Not all summer squash is created equal. Zucchini and yellow crooked-neck squash are the most mild in flavor and can be a bit squishy.
Bypass both for this fresh stew. Look for the nutty, more firm, squash varieties such as pattypan, Zephyr or my favorite, Magda. The pale green fruits remind me of light bulbs. The texture remains firm even in a braising liquid. Cooked solo, they have flavor that entices diners; you won't have to camouflage them in chocolate cake batter or bury them in bread.
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 3 medium winter squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
- 1 medium onion, cut into small dice
- Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn
- 2 to 4 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2-inch piece peeled ginger root, minced
- 5 scallions, white and light-green parts only, cut crosswise into thin slices
- 15 ounces (1 can) low-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for optional garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped Thai basil, plus more for optional garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
- 3 cups cooked basmati rice, warmed, for serving
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and onion; cook for about 6 minutes, until tender. Add the corn, jalapeños (to taste), garlic, ginger and scallions to the pan, stirring to incorporate.
Stir in the coconut milk and water, then add the cilantro and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the corn is heated through. Add the chicken, if desired, and stir to incorporate.
Divide the rice among individual plates, then top with equal amounts of the squash mixture. Garnish with jalapeños or additional herbs, if desired. Serve right away.
Adapted from "Local Flavors," by Deborah Madison (Broadway, 2002).
Tested by Cynthia A. Brown.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.