Hi, I’m Stephany! I’m a member of the Produce Team at Bi-Rite 18th Street, and I’m also an experienced cook with a passion for food, community, and sustainability. This summer I’ll be writing a series of posts highlighting my favorite summer produce along with ideas for how to prepare them. This is the very first post and I’m delighted to share my passion for food with you.
Up first: summer squash. I get excited when summer squash comes in because it’s a fun, versatile section of our produce aisle that has tons of variety. Summer squash comes in a number of different varietals. Zucchini is the most well-known, but here at Bi-Rite 18th Street and Bi-Rite Divisadero we have lots of others, like Zephyr, Crookneck, Flying Saucers, Baby Acorn, Sunburst, Pattypan, Costata Romanesco and Eightball. Some of these don’t look like what you think of when you think of squash, but trust me–they taste great. Most squashes share similarities in flavor–fairly mild, sweet and creamy–and are a good foil for bolder flavors.
We get summer squash from some of our favorite local farms, typically first from Balakian Farms, then from Happy Boy, Tomatero and Terra Firma as the season progresses. They’re beautiful and delicious, but just as importantly, they’re also easy and fun to prepare. Summer squash can be eaten raw, but it also cooks quickly. It’s lovely in a shaved salad, tastes great roasted to bring forward sweetness, looks and smells beautiful next to those burgers and onions on your grill, and is rich and substantial sautéed. Smaller and rounder squashes like Eightball or Pattypan make fantastic ingredients for stuffings.
You can shave summer squash into ribbons using a peeler; you’ll find that it comes out almost like noodles, making it a great substitute for pasta. If your shave it into ribbons, you can salt it (called “cold-sweating”) and the salt will pull out all of the extra water; you can then hand-squeeze the water out after about five minutes. Then you can dress your noodles however you want. Personally I like them with pesto, basil or any kind of fresh, bright herb, and they also go well with cheeses, peas and other fresh summer produce like cherry tomatoes.
Here’s a favorite recipe of mine using summer squash that I hope you’ll enjoy! You can get everything you need for this recipe at either of our two market locations. Just ask our staff for help.
Summer Squash “Pasta” Salad
- 4 long summer squash such as Zucchini, Crookneck & Zephyr, for shaving
- 1-½ lbs mixed summer squashes such as Pattypan, Sunburst, Flying Saucer & 8 Ball, chopped into 1-inch chunks
- 1 lb English peas, shelled
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, stems removed (I used Terra Firma Farm’s Golden Nuggets, first of the season! We also have their Sungolds & Sweet 100s)
- ½ bunch basil
- 1 stalk green garlic, bulb halved and greens finely chopped
- 1 red spring onion, sliced thinly
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or to taste. Any milder/sweeter vinegar would work- champagne or white wine, or lemon juice)
- Olive oil
- Golden Valley Farm’s Pepato Cheese to finish (Pepato is a wonderful peppercorn-studded aged sheep’s milk cheese from the fine folks who make Yosemite Bluff, down in Chowchilla, CA. The pepper complements the natural sweetness of the squash and other veggies.)
- Shave long squashes into ribbons using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. (If you don’t have one, a Benriner Japanese mandolin is one of the best kitchen tools you can have. They cost around $15 and are long-lasting and durable).
- Place squash shavings in a bowl, and salt generously. Toss to distribute salt and set aside. The salt will pull out the excess moisture from the squash so you salad won’t get soggy. If you are eating it right away, you don’t need to do this, but it helps tenderize it as well.
- Heat up a cast iron skillet over med-high heat. Add a little olive oil, and add half of the chopped squashes in a single layer. Avoid overcrowding the pan; if it is too crowded the squash will just steam. Giving them a hard sear caramelizes the sugars and brings out the natural sweetness, and adds a bit of nice crisp texture on the outside. Season with a little salt. Once they are browned, flip to brown on all sides. Set aside, and cook off the rest of the squash.
- Wipe out the pan, add a little more oil, then drop in the English peas. Sauté for 1 minute or until just barely cooked. Set aside. Add a bit more oil, then add the green garlic and cherry tomatoes, sauté until the garlic is browned and the tomatoes are starting to split. Set aside.
- Pound the green garlic with half of the basil to form a coarse paste. Add enough red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt to taste.
- Toss with the squash “noodles,” roasted squashes, peas, tomatoes and spring onion. Finish with some torn fresh basil and shaved Pepato Cheese to taste.