Photo by Zachary Cross
Zucchini bread, introduced in the groovy, healthy 70s, is what most people probably associate with a sweet summer squash treat. Grated zucchini is added to a (usually spiced) quick bread batter, as in a carrot bread or cake. I love squash but I’ll confess I’m not a huge zucchini bread fan. There are some good recipes and even zucchini cake but there’s something about the texture that bugs me.
I love pumpkin-based baked goods, though. They don’t appeal to me until the weather cools down, though hot weather is not stopping companies like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts from rolling out pumpkin spice lattes. Pumpkin muffins and such got me thinking, though: why aren’t there recipes for baked goods with pureed summer squash? It is an extra step but I’ve grated my knuckles enough times making zucchini bread to think that extra step worth it.
I decided to give it a try and thankfully started with a recipe that works best with home-cooked squash: Winter Squash Bars from Simply in Season. I have tried canned pumpkin in this recipe in the past and it was too dry. This distinction is important because summer squash puree can be pretty wet. It needs to be drained well and then the remaining liquid taken into consideration when mixing up the recipe.
I felt that different flavors would be good, rather than the standard cinnamon and spice. I opted for lemon, using grated zest (so I didn’t get away from the grater after all!) and experimented with hints of ginger and clove. I tried two variations: blueberry and poppy seed. They were a hit, especially the poppyseed (I have some big fans of Greyfriar’s lemon poppy seed muffins from back in the 90s.). The blueberry tends to get overly moist but the texture of the poppy seed version is perfect. This is a bar in shape but in texture more like a muffin or cake, not a typical gooey lemon bar.
These bars are found in the dessert section of the cookbook, but I looked at various muffin recipes and found the sugar content to be about the same in the bars as in muffins. So, eat them for breakfast, tea, or dessert as your taste buds prefer. You could experiment with the amount of sugar, though I’d make a batch with regular sugar before experimenting with wetter sugars such as honey or maple syrup. As I’ve said, this can be a pretty wet recipe already. I think it would work well with a gluten-free flour, too; the number of eggs seems to make it less sensitive to the kind of flour used. I’ve used all whole wheat, white, and a combination of the two. I have not used gluten-free flour but I have made it grain-free with green plantain. That variation is on my personal blog.
When buying squash, know that it takes about a pound of squash to make a cup of puree. That varies, though, depending on the squash. The tough peel and big seeds of a larger squash should probably be discarded, necessitating a little more to begin with. You can use any variety of summer squash, spaghetti squash (just be sure to puree it well so you don’t have strings), or even immature winter squash if you can find it (ask a farmer). I’ve not made it with acorn squash but that’s another mild squash with a pale flesh. Essentially you don’t want the rich orange of a squash like mature butternut or pumpkin - save those for October and later!
To cook the squash, cut up and boil until soft (best for summer squash - peel and seed if necessary, smaller squash are fine unpeeled and with seeds; you’ll be blending it all up). Drain the boiled squash well and puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. You may want to drain again in a fine strainer if it still seems really wet. It should be wetter than canned pumpkin, a tad drier than applesauce. Or bake whole at 350 for an hour or so (depending on size) - best for spaghetti or other winter squash. Scoop out the seeds, then scoop out the flesh and puree. Drain if needed. Then you’re ready to make bars!
The original recipe was double this quantity. I’ve made a printable recipe here, including a second printable for the quantities of the original recipe.
Summer Squash Bars
Adapted from Winter Squash Bars from Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
1 cup flour (white, whole wheat or half and half)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs poppy seeds
(optional: 1/16 tsp ginger and/or cloves)
Beat together in a mixing bowl
1 cup summer squash puree (about 1lb fresh squash, immature winter squash, or spaghetti squash)
¾ cup sugar
⅜ cup (6 Tbs) butter, melted
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Mix in dry ingredients to wet. Pour into greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes and cut into bars when cool (or cool-ish!).
Our youngest child is a pretty adventurous eater. I don’t know if it’s just her personality, or because she’s the youngest and goes along with what everyone else is eating. She still has her likes and dislikes, though, and her favorite main dish for a long time was tortellini with roasted red pepper sauce. This was so predictable that if Jeffrey was planning to make it for supper, he would ask Millie what she wanted to eat that night. He knew she would immediately pipe up, “Tortellini with pepper sauce!” I love that it is an easy dish to make, yet it’s beautiful and tasty, too.
This recipe comes from another Jack Bishop book, Pasta e Verdura. Conveniently, this book is arranged alphabetically by vegetable, with 140 vegetable-based pasta sauce recipes with pasta shape recommendations. We found it super helpful when we were faced with an abundant CSA share and a dearth of ideas of how to cook it. We could just check out the suggestions for the veggie(s) that we wanted to use.
Though tortellini is often our preferred pasta, we also make this dish with spaghetti squash . Or we use it as pizza sauce, or anywhere you might use a pesto or pasta sauce (e.g. sauce for cooked summer squash, hummus, sandwich spread…). Just be sure to adjust the seasonings when used for something other than pasta (it will need less). This recipe calls for parsley, “so that the pepper flavor can really shine through,” but another, similar, Bishop recipe calls for basil (and no pine nuts). And though red peppers make a lovely sauce, yellow and orange should be pretty, too. Feel free to experiment!
Though the recipe calls for two large bell peppers, it should really say two huge peppers; a pound is a lot of pepper. I found it to need closer to 3 large bells, and 5 of a longer, thin pepper such as The Healthy Kitchen’s Cubanelles that I used.
I have included instructions for oven roasting peppers, as that is what I am most familiar with. They can also be roasted over a gas stove or on a grill. I’m sure Google will yield plenty of instructions for either. Go here for a printable recipe and here for printable roasting instructions.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
From Pasta e Verdura by Jack Bishop
2 large bell peppers (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 small clove of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound pasta
Oven Roasted Peppers
From Pasta e Verdura by Jack Bishop
Adjust the oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Place the peppers so that they are an inch or two from the heating element (Bishop says on the rack, I use a cookie sheet). Broil turning carefully several time with tongs and taking care not to puncture the peppers, until the skins are lightly charred but not ashen on all sides, about 15 minutes. Place the charred peppers in a small paper bag, roll the bag closed, and set the peppers aside to steam for about 5 minutes or until the skins pucker. When cool enough to handle, peel the peppers with your fingers (although rinsing makes the job easier, it also washes away some flavor), then core and seed them.
Photos by Zachary Cross. Flowers by Southerly Flower Farm. Squash by various vendors.
When I was little, my mother would cut summer squash into strips and deep fry it. Then she would try to tell me they were French fries. I didn't believe this for a minute, but deep-fried anything? I would eat it! As an adult, I am not a fan of deep frying, mainly because I do not like the smell or the cleanup. Getting kids to eat squash can still be a challenge, though. Convincing adults to eat it can be, too. It's such an abundant crop this time of year, and so versatile - even beautiful, with all the varieties found at the market. One night I decided to mix pesto into some squash that I had sautéed. Bingo, for the first time, no squash leftovers that night!
Pesto utilizes another abundant summer crop: basil. This week I decided to try Spring Creek Veggie’s lime basil to mix thing up a bit. We tried a couple of different combinations and decided that approximately half Italian basil, half lime basil was about right. I have used lemon basil from Spring Creek in the past, too, and that was tasty also.
The pesto recipe we often use is a classic with a special ingredient: parsley. You know how pesto always turns brown so quickly? Parsley slows that process, without a change in flavor. This recipe is from Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. Like Simply in Season the book is divided into seasons plus an "Everyday Basics" section. Throughout the book Bishop talks about going to a local farm on Long Island, NY to pick up his family's CSA share, including the occasional family work days at the farm. It's an enjoyable read plus good recipes, and practical for those of us shopping in season.
from: A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop
1 ¾ cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup tightly packed fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 medium garlic clove, peeled
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Place the basil, parsley, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the ingredients are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the feed tube and process until smooth.
2. Scrape the sauce into a small bowl and stir in the cheese and salt to taste. The pesto may be used immediately or refrigerated in a an airtight container for several days. For storage in the refrigerator, pour a thin film of olive oil over the pesto
Makes a little more than ¾ cup.
Want to print the recipe? Go here for a printable Google Doc.
I love the abundant variety this time of year. For our supper I roasted beautiful red potatoes from Sequatchie Cove, okra (multiple vendors right now), and baked some Pickett's Trout Ranch trout (recipe coming soon). I cut the squash into bite-sized pieces, sautéed them, then mixed in the pesto once they were cooked. I like to serve a fermented vegetable with my meals and Harvest Roots Ferments' Kimchi Green Beans were an excellent complement with this meal. I had thought, with kimchi in the name, it would be something I'd want only with an Asian meal. Instead, the green beans were yummy but surprisingly neutral, a tasty and welcome variation on my usual choice of kraut with supper.
Photos by Zachary Cross
Perhaps because of examples in literature I always think of apples as a fall crop. Of course they are available in supermarkets year-round, whether from the U.S., South America, or as far away as New Zealand. Our local apple season, however, started at least two weeks ago. I have been buying apples from Wheeler's Orchard and they are fantastic. We have been enjoying them fresh but I decided to make an easy dessert for a change. Maybe you are familiar with oven pancakes, but when I first tried this recipe it was a new thing for me. I had always made pancakes on a griddle. This is a lot easier, faster, and it is versatile. You can use it for most fruits or you can alter to make a vegetable pancake for a main or side dish.
This recipe comes from the cookbook Simply in Season. If you are familiar with the More-With-Less Cookbook, this newer collection of recipes bills itself as "Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of More-with-Less." It is organized by seasons and the foods that are fresh in that season (though it's a little oriented towards a more northern seasonal pattern than we have in Chattanooga).
Fruit Oven Pancake
Adapted from Simply in Season
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 400F. While oven heats, place butter in 9-inch pie pan and place in oven to melt. Swirl pan to grease bottom and sides.
Peel and thinly slice 1 large apple or pear and place on top of melted butter in pie pan.
Return to oven and bake until soft, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons brown sugar or maple syrup.
Mix in blender:
3/4 cup of milk
2/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pour over soft fruit and bake until puffed and golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and a dash of cinnamon and serve immediately.
Photo by Zachary Cross
Is there really such a thing? Maybe you have an assortment from your CSA box or you had to try one of every color and variety at the market. Last week I was left with an assortment from my own garden, gifts from my dad, and both my husband's and my dad's trips to the market. Then my tomato-eating husband went on a business trip. Even after gifting to friends and neighbors we were in danger of exploding tomatoes in our kitchen. Roasting to the rescue!
Roasted tomatoes do not require a strict recipe. Cut tomatoes, any kind, in half or thick slices, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Optionally sprinkle with your favorite herbs and/or add unpeeled cloves of garlic to your baking tray. Roast quickly, 20 minutes or so, as high as 450 degrees, or go low and slow for 3 to 4 hours at 225. Or somewhere in between! As you might expect, faster and hotter requires more watching, possibly stirring, and can result in a browner product. I opted for longer and lower so I would not have to keep an eye on them and added basil and garlic. As I was roasting spaghetti squash too, I probably should have turned up the heat a little, but it all eventually got done. I boiled some regular pasta for those who prefer it, and two trays of tomatoes were gobbled up by my three kids and our housemate.
In addition to tossing with pasta, you can use roasted tomatoes on pizza, in salad, on toast, a roast meat, or anywhere you might eat a sun-dried, cooked, or fresh tomato. Tweak your cooking temperatures and times to reflect how you enjoy your finished product, e.g. chewy, crisp, juicy, drier, etc. Store any leftovers in the fridge, or for long-term storage, bake up a big batch and store in the freezer.
This week I am taking over the blog from Catie and Heather. My name is Heather Cross, and I have been an organic gardener since I was five and a Chattanooga resident since I was twenty. I love to cook and like to try out new recipes on my husband Jeffrey and the three kids we still have at home. Thankfully they are willing guinea pigs! Not only is my son Zachary one of my testers, but he is also a photographer and will be taking the photos for the blog. Although I am a gardener, I am not a farmer and I love shopping at the market and getting to know the farmers. I enjoy chatting about growing techniques, pest management, unique varieties, and recipes. I like that these are folks I can get to know (and even visit their farms) and that I am supporting them directly. I look forward to sharing recipes for the fruits of their labors with you.