Summer Squash Tian

We had a brief stint of summer here, with one day reaching 92, but so far haven’t quite made it to the sustained heat I know is imminent. I am constantly torn between being grateful the heat is holding off, and lamenting the lack of heat training I can do for my upcoming summer races. In any case, as the plants in my garden sprout and grow, it makes me excited for harvest and all the lovely dishes that come with a summer bounty.

Summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squashes are some of my favorite veggies, and their relative cheapness here means I eat a ton of them throughout the summer and early fall. I add them to salads and scrambled eggs, eat them plain with hummus or pesto, and freeze them for when the weather turns me towards soups. Their neutral flavor makes them an easy addition into almost anything, as well as being a delightful standalone.

One of my favorite hot weather recipes is a simple baked dish. Summer squash and sweet potato are accented with onion and spices, then topped with a sprinkle of cheese for an easy but delicious side great for the hot months. You may be wondering how baked vegetables could possibly be warm weather appropriate, but the secret is I actually prefer this one cold! Not only does that make it easy to serve straight out of the fridge for barbecues and leftovers, but it makes for a great make-ahead meal as well.

Simple without being boring, this vegetarian concoction works great as a side dish when you get bored with salad, or as a healthy afternoon snack. For the vegan crowd, you can just leave off the cheese – it’s quite excellent without it – but you may want to add a pinch of salt to your spice mix. Briefly sautéed onions and roasted squashes bring a light sweetness to the dish, complimented with your favorite spices. This one is easy to customize to whatever you’re pairing it with: just change up the spices to match or contrast with your entrée.

I used an Italian spice blend, but you can easily concoct your own mix or just include one spice for a simpler flavor profile. Pairs beautifully with a side of grilled anything, and makes for an easy lunch since it requires no reheating. I’ll admit it’s a little messy and time-consuming to slice and vertically arrange so many items, but it’s worth it for even cooking and presentation points. I like to use a sweet potato, but if you prefer a white or red that is excellent too. The dish is easiest if you can find squashes and potatoes of roughly all the same diameter, but as you can see I have a variety of sizes in mine and it’s completely manageable.

When the over abundance of squash hits your area, give this a try and let me know what you think!

Summer Squash Tian

Adapted from Budget Bytes
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil

3 lbs zucchini and yellow squash (about 6 medium, I used most of one of the bags Costco sells)
1 narrow sweet potato
3 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp Miscuglio (or your favorite spice mix)

1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar and Gruyère)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small or medium frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high.
  3. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Spread evenly into the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.
  4. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife and a lot of patience, slice zucchini and yellow squash into approx 1/4″ slices (I used the thickest setting on my mandolin.)
  5. Using the same method, slice sweet potato into less than 1/8″ slices (I used the thinnest setting on my mandolin.) This ensures the potatoes cook in the same amount of time as the squashes.
  6. In a large bowl, combine squashes, sweet potato, 3 Tbsp olive oil, and spices. Stir until well coated.
  7. Arrange upright in rows, avoiding having large sections of the same vegetable if possible. This is messy, but worth it for even cooking and prettiness.
  8. Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove foil, top with cheese, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is to your desired level of meltiness.
  10. Let cool briefly before serving, or store in fridge and serve chilled.1

Notes

This does not reheat well but I actually prefer it cold which makes it not only a great make-ahead meal, but also a great side dish for hot summer days.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

With summer coming to a close tomorrow, perhaps your garden is overflowing with things to use or store. Although we only have a small garden, I did get an excitingly abundant harvest given its size. The raspberries were proliferous for several weeks (some are in the freezer to bake with this winter), green beans galore, a few delicious broccoli heads, a decent amount of potatoes, giant zucchini (hopefully still some more in the coming weeks), and for the first time ever, carrots!

This is the third year in a row I’ve tried growing fingerling carrots, and the first year they grew bigger than my baby thumbnails. Planting them on the very edge so they weren’t overgrown by the beans seemed to be the key, and I’m excited to eat them. I planted two rows so likely will chop some up for the freezer. Roasted vegetables are my favorite and I’m sure we’ll be eating many panfuls in the coming weeks.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

My zucchini plant was not as abundant as some, likely due to the lack of sunlight my garden gets, but it still produced quite a few and there should be some more to pick if the weather doesn’t turn super cold right away. If, like many people, you have more zucchini than you know what to do with, then this is definitely the recipe for you.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

I see recipes for zucchini bread, muffins, scones, pancakes, waffles, etc, all over the place, but many of them are heavy on the sugar and chocolate. Although this is delicious, it somewhat ruins the health factor of the zucchini if you’re basically eating dessert bread.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

I recently came across this recipe on Pinterest (as usual) and loved that the chocolate was only in chip form, and the sugar content relatively low. I made some modifications like I always do, and it resulted in a very tasty but much less sweet variation.The zucchini flavor is mild but the bread is warm and inviting with cinnamon and nutmeg throughout. It’s sweetened with honey and a few chocolate chips, but maintains a much less decadent flavoring than your typical sugary quickbreads. You can obviously increase the chocolate chips if you want, but I felt this amount was plenty. Even with 30% less sugar than the original recipe, it still functions just as well as a dessert as it does for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread {{Baking Bytes}}

Krista’s recipe called for walnuts, but I never put nuts in baked goods as I don’t care for the textural juxtaposition of soft bread and crunchy nuts if I’m not emotionally prepared for it. However, this time I chopped a few walnuts and sprinkled them on top, and it was a wonderful, crunchy addition to the bread. It’s a method I may use in the future for banana or pumpkin bread to give it a little something extra. If you don’t like walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds would work great too, or you can leave them off entirely, of course.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Adapted from Joyful Healthy Eats
Makes 1 loaf (12 slices)

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/3 cup raw honey
1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cup grated zucchini
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp chocolate chips, divided

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease (butter, coconut oil, PAM, whatever) and flour a loaf pan, shaking out excess flour. Set aside.
  2. If you haven’t already, use a cloth or paper towels to squeeze as much excess water from your zucchini as possible. Get your upper body workout here, if your zucchini is drier your bread is less likely to have wet spots in the middle. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  4. In a separate microwave-safe bowl, combine honey and coconut oil. If they are not already liquid, heat 20-30 seconds and whisk until smooth. It’s okay if there are some small bits of coconut oil still solid.
  5. Add applesauce, egg, and vanilla, and whisk until completely combined.
  6. Slowly pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring (I used a rubbed scraper) until completely combined.
  7. Fold in zucchini and 1/3 cup chocolate chips, then pour into prepared loaf pan.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.
  9. Bake 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Let cool most of the way in baking pan, then run a knife along the edge and turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely, or slice and serve pronto because it smells way too delicious to wait.
  11. Store completely cooled leftovers in an airtight container on the counter.