Aug 1, 2013

Drowning in Squash?

If you are the sort who gardens, belongs to a CSA, shops farmers markets, or just shops local grocery store sales, there is a good chance that you have ended up with a lot of squash (at least in New England).  When you still have squash coming out your ears after roasting, sauteing, making zucchini bread, crudites, and any other application you can think of, you might start looking for other ideas.

If you haven't made a "pasta" out of squash before, you're definitely missing out.  Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, peel the squash into thin strips.  put the strips into a colander, place the colander in the sink, coat them with a bit of salt, and wait for about twenty to thirty minutes. Do not skip the salt, or this will not work.  I will explain why.

*Warning, Science Ahead*

Salt is hygroscopic, meaning that it will pull moisture from the surrounding environment.  Kind of like why we get really thirsty if we eat a bunch of potato chips.  With the squash, this means that the salt will penetrate the cell membrane, and pull out the water stored inside.  When that happens, similar to popping bubble wrap, the squash will go from being turgid to being floppy, like a pasta noodle.  By doing this in a colander, all the excess water will drain away. Alton Brown explains this in an episode that you can find here, and using props.

*Science Bit Complete*

Once squash noodles have been made, they can be used in a lot of different ways. Trying to feed someone who is gluten free?  I've made lasagna with eggplant and zucchini instead of noodles, and had it turn out really tasty.  Pasta salad?  Done. Pretty much anywhere you can use pasta, you can substitute squash.  But as the noodles were already salted, remember to cut back on any more added salt.

The recipe that I made recently also came from the Alton Brown episode listed above, and can be found here. It was perfect for what I had from my CSA.  I used zucchini, lettuce, spring onions, and hakurei turnip (which was more like a radish).  The dressing consists of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and black pepper.  I did not have any basil on hand, so I substituted the olive oil with a fantastic basil infused olive oil from the Boston Olive Oil Company. All I had were whole almonds, so I threw them into the spice grinder for a minute or two to chop them up, and topped it with that and some manchego cheese.  Manchego is a spanish varietal of cheese from La Mancha, and if you've never had it, I highly recommend it.

Zucchini Pasta Salad- You can see the manchego in the lower left on top of my mandolin.
It's a really easy, fast recipe that was super tasty.  Since I was using one of the largest zucchini I had ever seen for the salad, I had plenty for a couple of days, and it stayed cool and refreshing for that whole time.

One final note on recipes from Good Eats/Alton Brown.  I find Alton Brown fantastic in regards to technique and science.  His recipes, however, are not always as transcendent as I would like them to be.  By sticking with the science, but tweaking the flavors, I always end up with a good final product. From what I understand about his philosophy, I'd like to think that he'd approve of this perspective.

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