What to do with a bountiful harvest of yellow crook neck squash and a husband who is way less than eager about having it for dinner? That was my dilemma the other day as I gathered a small part of my incredibly huge yield of this golden vegetable from my garden. Besides finding this a delicate and delicious summer vegetable, I have always enjoyed its shape, reminding me of part of a pretty yellow paisley design.
This year we planted our garden for the second season. Having been rather successful in our efforts last year, we approached this growing season with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn’t on her best behavior and the rain and cool weather persisted into early July, resulting in a stingy growing season. Our tomatoes totally flunked and our corn had to go in so late, that we are going to have to be satisfied with harvesting corn stalks for fall decorations. None of those succulent, tender ears that leave us salivating just at the mere thought.
However, one of the surprise stars of this year's harvest was my hearty and abundant crooked neck squash! In spite of the short season, those vines blossomed and produced many, many pretty yellow paisley shaped vegetables.
Last year, what looked like some lovely squash of the same variety, turned out to be yellow GOURDS! It was actually pretty embarrassing, since I discovered it after I had shared a basketful or two with friends. I learned it only upon trying to prepare some for our own table. Not my proudest moment as a cook or gardener as I had to get out my cleaver and deliver a hearty karate chop to pierce the tough exterior, only to find nothing fit to eat inside!
As I looked at my tender, honest-to-goodness squash last week, I was determined to find a preparation that would make my husband’s mouth water and demand a second helping. Surveying the basket of veggies I had brought up from the garden, I began to get a vision of a successful combination that would be flavorful enough to be irresistible. There in my basket along with the squash, were shiny dark green bell peppers and beautiful oval purple onions. Outside on my patio I perused my happy, healthy little herb garden. The basil and oregano just begged to combine with my basket of yummy garden treasures, and with a few snips I was ready to take on the challenge. The following recipe is what I came up with, and wonder of wonders, I was rewarded with his compliments and that request for a second serving. I had won him over.
Encouraged, I prepared it again a few days later, this time for other guests, and met with the same happy results. So, even if you have to get your vegetables from the produce department or your local Farmers' Market, this is a tasty, flavorful way to enjoy the late summer's harvest.
Warm Orzo Veggie Medley
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups crook neck squash, coarsely chopped ( You may substitute green or yellow zucchini if you wish.)
1 cup green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dry)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Spike (found in spice section of most grocery stores) or other seasoning salt
3 cups cooked orzo pasta
2 cups diced tomatoes
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves
Spray large skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil. Over medium high heat, sauté onion, squash and bell pepper till slightly softened (4-5 minutes). Add herbs, pepper, salt, Spike or seasoning salt,orzo, pine nuts and diced tomatoes. Toss together and heat until tomatoes are just warmed.
Line a wide shallow serving dish with a generous layer of spinach leaves and pile the orzo-vegetable mixture
on top. Serve immediately, making sure to scoop up spinach with the vegetables. You can make a dinner entrée out of this by adding sliced, grilled chicken on top.
Serves 6 or more, depending on whether it is served as a side or an entrée.
My other bumper crops are pumpkins and spaghetti squash. Stay tuned for some more warm, cozy autumn offerings from my garden harvest!
Stay tuned for a yummy fall dessert we're cooking up....