta or grains, or over potatoes. If you sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the sauté and bung it in the oven for a few minutes (until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy), it’s a gratin–and your classy factor went up several notches when you served it with that title.

Summer Squash Sauté

1 large or 6 small summer squash, seeded and sliced into 1″ pieces

2 TBSP oil or butter

2 cloves of garlic, minced–or 1/4 lb of garlic scapes cut into 1″ pieces, or 2 inner stalks of celery (& tops) chopped fine

salt and pepper

(optional) minced thyme, basil or flat leaf parsley

Heat the sauté pan, or a cast iron one, with the oil in it. When the rim is hot to the touch, the pan is ready for the garlic, scapes or celery. Let these get going–they’ll become fragrant within a minute before adding the squash. Now is a good time to add some salt. It helps drive excess moisture out of the squash at an accelerated rate.

Reduce the heat to a low medium. Stir occasionally, so that no one piece becomes too brown on any one side. If you’re very motivated, you might add a chopped fresh tomato (once again, seeds excluded from the pan party) before the dish cooks any farther.

When the squash are all cooked, and faintly translucent–about 10-18 minutes depending on how thickly they were cut, add the rest of the salt, the pepper and the minced herbs (if you’re using them). Pull from the heat and serve alone or as a topping, or with the bonus of a quick gratining. Mangia Bene!

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