Summer Squash

Tempura Tuesdays!

Here at Four Root Farm we take dinner very seriously. Even if it means eating at 9:00 pm (or 9:30... or 9:45...) we all sit down together to eat a hearty meal almost every night, and those meals are almost always almost entirely veggies just pulled from the field. And we don't take any day more seriously than Tuesdays - affectionately known as Tempura Tuesdays!!

This time of year our weekly tempura adventures get more and more exciting as we have more crops to add to the pile, but really we will tempura almost anything that can be sliced and won't disintegrate in steaming hot oil. We recommend you take the same approach - the more creative the better, you won't be sorry. We harvested our very first summer squash on Tuesday specifically for tempura, and also included bok choi, hakurei turnips, carrots, broccoli raab florets, and squash blossoms. 

Here's what you do to make the tempura batter - the rest is up to you.

  1. Slice whatever veggies you're experimenting with into manageable bite-size pieces. If they're too small they'll fall apart and if they're too big they'll be hard to bite.
  2. Mix together:
    1 egg
    250 ml cold beer (PBR is our prefered lager)
    salt and pepper
    100 g flour
  3. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan that's deep enough to submerge the veggies you've prepared. You can test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a drip of batter - if it sinks to the bottom and then rises up, the oil is hot enough. 
  4. Once the oil is the right temperature, coat the veggies in the batter and deep fry them for 3 - 5 minutes, or until they're golden brown. 
  5. Eat SOON! Tempura is best when it's just cool enough to eat.


Squash Blossoms, an Italian Delicacy

Squash blossoms, an old-school Italian delicacy when breaded and fried, are the extraordinarily delicate male flowers of our summer squash crop. Each squash plant produces male and female flowers - the female flowers go on to produce squash, so we leave those on the plant, but the male flowers are just for efficient pollination. Though our plants wouldn't produce as prolifically if we picked all the male blossoms, they certainly won't miss them if we pick a few once or twice a week. 

There are some recipes floating around for stuffed squash blossoms, though they're so delicate that I've never convinced myself to try stuffing them. Instead, I prepare them as my father taught me - simply breaded and fried, with a little salt and pepper, and eaten straight out of the pan. Nothing says summer like a fried squash blossom.

6 - 8 squash blossoms
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 eggs
Vegetable oil

Heat a small skillet with enough vegetable oil to be about ½ inch deep in the pan. Put the flour in one small bowl. Beat the eggs into a second small bowl. Test the temperature of the oil by sprinkling flour into the pan - if it sizzles, the oil is ready. Carefully coat each blossom in flour, then dip it in the egg, then place in the pan. Do this for each blossom, letting them fry on each side for 2 - 3 minutes, or until crisy and brown. Let drain on paper towel for a few minutes to drain excess oil, but serve immediately after, while still hot. 

Summer Squash

The thing about summer squash is that you can cook them all in the same ways, use the same techniques and recipes, and they will all taste roughly the same. I promise. 

That being said, there are some recipes that lend themselves to different varieties of summer squash. For example, recipes for stuffed squash might be most easily done using 8-ball zukes because they're big and fat. The three types of patty pans are delicious in any recipe that calls for sautéing because they're so little and tender and adorable. And the green and yellow zukes are, of course, always always always delicious on the grill. 

Zucchini Bread

This, my longtime favorite, recipe is earthy and dense and a little spicy. If you're short on time and long on zucchini, shred and freeze the zukes in 2 cup increments for winter baking. 

3 eggs
1 C olive oil
2 C zucchini, shredded
1 3/4 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 C chopped walnuts

1. Beat eggs, mix in olive oil and sugar. Mix in vanilla and zukes.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the wet ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be wary of over-baking - check the bread regularly to avoid it. It's best with gooey and moist.


Zucchine a Sorpresa (yup, Zucchini Surprise)
Adapted from The Silver Spoon

I'm not sure what about this recipe is a surprise, because you're pretty much getting out exactly what you put in, except it's gooier, hotter, and more delicious. But I certainly don't argue with the premiere encyclopedia of italian cooking, so the name stays. 

6 zucchini, slices lengthwise
1/2 C flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
7 oz of provolone cheese
vegetable oil

1. Sprinkle the zucchini slices with salt and let stand for about an hour, then pat dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, spread out the flour in another shallow dish and spread out the bread crumbs in a third.

2. Sprinkle a slice of zucchini with a little oregano, place a slice of provolone on top and cover with another slice of zucchini. Press together well, dip first in the flower, then in the beaten eggs, and finally in the bread crumbs. Make all the sandwiches in this way.

3. Heat the oil in a skillet, add the zucchini in batches, and cook until golden brown all over. Remove with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. 


Summer Squash


Care & Storage

For Eating Fresh: Store in your fridge's crisper for up to a week.


June - July

Varieties of Note

Patty Pan
Yellow Squash
Golden Zucchini
Eight Ball Round Zucchini
Green Tint Scallop Patty Pan

All varieties of summer squash, from zucchini to patty pans, are very much alike in flavor, consistency, and the ways in which they behave when cooked. Choose a variety whose color and shape suits the dish you are making, but don’t be afraid to take advantage of their essentially interchangeable nature.