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blog-summer squash

The fetishization of baby yellow summer squashes and zucchini (which is a type of summer squash) began with restaurant chefs, and who can blame them? On the plate, the barely cooked vegetables look dramatic and delicate all at once, whether served whole or sliced into little pale golden or green coins. And it didn’t take long before parents jumped on the bandwagon: A bowl of steamed tiny pattypans is cute enough to tempt any child who’s leery of vegetables.

I get it, I really do. But beauty and charm can only take you so far. What I’m craving, especially now that the days are growing shorter and shorter, are summer squashes and zucchini that have been allowed to stay on the vine until they’ve had a chance to develop lush flavor and texture. When cooked, they taste ripe—juicy, well-rounded, and full of nuance.

Lately I’ve added something new to my summer squash repertoire—cooking them low and slow. Although this method sounds counter-intuitive for a weeknight, it is extremely useful when multitasking is the name of the game. The rest of supper is simple: I’m happy with just the cooked squash on a bed of hot buttered rice, with a few slices of tomato on the side, but roasted chicken thighs or broiled sausages—even a little crisp-fried bacon or pancetta—will round out the meal nicely.

By the way, if you’ve been growing squashes this summer and the dratted plants are not producing, Horticulture magazine explains why here. Better luck next year!

Slow-Hand Squash

I don’t need onion or garlic running interference here, but that’s just me. Add those embellishments if so inclined, but do keep a closer eye on the stove.

A pound or so of mixed yellow summer squashes and zucchini

Extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Fresh basil leaves or a mixture of basil and flat-leaf parsley

1. Cut the squashes and zucchini into rounds or half moons that are about ¼ inch thick. It doesn’t really matter; just try to make them all the same, so they cook evenly. And don’t make them too thin, or they’ll burn or disintegrate into mush. Once you put down the sharp knife, get some rice working and pour yourself a glass of wine.

2. Heat a generous swirl of olive oil in a skillet over moderately low heat. Add the squash in a single layer, or as close to it as you can manage, season with salt, and cook until golden to golden-brown on the bottom. Resist the impulse to stir. Instead, get comfy, charge the cell phone, take the butter out of the fridge, hug whoever walks through the door. Odds are, he or she will say, “What smells so good?” and hug you back.

3. Turn the squash over. Add a little water and cook until it evaporates. Give the squash a bit more time, until the slices are golden-brown on the other side. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over hot buttered rice or serve alongside, and don’t forget to sprinkle with the herbs.

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