By Betty Gordon
© 2018 text and photos. All rights reserved.
Do you dread that mid-August knock at the front door, where you discover your smiling neighbor standing on your landing … and his/her basket brimming over with summer squash?
You return the smile, chat briefly, politely accept the vegetables, and conjure up the most sincere “thank you” that you can manage.
Or did you get a little carried away at your local grocery or farmers’ market, seduced by the season-low prices on the sunshine-yellow crookneck squash and the greener-than-grass zucchini?
Now what’s to be done with the overflow from your neighbor’s garden or your unbridled shopping? (Truth be told, summer squash is available nearly year-round, but this is prime season for reaping the surplus from home gardens.)
Even with their high water content, crookneck squash and zucchini (or courgette, for our international readers) will keep five to seven days in the refrigerator before becoming mushy and unusable.
The crookneck squash, if its graduated neck has an exaggerated curve leading to its bulbous body, reminds me of a wingless swan or duck. Can’t you picture the light-green stem end as a beak? Or a group of small squash huddled together as a flock?
You can thinly slice or dice the veggies and toss them raw into a fresh salad. Or pop them into the microwave or steamer for a quick side dish that can be dressed up in myriad ways. All methods preserve the nutritional benefits from these veggies rich in vitamins A and C and niacin.
But, with just a bit more time and effort, you can make many much more memorable recipes and get to work on reducing the amount of summer squash that’s taken over your kitchen.
This recipe for zucchini bread is among my all-time favorites. I’ve made it many times over the years and have never been disappointed. Its moist, ultra-dense crumb will have you licking your fingers and eyeing a second piece.
Its dominant spices — cloves and cinnamon — always make me think of fall, and drier, crisper days ahead.
As the loaf bakes, the batter darkens considerably from a light tan flecked with grated zucchini to a deep hickory, which nearly obscures the veggie slivers.
And though it’s recommended that you don’t eat batter when it contains raw eggs, you’ll be tempted to try at least a little taste.
This is not a sandwich bread. But it is versatile enough to be eaten at any time of the day: At breakfast with tea or coffee, as a lunch top-off, a late-day snack (ditto the tea) or dessert. (Did I hear someone say topped with ice cream?)
The crookneck squash side dish prep is faster than making the zucchini bread. To stretch it as a main course, serve it over pasta or rice.
And when next your neighbor comes knocking, he/she will probably be trying to foist an overload of tomatoes on you. Fortunately, they pair well with summer squash too.
If freezing the zucchini bread, wrap first in plastic and then in aluminum foil.
Hands on: 30 minutes
Total time: About 1 hour, 45 minutes
Makes: 1 loaf and 6 large muffins
Butter or margarine for greasing the loaf pan
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (use a neutral oil like canola)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated unpeeled raw zucchini (about 1 large or 2 medium)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup shelled pecans, chopped (or walnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8 1/4-by-4 1/4-inch pan and line six muffin cups with paper liners. (Use a 9-inch-by-5-inch pan if you aren’t making the muffins.)
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until light and thick. Fold grated zucchini into oil mixture.
In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Stir into zucchini mixture until just blended. (Do these steps by hand; a stand mixer or hand mixer is not necessary.)
Fold in the pecans until just combined.
Pour batter into loaf pan and muffin cup liners until all are about three-quarters full. (You may want to place the loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet in case the batter bubbles over as it bakes.)
Bake on the oven’s middle rack. The muffins will be ready in 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. The loaf should bake for 1 hour, 10 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Again, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
Cool slightly. Run a blunt knife around the inner edge of the loaf pan, and flip it out; be careful, the loaf will be hot!
Let loaf cool completely on a rack, right-side up. Likewise, remove the muffins from the tin and let cool.
The flavors in the zucchini bread deepen when left to meld overnight. But if you can’t wait, the loaf is delicious as is.
The loaf will store wonderfully in the freezer for up to two months. When completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic. Then enclose the loaf in aluminum foil.
Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin (Workman Publishing, 1982)
As an entree, serve the squash and vegetable combination over pasta or rice.
Squash and Red Kidney Beans
Hands on: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 as a side dish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, diced (I prefer mild Vidalia sweet onions)
1 cup red bell pepper, diced (or use yellow, orange or green)
2 cups yellow squash, sliced 1/4-inch thin, then quartered
1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, washed and drained
1 (10-ounce) can Rotel original diced tomatoes and green chilies (or use mild or hot, depending on your palate)
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional, or more to taste)
3 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and bell pepper and sauté until they soften, about 3-5 minutes.
Add squash and beans and cook about 5 minutes, until squash softens. Stir in Rotel tomatoes and cook 1 minute. Mix in dried red pepper flakes, if using. Stir in basil, if using, and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine, June 2018