Bidding Farewell to Summer Squash

The brief period preceding the onset of winter is the best time to pick the last summer zucchini − to roast, grill or saute it and use it in two simple, tasty salads.

The days are getting shorter, and in the early morning hours one reaches for a blanket for warmth against the dawn chill. The sunrise reddens the hilltops and its rays illuminate dew-drenched purple and green leaves. The sign at the entrance to our moshav, Zafririm, explains that the Hebrew name translates as “morning wind.”

In Europe, such days are called autumn. In Israel, it makes a brief appearance for a moment in the morning, before the day turns back to summer. Poets who came here from Europe waxed rapturous about it, composing line after line about the fleeting gray and chill morning wind.

Still, this morning, the vegetables in the garden are still glistening from heavy dew that has yet to evaporate. Especially lovely are the last of the summer zucchinis, looking nice and plump, hanging on their stalks like lamps lighting up a village wedding. In the chilly morning air, we pick them straight off the vines and, without peeling them, use them to make a meal that belongs to neither summer nor winter: We roast, fry or grill them and enjoy them together with thin yogurt or sour labaneh cheese.

Roasted zucchini and kohlrabi salad

Super-fresh, requiring minimal fuss, simple and delicious − this salad is like a vegetable garden shiny with dew. The zucchini may be eaten raw, but I prefer to roast it quickly on a charcoal grill or even over the open flame of the stove, to sear the skin and lightly cook the juices.

6-8 raw, firm zucchini, preferably with dark green skin
2 fresh kohlrabi bulbs
1 dark, bitter green pepper
4 scallion stalks
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Atlantic sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper

Roast the zucchini on a charcoal grill or over the gas flame of a stove until the peel is seared and has dark scorch marks, but the inside remains light colored and somewhat firm. Cut off the ends and slice the zucchini lengthwise in quarters, and then cut each quarter in half. Transfer to a bowl.

Peel the kohlrabi and cut into 3-millimeter-thick slices in one direction and then the other, to get julienne strips. Slice the pepper the same way, tear the scallions by hand and add everything to the salad. Season with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper and serve immediately while the zucchini is still warm and the kohlrabi is crisp and firm. Serve with cold yogurt and fresh bread on the side.

Fried zucchini and fish salad

One of the most pleasing textures in cooking is embodied by fried zucchini: crisp and golden on the outside, and tender and juicy inside. To really enjoy it, add labaneh or yogurt, or thin tehina, a vegetable salad or some chopped herbs and a little lemon, and serve warm or at room temperature. In the version presented here, we’ve added full-bodied freshwater fish − trout or salmon or the like − which complement the delicate texture of the zucchini, to which are
added the slightly stronger flavors of arugula and hot pepper. One may substitute for the fish tender slices of chicken ‏(dark meat‏) or paper-thin slices of rare roast beef. The result is a full meal in one dish that’s just right for these interim days between summer and winter, when it’s still warm but cloudy, too.

For the fish:

2 trout ‏(400 grams each‏)
1/4 cup ‏(60 ml.‏) olive oil ‏(or 100 grams melted butter‏)
1/2 cup ‏(120 ml.‏) white wine
1 lemon
4 garlic cloves
Atlantic sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper
For the salad:
6-8 fresh, firm zucchini
1/2 cup olive oil for frying
1 hot green pepper
1 small bunch of arugula
1/2 lemon
Atlantic sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper

Start by making the fish: Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Spread a sheet of aluminum foil on the work surface, grease lightly and lay the fish on it. Brush with oil, pour the white wine over, and season both sides and the stomach cavity of the fish with salt and pepper. Place 3 lemon slices and 2 garlic cloves inside each fish. Wrap the fish well with aluminum foil; bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes. When the fish is ready, take it out and let cool a bit.

Rinse but do not peel the zucchini. Cut in 1/2-centimeter slices and arrange them on paper towels. Sprinkle a little salt over the slices and let them release some of their liquids. Heat 1 centimeter of oil in a skillet or wide pot; saute the zucchini slices on both sides. Remove them from the pan and place on paper towels. If you want a crisper texture, dredge the zucchini slices in a little flour before sauteeing.

To make the salad, remove the fish’s skeleton and any stray bones, and try to keep the pieces as large and whole as possible. Transfer to a bowl and add the sauteed zucchini slices. Slice the hot pepper and add to the salad together with the arugula. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature with whole wheat bread and tangy labaneh.