Squash Court 2 Transcript

The Kitchen

    When I was a kid, I watched Green Acres a lot. It always kind of stressed me out, because I was on Eva Gabor's side of the equation. You know, Times Square, the shopping, nice restaurants. I dug that. The idea of riding around in a tractor, slopping the pigs didn't really ring my bell. But nowadays, they call gardening "domestic terraforming." It's got kind of a nice, post-survivalist sound to it. And I dig that. So this season I decided to plant my personal favorite summer vegetable, squash, in, I don't know, a half-dozen of its hundred-plus forms just around the house here.
    Now I know summer squash are, you know, very mild. They don't deliver big flavors. And even zucchini isn't really flashy or fashionable. But they are extremely plentiful, fast-growing, they're nice-looking, they're versatile, and they're available year-round. And believe it or not, all the summer squashes have subtle flavors that play into the hands of the skilled culinarian. Who, through artful application of flavorants and heat, can convert just about any old cucurbita pepo into ...

[Good Eats theme plays]

The Kitchen


    All right, before we get started, let us review a few garden-variety summer squashes. Here, of course, we have the yellow crookneck: a classic. The Italian variation, which is the zucchini. We have globe squash, which are also called apple squashes. They come in various sizes and colors, as do the pattypan squashes, different sizes. This one, check that out. Looks like a flying saucer, doesn't it? Yeah, it does. And check this one out. This is the zephyr. That is a new hybrid. Actually, a cross between the yellow crookneck and the delicata squash, which is actually a winter variety.

Yellow Crookneck
Globe Or Apple

    Now botanically speaking, all squashes are berries, seed-bearing bodies. And they're closely related to the winter squashes, to melons, and to gourds, which are, great for crafts, like making birdhouses, and ... [rattles a gourd maraca] if you're into that sort of thing.

    Squashes are, of course, all native Americans. The word "squash" comes from askoot asquash, which is Algonquin for "eaten green," an obvious reference to the fact that summer squash are best when they're harvested just a week after their flower fully opens.
     E   O
     A   N
     E   U
     N   I

    Of course, many squash specimens are popular with gardeners, because, if properly cared for, they grow and grow. And then they keep growing. And then they grow a little more, until finally, well ... [shows an enormous model of a squash, from which a little boy emerges] Impressive.

BOY: [in a British accent] Oh, hello, have you seen my Aunts about? One's thin and tall, and the other's quite fat, both rather nasty, I'm afraid.
AB: Sorry, kid, no. I, I haven't seen your aunts around.
B: Excellent.
AB: Okay.

    The bigger they get, the more fibrous and unpalatable they become. So try to pick or purchase smallish or medium specimens with smooth, shiny skins. Scratches or little gouges, well, like that, not a big deal. But avoid soft spots and browning.
    [at the refrigerator] And when it comes to storage, tender little squashes are like time bombs and the clock is ticking away. I mean, sure, if you wrap them in paper towels to prevent surface condensation, and then stash them in a zip-top and suck out all the air before sealing and storing in the warmest part of the fridge, which is up here and not down in the crisper drawer, you'll get, oh, maybe three days of optimum freshness out of these. But the truth is, when the season really hits, the best thing that you can do is arm yourself with a wide range of anticipatory applications that can be implemented at a moment's notice.
    [at the countertop] Since these zucchini were my first squash of the year, it makes sense to prepare a first course from them in the form of a salad. A noodle salad where the noodles will, in fact, be fabricated from two pounds of zucchini.
Now grab yourself a sharp vegetable peeler, and harp-style is the best for the job. Make sure your zucchinis are clean. Lay them down and peel, rotating as you go. And just keep peeling and turning until you get down to the seedy core, which you may discard. Just repeat with the other specimens.

    [at the sink] Wobbly and floppy though these zucchini pieces may be, they don't look anything like noodles. But if I add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the party and just park in a colander in the sink for 30 minutes, that'll all change. Why? Because it's ... Come here. 2 Pounds Zucchini, Trimmed
    & Peeled Into Ribbons
1 tsp. Kosher Salt

    [has a stack of green boxes from floor to ceiling] Now let's say for a moment that this is a piece of zucchini fresh from the garden. Yeah, I know it's just a stack of boxes, but work with me, okay? Now in its fresh state, it is stiff, what plant people call turgid. Why? Well, the cell walls are certainly stiff structures. But the real secret is inside here. See, if you cut away the cell wall, you'll see that the cells are full of little bags, all right? It's called the cell membrane, and it's packed with all the structures that the cell needs to do its business. It's also packed full of water that's actually under pressure, all right?
    Now here we come, with our salt. And the salt dissolves into a brine, which will literally pull moisture out of the membrane via osmotic pressure, which we've seen in brines. And that looks kind of like this. [cuts open the bag, releasing the water] Now it's only a matter of time before that inner membrane simply collapses, something we call a hypertonic state will be achieved, and then the cell will actually plasmolyze and pull away from the cell wall. And then the structure collapses every time. [the boxes fall over]
    If managed properly, this will result not in mushiness, but in a dense yet, well, floppy structure, kind of like, well, a noodle.
    [at the sink] There, see what I mean? Just like noodles. Okay, they're still green, but they look like noodles.

    All right, into a large mixing bowl goes three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Use the best you've got. Two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, two teaspoons of whole-grain mustard, and up to half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. And just whisk this together to form an emulsion. This, of course, is a vinaigrette, even though technically it doesn't have any vinegar in it. There. 3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Freshly Squeeze
    Lemon Juice
2 tsp. Whole Grain Mustard
½ tsp. Freshly Ground Black
    Now add the zucchini noodles, along with half a small red onion, sliced wafer thin, a cup of torn frisée. It's a type of chicory, easily found in your megamart's produce department, and one-third of a cup each thinly sliced radishes, chopped toasted almonds, chopped fresh basil leaves. Last but not least, one ounce of manchego cheese, a.k.a. the parmesan of Spain. Which can be easily shaved with the very same vegetable peeler from before. What a multitasker. All right, toss with these [his hands] to combine. ½ Small Red Onion, Thinly
1 Cup Frisee, Torn
1/3 Cup Radishes, Thinly
1/3 Cup Chopped, Toasted
1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
1 Ounce Manchego Cheese,

Zucchini is a diminutive of zucca or "gourd".

The Kitchen

GUEST: Safety Officer Sam

    [eating the zucchini salad] Delicious. You know, if you closed your eyes and didn't know you were eating strips of squash, you would think they were, well, the food that made Sophia Loren famous, pasta. Of course, we all know that zucchini is as Italian as Sophia Loren herself. And yet, as previously stated, all squash are American in origin. What gives? Cultural cross-pollination. Spanish explorers brought squash seeds back to the Old World from the New, where they were planted, and various characteristics encouraged through generations of selective cross-breeding.


    Now if you are an art enthusiast, you might argue that zucchini must have been born prior to 1580, when Vincenzo Campi completed his Fruttivendolo," which clearly depicts a basket of zucchini with blossoms. But upon closer examination, we see these are actually cocozelle, a close ancestor of the modern zucchini, which did not emerge until the 20th century. Actually, back-migrated to the U.S. between the First and Second World Wars. Nice painting, though.

Squash, as we know it, was introduced to Europe by Columbus at the end of the 15th century.

    Well, the squash are really coming in, I can tell you that. And one of the best things about summer squash is that they are all universally interchangeable. Now take yellow crookneck squash. Although we Southerners are infamous for either stewing them to death, or smothering them in cheese and mayo and baking them, they are equally well-suited to a Roman role that is classically played by zucchini.
    First step, set your oven rack to, say, three to four inches from the very top burner, and set your heat control to broil. Next, you're going to want to knock down a pound of squash into thin, we'll say, eighth-inch slices. True, I am fond of my steel, but this is a job for a mandoline.

    "Mandoline" is a pretty French term for any fixed-blade device designed to slice food by means of sliding it up and down an adjustable plane into which a blade has been set. Now two types predominate the marketplace. First you have the more traditional stand model. You've seen this on the program before. This device is like a factory. It's capable of fabricating many different cuts. Various forms of slices, juliennes, matchsticks, even waffle cuts, if you know what you're doing. It's expensive. It's got a lot of parts that you have to keep up with, maintaining and adjusting everything. It's a chore. And, well, cleaning it, well, nine times out of ten, I just leave it in the drawer and use a knife.
    Now if I'm going to use a slicer like this or a mandoline, it's going to be a hand model. There's still plenty of variation, but my favorite is this little guy, all right? Now it is lightweight. It's plastic. It's only capable of four different thicknesses of cuts, which is all I need 99% of the time. And it has a very economical and very sharp ceramic blade. Never needs sharpening, it's easy to clean. And because it's set at this angle, it's great for slicing softer items like ...

SAFETY OFFICER SAM: [off camera] Hands!
AB: [walks over to Safety Officer Sam, who is obviously recovering from a serious injury]

    Excuse me.

AB: Just as I suspected, it's our safety officer, Sam.
SOS: "S.O.S." for short.
AB: Our insurance company now requires that he be on set at all times.
SOS: Safety first.
AB: [picks up a mandoline and starts to paly with it]
SOS: Second is, put that down!
AB: Sorry.
SOS: It's dangerous.
AB: Okay.
SOS: Now, when you're considering buying a P.D.B.I., You should always think ...
AB: P.D.P.?
SOS: P.D.B.I.:Potentially Deadly Bladed Implement.
AB: Okay.
SOS: When you are thinking of buying a ...
AB: I don't really think of this as potentially deadly.
SOS: Oh, no? How do you think I got this, huh, smart guy.
AB: Really? Did you make this? Because this doesn't look like ...
SOS: Yes. Nobody will insure me anymore.
AB: Well, that's ironic.
SOS: Now, as I was saying, when purchasing such an item, one should always consider first the A.U.S.I., which ...
AB: A.U.S.I.?
SOS: Yes, the Active User Safety Interface.
AB: You mean, you mean the hand guard.
SOS: Yeah, okay, if you want to dumb it down, the "hand guard," which is always the last item on any manufacturer's to-design list. In fact, most of these models do not even cover the entire R.O.M.
AB: [is about to ask again]
SOS: [cuts him off] Range Of Motion. Some of them even pose a threat themselves. Consider the retractable spikes on this little death trap right here. It's supposed to hold on to the food while, while you're cutting it. Now go ahead and give that a shot.
AB: No, that's going to go into your...
SOS: Yeah, di-di-di-di-di, just give it a shot.
AB: [hits the device, which impales SOS' already injured hand]
SOS: Perfectly fine, just illustrating a point.
AB: I think you illustrated several points, actually.
SOS: Now given the general lack of E.O.U., Ease Of Use, I strongly recommend adding one of these to your safety protocol. Either a Kevlar glove or a reinforced safety glove.
AB: Wow, I bet one of these babies would stop a spinning food processor blade.
SOS: Yeah, one would think.
AB: Oh, dear.
SOS: No. But they will prevent any sort of lacerations caused by misuse or disuse of the P.D.B.I.A.U.S.I.
AB: Got it. S.O.S., thank's so much for joining us today on set. We've learned so much. You have a safe day, okay?
SOS: You too.
AB: Okay.

    Let's cut something, shall we?

    Like, say, one pound of small summer squash an eighth of an inch thick, if you please. Nice. Yes, I realize I wasn't using my A.U.S., hand guard, but at least I was using my Kevlar glove. 1 Pound Yellow Crookneck
    Squash, Sliced
    All right, now toss your rounds with a tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped, one-half teaspoon of nutmeg. Yes, of course, I mean freshly ground nutmeg. One of these. That's right. And then one teaspoon of kosher salt. And last but not least, a quarter teaspoon of black pepper. Toss to combine. 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Tbs. Fresh Rosemary,
½ tsp. Freshly Ground
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black

    [at the oven] Lay the slices out on a cooling rack, although the name doesn't really apply in this case, and then set that inside a sheet pan. Broil until the squash is golden brown, just on one side, eight to ten minutes, depending, of course, upon the power of your broiler.

Georgia and Florida are the leading producers of summer squash in the US.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Three sisters, as from the novel by Anton Chekhov
              Star Trek's, Mr. Chekov

    Nine minutes later, and our squash rounds are golden brown and delicious, but not burned. That's because there's so much water in summer squash to begin with, nearly 95%, or at least there used to be. These are now perfectly conditioned for inclusion in our little Roman delight, a frittata. That's right, squash and eggs work and play very well together.

    [at the stovetop] Move the squash to a 10-inch nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. Then combine one half cup of whole milk ricotta cheese with six large eggs and half an ounce of parmesan cheese, grated. Whisk to combine until very, very smooth, kind of like this. Then just pour that right over the squash. There. Let this cook for four to five minutes or until the center is bubbly, and the outer edge is set, just like that. ½ Cup Whole Milk Ricotta
6 Large Eggs
½ Ounce Parmesan Cheese,

    [at the oven] All right, broil for three to four minutes, just to fully set and lightly brown. And no, you don't have to worry about putting a nonstick pan under the broiler and creating any harmful fumes, because most of the nonstick surface is, in fact, covered with food. Besides, it's a very short amount of time.
    Behold the union of egg and summer squash, Italian style. Slightly curled up around the edges. That's exactly what you want. Now as far as getting this out, just give the pan a tap, a wiggle, and out it should come.
    Now as far as cutting this, you would never ever use a knife. Nope, a pizza cutter is the tool for the job. After all, it looks like a pizza. So just slice through. And I'm going to go for about six pieces here. Now if we were in Rome, which we are not, we would wait and serve this at room temperature, but the way this smells and the way this looks, I don't think I should have to wait a single moment. [tastes] Mmmm. Hot. Hot. Oh, oh ...

The traditional Italian frittata was an important meal
during the observation of Lent.

    [AB returns from the garden with an abundance of squash] Whoa, man, things are getting a little crazy out there. I mean, in the last 24 hours, I've executed every squash application in my possession, but they just keep on growing. But do you know what? It's okay. It's okay, because the pattypans are cranking hard, and they are some of my favorites. Now small specimens like this, I'll just run onto skewers and grill over medium heat. But these larger models, three to four inches across, these are born to be stuffed, which brings me to the three sisters.

OLYA: You are radiant today and looking lovelier than usual. And Masha is lovely, too. Andrei would be nice-looking, but he has grown too fat.
MASHA: You talk such nonsense. I am tired of looking at you.
IRINA: Yes. To Moscow, and quickly.

    Actually, I wasn't talking about Chekhov's "Three Sisters."

CHEKHOV: Captain, Captain, we've located the nuclear wessels.
AB: Thank you, Mr. Chekov.
CHEKHOV: Aye, Captain. [exits]

    I was talking about America's three sisters, of course, which would be corn, squash, and beans. Native Americans learned to grow them together, not only because they represent a complete protein when served together, but because they form a perfect agricultural community.


    Traditionally, the corn was planted first. And when it was about six inches tall, the beans and squash were planted around it. The beans used the corn stalks for support, and the squash hogged all the sunlight around the base of the mound, thus choking out weeds. The beans also fixed nitrogen in the soil, and the squash provided mulch.

The Kitchen

    Our next journey into squash-dom begins with a half sheet pan or other roasting dish in a 400-degree oven. Let that heat for 15 minutes.

400 Degrees

    Now we whittle ourselves some squash. I have four pattypan squash here. Well, actually, I've got about 400, but that's another story. I'm going to trim off just a little bit of the stem end and then halve them. I'm just kind of rocking the squash back and forth against the serrated blade. Notice I am using my safety gloves. If you don't have those, you could use just an old towel or something. Once you have them halved, use just a big service spoon or even a teaspoon to kind of carve out a little bowl, getting most of the seeds. And make sure you save those squash guts, because we're going to need them later on. There. 4 Pattypan Squash, 6 Ounces
    Now once everything is hollowed out, at least a little bit, sprinkle on about a tablespoon of olive oil, half a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper. There. 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black

    [at the oven] Place the squash halves cut side down on the hot pan to sear them, and then roast for 15 minutes. In the meantime, you can prepare the filling.

Pattypan squash are also known as scallop, custard or cymling squash.

The Kitchen

    While the squash is roasting, we prepare the filling. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Just plain old olive oil, not extra virgin or anything fancy. When that is good and hot, add one minced clove of garlic, one diced shallot, and the chopped-up guts that you spooned out of the squash. Season that with a half teaspoon of kosher salt and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper. 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Clove Minced Garlic
1 Diced Shallot
Reserved Squash Flesh
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black
    Once the aromatics and squash are brown and tender, bring on the other two sisters. Half a cup of freshly harvested corn kernels, and half a cup of cooked lima beans, as well as a couple of ounces of chopped pecans, not a sister, mind you, but an American original nonetheless. We'll call it stepbrother. And three teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves. ½ Cup Fresh Corn Kernels
½ Cup Cooked Lima Beans
2 Ounces Toasted Chopped
3 tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

    Remove the squash from the oven, and then use a disher to deliver, say, three tablespoons of filling to each half of the squash. There, a perfect opener or side for an All-American summer sit-down.
    Of course, even with fine applications like this on tap, if you grow your own squash, odds are good you're not going to be able to keep up with it. If that be the case, be prepared to freeze.

[silently shows the procedure, after laying on paper towel, AB rolls it up for better drying. He apparently then unrolls it later and relays out the slices to freeze without the paper towel] Blanch Sliced Summer Squash in Boiling Salted
Remove from Water & Shock in Ice Bath
Lay on Paper Towels to Dry
Once Dry, Place on Sheet Pan in Single Layer &
Once Frozen, Transfer to a Ziptop Bag for

    Label, then return to the freezer, confident in the fact that, come midwinter, you can prepare this [the stuffed pattypans], this [frittata], or this [the salad] any old time you like.
    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to finish my squash, and then take my machete and try to hack my way through all of those vines down to the mailbox. Wish me luck.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 09/30/2011