Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Squash

I believe I've mentioned it before, but Mr. Lemon and I have found the equivalent of an overflowing garden patch here in the big city. It's the bargain bin at our local gourmet market and our veggie bin-ges lead us down some interesting paths.

What we end up with for $1.50 is a large quantity of one vegetable--one vegetable that we wouldn't normally buy in such quantity or might not even purchase at all. But it's a fun challenge that spurs creativity and usually a new healthy side dish or entree. The key is to diversify your veggie product or make one big batch if it will freeze well.

But sometimes, the veggie binge goes off the rails. This is the frightening story of the two squash--one very good and one very naughty. Read on, if you dare.

Our story begins with a large bag of yellow squash. Now, yellow squash when sauteed has to be carefully watched so as not to go slimy--it's all those seeds, I swear. But when battered and deep fried, yes I said DEEP FRIED, it becomes a very fine summer treat of silky sweet goodness wrapped in a light crispy shell. Deep Fried is a dirty word in these parts, so I break out the veggie oil about once a summer for this delicacy that I picked up from a Southern friend (and one of the best cooks I know!) Bless you, Nicki, for sharing your squash-frying wisdom.

Fried Yellow Squash

Vegetable oil, about 3 cups
2-3 medium sized yellow squash
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
About 1/4-1/2 c. skim milk

In a deep sided pot or dutch oven, heat several cups of vegetable oil.

After removing the top of the squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, lengthwise. Salt and pepper well on both sides and set aside.

Set out a plate with 1/4 cup flour. In a bowl mix about 3/4 cup flour with skim milk. Add the milk slowly and whisk. Once the batter starts to look like a smooth paste, stop. You've got your batter. You don't want it to be too liquid-y, or it won't stick.

Check that oil. It should look kind of shimmery and if you carefully slip in some of the batter or a piece of bread (which I never have), it should hold together and have little bubbles all over it. That means your oil is ready. No bubbles? Not ready. And please BE VERY CAREFUL! Hot oil is no joke and you want to avoid splatters.

Dredge the squash slices (dip on both sides into plain flour and shake off excess.) Dip slices one at a time into batter and slide into the hot oil. The squash will float and sizzle. Only cook about 3-4 slices at one time so the oil can maintain it's heat.

Now here is the Nicki Wisdom: only flip your squash once. In fact, never turn any deep frying lovely more than once, ever, ever. This prevents sogginess.

When the batter starts to look light tan/brown on one side, gently flip the squash and allow the other side to crisp up about 2-3 minutes. Remove the squash and place on paper towels or a brown paper bag (way to recycle!) to drain off some oil. Serve immediately. Delicious as a meal all by itself. And don't they kind of look like fish?

So what about the rest of that squash? A healthier take:
2-3 squash cut into half moons + 2-3 Tablespoons fresh oregano minced + 8 leaves basil cut into a chiffonade (Roll it and slice thin) + 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes a great slightly rich-tasting side dish for some leftover pork and, of course, green salad.

One bargain buy, two different dishes, naughty and nice
Deep fried but inexpensive summer treat
Healthy summer side dish spruces up leftovers
$1.50 can't be beat.

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