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The Great Pretender

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Sneaky summer squash blends well into a variety of recipes

By Greg Summers

Summer squash is a great pretender.

It’s true that a 1-cup (boiled, drained and lightly salted) is low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol. It’s a good source of vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and cooper.

But it doesn’t end there.

When you include dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamins, B1, B2, B6, folate, potassium and manganese, along with omega-3 fatty acids, squash is a little yellow nutritional powerhouse.

But at the same time, it’s the biggest liar in the garden patch.

Something that is so good for you shouldn’t taste so good and be so versatile.

It can be used in a variety of ways, depending on how it’s cut. Thin strips work great for stir-fry or a raw vegetable tray. Sliced half-circles are good in soup or lasagna. Grated squash can be added to salads, slaw, spaghetti sauce or into muffin and quick bread batters.

Preparing summer squash

– To prepare – Before using, wash squash and trim the ends. Summer squash doesn’t need to be peeled or seeded unless it’s overly large and has a thick skin or large seeds.

– To blanch or boil – Wash and cut squash into desired shape. Bring about an inch of water (or enough to cover the squash) to a boil. Add the squash and bring back to a boil. Cook, uncovered, 1 to 3 minutes, depending on how you plan to use the squash.

– To barbecue – Wash squash and halve or cut into chunks. Brush the pieces with oil and place on grill. You can skewer pieces and add other vegetables for a kebab, if you like. Cook about 3 minutes on the hottest part of the grill. To finish cooking, turn and move to a spot away from the direct heat, about 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender.

– To microwave – Wash and cut 2 medium-sized squash into quarter-inch slices. Arrange in a microwave baking dish. Add three tablespoons of water and cover. Cook at full power 4 to 7 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through. Note: Baby squash can be microwaved whole, by pricking with a fork first and increasing cooking time.

– To bake – Wash and halve. Brush the cut surface lightly with margarine or oil and top with chopped onion, herbs, bread crumbs or Parmesan cheese. If you plan to stuff the squash instead, scoop out a little of the inside and fill with your favorite filling. Any meat, poultry, seafood or egg ingredient should be precooked. Place in a baking pan; add a few spoonfuls of water. Bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

– To stir-fry – Wash and cut into desired shape. Heat 1 teaspoon oil for each cup of squash pieces. Stir-fry in hot oil 4 to 5 minutes. Keep stirring and turning the pieces so they cook quickly but don’t get soggy.

– To steam – Wash squash and cut into pieces that fit in your steaming basket. Bring an inch of water to a boil. Fill the steamer basket with squash and set over water. Cover and steam 3 to 5 minutes. Note: Baby squash can be steamed whole but will require longer cooking time.

There is another reason why summer squash is a great pretender.

Mild in flavor, summer squash is the one vegetable that can be blended into anything. It’s one downfall is that much of its calories come from sugars.

That makes it a perfect match with sweet spices like allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. More pungent seasonings like basil, mustard, rosemary and thyme, work well, too.

Because of that mildness, you can literally fool people with this warm season crop that grows best at average temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. You can add it in almost unnoticed.

Angela Forbes, food and nutrition agent for Clemson Extension Service, said that’s because squash is a nutrient dense vegetable.

“You can add it to recipes after grating it or chopping it and kids can’t tell,” she said. “I put squash in a food processor and then add it to spaghetti sauce to sneak in nutrients.”

Maria Battista, author of “How to Sneak Extra Nutrition into Everyday Foods with Baby Food,” recommends adding a jar of butternut squash baby food to boxed macaroni and cheese to make it more nutritious.

She said you just fold it in after preparing the mac-n-cheese as usual. Because it’s pureed, it can boost the nutritional value of foods without changing the texture.

“Because butternut squash is similar in color to mac-n-cheese, it will be virtually undetected,” she said.

That’s the way it is with these two recipes.

Squash muffins will have dinner guests scratching their heads in disbelief while trying to figure out the mystery ingredient. The recipe, by Bobbie Tucker, of Blue Ridge, S.C., was published in the July 23, 2009, edition of The Baptist Courier.

Squash Pie is a little more local. And no, that’s not coconut; it’s squash. No one really knows where the recipe came from, but it’s made the rounds of Flint Ridge Baptist Church.   

Squash Do’s & Don’ts

– DO buy squash that have a glossy, shiny or unblemished skin.

– DO buy squash that are heavy for their size and feel firm.

– DO store summer squash in the refrigerator unwashed in a plastic bag. It can be kept this way for up to one week if there are no punctures or blemishes on the squash skin.

– DON’T buy squash with rinds that are very hard or very soft.

– DON’T buy squash that are much larger or smaller than the average.

Squash Pie

Ingredients

3 cups squash, grated

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 heaping tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon coconut flavoring

1 teaspoon lemon flavoring

2 frozen pie shells (not deep dish)

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

– Combine ingredients and pour into pie shells. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until filling is golden brown.

– Recipe from Flint Ridge Baptist Church

Squash Muffins

Ingredients

2 pounds small to medium yellow  summer squash

2 eggs

1 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 cup sugar

2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

Directions

– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

– Cut squash into half-inch thick slices and cook in a small amount of boiling water. Drain and mash with a potato masher. Measure 2 cups.

– In a mixing bowl. beat the eggs, add butter and squash. Stir well and set aside.

– In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour and cornmeal. Add squash mixture and stir just until moistened.

– Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes. Makes 24 muffins.

– Recipe from “The Baptist Courier,” by Bobbie Tucker

(Cooking tips from Clemson Extension Service)