Squash is summer’s classic bumper-crop vegetable. Not only is it plentiful, it’s also highly nutritious and versatile. At this time of year in supermarkets andfarmers’ markets, you'll find a variety of summer squash, including zucchini, yellow crookneck, straightneck, and pattypan. Here’s what you need to know about summer squash, including some tasty ways to prepare it.
Enjoying Summer Squash
Summer squash, prepared with the edible skin on (wash it well), cooks quickly whether you steam, bake, grill, or sauté it. For a simple and healthful dish, cut the squash into pieces (the seeds are edible) and steam until just tender. Or halve or quarter the squash, coat with a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and grill. You can also use summer squash in soups, salads, and stews.
Here are three fun ways to prepare summer squash:
You can stuff it: Cut a large zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to scrape out some of the inside flesh, creating a “boat” (reserve the squash you remove to chop and use in the stuffing). Then, create a mixture to fill it. Think reduced-fat cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella, and/or Parmesan mixed with fresh herbs, like basil or thyme. Or stuff the zucchini with a combination of cooked lean ground beef or turkey, tomatoes, onions, and/or chopped bell peppers. Once filled, heat in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until the squash is softened.
You can bake it in a casserole: For a quick and easy side dish, slice summer squash of your choice. Toss with finely diced onion, minced garlic, cumin, and extra-virgin olive oil (you can even add some precooked quinoa on Phase 2 for a heartier dish). Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened, then sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro. Or combine sliced summer squash and diced onion with fresh tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, and grated Parmesan cheese and bake.
- You can serve it in a dessert: On Phase 2, add finely shredded zucchini to oatmeal cookies, or make a healthy zucchini quick bread.
Summer Squash Facts
Summer squash offers a slew of nutritional benefits. It’s a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin B6, potassium, folate, and the carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Select squash that are firm and heavy for their size, with bright, glossy skin. Avoid those with nicks, bruises, or soft spots. Store squash, tightly wrapped, in plastic wrap or in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to one week.