Summer. I rejoice in the longer days, the after-dinner walks scented with Huntington Beach’s sweet salt air. The time spent quietly chatting with Mr. Wonderful renews me.
Lately, our pace has been hampered by our aging dog. Bonnie’s joints refuse to remember the joys of gentle exercise. In desperation, we resorted to using a DOG stroller. And she likes it. I think it is because my grandson uses one. She feels like she is keeping up the kid.
Yes, summer. I love the produce that the season throws upon us. Herbaceous smells of its moist green leaves comfort me. They are primordial perfumes derived from warm verdant vines, primarily tomato and summer squash that dot the front yards and pathways along the way. Most beach dwellers are limited to container gardens, but take pride in growing what they can.
Generous friends with larger, inland gardens leave bags of tomatoes, zucchini and yellow crookneck squash on my porch. They brag about the tomatoes, but apologize about the summer squash.
I say, bring on the squash. It’s delicious, just as long as it is picked before it gets blimp-like overgrown.
Grilling summer squash gives it a marvelous taste. Trim ends and cut into 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal. Place in bowl and toss with minced garlic, chopped fresh rosemary or thyme and enough olive oil to lightly coat the slices. Add your favorite seasoned salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Grill over medium coals in a single layer, 3-4 minutes per side, or until it is just barely tender. Remove from grill and, if you like, top with grated hard cheese or crumbled soft cheese.
Here are some more suggestions for making the squash harvest taste irresistible.
Chilled Curried Summer Squash Soup with Squash “Pickles”
Yield: 8 servings
2 1/2 medium-sized crookneck yellow squash or yellow-skinned zucchini, ends trimmed, unpeeled, divided use
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
2 medium-sized zucchini, ends trimmed, unpeeled
3 1/2 cups fat free, low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 small white onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons uncooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup fat free evaporated milk
4 tablespoons fat free Greek-style yogurt
Garnish: 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
Cook’s notes: This soup is delicious served hot as well as chilled.
1. Prepare squash pickle garnish: Using the narrow end (the neck) of 1 yellow crookneck squash, cut crosswise into very thin slices and place in small bowl (use a mandolin if you have one). Toss with rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.
2. Cut remaining squash into thin slices and place in 4-quart or 6-quart pan. Add broth, onion, rice, dry mustard, curry powder and ginger. Stir to submerge rice. Bring to boil on high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, or until squash and rice are tender.
3. Divide into several batches and puree in blender or food processor; use caution if using a blender (hold lid down with potholder). Stir salt, pepper and evaporated milk into soup. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper as needed. Cover and chill 2 to 4 hours.
4. Pour squash pickles into a strainer; strain thoroughly. Divide soup between 8 bowls. Top each with a dollop of yogurt, a couple of squash pickles and a pinch of minced mint.
Nutrition information (per serving): 180 calories, 28 percent of calories from fat, 5 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 27 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 892 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
These zippy oh-so-quick crookneck “pickles” make a wake-up garnish. Yum.
Yield: Makes 12 to 14 servings.
Butter for greasing pan
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Optional garnish: zucchini flowers, zucchini leaves and small sunflowers
Cook’s notes: It’s faster and easier to make this cake in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. For the photograph, I made the cake in an angel food cake tube pan with a removeable bottom (not a Bundt pan). The results were prettier, but I had to increase baking time to 55 minutes. The cake cooled in the pan for 10 minutes; then I ran a knife around the edges and pulled out the removable bottom by grasping the center tube; then the cake was inverted onto a cake plate. More time and trouble, but prettier.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with butter.
2. Combine cake mix, eggs, butter, water, cinnamon and vanilla extract in the large bowl of an electric mixer; beat on low speed for 4 minutes. Stir in zucchini and walnuts. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and frost with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows). If desired, garnish with zucchini blossoms, zucchini leaves and sunflowers.
Advance preparation: Cake may be prepared 2 days in advance of serving and stored airtight in refrigerator.
Nutrition information (per serving): 250 calories, 54 percent of calories from fat, 15 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 942 mg sodium, 3.5 g fiber
Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: about 3 cups
3 cups powdered sugar
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1. In an electric mixer or food processor fitted with the metal blade combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and lemon extract. Process (or beat) until smooth.
Nutrition information (per tablespoon): 137 calories, 42 percent of calories from fat, 6 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 22 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 300 mg sodium, 0.1 g fiber
Zucchini and Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes with Parmesan Crusts
Yield: 4 servings
8 Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes, see cook’s notes
2 tablespoons butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 (about 6-inches long) zucchini, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-inch wide half-rounds
Pinch of coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese or a combination of Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheeses
Cook’s notes: Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes are round with yellowish-white skin. I like to use the pee-wee size (the one pictured on the right), those that are only 3/4-to 1-inch in diameter because I can leave them whole. If you use larger ones, cut them in half before boiling and increase boiling time by about 2 minutes. If you use larger potatoes you will only need 4 or 5 of them.
1. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil on high heat. Add potatoes and cook until just barely tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and allow to cool; cut in half if necessary (see cook’s notes).
2. Place a medium-large skillet on medium heat. Add butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary; heat until butter melts. Meanwhile, season zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down in butter mixture. Cook until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to 6- to 8-inches below broiler element. Preheat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
4. Place browned vegetables on baking sheet in single layer. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until cheese is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Nutrition information (per tablespoon): 237 calories, 41 percent of calories from fat, 12 g fat, 7.2 g saturated fat, 1 8mg cholesterol, 32 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 350 mg sodium, 4.2 g fiber Source: Adapted from “Giada’s Kitchen” by Giada de Laurentiis (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)