How to Spot (and Use) the Best Summer Sq

How to Spot (and Use) the Best Summer Squash

City Kitchen


Use freshly picked summer squash to create a curried stew with shellfish like mussels and squid. Finding squash with the proper size and texture is the first step in creating this flavorful meal.CreditEvan Sung for The New York Times

Everyone at the market in New York has summer squash now, and most vegetable gardens are brimming with it. From my perspective — which is, admittedly, somewhat fanatic — what you want when it comes to summer squash are specimens that are neither too big nor too small.


Summer squash can be prepared a variety of ways, whether it be simmered and sautéed with butter or sliced thinly and seasoned for a salad. CreditEvan Sung for The New York Times

Very tiny baby squashes, packed for looks more than flavor, tend to be slightly bitter and less than juicy. Oversize squashes (the ones that triple in size when ignored for a day or two in the garden) are past their prime, best fed to the chickens or tossed on the compost pile. Look for signs that the squash has been freshly picked. The skin should be smooth and glistening, free of blemishes or brown spots.

As for varieties, use whatever looks best. Zucchini, whether it’s green or yellow, should be a maximum of two inches in diameter. Striped, scalloped-edged pattypans should not exceed three inches across, or they are likely to be tough. The globe-shaped green squash known as Ronde de Nice is better at the size of a golf ball; by the time it reaches baseball size, it is apt to be spongy and seedy inside.

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For the first squash of the season, I like it best simmered briefly in a little water with a good knob of butter and showered with snipped dill weed, or sautéed gently in butter or oil and finished with a touch of garlic, chopped parsley and lemon zest. It’s also lovely sliced quite thinly with a mandoline and dressed, raw, with lemon juice, capers and olive oil, then left in the salad bowl until slightly wilted.

This week, with more summer squash at hand, I imagined a curried zucchini dish made with coconut milk, and garnished with shellfish to make it a bit more substantial. Steamed mussels and rings of tender squid, or perhaps a few shrimp, I reckoned, would transform this spiced squash stew into a lovely summer meal. I had good results testing this theory and compliments from fellow diners. That, it seemed, would be that.


For the best taste, choose medium-size squash with smooth, shiny skin. CreditEvan Sung for The New York Times

Then I made a vegetarian version, and found I liked it just as well with the shellfish omitted. It wasn’t really ambivalence — both ways were equally delicious. So I named it Summer Squash Curry, Shellfish Optional. I’ll let you decide.

Recipes: Summer Squash Curry, Shellfish Optional | More Squash Dishes

A version of this article appears in print on July 13, 2016, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: Spotting, and Serving, the Best Summer Squash. Order ReprintsToday's Paper|Subscribe

By btails     09/30/2022
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