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Season’s Eatings - June 2014

05/28/2014 02:01PM ● Published by Style

by Susan Belknap

WHAT’S IN SEASON: SUMMER SQUASH

Three cheers for summer: warm days, vacations and summer squash! While its name indicates availability for just a few short months, the term “summer squash” actually refers to the vegetables’ short storage life and not its availability. Summer squash is a subset of squash that’s harvested when the rind is tender and immature. There are several varieties of the veggie, including zucchini, crookneck or yellow squash, and pattypan squash, which are usually a bit sweeter than other varieties. Summer squash is a relative to winter squash, melons and cucumbers. With its delicate flavor and soft skin and flesh, summer squash is a perfect addition to a summer meal. Because it’s comprised of 95-percent water, it only has 19 calories per cup! What this squash lacks in caloric content is compensated for with nutrition, offering ample amounts of folacin, vitamins A and C, fiber and manganese.

DID YOU KNOW?

The best way to get the most nutrients and antioxidants from summer squash is to steam it, as opposed to boiling or microwaving, and to eat the whole vegetable including the skin and seeds. Grilling or sautéing are other cooking options; or, try eating it raw (thinly sliced) atop a salad or sandwich or served with a favorite dip.

SELECTION AND STORAGE

To find a perfect, flavor-packed squash, look for one that is heavy, brightly colored and unblemished. Bigger is not better when it comes to squash selection: Extra-large squash can be fibrous, while ones that are too small won’t offer optimum taste. Most varieties tend to be fragile and should be handled with care, as small punctures can lead to decay. Squash is best stored unwashed in an airtight container in the refrigerator where it can be kept fresh for up to seven days.

HOW TO PAIR WITH WINE

Foothill Syrah (Pescatore, Secret Ravine and Mt. Vernon all make excellent ones)—which has a ripe berry nose that continues onto the palate and then develops into lovely spice characteristics with notes of clove and rose hips—is the perfect wine to complement both summer squash and lamb (found in this month’s Roast Leg of Lamb with Ratatouille recipe; to view it, visit stylemg.com). Sautéed summer squash, with its slight sweetness, along with the combination of the eggplant and tomatoes, truly lends itself to all the classic characteristics of Syrah.


For details on where to buy Placer County farm-fresh produce, wine, meat and local products, visit placergrown.org.

WEB EXCLUSIVE

Roast Leg of Lamb with Ratatouille

Recipe by PlacerGROWN Chef Courtney McDonald


For the Lamb:
  • 1 bone-in or boneless leg of lamb (3-5 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 orange, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Marinate the lamb one day prior. Place the leg of lamb into a large bowl. Add the ½ cup olive oil, rosemary sprigs, orange slices and garlic. Toss to coat the lamb, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the leg of lamb from the marinade and place on a rack in a small roasting pan. Place the orange slices and rosemary in the roasting pan as well, and pour the olive oil from the marinade over the leg of lamb. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven to desired completion (internal temperature of 135 degrees for medium). This may take between 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your liking. Once lamb is cooked, remove from the roasting pan, and set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing. To taste, you may add a dash of salt and pepper.

*Note: You may also substitute a rack, loin or loin chops for this recipe if you prefer (adjust cooking time accordingly)

Ratatouille:

  • 2 lbs. ripe red tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. eggplant, diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 large white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 sweet peppers, diced into large chunks
  • 1 lb. zucchini, yellow squash, or combination, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place tomatoes and juices on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and bake until thickened for 30 minutes, stirring in 10 minute intervals. While the tomatoes are cooking, toss eggplant with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let sit 20 minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid and discard. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onions and garlic are soft for approximately 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook, stirring until crisp and tender for approximately 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, thyme and/or squash to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to a medium-low, partially cover, and cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are tender but not excessively soft for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve as an accompaniment to roast leg of lamb. Serves 6-8.
 



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