Wednesday, July 21, 2010

yellow squash with a neapolitan complex


fun with squash
yellow squash isn't an ingredient that most of us think of as fun or interesting...most people feel similarly about it's cousin, zucchini. maybe it's because, if you have a garden or know someone with a garden, they become ubiquitous, and even that's an understatement. when july days are warm (and in the United States that's pretty much a given) and not too wet (this is more iffy) there is a bumper crop of summer squash. I used to live in oneonta, new york, a rural college town with lots of gardens. in august if you left you your car windows open you would, more than likely, find zucchini on your car seat--it was community farming in the most literal sense. It is amazing (read: very sad) to me to see sick-looking yellow squash and zucchini being sold in the supermarket for $1.99 0r more a pound, especially this time of year. Thankfully my mother and father-in-law both have productive gardens and I am the recipient of fresh vegetables, sometimes daily!

ok, so let me get to my matter how clever we try to be, we probably end up making the same three squash recipes over and over until we (and those we cook for) are screaming "uncle" by the end of the summer. so I wanted to try and make something a little different from the usual, but also keep it simple so it has a chance of making it to your plate.

choosing wisely
the single biggest issue with squash grown this time of year is the fact that many are picked when they are overgrown and over-mature. squash that have been allowed to stay on the vine too long tend to have large, bitter seeds and tough skins. so what's too large? well to phrase it differently, what is the optimum squash size? websites on vegetable gardening suggest that squash that are between 9" and 12" in length and 3-4" inches in diameter tend to be a perfect size. so there ya go.
yellow squash neapolitan

This is a pretty easy and just plain pretty dish. using sauce that you have previously made and a few pantry stapes and this becomes super easy. who doesn't love easy this time of year?

  • 2 - medium yellow summer squash or zucchini
  • 2c - all purpose flour
  • egg wash (3 eggs whisked with 2 tbsp of water)
  • 1c - vegetable oil (and keep it handy you probably will need to add a bit more)
  • 3c - marinara sauce (your own, even your favorite jarred sauce)
  • 1-2c - good quality shaved Romano cheese (if you don't like Romano, use Parmesan)
  • fresh basil leaves (this time of year it is usually pretty common)
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • optional: extra virgin olive oil OR balsamic vinegar glaze (be sure you have glaze and not just the vinegar!)

prepare the egg wash and put into a shallow bowl. Place the flour into a shallow bowl and stir in 1 tbsp of dried oregano and 1 tbsp of garlic powder.

cut squash into 1-1.5" rounds.

to flour the squash, dip the rounds into the flour, coating each side well, then into the egg mixture again coating each side and then into the flour once more. grab a cooling rack and place it on a sheet tray. place floured rounds on the rack, this will allow them to dry a bit before giving them their oil bath.
when you are ready to fry, heat the vegetable oil in a medium to large frying pan--you want to have about 1" of oil in the bottom of the pan, regardless of size). you will want a big enough pan where you can do four rounds at a time and have space in between each of the rounds. check the oil with a wooden spoon handle--place the handle into the middle of the pan, when the oil begins to produce small bubbles, the oil is ready.

as rounds become golden brown and soft in the middle (touch them with your finger to check doneness) remove them from the pan and place back on the rack to let them drain. sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper as soon as they come out of the oil.

taste one, or two...they're good, no?

when you're ready to assemble the neapolitan, warm the sauce and have the cheese and basil leaves at the ready. place a squash round down on a plate, top with a tablespoon of sauce, a basil leaf and a piece of shaved romano cheese. repeat this three times (four if you're daring) and voila, you have a pretty and tasty neapolitan that lifts up the humble squash to something beautiful and delicious. drizzle each with a bit of balsamic vinegar glaze for a pop of acid. if you aren't fond of the acid drizzle, use the extra virgin olive oil--but only a little bit.

you can easily make the rounds ahead of time, allowing them to cool and then placing them in the fridge. you can warm them gently in the microwave (no more than 2-minutes) when you are ready to assemble the lovely stack.

if you don't feel like making a stack, you don't have to..but it is pretty cool.


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