Eat Your… Squash

Squash (Cucurbita pepo)

Delicious, delicious squash. A member of the Cucurbitaceae plant family that includes zucchini, cucumbers, and pumpkins, squash comes in many varieties. Depending on time of year, you can find (or grow) acorn, butternut, patty pan, ambercup, carnival, baby boo, and delicata squash — just to name a few. Each type has it’s own shape, texture, flavor, and cooking method.

The most familiar to me is the tried-and-true, yellow crookneck summer squash. Today, I’ll show you how to make two different recipes that put this versatile vegetable in the spotlight.

Yellow Squash



The Origin of Squash

The “three sisters”, corn, beans, and squash, were planted together by many indigenous groups of North and Central America. In this arrangement, the corn provides a stalk for the climbing beans to grow on, the beans provide nitrogen into the soil (that the corn needs), and the squash stay low to the ground, shading out any weeds. Many gardeners today still use the three sisters method.

Squash is ancient: Seeds from the squash family have been found in caves in Ecuador (South America) dating back 10,000 years [see NEOLITHIC AGRICULTURE: The Slow Birth of Agriculture]. This should come as no surprise, since squash is easy to grow, has large fleshy fruit, contains nutritious seeds, and even has secondary uses as containers (think gourd bird houses).

Bisected Yellow Squash



Squash Casserole

A tour of southern food would be remiss without mentioning the venerable squash casserole. This is the way to cook squash if you live south of Virginia and east of Louisiana. The only other way that my mom cooked squash was a simple sautee with onions, butter, salt, and pepper. Maybe mom was just feeling lazy on those days, because that’s the beginning of a squash casserole.

[links below are to pictures to clarify procedures]

Ingredients

2 lbs yellow crookneck squash, cut into 1/4″ half moons
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp butter

1/2 medium carrot, grated
1 cup saltines, crumbled
1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions

1) Simmer squash, onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper, in the vegetable stock until the squash is soft, about 15 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted to coat mixture.

2) Stir in the crumbled saltines, bread crumbs, and grated carrot. Transfer to an oiled baking dish.

3) Pour the milk over the squash mixture, then top with cheese and pecans.

4) Bake at 350 F in a preheated oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

5) Enjoy!

Squash Casserole


Squash Burgers

I have to admit, this one would make a great addition to the veggie burger article coming in a couple months, but squash is just too good to pass up when it’s in season (and cheap!) at the farmers market. I promise I’ll find something else equally as decadent when it’s veggie burger time.

This one, of course, isn’t a traditional southern recipe. But when you try it (and oh dear god you should), you’ll wish it was! You’ll only find the recipe here because it’s mine.

Ingredients

1 lb yellow crookneck squash, rough chopped
1/4 cup vegetable stock

1 green onion (scallion), finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp each: dried basil, oregano, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
1+ cups panko (or reg bread crumbs)

2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

Directions

1) Simmer squash with vegetable stock in a covered pan for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is very soft (mushy). Let cool, then drain and mash well with a potato masher or process it through a ricer.

2) Heat up a skillet with 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to 375 F. Use a thermometer, don’t guess!

3) In a bowl, mix mashed squash with the green onion, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper (and optional cayenne). Add the 2 beaten eggs and combine. Add panko (or reg bread crumbs) 1/2 cup at a time until you have a very thick mixture that will hold itself together — you should be able to form patties and transfer to a skillet without them falling apart… not too wet, but not too dry. I used about 1.25 cups of panko, but this will vary.

4) Transfer two patties to the hot skillet. Cook until golden brown on each side, then combine with your favorite bread and burger toppings.

5) Enjoy!

Squash Burger + Tots



For Next Week

Next week’s recipes will require:

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Sweet Potato Fries

1-3 sweet potatoes (depends how many fries you want)
1 cup corn starch
4 cups vegetable oil (for deep frying)

See you next week!

. . . . .


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Ben is a graduate student at NCSU studying Crop Science with an emphasis on Sustainable Agriculture. Official foodie credentials are non-existent, other than the fact that he has been cooking for himself since he was 12 years old. You can find his personal blog at bengarland.com, photos and videos at bengarland’s Flickr photostream, and his plans for a self-constructed cob house and organic farm over at Our Farm Adventure (still a very new work in progress).