Bumper crops of summer squash roll into farmers’ markets and restaurants this time of year. New York chef Michael Psilakis, whose restaurants Fishtag, Kefi, and three locations of MP Taverna set the standard for modern Greek cuisine, has a deep appreciation for these mild, unassuming veggies and knows how to make the most of them.
The trick to cooking both zucchini and yellow squash, according to Psilakis, is to realize that they are like sponges, taking on flavors from the rest of the dish. They need a very hot pan or grill to put a flavorful sear on the exterior. “Don’t cook it until it gets soggy. Leave some texture,” he cautions. Season simply with salt and pepper, and then add an acidic touch: “A drop of lemon juice on a piece of zucchini really makes it sing.”
In the pasta salad featured here, Psilakis adds raw squash blossoms as a grace note. “They’re so delicate and yet more intensely flavored than the vegetable itself,” he says. “This dish is the kind of thing you become known for and everybody asks about.” Sample it this month at MP Taverna in Astoria.
Warm Salad of Summer Squash with Swordfish and Feta
Hands-on: 15 min. Total: 30 min.
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (10-ounce) swordfish steak
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 medium yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise
8 squash blossoms, divided
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup fresh dill fronds
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)
1. Preheat grill to high heat.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta.
3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil evenly over fish; sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Grill fish 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Break into ¾-inch pieces.
4. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, squash, and zucchini in a large bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle evenly with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place vegetables, cut sides down, on grill rack; grill 3 minutes or until lightly charred and just tender. Cool slightly. Cut into 1-inch lengths.
5. Cut 4 squash blossoms into ¼-inch-wide strips. Combine blossom strips, pasta, fish, squash, zucchini, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper, herbs, and juice in a large bowl; toss to coat. Top with feta; garnish with remaining squash blossoms.
SERVES 4 (serving size: about 2 cups)
CALORIES 458; FAT 19.1g (sat 5g, mono 10.2g, poly 2.1g); PROTEIN 25.2g; CARB 47.3g; FIBER 3g; CHOL 59mg; IRON 2.9mg; SODIUM 587mg; CALC 117mg
PHOTO: BECKY LUIGART-STAYNER; FOOD STYLING: KELLIE GERBER KELLEY; PROP STYLING: CINDY BARR
PORTRAIT: ANDRE BARANOWSKI