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Enjoy This Versatile, Abundant Summer Treat

Squash comes into its own this time of year

It’s the time of the year when backyard gardens are reaching their zenith, and if you planted zucchini, yellow or pattypan squash—perhaps even all three—an avalanche of the sweet, tender vegetables likely awaits.

I’ve only had luck with summer squash a couple of times in my gardening career, the failures coming from too little rain or too much or those pesky bugs that munch on the stems and rob the plant of nutrients. But when the squash crop came in, it came in a flood, and it became a fixture at many meals and a gift to many friends.

It’s a good thing that squash is such a versatile ingredient, because there’s so much of it.

Luckily, inventive cooks have created summer squash dishes suitable for breakfast, lunch and supper, and yet, sometimes that’s not enough to use it all. Family, friends and co-workers are next in line to receive the bounty of the garden.

But even if you don’t have a garden or know a gardener, summer squash is available year-round in this part of the country.

One of my favorite ways to fix squash is to slice it in a pan with an onion, garlic and a few tomatoes and let it simmer until it’s soft. My wife introduced me to the joys of yellow squash boiled in a little water, a little sugar and a touch of butter. And squash is also great sliced in half, brushed with olive oil and dusted with herbs and placed on the grill alongside chicken or steak.

I’d never thought about making soup with summer squash until I ran across this recipe. It comes from the book 300 Sensational Soups (Robert Rose, 2008) written by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds. The authors not only deliver a variety of traditional soups that span the globe, they also provide recipes for interesting accompaniments and some unusual soup flavors.

Among the broths featuring ingredients as varied as melon, peanuts or cauliflower is this one showcasing two types of summer squash.

Pattypan and Summer Squash Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds pattypan squash (about 2), diced
1 1/2 pounds summer squash (about 4), diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup whipping cream
Pinch cayenne pepper
Black pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and cumin; sauté until onion starts to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add pattypan and summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash or both); sauté until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, wine and salt; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in cream, cayenne and black pepper. Ladle into bowls; top with Avocado and Grape Tomato Salsa and garnish with croutons, if desired.

Serving size: 2 cups. Per serving: 214 calories, 3.4 g protein, 11.1 g fat, 20.3 g carbohydrates, 1,230 mg sodium, 6 mg cholesterol.

Avocado and Grape Tomato Salsa

1 avocado, diced
1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime

Combine ingredients in bowl. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately or cover and store up to 2 hours in refrigerator.

Serving size: 2 tablespoons. Per serving: 62 calories, 1.1 g protein, 4.7 g fat, 5.2 g carbohydrates, 101 mg sodium, trace cholesterol.

May 2009 Recipe Contest