Cooking with Barb

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By Barbara Ford 

The Easy WayGourmet

This is the season when every gardener is seeking friends. Enthusiastic gardeners planted their zucchini and summer squash a few months ago, dreaming of squash blossoms and healthy green and yellow vegetables. Now they have their bounty-and it may overtake them if the rest of us don't help. People are coming up with some amazing ways to use extra summer squash and zucchini. It can be a delicious "fresh from the garden" addition to almost any meal. But some of my gardening friends seem to be literally nearly buried in the harvest this year. I have heard desperate comments like "it was great a few weeks ago, but now I am just sick of squash!"

If you don't already have your own ocean of vegetables from the garden, I urge you to befriend a gardener. Be a peach and help them enjoy one of the great blessings of living in our area-fertile ground for great summer vegetables-and enjoy it yourself. Take a few zucchini off their hands, embrace some succulent summer squash. I guarantee you won't be sorry!

Think of the possibilities if you are lucky enough to have a pile of squash or zucchini adorning your kitchen counter. Just by slicing it up and frying it with some fresh basil, a bit of garlic and a chopped tomato you have a great side dish in minutes. You can add eggs and cheese to make zucchini frittatas for a weekday dinner. You can use a julienne peeler and make squash noodles-just microwave them for a few minutes with some spaghetti sauce and you have an awesome fast supper.

Other folks will make cookies, breads and even cakes with their extra squash. It is all a matter of what you like. Consider, if you will, adjusting your carrot cake recipe with a touch of extra flour and adding shredded fresh squash to the mix. Another innovation I recently enjoyed is a filled squash cookie, much like a whoopee pie with a cream cheese filling between two moist, chewy cookies.

If you were really lucky, you might have scored some squash blossoms. These can be washed and dried, then stuffed with cheese or even a ham and cream cheese mixture. Then you can fry them in butter or batter them and lightly fry them for a crispy, delicious fritter.
You get the idea-don't let this season pass you by. There are just too many ideas for using fabulous fresh squash and too much squash to ignore! One of my recent favorites is a quick and easy mixed summer squash casserole. It has all the requirements for a people pleasing recipe-fresh flavor, crunchy topping and cheese, glorious cheese. It takes about ten minutes of active time and a half hour in the oven, but I recently took it to a potluck and got some rave reviews.

Mixed Squash Casserole
3-4 medium summer squash and/or zucchini
1 medium onion
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh herbs, minced (I used thyme and oregano, but you can use what you like)
¼ cup cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheese (cheddar is my favorite for this)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350oF. Slice the squash into ¼ inch rounds. Chop the onion. Butter a medium sized casserole or baking dish. In a large skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat and add the onion, squash, salt, pepper and herbs. Cook just until the squash is tender and the onions are translucent. Drain the pan if there is any liquid in it. Transfer the squash mixture to the baking dish and toss it with the cream and shredded cheese. Mix the Parmesan and panko bread crumbs together and sprinkle the mixture over the entire top of the casserole. Dot with the remaining butter and bake for thirty minutes or until the top is golden brown.

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Barbara Ford
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