Lifestyle

Shapely: flat beans and curvaceous squash

Peaking

Zucchini: How complicated can choosing zucchini be? After all, most people's biggest problem usually seems to be getting rid of all that garden-grown stuff. Well, there are more than 100 different varieties of zucchini grown today, ranging in color from gray-green to almost black and in shape from long and thin as a hot dog to bulbous. Which to choose? It depends on how you're going to use them. Generally speaking, the more gray and bulbous a zucchini is, the firmer and milder the flesh will be. These are closer to what used to be called vegetable marrows, and they're great for cooking in soups. The darker and thinner zucchinis, closer to the Italian squash called cocozelle, are more tender and usually have richer flavor.

Various vendors, $1.50 per pound.

Romano beans: The world of green beans is split pretty neatly in two: the round and the flat. Round beans, such as Blue Lakes and the even thinner haricots verts, need to be cooked quickly to preserve their delicate crispness. Not so with these flat Romano beans. They benefit from longer cooking because their thick hulls take a while to tenderize. And when they do, they become meaty rather than soggy. Try stewing them in a tomato sauce for 30 minutes or more. You can also serve them cold, as an antipasto.

Various vendors, $3 per pound.

Round summer squash: One of the great pleasures of the summer table is stuffed zucchini, and one of the best zucchini to use for the dish is round. So who cares that it's not really a zucchini? Technically an immature stage of something called a "summer pumpkin," these round summer squash still make perfect vessels for holding all manner of filling, including elaborate rice combinations and simple garlicky bread crumbs. Not so long ago, the only ones you saw were dark green -- the variety called either Tondo di Piacenza or Ronde de Nice, depending on the grower. Now we're seeing them in gray-green and even gold. The flavor's the same, but can't you just see a combination in a baking dish, looking well-browned and fragrant?

Valdivia Farms, $1.50 per pound.

russ.parsons@latimes.com

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