The Squash Are Coming! The Squash Are Coming!

Fair warning: if you see me coming toward you with a grocery bag, I'm probably bringing you some of this morning's harvest...and there's probably a squash or two or ten in that bag. What can I say? It's that time of the year. Squash, green beans, and tomatoes, oh my! 

Here's a picture of a zuke that almost got away from me. It was hiding under a couple of leaves, growing to town.



Most folks suggest harvesting squash from 4-6" in length...when they are just ripe and most tender. But it rarely takes more than 24 hours, especially when the weather is this warm and wet, for the little morsels to grow into mammoth mallets! Our neighbor said he picked a zuke while we were gone to Looeyvul that he described as big as a baseball bat...said his wife commented "did you drive that thing into the house, or carry it?" Wish he'd taken a picture...

[Be sure to check out my post over on our garden blog, Gardening With Giants, to read more about what's happening in the Kitchen Garden. Click here to go there.]

On tonight's menu: Tequila Lime Chicken and goodies from the garden. Included are BOTH Squash Casserole and Zucchini Bread. [Here's a shot of the hot loaves, cooling on the rack. You can also see The Nest Egg Legacy, the family cookbook I did years ago, there on the stand...well-used, don't you know. (Recipes below, by the way.)]



Since one is a savory dish and the other is sweet, I don't think there will be any objections. Sliced tomatoes are a simple but tasty addition...I like 'em with salt, pepper, and a dollop of mayo in the middle. Learned that from my Papaw, who used to use Miracle Whip...but I'm partial to Hellman's, which isn't nearly as sweet.

I can't eat Zucchini Bread without thinking about the first time I had it: about 1975 or 76, I think...in Senatobia, MS, at the home of my W friend and former second floor Callaway dorm-mate from Tunica, NPW. I had never heard of making bread with it, and all I knew about zucchini was that it was a vegetable...and I had a pretty limited veggie range at the time, which did NOT include squash of any sort. But my Momma always insisted we take one bite of a dish when we were guests in another's home, so manners kicked in...and am I ever glad they did! Loved. It. Thanks, N!

Somewhere along the line, my taste buds matured...or my palate longed for Southern-inspired dishes to cure a taste of homesickness in all of our moves about the country...whatever. I developed a much longer list of veggies that I liked...including the formerly-hated squashes, especially if you added enough cheese...:-).

Recipes? Did someone mention recipes?

Here you go!

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Zucchini Bread

2 cups shredded zucchini
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I use pecans)
1 cup raisins, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 (9x5x3-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray.

In large bowl, stir zucchini and lemon zest until well mixed. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients (except sugar). Stir nuts and raisins into dry ingredients. Add dry to zucchini. In large measuring cup, beat the eggs into the oil; add sugar and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and blend thoroughly.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake 50 to 60 minutes,  or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on cooling rack 10 minutes.

Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days. Serve warm or cold. Spread a warm slice with cream cheese for a special treat! Enjoy!

Makes 20-24 servings (2 loaves, 10-12 slices each)

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*Katrina's Squash Casserole

Ingredients

4 cups sliced Summer squash: yellow, zucchini, or a mixture
1/2 cup chopped onion
35 buttery round crackers, crushed ( I used Town House brand)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I used New York Sharp Cheddar)
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt (I used a seasoned salt)
ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add squash slices and onion, cover, and steam until squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well, and place in a large bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together cracker crumbs and cheese. Stir half of the cracker mixture into the cooked squash and onions. In a small bowl, mix together eggs and milk, then add to squash mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. 

4. Spread into a buttered 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cracker mixture, and dot with 2 tablespoons butter.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Enjoy!

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*Katrina was my 3rd cousin, once removed, on Momma's Farris side...I hope I got that relationship correct, since she was a crack genealogist in addition to being a loving wife, Mom of four children, a nurse by training, and a fabulous cook in a family of great cooks (her mother and her aunts). Thought the world of her...



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