This time of year, when my mother calls me and says, “Honey, I have veggies for you, whenever you’re ready to come pick them up!”, it never just means she has a couple of cukes and maybe one zuke and a handful of figs. Ohhhh no, it means so much more than that. It means after my mother waves goodbye to me and I’m pulling gingerly out of her driveway as to not disturb the eighteen ripe tomatoes in the front seat, or unnecessarily jostle the extra canning jars (because heaven knows they will be needed), I’ll spend no fewer than five hours canning and preserving 25 pounds of figs, and that I’ll use up at least one Saturday morning putting up pickles of any variety. It means that every time we fire up the grill (which happens to be every night, lately), we’ve got skewers upon skewers of squash. And it means that if I try to get ahead—and this has happened on more than one occasion—by shredding cucumbers for slaw and zucchini for muffins, I’ll get the two vegetables mixed up in the fridge and wind up with cucumber muffins and zucchini slaw. So while the phrase, “Honey, I have veggies for you” is a wonderful thing to hear, the underlying message is, “I sure hope this isn’t deadline week for you, because you are going to be busy in that kitchen of yours.” Now, I’d never complain about free vegetables. And there is a rare feeling (excitement, anticipation, dread of the task at hand) that comes when you watch someone turn around with a plastic shopping bag bursting at the seams with 25 pounds of figs, picked just that morning. “Do you think this will be enough? We could go out and get some more, but you’d have to climb the ladder.” Oh, I wasn’t aware that I’d be feeding a fig-loving army after this vegetable exchange. But now that you mention it . . . Where exactly is that ladder? So if you find yourself with an embarrassment of riches, as one author puts it, try some of these stupendous squash recipes. They have been cook-tested and eater-approved by yours truly. We’ll start fresh and easy, with the Summer Squash Salad, at Simply Recipes. Moving on to something with a kick, go for the decadent and spicy Tex-Mex Squash Casserole, at Homesick Texan. Lately, though, my go-to favorite (which incorporates another fresh, local ingredient) is a Potato, Squash, and Goat Cheese Gratin. Here is the original recipe at the Kitchn, and my own personal take on it is below. If you have time, and squash, for only one recipe, make this one. You will immediately be swayed to go to the market and purchase a few more squash to do it all over again. Potato, Squash, and Goat Cheese Gratin 1 medium yellow squash 6 small to medium red potatoes 3 tablespoons olive oil 6 ounces goat cheese salt and pepper 1/4 cup milk 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a mandoline or chef’s knife to slice the squash and potatoes into very, very thin slices, 1/8-inch or less. Toss the sliced vegetables with the olive oil in a large bowl. Pour a small drizzle of olive oil in a casserole dish (around 8 or 9 inches square) or pie plate and spread it around the bottom and sides. Place 1/3 of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish—no need to layer them squash-potato-squash-etc.—then season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another 1/3 of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with the other 1/2 of the goat cheese. Finish by layering on the final 1/3 of the vegetables and seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour the milk over the entire dish. Top with the parmesan cheese. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 more minutes, until the top browns.
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