Every year Stewart and I eagerly await the arrival of baby squash. Picked before maturity, these little guys have a crunch and sweetness that is unparalleled in their adult counterparts. I like them best cooked quickly and simply – I’d hate for any dish to overshadow the delicate taste and texture we look forward too all year long. Here are two ideas for preparing them:
This is a garlic scape pesto with pan-seared balsamic squash. Yes. You read that right. Garlic scape. I ate something that came from the garlic plant! It’s a miracle!
Garlic scapes emerge from hardneck varieties of garlic. They are to the garlic bulb what chives are to the onion bulb. They have a definite garlic flavor, but instead of the harsh, almost acidic aftertaste of the bulb, you get a sweeter, greener flavor. They’re picked every June for two reasons – they’re tasty, and removing them drives more energy into the bulb for a better garlic harvest later.
There are many things you can do with garlic scapes. You can toss them into your tofu scramble, add them in your stir fries, mix them into mashed potatoes… but perhaps everyone’s favorite preparation is pesto. Many recipes call for raw scapes for making pesto, but given my garlic issues, I decided to saute them first to make sure they were as mild as possible before I ate them.
1/2 lb Fresh Garlic Scapes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Large Pinch Salt
1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (or other nut)
2 Tbs Oil
Lemon Juice, to taste
Chop the scapes into 1 inch long pieces. Add 2 tbs oil to a heated pan and add the scapes. Add salt, pepper, and pine nuts and saute for a few minutes over medium high heat until the scapes begin to soften and the nuts turn golden brown. Add immediately to the work bowl of a food processor and add remaining oil. Blend well until a smooth paste forms. Taste and add more salt or some lemon juice to brighten. This will coat 1/2 lb. of pasta.
Pan-Seared Balsamic Baby Squash
Makes 12 pieces
6 Fresh Summer Squash, 4-5″ long and 1″ in diameter
1 Pinch Salt
Gently wash and halve squash. Heat a small amount of oil, just enough to make your pan shiny, over high heat. When very hot, add squash cut side down. Press on each one to help sear. Sprinkle with salt. After several minutes (do not move squash), the squash should be golden brown on their cut side. When all squash are browned toss a bit to coat in remaining oil and salt in the pan (add a bit if needed). Splash with a small amount of vinegar (1/2 tsp or so, more if you like). It will bubble up and reduce, lightly coating the squash. Serve immediately.
And for good measure, remember that you don’t need a recipe or fancy garlic scapes to make these little squashes shine. Here I tossed similarly cooked squash with into pasta with sundried tomatoes and spinach wilted in a hot pan with some lemon juice. Add whatever italian herbs you have on hand, season with salt and balsamic vinegar, and you have an easy but delightful meal without much fuss.