SPONSORED POST: This is a paid post. The Road to The Good Life chose to work with La Crema Winery for their dedication to handcrafted wines at reasonable prices. All opinions presented are my own.
Summer squash is one of those vegetables available year round in California, and similar to peppers and tomatoes is best when eaten in late summer/early fall. Right now there are many varieties of yellow squash and Patty Pan available at your local Farmer's Market.
My love affair with squash didn't begin until I was in middle school, and it began because my mother paired summer squash with bacon and tomatoes and served it over Ala (cracked wheat bulgur). (Seriously, my mother was a genius. Want to get a kid to eat their vegetables or try something new? Try my mom's trick: add bacon or substitute bacon grease for butter or oil. Because, let's face it. What kid doesn't love bacon? But, I digress.) I primarily love summer squash for the color it adds to food, but I also love it because of its flavor and its texture.
Types of Summer Squash
Growing up I was only aware of three types of summer squash: yellow, a small squat shaped one (which I recently found out is Patty Pan), and zucchini. Like any vegetable there's more variety in Farmer's Markets and your own garden than what you'll find at most national grocery chains. (Grow It Organically has a nice overview of the various types of summer squash.)
Secrets to Perfect Summer Squash
Summer squash needs to be treated differently than winter squash. When most people think of squash, they think flavorless with a mushy texture. Two things are happening here: first the squash has been overcooked and second the squash may not be at the peak of its season. While we can typically find summer squash year round, its flavor is best in the summer.
Here are a few of tips to ensure everyone loves your summer squash:
- When picking out summer squash, look for the ones that are smaller, typically they are sweeter and more flavorful.
- Because summer squash is harvested throughout the growing season, unlike winter squash varieties, it doesn't develop a thick skin and can be eaten raw (something I was surprised to discover). This thinner skin also means that you can grill or lightly saute your squash instead of steaming or baking. It can give your squash a nice crunch when people bite into it.
- When sauteing multiple types of summer squash in a dish, don't drop them all into your saute pan at the same time (assuming they are all cut at the same thickness). Patty Pan is a little denser and has less water content so it should go in first (depending on the size of your pan about two to three minutes earlier). This way when it's ready to eat your other summer squash won't be overcooked.
When it comes to summer squash, I'll always be partial to it lightly sauteed with stewed tomatoes, tossed with bacon and served over rice (recipe follows). A close second would be Chef Ped's Jumping Shrimp stir fry (another saute preparation), a dish I could not get enough of when I was working with him.
Recently though I've started mixing it up a little. Inspired by a light pasta course I had when I dined recently at Palio d'Asti, I created a lighter, bacon-free Angel Hair Pasta with Summer Squash and Cherry Tomatoes dish (recipe on The La Crema Blog). And to change things up even more, I tried a raw preparation of summer squash as a Summer Squash Apple Slaw first course (recipe coming soon on The La Crema Blog!). You can see the summer squash apple slaw plated in sweet peppers in the photos below.
Recipe: Summer Squash and Stewed Tomatoes with Bacon over Basmati Rice
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total Time: 30 to 40 minutes
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 2 cups, basmati rice
- One medium onion, sliced
- One clove garlic, minced
- 1 16 ounce-jar Canned organic tomatoes, juice drained and reserved
- (Optional) 1 6 ounce-can organic Tomato paste*
- 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper flakes
- 1 pound Yellow summer squash (roughly two), sliced in quarter-inch rounds
- 1 pound Zucchini (roughly two), sliced in quarter-inch
- 1 package Bacon, cooked and torn into inch pieces
- Kosher salt and black pepper, freshly ground to taste
- 1 Tablespoon fresh Chives, minced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh Tarragon, minced
- Prepare basmati rice (I use organic Texmati white rice) or brown rice according to directions on packaging.
- Heat Extra Virgin Olive Oil in either a large saute pan or wok over medium-high heat.
- When the olive oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic.
- When the onion is almost translucent, about three to four minutes, add the stewed tomatoes, fennel, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- When you can smell the fennel, move the onions and tomatoes to the edge of the pan, and add zucchini and yellow squash. Saute until almost tender, about five minutes.
- If you want a thicker sauce, add reserved juice from the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer gently over a low heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is almost the desired consistency.
- Stir in torn bacon pieces and cook for an additional two minutes, just enough time to heat the bacon through.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss carefully with chives and tarragon, leaving on the heat no more than half a minute.
- Serve over rice.
Recommended Pairing: Chardonnay*
I especially like summer squash and brown rice with Chardonnay because it accentuates their nutty flavors. When selecting your Chardonnay, you want to find one that is not heavily oaked as it will overwhelm the subtle nut flavor in the dish, look for Chardonnays that have spent six months or less in barrels. La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is my preferred pick with its "subtle toasted oak, laced with just a kiss of butterscotch. The palate is round and nutty."
*If you prefer a thicker sauce and add the tomato paste, rather than pair the dish with a lightly oaked Chardonnay which will be overpowered by the concentrated tomato flavor, choose a Sangiovese.
Caring for Your Squash at Home
When you bring summer squash home from the Farmer's Market, you can store it in your refrigerator for about ten days. Because flavors are at at their peak during the summer, rather than buy it all year round, if you can, stock up on it now and freeze what you don't eat. The Old Farmer's Almanac recommends: "[w]ash[ing] it, cut[ing] off the ends, and slic[ing] or cub[ing] the squash. Blanch[ing] for three minutes, then immediately immers[ing] in cold water and drain[ing]. Pack[ing] in freezer containers and freez[ing]."
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.