Botanists think yellow summer squash was originally domesticated in the eastern United States. It has subsequently spread around the world, due in no small part to the fact that it's easy to grow and provides a prodigious amount of produce.
Summer squash is a relative of the acorn squash, pattypan squash and spaghetti squash, all types of the species Cucurbita pepo. But its closest cousin is the zucchini.
Like its green relative, summer squash has a tender rind that doesn't need peeling. Cooks have found it as versatile as it is prolific. Summer squash can be eaten raw, sauteed, steamed or stewed. It's cut into spears for a sweet addition to crudite trays, sliced and tossed in a pan with brown butter and lemon, or chopped into chunks and simmered in soups.
Seedy types. Overgrown specimens can become swollen with mealy seed cores, so look for summer squashes smaller than 10 inches. After the seed cores are trimmed out, the rest of the squash is usable.
Freezer bounty. Chunks of yellow squash can be frozen in bags with the air squeezed out. They won't be crisp, but can be used in soups, stews and casseroles, where softer squash is welcome.
In this recipe, from American Iron Chef Michael Symon's "Live to Cook," summer squash and zucchini are sliced, salted and left to drain for up to 15 minutes. That softens the squash but doesn't make it mushy, and the resulting salad is not overly salty. It's important to cut the squashes into thin slices, about 1/8 -inch thick, so the salt can tenderize them.
Dressed with a lemony dill vinaigrette and crunchy toasted almonds, it's a refreshing way to serve up summer squash.
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Michael Symon's Zucchini Crudo
2 zucchini (about 3/4 pound), thinly sliced
2 yellow summer squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 shallot, finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
Combine the zucchini and yellow squash in a colander in the sink and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt over it. Toss to coat, and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, no longer.
In a large bowl, combine the garlic and shallot, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream, then the almonds and dill. Taste for seasoning and acidity (it should be nicely acidic).
Add the zucchini and squash to the dressing, toss, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.