Spectacular recipes for summer squash

Summer squash has softer skin than winter squash.
Summer squash has softer skin than winter squash. Special to the Star-Telegram

The summer squash is in, and you might need a few new tricks up your sleeve to keep things interesting.

Textureless, flavorless and overcooked recipes can make a squash hater out of anyone. Some might even resort to pseudo-criminal acts to sidestep things like squash.

I speak from experience. I must live with the fact that I hid a few bites of napkin-cloaked mushy yellow squash in the family china cabinet when I was a little girl.

Faced with the fact that I had to eat it or “do more time” at the dinner table, the proximity of the silverware drawer was a tempting solution. Don’t worry. I returned to dispose of it later. Yes, it was wrong and I live with the guilt.

The good news is that I have redeemed my adult self by, you guessed it, eating my squash. And I eat it willingly now. In fact, I like squash.

A once-serial picky eater, I now realize what I was missing. Had I been introduced to squash in a more exciting form, perhaps there would have been no reason to hide it in the silverware drawer.

By all means, learn from my shameful experience with a few new recipes that make use of the bounty of summer squash.

Squash 101

There are many kinds of squash, but we’ll divide it into two categories: winter squash and summer squash.

Right now, the last of the big summer bounties is coming in and the following weeks of heat will soon slow garden production.

Winter squash, like the butternut, banana, Hubbard and acorn varieties, are harvested when their rinds become hard. They are often stored in the fall and winter.

Summer squash is often harvested in the plant’s immature stages, while the seeds and rinds are pliable. Examples of summer squash are the common yellow crookneck, green zucchini and white scallop or pattypan.

It’s exciting when it’s time to harvest squash. You can produce so much so fast that you are looking for relatives, neighbors and work associates with whom to share it all. Part of that is because you are a generous backyard farmer, but the other reason is that you don’t know what you are going to do with all of that squash.

Here, we offer some great recipes that just might convert a staunch squash blackballer into a summer-squash enthusiast.

Baked squash crunchy casserole

Serves 8

  • 2 pounds yellow summer squash, sliced  1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, with skins
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I use pink Himalayan salt)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups crushed saltine cracker crumbs

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
  •  1/2 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook squash in a pot of boiling water until it is tender, but not mushy or sloppy, 10-15 minutes (the squash will cook more in the oven). Remove from heat, drain and let stand until it cools enough to be just warm.

3. In a large bowl, beat eggs, then add sugar, onion, butter, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. Fold in very gently the partially cooked squash. I use my hands so the ingredients are blended and the squash somewhat maintains its shape. Add cracker crumbs and blend gently.

4. Grease a shallow casserole dish and pour in mixture. You can also use three small ramekins or large, shallow baking dishes, in order to serve as a smaller side and freeze the rest.

5. Make the topping: In a separate bowl, melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave for about 15-30 seconds. Add bread crumbs, seasoning and Parmesan. Stir until bread crumbs are blended with other ingredients. Spread mixture over casserole, making sure the topping covers the entire dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown.

Serve the casserole right away or keep it briefly in a warming drawer until dinner is served, but don’t let it dry out. Squash in any form should be served bubbling, buttery-good and hot.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 178 calories, 11 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 78 milligrams cholesterol, 480 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 55 percent of calories from fat.

Lemon-zucchini bread loaf

Makes 12 slices

  • 2 cups cake flour
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup grated fresh zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Baking spray or butter/oil and small amount of flour, to grease pan
  • Small herbs and flowers, for garnish (optional)

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or vanilla almond milk

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Wash, peel and grate fresh zucchini. Remove most of the green outer skin, but leave a few strips. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, then add canola oil. Add sugar and mix well. Add lemon juice, zest and buttermilk and mix well. Fold in grated zucchini gently with a large spoon.

4. Grease and flour two small loaf pans ( 3 by 6 inches) or one standard loaf pan. Pour in batter, then bake for 40-45 minutes. Since oven temperatures vary, keep a close eye on it and test with a toothpick for doneness. The top should be a light golden color and the inside should be dense. When it’s done, let cool for about 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Mix powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk in a small bowl. Stir until it’s free of powder bits.

6. Run a flat knife around the edges of the loaf. Gently remove bread from pan and place on parchment paper. Pour glaze over bread and let drip over the sides. Use a cake knife to distribute the glaze well. Scoop and spoon over any excess glaze from parchment paper. Slice loaf with a flat, nonserrated, sharp knife to best prevent crumbling. Garnish with herbs and flowers, if desired.

Nutritional analysis per slice: 332 calories, 10 grams fat, 58 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 36 milligrams cholesterol, 194 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 27 percent of calories from fat.

Crispy Parmesan zucchini fries

Serves 4

Here’s a very simple batter that you can whip up to make use of a few of your freshly picked zucchinis. The common ingredients make it easier to prepare these crunchy appetizers when you need to.

  • 2 or 3 small, fresh zucchini squash
  • 1-2 cups canola or grapeseed oil
  •  3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (preferably freshly grated)

1. Peel and chop squash into uniform sticks or fries. Pat dry with a paper towel so they will absorb the batter well.

2. Fill a skillet with enough oil so that a layer of zucchini fries will be almost submerged. Deep fryers are helpful if you are making a large batch. Heat the oil and drop a bit of batter into it. When it sizzles and begins to cook, it’s ready.

3. Mix together remaining ingredients except cheese, but don’t overstir. This could build up the gluten too much, resulting in a heavier, greasier batter. (A few small lumps are OK.) Make the batter right before you cook the zucchini. This will keep it light and airy.

4. Dip zucchini sticks into batter and place in pan or fryer until they’re a light, golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Roll in cheese and plate them. Serve hot with dipping sauce.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 469 calories, 32 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 61 milligrams cholesterol, 1,323 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.


Dipping sauce ideas:

Make up a packet of ranch dressing using thedry mix packets and infuse it with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and cracked red and black pepper.

Short on time? Buy a ready-made salad dressing that can double as a dipping sauce. Bacon-ranch, honey mustard or cucumber salad dressings will work well.