My parents are avid vegetable and herb gardeners. My dad is responsible for digging, planting and watering, while my mom tackles the harvesting, cooking and preserving. It’s a fairly equitable division of labor for most of the season. The only time my mom complains about her end of the bargain is when the garden begins belching forth many pounds of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and flying saucer-shaped pattypans.
Whether you’re a home gardener, CSA member or a regular farmers’ market shopper, keeping up with the flow of summer squash during its high season can easily become a full-time cooking job. I find that I am constantly looking for ways to cook it down, use it up and transform it from a rapidly reproducing raw ingredient into breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
To that end, I grate it into baked goods, cook it down into sandwich spreads and puree it into soup with tomatoes, eggplant, onions and plenty of Parmesan cheese. I also like to grill or roast it into submission and then toss it into pasta salads. Topped with a bit of cold chicken or crumbled feta, it makes for an easy dinner or potluck contribution.
Lately my favorite version of summer squash pasta salad is one from Giada De Laurentiis. Penne With Roasted Vegetables and Prosciutto heavily features both zucchini and yellow squash. Dressed with a puckery vinaigrette, Parmesan cheese and some thinly sliced prosciutto, it is zippy and quite light. It’s my new favorite Weekender (and would make an excellent contribution to a Fourth of July cookout next week).
Before you heat your pasta water, here are a few things you should know:
– The recipe calls for approximately 12 ounces of both zucchini and yellow squash. Because I had so much, I used more than a pound of each and was very happy with the results.
– I found that I had better results if I roasted the vegetables in batches. I did the squash in the first round and the cauliflower and carrots in the second.
– This is one of those recipes that could be made ahead and then combined just before serving. If you’re planning on traveling with it, pack all the components separately and toss just prior to eating.
– Make sure to make enough for leftovers. The pasta will soften slightly in the fridge overnight, but the flavors are good enough to make up for it.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, called Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.
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