Summer Squash Caviar is a lovely Russian vegetable side that offers the perfect way to utilize all the summer squash and zucchini that is so abundant at this point in the summer. I’ve been overwhelmed with the beauty and variety every time I’ve made it to the farmers market lately: regular zucchini, white or yellow zucchini, yellow summer squash, two-tone zephyr squash, pattypan, etc. etc. Most of the time, I like to slice them thin and simply sauté in olive oil with salt and pepper. But I also tend to buy way more squash than I need, since they’re all so pretty and I convince myself that I have to try every kind, and this ‘caviar’ is the perfect recipe for those situations.
To us, the flavor of summer squash caviar is extremely nostalgic. Growing up in the Soviet Union and Russia, it was a spread that you could without fail expect to find jarred at the store, and you could always count on the flavor to be consistently delicious. Some people made it at home, and the home recipes usually vary a bit from family to family. Generally, it involves slowly stewing summer squash/zucchini, tomatoes, onions, carrot, and garlic in a pan, until all the vegetables melt together, caramelize, and develop an amazing savoriness and depth of flavor. The result is delicious warm, but even better cold. It’s mostly enjoyed spread on top of bread (or sometimes bread gets dipped in it), since something magical happens when the juices of the caramelized vegetables get sopped up by a piece of bread.
Most modern recipes for summer squash caviar involve a blender, but we’ve found that it’s not really needed here. Once the vegetables stew for a while, they’re soft enough to gently mash with a potato masher. And even though the store-bought summer squash caviar of our childhoods was quite smooth, we really enjoy leaving the homemade version slightly chunky. This makes the whole recipe a one-pan affair, which is always a bonus. We hope you’ll give it a go!
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion - chopped
- 1 medium carrot - peeled and grated
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2.2 lbs (about 3 large) summer squash and/or zucchini - finely cubed
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar or other sugar of choice
- Place the tomatoes in a medium pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, this will make it easy to remove their skins. Remove the tomatoes from the pot, let cool a little, peel off the skins and discard. Slice the tomatoes in half, scoop out all of the seeds and discard them. Finely cube the tomatoes.
- Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and sauté for 7-10 minutes, until soft. Mix in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Turn the heat down to a medium low, cover the pan, and let the vegetables stew slowly for 10 minutes, stirring periodically.
- Mix in the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, cover, and let stew for another 10 minutes. Add the summer squash/zucchini and another pinch of salt, cover, and let stew for 30 minutes, mixing periodically. The squash should release enough water, but if the pan gets too dry, add a small splash of water to get things going.
- Mash the vegetables with a potato masher right in the pan, until mostly smooth with some chunks throughout. Mix in the sugar. Cover and let stew for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium, and let any remaining water cook off, stirring periodically. This should take 10-20 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Let cool, transfer the caviar to an air-tight container and keep refrigerated.