There are endless ways to prepare zucchini and other summer squashes – maybe because there seems to be an endless supply of them throughout the summer.
Summer squash is a collection of different squashes that are eaten fresh in season, when their skins are still soft. Zucchini (or courgette) is the most common type, coming in various forms – classic green, yellow, round and Costata Romanesco, a green-striped Italian variety. Pattypan is an oblong squash that comes in combinations of yellow and green, with scalloped edges that make them look like little flying saucers. Other summer squashes include straightneck and crookneck – two types of yellow squash – and cousa, zucchini’s short, squat, pale green cousin.
Steven Brochu, head chef of Chartier, keeps a zucchini dish on his menu as a vegetarian option and regularly experiments with other summer squash dishes throughout the season. He’s looking forward to using the homegrown crop from the restaurant’s own garden this year. “It’s really an approachable squash for a lot of people, because you don’t have to mess around with that really challenging skin that you see on acorns or butternuts in the fall,” he says.
Both chefs and home cooks love summer squash for their many different uses – they can be eaten fresh, roasted, fried, grilled, stuffed, pickled and grated into baking – the latter is useful for sneaky parents to get their kids to eat vegetables without even knowing it. Deb Krause, who grows many different types of summer squash at Vesta Gardens, which supplies some of Edmonton’s top restaurants, has tried all sorts of preparations. “I’m currently in love with the zucchini noodles that you put through the spiralizer,” she says. “But all things considered, the scallop [pattypan] squashes are my favourite… I find that they don’t have as much water as traditional zucchini does, so they grill up nicer; they don’t get as soft. I think they’re perfect for summer cooking, on barbecues and grills.”
Summer squashes are a favourite of gardeners because they are super prolific and offer three different crops in one plant. The edible blossoms come first, which are commonly stuffed and deep fried in Italian cuisine. Then there’s the fresh squash itself, picked when the skin is thin. Or, if left on the vine, many summer squashes will develop a thick skin and can be stored for longer periods, as most are the same species as pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo).
Courtesy of Steven Brochu, Chartier
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