At the start of each season, I spend a little too much time pondering how to fill the three months that follow. Sometimes, I have a minor panic that I won’t have sufficient content, but as I pencil recipes into my calendar, taking note of a holiday here or a seasonal ingredient there, one thing becomes crystal clear: there aren’t enough weeks to share my current list of favorites.
In no season is that more true than summer. Gardens are exploding with fresh herbs and vegetables, seasonal fruits can’t be beat, and grills beckon to be used. Ideally, we’d even find enough time to freeze, can, and stock our pantries for the off-season.
As the end of August loomed, I counted well over a dozen recipes I had intended to share. At times of indecision, I’ve considered how helpful it would be to have a direct line to my readers; we’d have a quick vote and my choice would be easy.
Short of that convenience, I polled a few game family members and friends as to which recipes they’d choose to round out the summer. Although my 6-year-old niece was certain that readers would appreciate a sushi tutorial, recipes showcasing seasonal vegetables and easy, healthy dinners led the way.
The following recipe covers both of those bases. Ostensibly, it’s a basic side dish. However, toss the cooked veggies with pasta (⬇︎⬇︎😉) and an extra drizzle of olive oil and you have a complete meal. While delicious served hot, the flavor improves with age making cold leftovers a satisfying lunch option.
Because of their high water content, the two vegetables make good roasting partners. They take longer to cook than one might think, as the extended time is needed to reduce the moisture and concentrate the flavor. In the process, the mushrooms take on a meatier texture, making this a particularly satisfying vegetarian meal.
Have you heard the rule about not washing mushrooms? The rational is that mushrooms act like a sponge and will get waterlogged. I disregard this bit of conventional wisdom for two reasons.
First, mushrooms can be really dirty. Wiping them with a paper towel, as is often recommended, is tedious and less effective than simply giving them a good rinse. It’s helpful to pat them dry, but sufficient time in the oven will cook off all the natural moisture along with any added moisture acquired through washing. This process is what ultimately transforms mushrooms from light and spongy to meaty and flavorful. 😊
Yield: 4-6 side dish servings or 3-4 meatless main dish servings
- 1 pound zucchini and/or summer squash (about 2 medium or 3-4 smaller ones*)
- 10-12 ounces Crimini, Shitake, Porcini, or button mushrooms (may use a mix)
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (could substitute dried thyme leaves)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and several good turns of the pepper mill
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup (about 1-3/4 ounces) crumbled Feta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil (or a mix)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray or grease a large, rimmed baking sheet.
- Chop the zucchini and/or summer squash into bite-size pieces. Cut the mushrooms in half (or quarters if large). Cut the onion in half, and then slice from root to tip end. Separate the slices. Place all the veggies in a large mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper over the vegetables, and then drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to evenly coat (using your clean hands makes this easy). Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet, and spread into an even layer. Roast for 20 minutes, and then stir and redistribute the vegetables. (There will likely be some liquid on the surface of the baking sheet at this point.) Continue to roast until the surface of the baking sheet looks dry and the zucchini and mushrooms are beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes more.**
- You may sprinkle the feta over top after cooking, but I prefer to add it in the final few minutes of baking. Optionally, to add a little extra browning to the vegetables and feta, sprinkle the feta over all and then broil for a minute or two, watching very carefully to avoid burning, or until the vegetables are lightly golden in spots.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the chopped herbs, and enjoy. Leftovers improve with age and are delicious cold or gently warmed.
- *If you happen to use a large squash, you may find that it’s very seedy. In this case, I recommend cutting it into quarters lengthwise, and then scraping out the seeds and white pithy part with a spoon before chopping further.
- **All ovens vary, affecting cooking times as a result, but the color of the baking sheet also affects cooking time. Dark coated sheets will cook food more quickly than light colored sheets. To offset the effect of the dark-coated sheets, many manufacturers recommend lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
- Prep-ahead tip: You may prepare the vegetables, toss them with the seasonings, vinegar, and oil and refrigerate in a zipper-top bag or covered bowl for an hour or two or until ready to cook.
Adding cooked pasta or a grain of choice transforms this easy, seasonal side dish into a satisfying meatless meal. Simply add an extra drizzle of olive oil. In this batch, I added half a red bell pepper and a handful of small cherry tomatoes that needed to be used to the zucchini/mushroom mixture. Also, when serving as a pasta dish, Gruyere and Fontina cheese provide tasty options to the feta.