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 and farmers’ 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.
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 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:
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, tomatoes, onions, and/or chopped bell peppers.
bake it in a casserole:
For a quick and easy side dish, slice summer squash of your choice. Toss with
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 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.
serve it in a dessert:
On Phase 2, add finely shredded zucchini to oatmeal cookies, or make a healthy
zucchini quick bread.
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.