Summer squash 101

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2D

Nutrition: Summer squash is mostly fiber and water. One cup of raw squash contains 18 to 23 calories, depending on the kind. All varieties are high in vitamin C, with one serving offering about 35 percent of the adult recommended daily allowance. Summer squash also is a very good source of vitamin K, vitamin B6, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

Selection: Look for firm, nicely shaped squash with taut, unblemished skin. Avoid any with nicks or brown or soft spots. One pound – usually three to four immature squash – is enough for three servings.

Storage: Refrigerate summer squash in a loose plastic bag. Use as soon as possible. Squash starts to loose its freshness after three to four days. If exposed to frost or too much cold in the refrigerator, the skin may develop pits.

To freeze, cut into rounds and parboil (1 to 2 minutes) before transferring to containers or freezer bags. Squash may also be grated and frozen for use in recipes (such as zucchini bread). Or purée cooked summer squash and freeze in 1-cup amounts for use in casseroles or other dishes.

Preparation: Wash gently under cool water. Cut off stem and blossom ends. Most summer squash needs no peeling.

Boiling tends to make squash (which already has a high water content) squishy and taste watery. Try these alternatives:

• Steam: Small squash (under 1 1/2 inches in diameter) can be steamed whole in about 7 minutes. Half-inch slices steam in 4 minutes. This method works in a steamer or microwave oven.

• Broil: Cut squash in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt or thyme, if desired. Broil 6 inches from heat until fork- tender, about 10 minutes depending on size.

• Grill: Follow same method as broiled squash, but place on grill over medium-hot coals or heat.

• Roast: Slice into rounds or long, thin slices, 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Put in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle slices with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 400 degrees until soft, turning once, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on thickness.

• Bake: This actually combines two methods – boiling and baking. Cook squash for 10 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. Purée coarsely in blender or food processor. To 1 pound squash, add 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 beaten egg and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

• Sauté: Dice squash or cut into rounds. Stir-fry in olive oil until tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add soy sauce or salt and pepper to taste.

• Fry: Slice zucchini or other squash into 1/2-inch thick sticks. Coat with flour, dip in beaten egg, then roll in bread crumbs. Deep fry (at 365 degrees) until golden (about 3 to 4 minutes) or pan fry in 1/2 cup oil until brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and serve at once.

• Stuff: Parboil or steam first, then scoop out flesh and stuff with rice, meat, bread crumbs, cheese or other vegetables. Then, bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes.

• Flowers: Squash flowers are edible. They're excellent stuffed and fried.

– Debbie Arrington

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