Once again, this time of year creates an overabundance of summer squashes. They include tender, finger-long babies still sporting a golden squash blossom at the tip, others as big as baseball bats and, in varying sizes, the usual green zucchini and golden yellow squash.

The "babies" are easy to serve. Saute them gently in olive oil, braise them in broth, or nibble on them raw, as crudites. The bat-sized squash can be used two ways. Either shred them, squeeze the moisture out of their watery flesh and add it to a batter for zucchini bread, muffins and cookies, or cut them into chunks and create a well-spiced, sweet-and-sour pickled squash.

When inundated with medium-size summer squash, ratatouille is a good option. To avoid boredom, make different versions. For example, season one with the traditional Provence-flavored herbs like oregano and thyme. Or use curry powder, which goes particularly well in a ratatouille that includes mushrooms. For a spicier version, you can make a ratatouille with either an Asian or Southwestern flavor. For the Asian version, use long, thin-skinned Asian eggplants, relatively few tomatoes and lots of green pepper, plus Thai basil and long red chile peppers. A Southwestern variation could include poblano chiles, yellow squash, black beans, and jalapenos.

Stuffed squash is another way to use up several at a time. For a change from your usual variations, try a filling of basmati rice and French green lentils, flavored with lots of vegetables, including scallions, shredded escarole and dill. Garnished with crumbled feta cheese, this stuffed squash is so substantial that few people realize it is meatless. The dense filling is also full of fiber, thanks to the lentils and brown rice.

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For convenience, cook the rice and lentils together. Simmering them until they are soft helps the filling hold together, even when it is heaped generously into the hollowed-out squash.

Lentil and Rice Stuffed Squash

Makes 6 servings, each of a halved zucchini.

Ingredients

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  • 1/2 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1/3 cup French green lentils
  • 2 cups fat-free vegetable broth
  • 3 large summer squash (about 2-2 1/2 lb.), halved
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 3 whole scallions, chopped
  • 3 cups escarole, rolled up and sliced thin
  • 1-2 Tbsp. finely-chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese

Directions

  1. Combine the rice, lentils and vegetable broth in a deep saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Cook, covered, until the rice and lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  2. If using yellow squash, cut off the necks. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the squash 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice-cold water. When completely cooled, pat the squash dry and set aside.
  3. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat until hot. Saute the onion 3 minutes. Add the garlic and scallions. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the escarole and pepper flakes (if using). Cook until the escarole is wilted and bright green, about 5 minutes. Stir the vegetables into the rice mixture. Mix in the dill and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. In a baking dish just large enough to hold them, arrange the squash. Spoon in the filling, generously mounding it. Sprinkle on the feta. Pour 1/2 cup water into the baking dish.
  6. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is soft, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate, covered in foil, until ready to use. Reheat before serving.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
173 calories,
5 g. total fat,
2 g. saturated fat,
27 g. carbohydrate,
7 g. protein,
5 g. dietary fiber,
240 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges:1-1/2 Bread/Starch, 1 Vegetable, 1 Medium-Fat Meat


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