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It’s mid-July and summer squashes are starting their slow and steady takeover of every garden in America. We’ve got plump green zucchini encroaching on every other planting already, but the Evanston Farmers’ Market is just gearing up. Bright yellow summer squash, striped Romanesco, glorious squash blossoms and adorable baby squash – sunburst, scallop, and more – are calling out to be roasted, grilled, tossed into stir fries, spiralized raw or grated into sweet breads. And who am I not to heed that call? It’s going to be all squash, all the time around here, and I’m not mad about it. Let’s talk about what you can do with them.
Slice them paper-thin and make a salad
This works great for long, thin squash, like zucchini and yellow summer squash varietals. Using a mandoline (watch your fingers!) or your boss knife skills, slice two or three zucchinis lengthwise into thin strips and place in a bowl. Toss with freshly squeezed lemon juice, some high-quality olive oil, and a shower of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chervil, chives, and/or mint all work). Season with kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper, then shave some Parmesan on top and toss. Toasted pinenuts are a nice addition here.
Kabob ‘em and grill
Cut your long summer squash into 1-inch sections and thread onto metal skewers so cut sides face out. Want to add chicken? I don’t judge! Alternate chicken chunks with zucchini. Make a Thai-style marinade: Blitz together a bunch of cilantro, six peeled garlic cloves, two tablespoons of fish sauce, a tablespoon each of water and chili-garlic sauce if you have it, and a generous amount of black pepper in your food processor or blender, then drizzle in a scant ½ cup of vegetable oil. Place kebabs in a deep container, pour marinade over and refrigerate for at least an hour before grilling.
Make zucchini chips in the air fryer
Slice a medium zucchini crosswise into very thin rounds (about 1/8” thick). Toss with some kosher salt then put them on a few sheets of paper towel to absorb some of the liquid. Blot and set aside. Heat air fryer to 370F. Coat fryer basket with cooking spray, then add zucchini coins in a single layer. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with some grated Pecorino cheese. Air-fry until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Serve with tzatziki dip (yogurt with cucumbers, garlic, mint… Trader Joe’s has a good one).
Stuff those puppies
This is a great appetizer, and the perfect use for baby squashes. Carefully slice off a tiny piece of the bottom so that they will sit upright, then slice off the stem end. Using a melon baller or sharp spoon, scoop out flesh but leave enough so the shell has stability. Use your favorite stuffing, but I like to mix panko crumbs with some parmesan cheese, finely chopped shallots and garlic, and a little n’duja (a spiced, spreadable salami from Italy that you can find at many markets), salt, pepper, and some chopped mint and parsley. Stuff the baby squash, spray the outsides with oil and roast on a sheet pan in a 375F oven until done, probably 15 minutes at most.
Try one of these tried-and-true recipes
The internet is an infinite recipe resource, but how do you know which to trust. Not all recipes are created equal. Here are some I return to over and over that will make the most of the summer squash bounty.
Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini and Ricotta Galette https://smittenkitchen.com/2010/06/zucchini-and-ricotta-galette/
Pinch of Yum’s Baked Zucchini Parmesan https://pinchofyum.com/skinny-baked-zucchini-parmesan
Once Upon a Chef’s Zucchini Bread with Walnuts and Chocolate Chips https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/zucchini-bread.html