This is, hands down, my favorite way to eat yellow summer squash. And I realize this might be due to a nostalgic predilection for Southern-style vegetables (i.e., cooked until they "surrender"), but trust me: As far as savory-sweet combinations go, this is one of the best.
Sautéeing squash and onions in some butter and brown sugar brings out the natural sweetness of both vegetables. There are times for keeping squash bright and slightly crisp, but this is not one of them. You want it to get soft and gooey, with onions that practically melt into the brown sugar glaze.
There is just enough sugar (and you can adjust it to your own taste) to complement the vegetables without drowning out their natural flavor. It's not meant to be dessert, but we do think it would be a success with a vegetable-averse child. Just a thought.
This version is enough for two very generous helpings, given what I had on hand from our CSA, but you can easily adjust for a larger crowd.
I'll admit it — at first I was a little skeptical about the idea of mixing brown sugar with fresh, crisp summer squash. Okay, I was a lot skeptical. I tried to feel reassured by Elizabeth's recipe notes, that the sugar was meant to complement the squash. But sugar and vegetables are just not things I often put together. Especially in the summer.
Well, Elizabeth and her recipe made me a believer. This is one side dish that will be making a regular appearance on my dinner table this summer. The onions are just shy of being totally caramelized, and the squash is indeed cooked until it surrenders. There's a really wonderful balanced savory-sweet flavor, without the sugar being overpowering.
2 medium yellow squash
1 medium yellow onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
Slice the squash into 1/2-inch rounds, cutting larger rounds in half. You should end up with roughly 2 cups of cut squash. Cut the onions into similar-sized slices.
Add the butter to a wide saucepan that has a lid, and heat over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add squash, and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the brown sugar. Stir until the vegetables are coated, then cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until squash is very soft.
Remove the cover and continue to cook for about 8 minutes, just to give the juices a chance to evaporate slightly. There will be some liquid in the pan, but it should be thicker than water, almost like a glaze. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately.
This recipe has been updated — first published August 2008.