Ingredients

Zucchini, summer squash, and squash blossoms

Other Names: Courgette, vegetable marrow.

General Description: Summer (or tender) squash (Cucurbita pepo and others) are New World members of the Cucurbita family with tender skin and flesh, small edible seeds, and high moisture content. There are many types of summer squash ranging in size from bite-sized to baseball bats. It was the Italians who first marketed summer squash in a small size and as immigrants they introduced this vegetable to the U.S. Zucchini, the Italian and American name for what the French and British call courgette, is the most common summer squash. It exists in many forms and colors, mostly commonly deep green. In Britain huge zucchini known as vegetable marrow are grown and are suitable for stuffing. All types of summer squash may also be sold as baby squash, especially in farmers’ markets and specialty stores.

Costata Romanesca has pale raised ribs in mottled green and is long and narrow with a slightly bulging bottom. This Roman variety may also be termed cocozelle, an old name for zucchini used when they were first introduced into the U.S. in the late 19th century. When solid and yound, this squash is juicy and sweet but it quickly turns flabby and can be blanc and bitter.

Gold zucchini has brilliant sunny yellow skin that retuans its color when cooked. This squash starts out yellow rather than ripening from green. It has bright, fresh flavor.

Middle Eastern zucchini are stocky, pale green, tapering cylinders with a thick, darker green stem. They have smooth, shiny skin that bruises easily and solid crisp, moist, and flavorful flesh. They retain their firm texture when cooked.

Pattypan (or cymling) squash have a characteristic scalloped edge and may be flattened or bell-shaped. They may be cream, sunny yellow, celadon, pistachio, or ivy green in color, and they taste best when small. Smooth-fleshed, they are rather bland in flavor.

Round zucchini are dense and heavy for their size. They are nearly seedless with smooth-testured flesh. When cooked, the juicy, flavorful flesh has a green tint.

Squash blossoms are extremely perishable, edible delicacy that come from many types of squash including winter squash varieties. There are two types: male blossoms, which grow from the branches, and female blossoms, which bear fruit. Female blossoms have a soft, fleshy center that will spoil within 1 day. They should be picked in the morning when they open toward the sun and then sold that day. Male blossoms are hairier and not as fruity but will last longer. Squash blossoms can be found in specialty and farmers’ markets, often attached to small fruits.

Tatume, which are common in Mexico, are shaped like a huge egg, and weigh about 1 pound each. They have dense, smooth flesh and are virtually seedless.

Yellow crooknecks have thick warty skin, heavily curved necks, sweet flavor, and crunchy texture. Newer varieties are straight with thin, soft skin, but bland glavor.

Zephyr is a hybrid of yellow crookneck and a cross between delicate and yellow acorn squash (both winter squash). It has a sharply defined green bottom topped with yellow and resembles zucchini with a slightly bulbous bottom.

Season: Summer squash are available all year, but spring to summer is the best season for domestically grown squash.

Purchase: Choose small to medium squash with shiny, taut skin and solid flesh. Lightly scratched or slightly bruised squash are perfectly fine.

Avoid: Overly large squash, squash with pitted skin, or those with flabby or spongy texture are all best avoided.

Storage: Refrigerate squash I plastic for 2 to 3 days.

Preparation: Squash:

  1. Scrub squash with a brush to remove any prickles or dirt.
  2. Trim off the necks and bases.

Blossoms:

  1. Open up squash blossoms and carefully inspect for insects.
  2. Pull off and discard the dark green calyxes.

Serving Suggestions: Sauté thin half-moons of zucchini and yellow squash in olive oil and garlic, and serve as a side dish or toss with pasta. Stuff squash blossoms with goat cheese and mozzarella, then briefly sauté in olive oil and serve with fresh tomato sauce.

Food Affinities: Basil, chiles, corn, dill, eggplant, feta, fish, garlic, marjoram, mint, mozzarella, olive oil, goat cheese, onion, oregano, pasta, rice, thyme, tomatoes.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com