When it comes to eating, I was the child every expectant parent secretly prays they don’t have. To say I was picky puts it rather mildly. I really couldn’t stand eating vegetables. My parents preached nutrition until they were blue in the face, and they always served meals that included a veggie of some sort. And I didn’t really care for any of them, sometimes not even potatoes.
I put up a respectable fight on the I-will-not-eat-vegetables front. I’m not saying I won or anything, but I made quite an admirable effort to not insult my taste buds. I whined and cried. I tried to flatly and calmly refuse. I tried to politely turn them down. (“Here’s some asparagus, Julie.” “Oh, no thank you.”) I held my nose and made sure to chew with my mouth wide open, thinking that maybe they’d be so grossed out they would relent. Most often though, I cut my vegetable servings into teeny, tiny pieces and swallowed them whole with my water or iced tea. It took a while, and often I was still sitting at the dinner table a good half hour after everyone else had finished, still consuming my vegetables as though they were medicinal pills. And like swallowing medicine, I shuddered and made faces after each swallow. I must report that nothing really worked. Night after night my plate was still filled with vegetables, and my parents never let up on making sure I got my nutrients.
One veg that I hated in particular was cooked yellow summer squash. I thought it was slimy and had a weird, unpleasant flavor. That being said, I would, however, make a mighty exception when it was breaded and deep-fried. On those (not terribly frequent) occasions, I popped it into my mouth like it was Halloween candy, and begged for more when it was gone. This dish definitely stands out as one of my childhood favorites that my mom made at home.
I was recently flipping through a cookbook of family recipes she gave me when I got married, and I realized I didn’t see it in there. I hadn’t had it in years, and suddenly I was craving it. I knew I could recreate it in my own kitchen. I decided to make a dipping sauce to accompany it. Since the squash is rather sweet, I wanted the dip to have some heat. Horseradish became the star, mixed in with some mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon, and scallions. The dipper is my contribution to my mom’s classic dish. I think it worked. Mom, if you ever try it, let me know if you agree.
FRIED SUMMER SQUASH:
1 large summer squash, thinly sliced into rounds
1/2 cup flour
3 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs sweet paprika
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Dash of cayenne
Dash of hot sauce, such as TX Pete’s
Kosher salt and black pepper
Canola oil, for frying
Combine the flour, cornstarch, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper into a pie plate. Mix to combine.
In a second pie plate, whisk the eggs with a splash of water and a dash of hot sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Dip the squash rounds in the flour, then shake off the excess. Then dip them in the egg wash, letting the excess drain off. Then they go back into the flour, again shaking off the excess. Place a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet and lay the squash on the cooling rack in a single layer. You will probably need two sheets. Continue until the squash has been battered. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to let them set up.
Pour the canola oil into your deep fryer according to manufacturer’s instructions and begin heating up.
When the oil is ready*, fry the squash in batches for about 3-4 minutes, flipping once during the cooking. They’re ready when they are nicely browned and the bubbles start subsiding. Lift them out with a slotted spoon onto paper towel lined plates to mop up any excess oil. While they are very hot, sprinkle with a dash of kosher salt. Repeat until done. Serve with the Horseradish Dipper.
* To test the readiness of your oil, simply drop in a pinch of the flour mixture you used to batter the squash. If it sinks and otherwise does nothing, your oil is too cold. If it immediately burns, your oil is too hot. What you’re looking for is for the flour to immediately begin bubbling but not immediately change color.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 rounded tbs prepared horseradish, drained
2 scallions, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
3 dashes of hot sauce, such as TX Pete’s
Kosher salt and black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly, making sure to get all the lumps out. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to marry.