We’ve had summer squashes (zucchini, yellow squash, etc.) available locally for 13 weeks this year. Believe it or not, we are only halfway done! Typically, the summer squash season runs for a full 26 weeks in North Carolina. In 2014, we had them from 5/27 to 11/11 – 26 weeks. In 2013, they were available from 5/21 to 11/5 – 26 weeks. And, in 2012, thanks to a late frost in the fall, we had them from 5/22 to 11/27 – a total of 28 weeks (more than half the year)! This year, barring an unexpected weather event, we expect to see summer squashes coming out of NC fields until the first or second week of November!
This is the time of year when summer squash fatigue starts to set in, while we love them, we’ve been cooking the same dishes for the past 13 weeks, and if you are like me, you are ready for something new! Fortunately, summer squashes are an extremely versatile vegetable, and with a little creativity, we can transform them into all new exciting flavors and dishes for the remaining 13 weeks of the season!
Summer squashes are great at soaking up any flavors that you add to them, both from other ingredients, as well as from the cooking process itself (think grilling). They should really be seen as a blank canvas, from which you can mold a dish to your heart’s desire. They can be used raw or cooked, which also adds versatility. And, their texture makes them a satisfying meat substitute, which opens up a whole new category of options.
These 7 awesome dishes offer some ideas on how we can spice up our summer squash lives over the final half of the season!
We often forget that summer squashes do not need to be cooked. Served raw they provide a crunchier texture that is very satisfying, and with cut thin they offer an awesome substitute to pasta without all of the carbs. Plus, with no cooking, it is simple and easy to prepare.
Grilled Summer Squash with Feta and Mint (Chow) A perfect summer or Labor Day cookout dish. Summer squashes are the perfect vegetable for grilling, they soak up the smoky flavor of the grill, and are super easy to prepare. Brighten them up with some fresh herbs, and a salty cheese, and pair them with a nice steak or even burgers on the grill, a perfect summer meal.
Middle Eastern cuisine matches so perfectly with fresh North Carolina produce. The ingredients speak for themselves with such bright flavors and combinations! This dish creates a Tadziki style puree, but using zucchini instead of cucumber. It’s a great way to use those larger sized zucchini, that don’t work as well in other dishes. The lemon and mint are a fresh, delicious touch!
Summer squashes aren’t just for sides or entrees, they can also be used in a delicious dessert! These zucchini are baked like apples, tossed with sugar, cinnamon, and sweet syrup, and combine with a crumble topping for an awesome late summer or fall dessert.
Another clever way to prepare summer squash is by grating it and using it in a confit. You can drain and press out much of the moisture content through grating, then use the natural sponge-like nature of the squash to infuse a blend of flavors. This is also a great way to use up a mix of summer squashes you have leftover in the refrigerator.
Summer squashes, just like cucumbers, are great for pickling. You don’t need to go to the trouble of jarring if you don’t want to, they will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Once pickled, you can use them as a quick and easy side on their own, as a delicious addition to salads, or as a topping on burgers or sandwiches.
Grilled squashes can be enjoyed on their own as noted above, but also make a perfect meat substitute. The squash soaks up the smoky flavor from the grill, they take well to bold seasoning, and their texture makes them a perfect replacement for meat in dishes like tacos, stir fry’s, over pasta, or in sandwiches or wraps.