Summer squash stirfry with blueberries and avocado

An overhead shot of a bowl of colorful summer squash saute; the saute sits in the lower left, with a mound of rice in the upper right

My mom is a great believer in the ‘colorful plate’ theory of nutrition. So is her mother. So, if you search around for just a bit on the internet, are a whole lot of popular science/nutrition magazine writers and bloggers: it’s a popular way of thinking about good food. The basic idea, if you’ve never run into it, is that you should try to have a lot of different colors on your plate if you want to eat healthy. Not only does this ensure that you’re having a lot of fruits and vegetables (since proteins and starches tend to be on the brown side of things), but it also works as a halfway decent approximation of diverse nutrients: carotenes from the oranges, anthocyanins from the deep reds and purples, etc.

Will the ‘colorful plate’ theory ever pass muster to a nutritionist, a registered dietitian, or any professional of that nature? Probably not. But who cares? It has another, less-sung benefit: it’s delicious. All the different flavors of the variety of fruits and vegetables, coming together on the plate: it’s grand. And so when I saw two gorgeous bright yellow squashes patiently waiting on my counter, I immediately took a page from my mother’s book and went through the kitchen with a rainbow as a checklist.

Ingredients laid out prettily on a cutting board: cut and uncut squash combine with ramekins of tomatoes, blueberries, and scallion slices to form a border around an angled pile of scallion greens and two halves of an avocado

I hesitated about posting this, because it’s a bit out of the norm. I usually test recipes at least once before putting them up, and I try to make sure the ingredient measures, etc., are all just right. This is a different sort of recipe, though: it’s almost more of a proof of concept, and I think it embodies the spirit of Optional Kitchen: a recipe’s just a place to start. So while I do promise you that if you use the exact ingredients and amounts below, it’ll taste great, I also encourage you to play around and eat a bowlful of rainbows. [A certain candy’s slogan would have been perfect here, but alas: copyright law.]

A bowl of colorful summer squash saute sits in the foreground, on top of a striped blue tablecloth. In the background, blurry, we see a decorative red bowl, and further off a rack of houseplants by a window.

Colorful summer squash saute

  • Servings: 2-4
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Summer has started in earnest in central Ohio, which means we’re awash in fresh fruits and vegetables. What better way to celebrate than by raiding the kitchen with a rainbow as a checklist? A skilletful of differently colored fruits and veggies comes together in minutes, and it’s like summer in your mouth, with gorgeous early season squash as the star.

A note on servings: When I threw this together, I thought there was no way in the world it was possibly 4 servings. Then I served it to my husband and a friend of ours, and there was still some left in the pan. So… if you’ll happily eat large amounts of fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables (like me), this is 2 servings. But if you eat very moderately and/or serve this with other dishes, this could certainly stretch to 4 servings (even though I still say you’re crazy not to chow down on some tasty health).


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium summer squash (about 1 1/2 lbs. total), cut into largish cubes (a little more than 1 inch)
3 scallions or spring onions, light parts thinly sliced and greens cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup blueberries
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved (a dozen or so)
1 avocado, cubed
1-2 tsp soy sauce (to taste)

Rice to serve, if you like


Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over high heat, until it is just barely smoking. Add the squash cubes and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until they have softened slightly and taken on a bit of brown at the edges.

Add the garlic and the light and dark portions of the scallions and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and blueberries and stir-fry 1 minute more.

Remove from heat and stir in the avocado and soy sauce. Serve over rice, if you like. (I like.)


Let’s be honest: this is really almost more of a concept than a proper recipe; it’s one big option. As long as you have something oniony/garlicky in there, something that has a bit of sweetness, and a little bit of something salty to round it out, it’s hard to go wrong. Raid your fridge, your garden, or your local market for all sorts of colorful things, and enjoy.


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