Vail Simply Seasonal column: Summer squash
Summer or winter, squash has been a staple of American cooking since before the New World was founded. Native Americans considered squash one of the “three sisters” along with corn (maize) and beans for the endless combinations of their use. Though we denote the varieties as “summer” or “winter” squash, this is confusing, as most common varieties are widely available all year long. During earlier centuries, when the calendar was more important to survival, these common veggies earned their names according to the season of abundance.As we near the end of the summer season, vegetable gardens are still teeming with summer squash- yellow crookneck, pattypan and zucchini. Abundant and versatile, summer squashes are a great addition to soups, salads, pizzas and stirfrys. They are complemented by many herbs including dill, basil, marjoram, chives, oregano, and mint and are natural accompaniments to onions, garlic and tomatoes.A simple saut of summer squash with olive oil, basil and parmesan cheese is a quick, tasty side dish for any grilled entre. Restaurant Avondale’s executive chef, Mike Mayer, suggests using summer squash in a veggie lasagna. “Use a variety of vegetables, and the dish will create its own sauce while baking,” he said. “The squash, tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms release their juices and meld with a blend of cheeses and pasta.”Or try a simple preparation of a Spanish classic. The tortilla Espanola is a potato omelet – and can be found throughout Spanish homes, bars and restaurants. Served as a light lunch or dinner, it needs only a green salad alongside. It is common on tapas menus, cut into small squares. Add a decorative topping of summer squash, zucchini and tomatoes to create your own version.Tortilla Espanola4 Tablespoons olive oil1 yellow onion, chopped2 pounds Idaho potatoes, cut 1/4 inch thick slices4 eggs1 Roma tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick1 small zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick1 small yellow summer squash, sliced 1/4 inch thickPreheat broiler to high. Saut the onions and potatoes in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet until lightly browned. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl and add the potatoes and onions, allow them to soak for 20 minutes. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron skillet and add the potato, onion and egg mixture, spreading to even. As the omelet begins to brown on bottom and egg is still soft in center, lay the sliced tomato, zucchini and summer squash decoratively on top.When bottom is browned and crispy, place pan under the broiler to finish cooking the top. Garnish with chives. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 6-8.Veggie lasagna1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced1 small summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced1/3 cup chopped red onion1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese2 portobello mushrooms, sliced4 cups fresh baby spinach1/4 cup chopped fresh basil1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano3 cloves garlic, minced3 tablespoons olive oil1/4 cup balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon sugar1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 (8 ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles9 roma tomatoes, thinly slicedPreheat the oven to 350. Lightly coat a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, red onion, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and stir in basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir the mixture until evenly blended. Place a layer of lasagna noodles into the bottom of the prepared pan. Make a layer of tomato slices over the noodles. Spread a generous amount of the spinach mixture over the tomatoes. (As the veggies cook, the mixture will shrink.) Lay slices of tomatoes over the spinach mixture, then another layer of noodles. Start with another layer of tomatoes on top of the noodles, and repeat layering until the dish is heaped with lasagna, ending with the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese on the top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until noodles, and vegetables are tender. Let stand for a few minutes to set, then slice and serve. Serves 6.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. Avondale opened in September 2008 and features straightforward, seasonal American cuisine in a stylish, social setting with views of Beaver Creek Mountain and the Eagle River. Contact email@example.com.