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The delicate flavor, soft shell and creamy white flesh of summer squash is a perfect addition to any summer meal. Summer squashes are relatives of melons and cucumbers and come in many different varieties. While each variety may have a distinct shape, color, size and flavor, all varieties share some common characteristics. All parts of summer squash are edible, including the flesh, seeds and skin. Some varieties of squash also produce edible flowers. Unlike winter squash, summer squash are more fragile and cannot be stored for long periods of time.

When purchasing summer squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Additionally, the rinds should not be very hard since this indicates that the squash are over-mature and will have hard seeds and stringy flesh. Purchase summer squash that are of average size since those that are overly large may be fibrous, while those that are small may be inferior in flavor.

Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will quickly lead to decay. They should be stored unwashed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for a week.

The three most common varieties of summer squash are zucchini, yellow crookneck and straightneck squash and pattypan.

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The plain green zucchini is a prolific producer and the most popular summer squash in the US. There are many varieties and colors of zucchini, including two-toned green zucchini with raised ribs that make star shapes when sliced. Baby zucchini (2-3 inches) are also sold as a delicacy, sometimes with the blossoms still attached.

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Yellow Squash are solid light yellow. Some varieties have bumps or warts and others are shaped like small bowling pins.

squashpattypan
Pattypan squash are like little flying saucers with scalloped edges. They have a delicious, nutty crunch and are great sliced in half and grilled, or stuffed or chopped and sautéed quickly with fresh herbs.

Since summer squash is in season now and quite reasonably priced, pick some up on your next trip to the market and make some of the Italian flavored recipes below.

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Summer Squash Salad

Ricotta salata cheese is a variation of ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 thin slices prosciutto (1 ounce), chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese

Directions

Shave the zucchini and squash into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Discard seeds.

Place zucchini and squash in a medium bowl and toss with the salt.

Combine basil and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

Pour over the squash and toss.

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto; saute for 2 minutes or until crisp.

Divide the salad among 4 serving plates. Top each serving with cheese and prosciutto.

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Lemony Squash Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 (8-ounce) zucchini, halved lengthwise and diced
  • 2 (8-ounce) yellow squash, halved lengthwise and diced
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat.

Add the diced squash to the pan; cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes or until tender.

Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook until liquid is absorbed (about 30 seconds), stirring constantly.

Stir in 1 cup broth; cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

Reserve 1/4 cup broth. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total).

Stir in squash; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup broth and remaining ingredients. Garnish with chopped chives.

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Zucchini Cakes with Spicy Marinara Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Spicy Marinara Sauce, recipe below
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Drain shredded zucchini and onion on paper towels to remove excess moisture. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl; stir in panko.

Whisk together egg, salt and baking powder in a small bowl; stir into the zucchini mixture.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop mounds of zucchini batter into the skillet using a 1/3-cup measure.

Fry cakes until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cakes to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Serve zucchini cakes with the spicy marinara sauce garnished with Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Spicy Quick Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions

Sauté onion and bell pepper in oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook for 1 minute.

Stir in wine, tomatoes, vinegar and hot pepper flakes. Simmer sauce for 5 minutes; season with salt. Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.

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Mediterranean Summer Squash Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2 onions halved and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced, fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil  
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow squash sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Toss zucchini and yellow squash with 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Let rest 30 minutes. Drain in a colander. Arrange zucchini and yellow squash on a triple layer of paper towels, then cover with another triple layer of paper towels. Press slices firmly to remove as much liquid as possible.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine and cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in olives and basil; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 450°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine panko, Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Evenly coat the bottom of the baking dish with 6 tablespoons of the panko mixture.

Stir melted butter into the remaining panko mixture and mix until well combined; set aside.

Arrange half of the squash over the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup panko mixture evenly over the squash. Spread onion mixture in an even layer over the crumbs.

Arrange remaining half of the squash over the onion mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until just tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from oven and sprinkle remaining panko mixture evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling around the edges and the crumbs are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Pattypan Squash

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium pattypan squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 medium to large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Fit a large pot with a steamer basket; add water just up to the basket and bring to a boil. Add pattypan squash, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.

Let squash cool to the touch. Trim the stems and cut each squash in half crosswise.

Using a spoon, hollow out the inside and set the pulp aside. Place squash halves in a baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomato paste, fresh tomato, squash pulp and wine. Simmer until liquid has reduced, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in bread crumbs and parsley.

Fill squash halves with the meat mixture. Top each with shredded Parmesan. Bake until heated through and cheese has melted, about 20 minutes.

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