Summer Squash

Posted by Gjusta Goods on

Summer squash holds its place in our heart as one of the first bright, colorful signs of the summer season. But let's all be honest– does anyone really LOVE summer squash? When you think of it, what comes to mind? The large green zucchini of our childhoods, bland, too soft, oversalted, and WATERY. 

But what if I told you there was more, that the possibilities are endless? That they could be crunchy and crisp, sweet and buttery, all at the same time. That they can hold onto flavors from aromatics, yet stand up on their own. Turns out it is one of the most Versatile Veggies (™) of the summer season.

Walking through the market, you can't help but be taken aback by the different shapes and sizes, usually all under the same title of “summer squash.” There's the patty pan squash; short squat ninja star (aka the UFO) squash that comes in varying colors of bright yellow, white with a tinge of green, and one that is green on the bottom and yellow on the top! The 1-ball and 8-ball, a perfectly round cue ball-shaped squash that frequently rolls right off the table. Popping up more often at the market is the Costata Romanesco squash. Super fun to say, this heirloom Italian variety is the dense and nutty beauty of the family. Like that aunt in the family who’s stylistically classic in some ways, yet very opposing in others, and has a lot of opinions at the Thanksgiving table. 

No matter the variety, it’s almost always best when they are harvested very young. These itty bitty "baby zucchini" are crunchy, snapping with each bite (although you only get 2-3 bites due to the  size). The female squash blossom which mothered them is often still attached to these small squash. They hold up well to a quick char without mushing out, with that squash flavor shining through. 

Squash blossoms have a permanent first class seat on our summer menus. Each squash plant is self-pollinating (with a little help from their bee buddies) and produces both male and female flowers. The two kinds are easy to differentiate by sight. The females are shorter, and attached to the “embryo” of the squash itself. These flowers have no stems and usually droop more than their male counterparts, which are more rigid in structure. The male blossoms have long, thin stems and tend to be larger than their female counterparts. Most classically, they’re the perfect vessel for ricotta inside and a light, crispy fry batter coating. But most importantly, they hold court on Gjelina and GTA’s epic squash blossom pizza. Coming into the restaurants by the caseload mostly from Valdivia Farm in San Diego (2x a week x 10 cases x 40 flowers/case), opening the box is a sight to behold, each carefully layered and wrapped to preserve the delicate blossoms.

They are picked the day before the market, in the morning when they’re the most crisp, and transferred to the fridge immediately. If you head to the market, make sure to go early, as the heat of the day tends to wilt the blossoms quickly. Brush off any granules of soil, pull out the stamens from the middle, and use however you’d like. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble with that.

Written by Sam Rogers and Euni Park.

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