A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Fruit of the valley provides essential goodness.

by Phoenix Trent
The Hudson Valley is a bounty of fresh produce throughout the calendar year, but the diverse offerings that the summer brings truly can’t be beat. Summer squash is a gem of the warm months; its versatility allows for endless tantalizing and delicious preparations. A nutritious staple of the Amerindians for centuries, summer squash makes a great addition to a summer feast.
A more delicate and soft-shelled squash variety with thin edible skin and seeds, it has a tender flesh that requires only a short cooking time. Low in calories, and high in vitamin C and fiber, summer squash are often picked immature and eaten within a short period of time since they are very perishable. Take advantage of this short window of summer squashy goodness by whipping up a delicious and nutritious stuffed summer squash as the entrée, or serve it cold with drizzled olive oil, chopped walnuts, and crumbled goat cheese for a delicate and fresh starter.
When at your local farm stand (Saunderskill, Kelder’s, and Wallkill View Farm have great local selections), choose squash that have a shiny, bright-colored skin, are heavy and dense feeling for their size, firm to the touch, and free of bruises and cracks. Avoid squash with a dull and matte appearance, which is an indication that the squash was picked beyond optimal ripeness. Avoid squash that are overly large because although you’ll have more flesh to work with, they are seriously lacking in flavor. A perfect summer squash should be bursting with fresh summery goodness.
Stuffed Summer Squash
• 4 long summer squash
• A few pinches salt and pepper
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 shallot, finely chopped
• 1 stalk celery, chopped
• 1 carrot, grated
• 4 Italian sausages removed from casing (Fleisher’s in Kingston has some great options when it comes to the world of fresh meat)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 1/4 cup water (for the pan)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and pull out a standard 9×13-inch dish.
2) Cut squash once, lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh of the squash with a teaspoon, leaving a quarter inch intact, and roughly chop. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the flesh to a glass bowl, and sprinkle the hollowed squashes with a few pinches of salt and pepper and turn them hollowed side down on a cutting board.
3) In a pan, heat extra virgin olive oil (rosemary infused if you have it) over medium heat. Throw in the shallot and sauté, stirring briskly for two minutes. Include the carrot and celery, and continue cooking for an additional two minutes. Add the squash flesh and cook for three more minutes.
4)Increase the flame and add the ground sausage. Continue to stir often for five minutes, and finish with a dash of salt and pepper.
5) Remove pan from the flame and allow the mix to cool for a few minutes. Stir in the fresh ricotta, egg, and parsley.
6) Generously fill the hollowed squash with the mixture. Set the filled shells in the baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil and add the water to the dish. Bake the stuffed squash for around 40 minutes until the shells are tender when pierced with a fork.
Enjoy with a bottle of ice-cold white, freshly cut flowers, garden-fresh sliced strawberries to finish, and good company. The delicate and light, yet rich flesh of our valley’s summer squash will plunge you into a world of gastronomic delight. Paired with the meaty edge of the sausage, the creamy finish of the ricotta, and the lively dash of fresh parsley, this meal is happiness in a compact, personal-sized culinary package.
Home Cooking brings together family and friends, mends any tiff, and ads an extra kick of goodness to life. A meal featuring the oh-so-wonderful squash is sure to please, and turn simple sustenance into a work of love and art. Our bodies crave the essential vitamins and nutrients that this fruit of our valley has inside. So stray from the norm, indulge and make summer squash the star of your summer meal. You deserve it.