One of the best things about September is the resurgence of super-sweet, beautifully briny and fantastically fresh oysters, which are now popping up at your local fish purveyors. Other fun foods to play with this week include crisp cucumbers and juicy watermelon, and both are used to make the cool salad that Persian chef and cookbook author Louisa Shafia shared with us below. But watermelon isn’t the only things she's keyed up for this week. “I am always excited for winter squash since there are so many gorgeous varieties and they're so sweet and satisfying,” she says. “I love red kuri squash because it makes the best puréed squash soup, and I like to make pumpkin pie with roasted kabocha squash since the flesh is sweet and rich.”
Right now, these bright winter squashes are just starting to make an appearance, so hopefully your market is debuting them. But fear not, if you don’t see them this weekend, they are sure to be there the next.
What to Look For:
Red kuri squash
This bright red-orange squash looks sort of like a smooth-skinned pumpkin, but on a smaller scale. However, the yellow flesh of this seasonal starch proves much sweeter and better, as Shafia mentioned, for puréeing and mixing into soups and stews. Or, you can cut it up into chunks, steam or bake it and use it instead of sweet potatoes. When choosing a red kuri squash, make sure the outside is blemish-free and has a hard, dark skin. The lighter, more tender rinds are immature and won’t last long nor be as sweet. Another great thing about this hearty squash is you can store them in cool, dark place for up to a month.
Break out your jars and start making pickles, after all, aside from salads what else do you do with this crisp, refreshing vegetable? Perhaps you ask, “why bother?” The answer is simple, if you get cucumbers now, in season, they have more flavor than the watered-down versions you see in the grocery store all year. Plus they're firmer, which makes for super-hearty pickles perfect for storing in your pantry for dead-of-winter hamburgers, or to give away as a creative culinary gift. Spice them up with seasonal peppers and hard-neck garlic, another item you should see in the market, and get pickling.
“Wild oysters from Long Island are a thing people wait for every September,” said Stephanie Villani of Blue Moon Fish, a purveyor at the Greenmarket in New York. “In the summer oysters spawn and taste watery, so we don’t bring them in until September.” Plus, she added, the cool water makes them taste better, which just goes to show there is more basis to the old adage of not consuming oysters in months that don’t have the letter R in them. She suggests eating them raw or throwing them on a grill. Either way, it’s time to celebrate this sexy bivalve being back in the market.
Watermelon is hot at this time of year, and though you may have indulged in the crisp pink flesh earlier in the summer, now is the time when it’s truly at its peak for flavor. “Sweet, thirst-quenching watermelon is one of Iran’s most bountiful and well-loved fruits,” said Shafia, whose first tome Lucid Food focuses on cooking seasonally. “Its juice is a refreshing balm in both the dusty desert and in Tehran’s smoggy city streets, where watermelons are sold whole, by the slice, and even the seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack.” Though the weather might be cooling, with an Indian summer on the horizon this melon is still a welcome treat.
Cucumber and Watermelon Salad Recipe
Perfect for bringing to an end-of-summer barbecue, you can assemble this crisp, juicy salad ahead of time, and add the salt and vinegar just before serving. Sprinkle with sumac for a tart and salty finish.
1 pound unwaxed cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise
3 cups diced seedless watermelon
1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Seed the cucumbers and cut them into half-moons 1/2-inch thick.
- In a bowl, combine the cucumbers with the watermelon and scallion.
Add the salt and vinegar, mix well and serve immediately.
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