Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ribbons and Bows

Our summer CSA subscription from Full Moon Farms ended two weeks ago, so I’ve gotten back to picking and choosing our menus based on what is available at the Saturday Athens Farmer’s Market. Well, I suppose ‘picking and choosing’ isn’t an entirely accurate representation since, of course, I am limited by what’s in season at the moment. But, considering the wanton recklessness of basing a menu on the vast array of produce at the supermarket, nearly all of which is grown on far-flung continents and is mostly season-less, and comparing that to the limitations imposed upon meal choices when our produce comes solely out of a box provided to us by the CSA, I guess we’re somewhere closer to the middle of the continuum right now.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too much about the whole thing.

I’m always a little relieved the first week after the CSA season ends. I finally get the crisper drawers completely cleaned out, and I’m no longer feeling any stress about making sure nothing goes bad before we get around to eating it (and I feel nearly giddy that I no longer have to find creative ways to use kale). But truly, that relief only lasts for a week. Then I start to miss that giant box of veggies, the weekly drive out to the farm, and the anticipation of finding out what surprises were in the box each time. Plus, when it comes to cost-effectiveness, joining a CSA works out to a better deal than does the farmer’s market. Granted, there are drawbacks to the CSA since you never know what you will be getting, and some summers have better harvests than others, but that’s all part of the point anyway. Subscribing to a co-op means you share in both the bounty and the losses that come from farming.

Which means I ate squash every week, if not every single stinking doggone day, for the last month or so of the CSA season. There was a point, during that last week, when the sight of squash made me break out in hives. I mean, sure, I love the stuff. And there will be a point in January when I’ll start freaking out because I miss it so much, but, you know, by early August I’m over it. Completely, utterly, and fully over it.

Anyhow, all that aside, here I find myself, already missing the CSA. I still go to the farmer’s market early every Saturday morning (within 5 minutes of the opening as a matter of fact), so I actually have more choices available to me since there are at least a dozen farmers there any given week, but unbelievably, this morning I checked my list on the way out the door, and found that I’d written both zucchini and yellow squash into the menu for the next week. One week without squash, and already I’m jonesing.

The thing is though, it was only two weeks ago that I was desperate for new squash recipes. It reached a point where grilled or sautéed squash slices were out of the question. And I just couldn’t bear the thought of one more meal of tucking the squash into vegetable soup, or veggie quesadillas, or marinara sauce, or anything else for that matter. Because while it may seem at times that there is an abundance of ways to use squash in the kitchen, the truth is, there isn’t. Not without resorting to odd, overly hippie, vegetarian recipes that will turn off the carnivores in the family, at least. And I must admit, we do enjoy variety. If I had my way, we would go at least a month without repeating a single recipe (except for those addictive crispy potatoes, of course).

One of the last “new” squash recipes that I lucked into was actually an old one that I had tried once, a few years back, and then completely forgotten about. It had come from a 2005 issue of Cooking Light and had, for reasons that will become clear in a moment, seemed a little too wasteful to be put into regular rotation. But, oh, it was light and delicious and had an unexpected texture that really appealed to me. See, in this recipe, you use a vegetable peeler to shave the squash into ribbons (hence the cool texture), but the seedy core is discarded and therein lie the rub for me. Normally I use the whole squash, so tossing out any portion of it seemed to be sacrilege. Until, that is, I reached the part of the summer where I was sick to death of squash (or so I thought). Then, well, using the whole squash just wasn’t at the top of my priorities any longer.

This makes an excellent side dish. It’s very simple and only takes a few minutes to prepare and cook, yet the flavor is full and most interesting. The only drawback, and it can be a big one to get past, is that the dish looks a bit unappealing. If you’re willing to spend an inordinate amount of time, you can peel the ribbons into perfect little pieces and then arrange them artfully on the plate until it looks quite pretty, but frankly, I have neither the time nor the patience for that kind of nonsense, especially since I tend to serve this with at least two or three additional dishes. Thus, when I plate this, it looks a little like, um, compost. And, since I am planning to serve this dish to my houseguests later this week, I do hope they come to the table with an open mind. If not, well, there’ll be more for me.

*****

YELLOW SQUASH RIBBONS WITH RED ONION AND PARMESAN (adapted from Cooking Light, serves 4 as a side dish)
  • 2 pounds yellow squash
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly vertically sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz shaved Parmaiganno-Regianno cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
  1. Using a vegetable peeler, shave squash into ribbons, discarding seedy core.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add squash, garlic and onion to skillet; sauteeing for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onion is just tender.
  4. Remove from heat, and add salt, red pepper and black pepper, tossing gently to combine.
  5. Sprinkle with shaved cheese.

Note: the squash, onion and garlic can all be found fresh at the farmer's market at the same time.

3 comments:

haleysuzanne said...

I have to say, I finally made my way to the farmer's market yesterday (I have been out of town almost every weekend, and two I was in town - I forgot!). Anyway - wonderful stuff! I bought so many figs and eggplants I am almost at a loss as to what to do with them. I'm a terrible impulse shopper, but at least this will yield some tasty results.

Squash ribbons sound tasty - happy cooking this week!

Dee said...

This is pretty much how I always cook squash, except I just chop it up fine, seeds and all. Sometimes I use parmesan, sometimes asiago cheese.

Another great recipe is Paula Deen's Squash and Zucchini cakes, which are wonderful.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/recipe_print/0,1946,FOOD_9936_36087_PRINT-RECIPE-FULL-PAGE,00.html

I LOVE yellow squash, but it's been hard to find good squash this summer, and my garden has only yielded one edible squash.

Another thing you might try is grilling it. We've done that on the George Foreman grill with yummy results.

Tonya said...

Sarah, I finally made those crispy potatoes...OH MY GOODNESS!!! We love love love them! Thanks for the recipes. I'm so tired of cooking the same things all the time. I like getting recipes from you better than cookbooks. Feels like a real family has actually tried and liked these things, rather than just coming from a book!