It’s peak season for summer squash

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I love squash. I like it baked in a casserole, sautéed, grilled, in a stir-fry or simply cooked in the skillet with olive oil and salt and pepper. It is simple to prepare and very versatile. It adds lots of vitamins, nutrients and color to your dishes. In North Carolina, we can enjoy summer squash from early June until September — however the peak season is July through August.

Summer squash comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. Zucchini is also considered a summer squash. When shopping for summer squash, select those that are firm with thin skin and free of nicks, bruises, and soft spots.

The good thing about summer squash is you do not have to peel them. The skin actually contains lot of nutrients. It is important however, to wash them well prior to use.

It is not recommended to can summer squash due to the uncertainty of processing times. Because squash is a low-acid vegetable, it would require pressure canning to destroy bacteria that could cause botulism. Once squash is cooked, it tends to get soft and would pack tightly into jars. Therefore, the product quantity per jar could vary and affect the heating pattern. Because of these factors, it is best to freeze, pickle or dry summer squash.

Freezing squash is quite simple. First select young squash with tender skins. Wash thoroughly and cut into ½ inch slices. Blanch in hot water for 3 minutes, then cool promptly, drain and package in freezer containers, leaving a ½ inch headspace to allow for expansion.

Consider adding summer squash to some of your favorite recipes. Enjoy trying some of the following summer squash recipes too!

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Zucchini Salad

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1½ teaspoons oil

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

¼ teaspoon dried oregano or basil

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon pepper

4 small zucchini, sliced crosswise

½ cup red or sweet onion, sliced thinly or chopped small

¼ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Directions …

1. Mix oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper together in medium bowl.

2. Add zucchini, onion and cheese. Mix gently. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

3. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours

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Squash Souffle

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2 cups cooked squash mashed

1 stick butter

1 8 oz sour cream

1 package Herb flavored stuffing mix

1 can Cream of Chicken Soup

1 egg

salt & pepper to taste

Directions …

Melt butter and mix with stuffing. Line bottom of dish with ½ of the butter/stuffing mix. Mix sour cream, squash, cream of chicken soup, egg, salt & pepper and layer on top of the stuffing mix. Top with the remaining stuffing mix. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, or until brown.

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Scalloped Summer Squash with cheese

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3 tablespoons butter

1 onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 green pepper, chopped

4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 ½ pounds summer squash

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions …

1. Heat the butter, add onion, garlic and green pepper and sauté until tender and lightly browned. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, while preparing the squash

2. Peel the squash if the skin is not tender, and cut into slices or cubes. Add ½ cup boiling water, cover tightly and cook until squash is just tender. Drain well.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Put half the squash into a deep pie pan or casserole. Cover with ½ the tomato sauce and ½ the cheese. Repeat the layers.

5. Bake until the cheese topping is bubbly and beginning to brown.

Sources: So Easy To Preserve, The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension; FoodHero.org Oregon State University, Oregon State University Extension Service; and The New York Times Cookbook, Craig Claiborne

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