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|Savoring the Bounty of Summer Squash |
|If you're a backyard gardener, chances are you're hunting for ways to cook all your zucchini and other summer squashes - that is, if you aren't giving away your excess bounty to friends and colleagues. |
As anybody with a green thumb will tell you, zucchini and other summer squashes are at their seasonal peak. We like to use them numerous ways: grilled and added to tomato salad; in caponata or ratatouille; chopped and added to frittatas; or sliced and included in a summer vegetable and tomato tian. Another dish we like: squash blossoms stuffed with goat and mozzarella cheeses and fried in extra virgin olive oil until golden. Summer squashes also are good raw in salads, or baked - think zucchini bread.
Zucchini, as one cookbook notes, "is the poster child of the summer squash clan." Other clan members include: pattypan; yellow crookneck; striped Italian cocozelle, and Mexican zucchini. Sizes range from a few inches to a baseball bat.
Summer squashes are native to America. They're classified as a fruit, but eaten as a vegetable. Another interesting fact: "Summer squashes are actually gourds harvested at an immature age, when their skins and seeds are edible," write Christopher Hirsheimer and Peggy Knickerbocker in The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2006).
While available year-round, summer squashes are at their seasonal peak from May through September.
Family tree: Members of the gourd family known as curcubita, which includes pumpkins and winter squashes.
Health benefits: Very low in calories and high in vitamin C.
|Photo by Deror avi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons|
Cooking: Good sautéed in extra virgin olive oil; grilled; roasted. Can be enjoyed raw in salads or on a vegetable platter. Hirsheimer and Knickerbocker, in their book, suggest thinly slicing summer squash and serving it "raw with a drizzle of fruity olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper." Blossoms are great stuffed and fried in olive oil.
How to buy/store: Look for small to medium squash with shiny, firm skin. Avoid squash with pitted skin, as well as flabby or spongy texture, advises Aliza Green in Field Guide to Produce (Quirk Books, 2004). Store in plastic in the fridge for up to a week.
| Our Favorite Summer Squash Recipes |
|Courtesy of Sondra Bernstein and the girl & the fig|
Olive Oil-Roasted Baby Squash with Feta
Vegetable Brochettes with Pimentón Marinade
Recipe and photo courtesy of Viviane Bauquet Farre, Food & Style
| Summer Vegetable Chicken Sauté |
Recipe courtesy of The New Sonoma Cookbook, by Dr. Connie Guttersen (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
Recipe credit: Delicious Memories ( Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011), by Anna Boiardi and Stephanie Lyness
Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang
| Q&A With Our Featured Restaurateur |
the girl & the fig (707) 938-3634
ESTATE (707) 933-3663
|Sometimes people take different paths to preside over great restaurants. In Sondra Bernstein's case, she left college with a photography degree. But she couldn't land a job in that field, so she waited tables. Bernstein loved the restaurant business, and secured a job at T.G.I. Friday's. She worked her way up, eventually moving West to build a successful restaurant business in California's wine country.|
Today, Bernstein, 51, is the owner and chief executive of the girl & the fig and ESTATE restaurants in Sonoma, Calif., as well as the fig café & wine bar in nearby Glen Ellen. The acclaimed eateries serve ingredient-driven cuisine highlighting fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruits and other foods.
Bernstein also operates a catering business, and her company sells fig compote, fig jam, fig-flavored mustards, and other fig-inspired prepared foods through a business called FIGFOOD. As if that's not enough, Bernstein is working on her second cookbook.
How did you become interested in food and restaurants?
It wasn't a lifelong dream. I'm not the chef at our restaurants and have never considered myself a chef. I actually have a degree in photography. When I graduated, I looked around for jobs in photography, but couldn't find anything. So I got a waitressing job and found I loved the business. I worked with T.G.I. Friday's for about 2-˝ years, starting as a server, trained as a bartender, and later began training staff. I was selected to be on a traveling training team to open new T.G.I. Friday's around the country. We would spend about a month in each town - Birmingham, Ala., Atlanta, Glenview, Ill. - living out of a suitcase. It was a great learning experience. I then got a degree in restaurant management. I knew I didn't want to be in the kitchen. Instead, I managed people's restaurants.
How did the girl & the fig evolve?
|Photo by Steven Krause/Brooklyn Studio West|
I moved to Los Angeles from Philadelphia in the late eighties, but eventually realized I didn't want to stay in LA. I moved to Sonoma County in 1992 and worked at Viansa Winery for four years and was director of operations there. After the four years I decided it was time to make a change. I bought a little place in Glenn Ellen. It was like a pizza parlor. I opened the girl & the fig as 40-seat café. It was small and I knew it would be fun for only so long, because I wanted more space. In 2000 we moved it to Sonoma, where we found a larger venue.
How did you come up with the name the girl & the fig?
The name was fun. It was silly. I like the sing-song sound - kind of like an English pub. It's casual. All the letters are lower-case, with an ampersand. The food experience we offer is bigger than the name.
What is one of your early food memories?
My best culinary experiences are when I travel. And my earliest memory was with my brothers and dad in Florence. I was 17. We ended up at a little café on a side street. We were served a platter of fresh figs and prosciutto, all drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. That was the only dish I remember there. It was the combination of salty and sweet. It was also the creaminess of the figs, and the tartness of the vinegar. It was how it all came together. That's what really sticks in my mind. And it's how I developed a love for figs.
How do use California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil in your restaurants?
We use it for vinaigrettes on our salads. We use it to make herb oils, like chive oil, mint oil, and lemon oil. We use those for garnishes and as finishing oils. We drizzle your oil on the cured meats we make, including prosciutto and salumi. We serve the meats on a big platter and then drizzle them with the oil. We also drizzle it on burratta and buffalo mozzarella cheeses.
We use extra virgin olive oil a lot more in finishing, where you really get to taste it on your tongue. For example, we serve a chocolate budino - a kind of chocolate pudding - topped with a little sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and cocoa nibs.
Stay Healthy in 2011 with California Olive Ranch!
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