003: Summer Squash, For Real

A week and a half late, it’s summer squash, guys! A trip to the Marin County Farmer’s Market got scheduled over my usual cooking day so this meal was made Saturday.


The species within summer squash are those which are harvested during the growing season. They’re picked before they “finish” growing. This results in their thin skin and tender flesh. It kind of makes me wonder how similar a mature summer squash is to winter, but since they’ve been bred for their current harvesting schedule they’d probably have a lot of problems when they got older.
The squash I’m using are green and yellow zucchini, and white and yellow sunburst squash (AKA patty pan squash [AKA adorable name squash]). I bought some crookneck squash as well, but it ended up not really fitting where I thought it would.

The Menu (serves 4)

Zucchini Latke with Lemon-Zucchini Saute
Sausage and Mushroom-Stuffed Sunburst Squash
Zucchini “Pasta” in Squash Marinara with King Oyster Mushroom Fillet
Zucchini Cake with Pear Sauce

Zucchini Cake

-1 cup pecans
-2 cups  flour
-1 t baking powder
-1/2 t baking soda
-1 t salt
-2 t cinnamon
-1 t ground ginger
-1/2 t nutmeg
-3 large eggs
-1 3/4 cups sugar
-1 cup olive oil
-2 t vanilla extract
-2 1/2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350, and oil a bundt cake pan.
In a smallish bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, minus the pecans.  In a medium-large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, and olive oil. Use a Kitchenaid® brand mixer or a handheld electric mixer to beat the mixture into a light yellow, furrowed batter.

Add the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients from the bowl, mix until it’s incorporated, then add the zucchini and nuts and mix again. Pour and scrape the batter into the pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Pear Sauce

-1/2 a pear
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-1/3 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup powdered sugar

I totally didn’t follow this recipe. I took the basics, and mixed up a pretty decent sauce, but the original recipe for the zucchini cake has a crunchy glaze, which I would have preferred. I still think pear makes a good addition, and it’s worth any loss of crunchiness.
Chop the pear into small pieces, then puree it with the lemon juice in a food processor. Mix it with the two sugars.
When the cake is done (do the comes-out-clean test), let it cool for a bit, then get it out of the cake mold. I had to loosen around the edges with a knife. Pour/brush the sauce over the top of the cake so it has that nice oozing look coming down the sides. The pear made my sauce look like algae or swamp gloop or something, which honestly was really appealing to me.

Sausage and Mushroom-Stuffed Sunburst Squash

-4 sunburst squash
-1/2 red bell pepper
-3 large button mushrooms
-1/4 pound lamb sausage
-1/2 cup white rice, cooked
-chili powder
-salt
-olive oil
-parmesan cheese
-1 yellow zucchini
-1 eggplant, roughly the width of the zucchini

What I didn’t do but you should is: Boil a pot of water, and put the squash in for 5 minutes. Pull them out, and set them aside to cool down. Keep the water in the pot.
While they cool, chop the red pepper and mushrooms into small cubes. Cut open the sausage and fry the meat in a pan with some olive oil. When the color begins to change, add the vegetables.

Let them soften, then add the rice. Add some dashes of salt and chili powder. Toss the mixture to coat the rice with the oil and spices. It should get a nice tan or brown color to it. When the rice looks good, take the mixture off the heat. Don’t worry about the sausage – it’s going in the oven for about an hour, so it’ll get done.
Cut a cavity in each squash, and fill with the stuffing. Grease a baking dish, and set the squash inside. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Is the oven still at 350? Then put the dish into the oven for 45-50 minutes. Check them after a while; stick them with a fork to see that they can be easily eaten. When they reach that point, pull them out.

Slice the eggplant and yellow zucchini into thin-as-you-can disks. Heat some olive oil in a pan, and cook the disks through. Add some salt, but not very much. Make sure the disks taste simply like what they are. Remove finished disks to a bowl. You may need to cook in batches. When all the disks are cooked, let them cool or put them in the fridge to cool off. Once they’re cooled, set up plates with a pattern that has a space for the baked squash.

When the squash is baked, place one in the center of each plate. Depending on your timing, you may need to heat the plates again. Turn off the oven. It’ll stay warm for a while.

Zucchini “Pasta” in Squash Marinara with King Oyster Mushroom Fillet

-1 large, long green zucchini
-1 large, long yellow zucchini
-1 large king oyster mushroom, 1/2 lb
-1 28 oz can of tomatoes
-1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
-1T tomato paste
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 bay leaf
-sugar
-splash white wine
-2T butter

With a vegetable peeler or mandoline, shave long strips of green and yellow zucchini. After a few go-rounds with the peeler, you’ll notice a slight change of color. This is the core of the zucchini, and won’t hold together so well. Stop here. Try to gauge how much each serving will have. I ended up with small portions, which worked well since I always make too much food, but you may want to shave another zucchini or two.
Cut the peeled yellow zucchini in half lengthwise, then each half into quarter rods. Cut the four rods into thin triangles.
Heat 1T olive oil in a large pan. Saute the garlic with some salt, then add the chopped onions. When they’re soft, add the zucchini pieces. Let them soften a bit, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to blend, and coat everything. Add the bay leaf and a pinch of sugar, then stir again. Keep the sauce at a simmer.
Re-boil the squash water. As it comes to heat, cut the mushroom into quarters in the same way you cut the zucchini, then cut thick angled slices about 1/2 inch thick.

Melt the butter in a medium pan, and lay the mushroom pieces flat. There should be almost enough room to fit all of the pieces in. Salt lightly. Let the pieces brown a bit, then splash the wine in. Keep cooking the mushrooms until they look like nicely browned chicken. Taste a small piece. It’s probably so good. Don’t eat any more, and put them in a bowl for later. If they get too cold before serving, you can safely and easily heat them up again in the same pan.
Once the water is boiling, put in the zucchini strips. They should be fairly non-sticky, but you can add olive oil if you’re concerned. Cook the “pasta” for 2-3 minutes. Their color will grow even more vibrant in the water. It’ll taste just like zucchini, but taste test it to see that the texture is to your liking. Put the finished zucchini into the sauce and toss to coat.
When you’re ready to serve, use tongs to grab a smallish pinch of pasta. Set it on the plate, and twist it near the middle. Spoon some of the sauce onto one side of the pasta mound, and fan out slices of the mushroom on the other.

Excuse the dirty plate; I reused the ones from the stuffed squash.

Zucchini Latke with Lemon-Zucchini Saute

-1 large grated zucchini
-1 medium potato, grated
-1/2 a grated onion
-1 large egg
-matzoh meal or flour
-1 large lemon
-pepper
-1 green zucchini
-1 yellow zucchini
-red pepper flakes
-oil for frying

Mix the onion, zucchini, potato, juice from half of the lemon, salt, pepper, and egg. Add dashes of matzoh meal to the mixture, to get it a little stiff but not dry.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a medium-deep pan. Take a quarter of the mixture, form a patty, and squish it down so it’s fairly thin – keep it under an inch thick. Slide it into the oil. Watch the edges of the latke. When it begins to brown near the bulk of the patty, flip it over (you can just flip it again later if it’s not browned enough). Remove them to a plate covered in a layer or two of paper towels.

Dice the zucchinis into small cubes. Heat a bit of oil in a pan. Saute the cubes with some salt, until softened. Squeeze the other half of the lemon into the pan, and shake some red pepper flakes on. Serve the latke on a small plate, with the cube mixture scattered on top. Serve with sour cream.

The cake got set on a wire rack over the table, so we had crumbs all over the place.

Report


Something I’ve noticed after a couple posts is that for each theme ingredient I choose, another ingredient ends up being the standout. For fava beans, it was the apricot. For asparagus, the golden beet. And for this one, king oyster mushroom stole summer squash’s thunder. It was just too good. I’ve had it several times before, and knew I wanted to use it as a meat substitute, but I’ve never had it as good as it was here. It was chewy, savory, and all-around perfect.
However, that doesn’t mean that the dishes themselves didn’t work. Only one, the stuffed sunburst, had a serious problem. The others could have been improved in various ways, but were very good, and with some quick fixes would be fit to make again.
The cube saute for the latke should have been mixed into the sour cream, I think. It didn’t stay on very well, and didn’t really pair with the latke because of its flighty nature. Mixed with sour cream, which everyone wants on their latke anyway, it would have stayed on, and contributed its flavor, which was very good. It lent a freshness to the hella-fried starch thing that was the latke. A good dish, but it was more like two dishes because of the difficulty involved in eating them together.
Liquid would have helped the marinara, which was a bit chunky and thick for my purposes. It didn’t break the pasta, but kind of overpowered it. It was one of the best sauces I’ve ever made, so it’s even worse that it didn’t work with the zucchini. It did pair quite well with the mushroom, though it kind of rankled me to see their perfect color stained red with sauce when we actually got around to eating them. I wanted to use crookneck squash in this dish, but already had the yellow zucchini that I didn’t want to go to waste, and couldn’t think of a way to showcase their unique shape, which was why I wanted them in the first place.
The stuffed sunburst had the same liquid problem. Roasting really dried them out. Because I didn’t boil them first, they took longer than they could have in the oven, making the stuffing drier than it was, and in some places, crunchy. I didn’t think I would need a sauce, but I really did. Make a sauce, for real. Something with red peppers, maybe. The squash shell itself was good, but a little plain. It needs a sauce.
The cake was great! I don’t really have any recommendations for the cake aside from “make the glaze properly, unlike me.” It was nicely spiced, and had the not-too-sweet characteristic of zucchini bread. The sauce did come out tasting pretty great, too.
Also, dang it, I just remembered I was going to try to quick-pickle some zucchini. I dunno where I would have used those, though.
Still feeling positive, big success! I’ll probably stick with the revised schedule (cook on Saturday, post on Saturday or Sunday) since I want to have a week to prepare.

Next Week: Tomatoes

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1 Comment

  1. Julie

     /  June 11, 2012

    Fantastic cake and pear topping. Great for breakfast, tea or dessert (I tried all three).

    Reply

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