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Squash Solutions: Ideas for cooks when the garden is kicking
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Squash Solutions: Ideas for cooks when the garden is kicking

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Squash tends to be an early bird in the summer garden, usually coming in before tomatoes, corn and some other seasonal favorites. Summer squash also is a solid citizen, typically producing a lot long into the season.

All of which is a good thing for the most part. The only downside is that there comes a point — usually about mid-July — when many cooks exhaust their repertoire for squash and wish it wasn’t doing quite so well in the garden.

I love long zucchini slices tossed on the grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper — but not four nights a week.

The good news is that mild squash lends itself to a big variety of applications — even sweet ones.

Squash goes well with most other summer vegetables — including tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn and eggplant. You also can pair it with just about any herb.

A quick sautée is probably my most common way of cooking squash. But by changing it up — with a little garlic one day, carrots and mushrooms the next, basil and tomatoes the next — I can create an almost infinite variety of flavors. For even more fun, toss a little sausage or bacon into the pan — that can easily become a whole meal.

I also play around with different spices. Lemon pepper is great on squash, but so are Cajun and jerk seasonings — or even cumin and chili powder.

When I get bored of sautéed squash, I turn to squash fritters (or squash pancakes, but that’s for another story). For fritters, I grate the zucchini and add jalapeno, green onion, garlic and Parmesan for flavor. Egg and crushed saltines hold everything together. These fritters do just fine in a little oil in a skillet — deep-frying isn’t necessary.

I also love roasted vegetables, and one of my favorite ways to roast zucchini is with a Parmesan crust. Give zucchini 25 or 30 minutes in the oven and its excess moisture will cook out and the cheese gets all brown and bubbly and delicious.

I have another favorite cheese and zucchini pairing, too. Though a lot of people use up extra zucchini in a sweet bread — like banana bread with cinnamon-spiked zucchini standing in for banana — I enjoy a savory zucchini cheese bread with Parmesan and cheddar.

If you are in the mood for something sweet, try the accompanying recipe for squash pie. It’s like one of those simple custard pies that the South is famous for, with nothing more than a little vanilla, lemon and cinnamon for flavoring.

Contact Michael Hastings at 336-727-7394 or mhastings@wsjournal.com.

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