Summer squashes serve as colorful ambassadors of their season. Decked out in bright greens and yellows with delicate, yet delectable, flavors, they have arrived in abundance to gardens, farmers’ markets, and CSA boxes. Look for unblemished skin, firm to the touch, and smaller sized specimens. The distinctions in flavor between the types are nuanced, but it is their appearance and texture that distinguish one from the other.
Probably best known is zucchini, in shades of deep green or gold (pictured, top left). Cut lengthwise into thin strips and blanch in boiling water for one minute; use in place of spaghetti.
Pale yellow squash (bottom right), with a straight or crooked neck, is a bit more tender than zucchini and can sometimes be slightly bulbous at its base. Slice paper thin, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and bake low and slow to get a crunchy chip-like treat.
Common on Middle Eastern tables, kousa (top right) is pale green and shaped like a small eggplant. It has a firmer texture and is great in a Lebanese dish, the squash hollowed out but left whole and filled with ground beef, rice, and warm spices such as cinnamon and allspice, then simmered in a tomato sauce.
Colors of pattypan, which are small, discus-shaped squashes with ridged edges, range from light to dark shades of green or yellow. They are well suited for stir-fries.
Eight balls (bottom left) are dark green and shaped like the billiard balls they resemble. Flavor and texture is akin to zucchini, but with flesh. Hollow them out, steam until tender, and use as miniature bowls for zucchini soup.