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Squash Savories To Soothe Summer's End

Aug 25, 2012
Originally published on August 25, 2012 10:16 am

The season is almost over, but summer squash is still plentiful in supermarkets.

Tanya Holland, executive chef and owner of Side BBQ and Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, Calif., tells NPR's Scott Simon that she loves the versatility of summer squash.

"It can pretty much be used in any dish as a vegetarian substitute that might require chicken or a fish," she says. "It kind of takes on any flavor that you put it with."

One of Holland's dishes is a roasted summer squash egg tart. "The tart is really a fancy word for the quiche," Holland says. It's a deliciously rich custard of whole eggs and half-and-half, poured into a pastry crust with oven-roasted squash and Gruyere cheese. Holland says she makes her own crust, but you can feel free to buy one at the store. "It's a really good dish that could be breakfast or lunch."

Summer squash also stars in a succotash on Holland's table. "Succotash is usually a mix of corn and peppers, sometimes black eyed peas, and I just added the summer squash to give it a little bit more body to it," she says. "The peas and the peppers is almost like a light relish, and if you add the squash it can be a nice vegetarian meal."

For those unfamiliar with succotash, Holland describes it as a stew, almost like a ragout, cooked with broth and thickened with a little sour cream. "It's pretty substantial," she says.

For a lighter dish, diners can try Holland's vegetarian dirty rice — starring squash in place of the traditional chicken livers and gizzards. "To sort of give it that 'dirty' — and that's kind of in quotes — quality, we use Worcestershire sauce and a little soy sauce, ground black pepper, chopped thyme, other fresh herbs," she says. "You start with white rice, but you kind of end up with a rice that has, like, a little brownish color to it."

Though she's cooking in Oakland now, Holland's roots are in the South, which inspired the Southern tastes in her restaurants. "My dad's from Virginia, my mother's from Louisiana, so I grew up spending summers in those states with my grandparents," she says. Holland herself grew up in upstate New York, but her parents would cook Southern dishes when they felt homesick. "I've taken it with me wherever I've gone," she say.


Roasted Summer Squash Egg Tart

Makes 6 servings

Pre-baked lined tart shell

For the tart custard:

3 cups half and half

6 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Filling:

3 cups sliced summer squashes (crooked neck, romanesco, patty pan, sunburst, etc.), roasted (instructions below).

1/2 cup sliced spring onions or scallions

3 cups fresh spinach leaves

1 tablespoon fresh fines herbs (equal parts chopped parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives)

1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Slice squash and onions and lay out on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes until vegetables are soft.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Add spinach and cook until leaves are just wilted.

For custard:

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, whisk in half and half and remaining ingredients.

To finish tart: layer squash, onions, spinach and cheese into tart shell. Cover with custard and top with herbs and bake for about 1 hour. Allow tart to cool slightly before serving.


Summer Squash Succotash

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup chopped red bell peppers

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 cups diced summer squash

2 cups cooked black-eyed peas

2 cups cooked corn

1 cup chicken broth or stock

1/3 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add scallions, red peppers, garlic and squash and cook until squash is tender. Add peas and corn and mix well. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add creme fraiche, spices and thyme. Cook until mixture is slightly thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.


Vegetarian 'Dirty' Rice

Makes 6 servings

1-1/2 cups basmati rice (preferred)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced summer squashes (patty pan, sunburst, crooked neck, etc.)

3 scallions, finely chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno chili

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Pinch cayenne

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs (parsley, chives or thyme)

Salt and pepper to taste

Put rice in a large bowl and cover with water. Stir the rice and drain. Repeat this process 5 or 6 times until water runs clear. Put water in a pot and cover with enough water to measure 1 inch above rice. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes; do not overcook.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil, squash, onion, peppers, chilies and garlic and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add spices and Worcestershire sauce and cooked rice. Stir until rice is coated and cook over low heat, partially covered, for another 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The season is almost over, but there's still time for another taste of summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF "HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME")

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: (Singing) Hot fun in the summertime, hot fun in the summertime. Hot fun...

SIMON: Today, we're going to find out a few new ways to enjoy summer squash. Chef Tanya Holland joins us. She was executive chef and owner of two restaurants in Oakland, California. There's B-Side BBQ and Brown Sugar Kitchen, which is where we've reached Chef Tanya Holland, who's in the middle of her lunch rush this week. Thanks very much for speaking with us, chef.

TANYA HOLLAND: Oh, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

SIMON: So squash just isn't for fall and winter, huh?

HOLLAND: No. I love summer squash. There's such a great variety and they're beautiful to look at and they're very versatile.

SIMON: Summer squash, you eat everything. They're kind of like soft shell crab that way, right?

HOLLAND: Exactly. You can eat the skin and all.

SIMON: But gourds can be difficult to work with, can't they?

HOLLAND: Well, summer squash is pretty small. There's a lot of miniatures during the summer, like patty pan or sunburst squash, that they're not that big so they are kind of easy to handle. It's more the winter squash that gets larger.

SIMON: Well, what to you enjoy about working with summer squash?

HOLLAND: I love the versatility. It can pretty much be used in any dish as a vegetarian substitute that might require chicken or a fish. It kind of takes on any flavor that you put it with. So in our cuisine, since it's a focus on Southern and soul and Creole, we add a lot of spices to it that kind of make it more in our genre.

SIMON: So I understand you've got a roasted summer squash egg tart.

HOLLAND: Yes. The tart is really a fancy word for the quiche or a different word for quiche. I just wanted to call it a tart since we're not a French restaurant. But it's an egg custard made with whole eggs, egg yolk and we use half and half, so half milk, half cream. And then we fill it in a prebaked tart shell, which we make our crust here, but you can buy it at the store. We cut up all the squash, roast it in the oven with some olive oil and salt.

And we might add some other ingredients. For instance, in the recipe that I'm sharing with you guys I did some sauteed spinach leaves and some sauteed spring onions and fresh herbs. And we add Gruyere cheese. Bake that for almost an hour. But it's a really good dish that could be breakfast or lunch.

SIMON: And you also make a summer squash succotash, I'm told.

HOLLAND: Yes, the succotash is usually a mix of corn and peppers, sometimes black eyed peas, and I just added the summer squash to give it a little bit more body to it, if you will, because the peas and the peppers is almost like a light relish, and if you add the squash it can be a nice vegetarian meal. And the succotash is a kind of a - it's a saute but you add broth and a little sour cream, so it thickens. And it's pretty substantial.

SIMON: I've heard grand things about your vegetarian dirty rice.

HOLLAND: Yeah, it's really tasty.

SIMON: That's another southern recipe, I'm getting, right?

HOLLAND: You're right. Dirty rice definitely is kind of a New Orleans, Louisiana dish. And the dirty is usually from the innards that are chopped up, like chicken livers and gizzards.

But we're making a vegetarian variety. And to sort of give it that "dirty" - and that's kind of in quotes - quality, we use Worcestershire sauce and a little soy sauce, ground black pepper, chopped thyme, other fresh herbs. So you start with white rice, but you kind of end up with a rice that has, like, a little brownish color to it.

And it's filled with lots of vegetables; scallions, bell peppers, garlic. We use some jalapeno chilis and the sliced summer squash. And, again, we use a variety, so you get a variety of flavor and it's, again, it's a great meal, vegetarian option, and great for the summer, too.

SIMON: May I ask, Chef Holland, how do you wind up cooking Southern cuisine in Oakland?

HOLLAND: Well, my parents are both from the South. My dad's from Virginia, my mother's from Louisiana, so I grew up spending summers in those states with my grandparents. And then I grew up in Rochester, New York, but my parents would cook this food, you know, especially when they're feeling homesick. And I've taken it with me wherever I've gone. I trained in France, but I always knew I wanted to bring those French techniques to a metropolitan area.

SIMON: So people'd be able to get summer squash more or less anywhere in the country right now?

HOLLAND: Yeah, definitely. You might not get the variety of the, you know, the patty pan or the sunburst. Those are a little bit more heirloom and little more difficult to get. But definitely either crooked neck and zucchini, you know, in the United States it's available year around, but it's not always the best. It's the best in the summer.

SIMON: Tanya Holland is executive chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ in Oakland, California. Her summer squash recipes can be found on our website. Just go to npr.org/tasteofsummer.

Chef Tanya Holland, thanks so much.

HOLLAND: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF "HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME")

STONE: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Hot fun in the summertime, hot fun in the summertime. Hot fun in the summertime. Hot fun in the summertime. First of the fall and then she goes back. Bye, bye, bye, bye, them summer days. Those summer days...

SIMON: Suffering succotash. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.