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David Ross

Cook-Off 63: Summer Squash

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Shelby   

I have TONS of squash blossoms.....I'm just not sure how to make them. I tried to fry them once....didn't turn out like I wanted.

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I'm quite fond of blossoms when lightly steamed - basically I give them as long as I'd give asparagus (which are a nice compliment to blossoms), which is to say just enough time to bring up the colour. Then shock in cold water and use on salads.

On the other hand, sugaring them (painting raw blossoms with a bit of gum arabic solution and dredging lightly and carefully in granulated sugar) makes them excellent for edible cake garnishes.

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Shelby, it's not complicated to make stuffed squash flowers if that idea grabs you (but it is fiddly). You prepare a filling and stuff the flowers with a teaspoon (they hold about 1oz filling), then either submerge them in a very light batter made with flour, egg white and fizzy water or dip in egg white then flour, and either shallow fry in ample oil, or pick them up with chopsticks and drop them into hot deep fat for a few seconds and remove to kitchen paper with a slotted spoon.

Some fillings:

Shrimp, garlic and ginger

Salmon mousse

Ricotta/mozzarella and herbs or anchovies

Goat's cheese

Risotto

Crab with cream cheese

Pureed vegetable with parmesan


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)
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heidih   

Shelby - I like the blossoms fried after a a quick pass through a very thin batter of rice flour or cornstarch rather than wheat flour. They are so delicate and you want to be able to taste that sweet hint of the squash in progress. I am also fond of them in a frittata; and they are so pretty. In Mexico they are often found in quesadillas, and frequently without cheese. An employee raised in Mexico who grew up with very little in the way of material goods said his mother rejoiced when they were plentiful. Many prefer the female flower as it is more robust. Since you have such a bounty you can afford to select the girls.

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For my first dish I decided to stuff a patty pan squash with merguez and accompany it with a chorizo oil and zucchini dressed with vinaigrette. I've been making lamb merguez for years and I thought the bright, fragrant, spicy flavors would go well with sweet squash. The chorizo oil added a dash of color and enhanced the flavor of the smoked paprika in the merguez. But I couldn't leave out zucchini so I decided to grill it to soften it and bring out some sugar, then dress it in a tangy preserved lemon vinaigrette. Trust me, that was only the theory, I didn't really know how this would turn out.

It took a lot of steps and time, but the effort paid off.

Harissa-

10 dried chiles, (I used ancho, California and cascabel)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. caraway seeds

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Rehydrate the dried chiles in hot water for about 30 minutes until soft. Remove the stems and seeds and place in a food processor with the other ingredients, adding enough olive oil to make a thick paste. You can refrigerate the harissa at this point, but I heat it in a pan over low temp to bring the ingredients together before storing in the refrigerator overnight.

Harissa 5.jpg

Merguez-

1 1/2lbs. ground lamb

1 1/4 tsp. fennel seed

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. harissa

1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/4 tsp. ground coriander

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 chipotle chilis and sauce

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Olive oil

Mix all the ingredients and then cover and store in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors come together. On the day of service, heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the merguez mixture and cook until done, about 15 minutes. Drain.

Merguez 1.jpg

Merguez 2.jpg

Chorizo Oil-

I typically make chorizo oil with a dried, aged Spanish chorizo. Unfortunately the store doesn't carry that brand anymore but they did have this chorizo from Missouri. It's good, just not as good as the Spanish chorizo.

zuchinni cook-off 001.JPG

zuchinni cook-off 009.JPG

Cut the chorizo into small dice and saute in a hot pan. You can add a little olive oil to quick-start the cooking process. As the chorizo heats it seeps out a reddish oil. The fattier the chorizo the more fragrant and flavorful the oil.

Grilled Zucchini-

Grilling zucchini softens the flesh and brings out some of the natural sugar. I cut the zucchini lengthwise in about 3/8 thick slices and simply grill it in a hot pan on top of the stove. This cast iron grill pan has been with me for years and it's to the point I don't even add any oil.

zuchinni cook-off 016.JPG

zuchinni cook-off 018.JPG

I always have a jar of preserved lemons lying in wait. The flavor can be a bit overpowering--salty, acidic and tart--so you only use a small amount. I wanted something sweet, sour and fragrant to counter the richness of the sausage in the patty pan.

zuchinni cook-off 021.JPG

Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette-

1 tbsp. diced preserved lemon

Dash fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

Black pepper

1/3 cup vinegar, (I used apple cider vinegar)

2/3 cup olive oil

Cut the soft pith off the preserved lemon, then cut the peel into tiny dice. Add the preserved lemon to a bowl and add the lemon juice, chives, sugar, salt pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Like any vinaigrette, I always adjust the ratio of oil and vinegar depending on my tastes that day. And by the way, the addition of sugar to zucchini really evokes flavor. It works! Add the diced zucchini to the vinaigrette.

Cooking and Plating-

Here are the little patty pan's on top of a steamer basket. Now this was a rookie's attempt mind you as I've never cooked stuffed summer squash. I put about 1/2" of water in the pot, added the steamer basket, the squash, then covered the pot and roasted/steamed the squash in a 350 oven for about 35 minutes until the flesh of the squash was just tender.

zuchinni cook-off 043.JPG

Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Lamb Merguez, Chorizo Oil and Grilled Zucchini/Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette-

zuchinni cook-off 051.JPG

zuchinni cook-off 055.JPG

We all have those aha moments when we craft a delicious dish. In this case, I was lucky to have an aha moment on my first attempt. And while the stuffed squash was sweet, meaty and rich, the star of the dish was the grilled zucchini vinaigrette. It would be delicious with grilled fish. But the one little detail that made the full dish a success was a little garnish I found in my garden--oregano blossoms. That fresh, clean, perfume of oregano really made a difference. Enjoy.

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Now I need some ideas for my next dish. I'm thinking of a grilled zucchini and vegetable terrine with herbed ricotta. I'm sort of toying with the idea of a take on ratatouille but grilling the vegetables then compressing the layers and serving the dish cold. I'm thinking provencal flavors and lavendar. What about a sauce? My first thought was a tomato base, but I'm not sure I want something thin like a tomato water or a chunky smoked tomato vinaigrette. Help.

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David, I do something similar to what you're describing quite often - a puree (or if you're me, a slightly rougher version produced by sort of mashing the tomatoes with a fork) of roasted or grilled tomatoes, with garlic and oregano (or with herbs that are complimentary to what you put in your ricotta) works beautifully between the layers and holds everything together without overpowering the flavours of the individual veggies.

I'm actually doing a hot take on this tonight for dinner - a layered terrine type creature consisting of giant marrow, eggplants, and tomato with queso fresco. It's not quite a ratatouille, but that's the flavour profile I use. Assembly and final photos later; it's a very simple dish to put together but the final effect is impressive.

--

Oh, and next time I have pattypans, I'm totally stealing that recipe. It sounds absolutely delish.

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David, I have seen a very attractive recipe for just what you mentioned: first you roast strips of peppers, aubergine and courgettes in olive oil. Then you grease a bread tin or terrine dish and line it with cling film and then wilted spinach leaves, laying the ends of the leaves so they hang down over the edge. Make up some agar-agar and dip the roasted vegetables in one by one, layering them inside the dish. Then you pick up the spinach overhang and cover the top, and cover with cling film. Weigh down and refrigerate until set.

A tomato sauce that I love is very simple; you refresh three sundried tomatoes in hot water and process them with half a pound of baby tomatoes and a tablespoon of olive oil. That's it.

Then you turn out and slice the terrine, spoon over the tomato sauce and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

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If you're looking for unique squash cutters, head to a local Asian grocery store. I've acquired probably around 50 different vegetable and fruit cutters during travels to San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver and Seattle and points in between. Most are incredibly cheap compared to vegetable peelers/cutters you'd find at a National chain store and they offer a variety of unusual cutting blades. lf you can find a tiny melon baller, they are wonderful for cutting balls of zucchini. You get both the green skin and lighter color of the inside of the zucchini in a little ball. Wonderful sauteed in butter or olive oil and a great plate presentation.

I just came back from the store with some yellow squash and zucchini so I'll get to cutting and provide some photos.

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If you're looking for unique squash cutters, head to a local Asian grocery store. I've acquired probably around 50 different vegetable and fruit cutters during travels to San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver and Seattle and points in between. Most are incredibly cheap compared to vegetable peelers/cutters you'd find at a National chain store and they offer a variety of unusual cutting blades. lf you can find a tiny melon baller, they are wonderful for cutting balls of zucchini. You get both the green skin and lighter color of the inside of the zucchini in a little ball. Wonderful sauteed in butter or olive oil and a great plate presentation.

I just came back from the store with some yellow squash and zucchini so I'll get to cutting and provide some photos.

Here's an assortment of some of my contraptions and hand-held vegetable cutters. As you can see, a few make wonderful strands of squash "spaghetti."

squash 001.JPG

squash 005.JPG

squash 008.JPG

squash 011.JPG

squash 012.JPG

squash 015.JPG

And my personal favorite, the curly fry monster made in Taiwan-

squash 017.JPG

squash 020.JPG

squash 024.JPG

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chefmd   

Zucchini quickly fried in duck fat while duck breast is resting. While cooking in one pan. While renovating kitchen.

Damn, this almost sounds like a poem. It surely tasted poetic.

IMG_0499.JPG

IMG_0502.jpg

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Shel_B   

Zucchini ribbons as a pasta substitute. Not a new thing, but something I've done only a couple of times and would like to explore more.

I've been making variations on zucchini pasta for years. I most often just make the ribbons using the grating disk on the Cuisinart. One dish that I make frequently is "Zucchini Puttanesca," and whenever possible I use the Costata Romanesco squash. Mmmmm! If you've not tried the Romanesco, give it a whirl. You might come to like its flavor and texture more than the typical zucchini. It has less water and holds up better in many types of cooking.

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Franci   

I have TONS of squash blossoms.....I'm just not sure how to make them. I tried to fry them once....didn't turn out like I wanted.

They freeze really really well, you can have fried zucchini blossoms in winter! Wash them and dry them really well, very gently, I use a salad spinner. Then freeze in a container in layers. Key is to dip in batter and fry while they are still frozen, otherwise they turn into a mush. You cannot stuff anymore.

I know everybody says to go with a light batter with the blossoms (beer, sparkling water, rice flour), but my preferred batter is eggs and flour, plus salt something in the middle between pancake batter thickness and crepe. Needs to coat the blossoms without being neither too heavy nor runny. Deep fry.

Another way Italians like to fry the zucchini blossoms is to make a batter flour, yeast and salt, some sugar and water and add the shredded zucchini blossoms and then let it double in bulk and dip fry. Something looking like this

I also enjoyed very much watching this video of Ottolenghi going in a farm in Turkey to catch the blossoms when they open in the morning.

Here.

Shelby you can also shred the blossoms and add to the zucchini to make a risotto or pasta.


Edited by Franci (log)
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Bojana   

I have just received four gem squashes from a South African colleague who grows them in his garden. Any recipes or ideas how to use them other than the traditional slice in half and boil?

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Franci   

I'm sorry I don't have the time to join you in the cooking but I'm reading and going to come back to steal some of you ideas.

Meanwhile I want to add some of the ways I enjoy zucchini.

Zucchine alla poverella. (povero=poor) Slice the zucchini, salt them and leave to dry overnight on towels. Deep fry. Layer the fried zucchini and dress with white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic salt and fresh mint. Mint and vinegar are key.

Another very famous Italian dish, is spaghetti alla Nerano, in the States I don't know how is (or how expensive is) to find provolone del Monaco and caciocavallo di Sorrento. In this blog you can see both cheeses. I tried in the past with mozzarella, just doesn't work.

I also enjoyed many times this Tian of courgettes and potatoes. I don't like the wine in it and honestly didn't follow the recipe to the T, just the idea. In my area of origin, in Apulia, we call this kind of dish Tiella.

The most known Tiella is riso patate e cozze. But it is very common to find also the zucchine in there. It is a very difficult dish to do properly. It can be really delicious or total crap. This is a good video, sorry in Italian but watching is good enough, in reality this is cooked in a earth ware pot and baked in a brick oven.


Edited by Franci (log)
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Franci   

Another summer squash that is particular from the riviera is zucchini trombetta.image.jpg

it is different than the regular zucchini. It's much firmer, hold the cooking very well and it has seeds only at the rounder tip where the blossom is attached. If you can find the seeds, I highly recommend it.

A way people enjoyed it here is in "torte verdi", Italian or French version very similar. Tourte de cougette trompette.


Edited by Franci (log)
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Here's how my first squash of the summer met its end!

I used a recipe from Roger Vergé's Vegetables in the French Style: Courgettes et Petits Oignons à la Cardamomme (Zucchini and Pearl Onions with Cardamom). The book is rather unclear, so I don't know if this is what it should look like...

These are the ingredients:


001 (640x480).jpg

You poach onions, cardamom seeds, bay and chilli, then add the courgettes:

003 (640x480).jpg

Once done, take off the heat and dress with lemon (membranes and seeds removed and flesh diced), and some chopped mint and coriander, and partially rehydrated dried figs (?!?):

004 (640x480).jpg

I had to sub shallots and parsley for the coriander and pearl onions as I had availability issues.

To be honest, it tasted half weird and half meh. The figs were super-odd. Oh well.

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Here's how my first squash of the summer met its end!

I used a recipe from Roger Vergé's Vegetables in the French Style: Courgettes et Petits Oignons à la Cardamomme (Zucchini and Pearl Onions with Cardamom). The book is rather unclear, so I don't know if this is what it should look like...

These are the ingredients:

attachicon.gif001 (640x480).jpg

You poach onions, cardamom seeds, bay and chilli, then add the courgettes:

attachicon.gif003 (640x480).jpg

Once done, take off the heat and dress with lemon (membranes and seeds removed and flesh diced), and some chopped mint and coriander, and partially rehydrated dried figs (?!?):

attachicon.gif004 (640x480).jpg

I had to sub shallots and parsley for the coriander and pearl onions as I had availability issues.

To be honest, it tasted half weird and half meh. The figs were super-odd. Oh well.

I like the concept of cardamom with squash. Very intriguing.

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David, I have seen a very attractive recipe for just what you mentioned: first you roast strips of peppers, aubergine and courgettes in olive oil. Then you grease a bread tin or terrine dish and line it with cling film and then wilted spinach leaves, laying the ends of the leaves so they hang down over the edge. Make up some agar-agar and dip the roasted vegetables in one by one, layering them inside the dish. Then you pick up the spinach overhang and cover the top, and cover with cling film. Weigh down and refrigerate until set.

A tomato sauce that I love is very simple; you refresh three sundried tomatoes in hot water and process them with half a pound of baby tomatoes and a tablespoon of olive oil. That's it.

Then you turn out and slice the terrine, spoon over the tomato sauce and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

I've never worked with agar-agar, but I assume it acts like a gel to help mold all the ingredients? I wonder if an aspic would work in the same manner?

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I like the concept of cardamom with squash. Very intriguing.

That part was actually tasty, I would try squash and cardamom again - maybe with a sweeter squash.

I've never worked with agar-agar, but I assume it acts like a gel to help mold all the ingredients? I wonder if an aspic would work in the same manner?

Yes, aspic would work just the same - I think agar was used in this recipe to keep it vegetarian, but it's just a clear neutral gel to hold the shape.

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Shelby   

Here's how my first squash of the summer met its end!

I used a recipe from Roger Vergé's Vegetables in the French Style: Courgettes et Petits Oignons à la Cardamomme (Zucchini and Pearl Onions with Cardamom). The book is rather unclear, so I don't know if this is what it should look like...

These are the ingredients:

attachicon.gif001 (640x480).jpg

You poach onions, cardamom seeds, bay and chilli, then add the courgettes:

attachicon.gif003 (640x480).jpg

Once done, take off the heat and dress with lemon (membranes and seeds removed and flesh diced), and some chopped mint and coriander, and partially rehydrated dried figs (?!?):

attachicon.gif004 (640x480).jpg

I had to sub shallots and parsley for the coriander and pearl onions as I had availability issues.

To be honest, it tasted half weird and half meh. The figs were super-odd. Oh well.

The figs...hmmmm.....too sweet with the squash for me.....I think.

I've never used dried figs before, do they get softer or are they more chewy?


Edited by Shelby (log)

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The figs...hmmmm.....too sweet with the squash for me.....I think.

I've never used dried figs before, do they get softer or are they more chewy?

Actually you get both. I'm not sure whether it depends more on the variety of fig or just the way they're prepared, but some of them are buttery-soft and moist, and some you have to cut with scissors because they're quite hard with natural cristalised sugar. The hard ones aren't the best in my experience because when you soak them, the outside gets gross and slushy and the inside just stays hard. But whichever you try, don't try them with courgette. If you want to know which you're buying just give them a squeeze I guess :wink:

(Over here market sellers have a sort of song that they do about their fruit and veg to attract customers and they improvise based on what's happening in the market, and the first time I went to our local market on my own when I moved out of home I was touching the plumbs and the market man yelled 'Don't squeeze'em darlin', you'll make me cry' :huh:)


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)

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