Food & Drink

Summer Squash the Greyfield Inn Way

Chef Jada Veljkov’s “one-sided” approach coaxes maximum flavor from garden-fresh veggies

Photo: courtesy of the greyfield inn

During the last days of winter and the first days of freedom from quarantine, my wife and I ventured to the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, Georgia, lured by the promise of sunshine, good food from its organic garden, and a psychic reboot. 

photo: Peter Frank Edwards
The Greyfield Inn.

We were sorry to have missed the tenure of chef Whitney Otawka, who recently decamped to Savannah to develop two restaurants for the Thompson Hotel. But we could tell from our first dinner there that the Greyfield’s new chef, Jada Veljkov, the former chef de cuisine at the landmark Athens, Georgia, restaurant Five & Ten, had a distinctive (and pretty wonderful) point of view. Her dishes were layered with flavor but not complicated. She just knew how to coax real character from the ingredients—particularly the vegetables. 

For me, one plate especially stood out during our trip: slices of maple-glazed butternut squash, which she served with mild curried yogurt and benne granola. It was smart and thoughtfully seasoned, but what made the dish extraordinary was the way she cooked the squash on only one side, so each bite went from deep caramel to just barely past raw. She didn’t so much balance the flavor of the squash as excavate it and then find it some good company. It reminded me a bit of the technique for cooking salmon fillets à l’unilatérale that used to be popular in restaurants, and it worked just as well on the romanesco and broccoli florets she served the next night. 

photo: Courtesy of the Greyfield Inn
Chef Jada Veljkov.

After getting home, I finagled a phone call with Veljkov to talk more about her one-sided approach. “You know that old saying: Color is flavor,” she explains. “You get to keep that freshly picked vegetable flavor on one side. On the flip side, literally, you get that deep flavor you can only get from caramelization.” She uses nothing fancier than a cast-iron skillet to achieve this result, and her main ingredient is time. “I tell cooks to sear it until it makes you uncomfortable,” she says, laughing. 

Currently she’s been using the technique for summer squash, pairing it with a sweet-and-sour pepper agrodolce and a tart salsa verde that gets its edge from green tomato juice. “It’s the only way I’m eating squash these days,” she says. 

I may join her. Veljkov’s recipe is just what my summer garden needs as it hits peak zucchini overload and green tomatoes are heavy on the vine, with more than a few split and misshapen ones that need culling. 


  • Summer Squash with Sweet Pepper Agrodolce and Green Tomato Salsa Verde (Serves 4)

    • 1 large or 2 medium green tomatoes, chopped, about 1 cup

    • ½ cup finely chopped parsley

    • ½ Calabrian chili, deseeded and finely chopped (or ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes)

    • 1 tbsp. finely chopped shallot

    • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus 1 tsp. lemon zest

    • 1 anchovy, finely chopped

    • ¼ cup olive oil

    • Salt

    • 2 to 3 tbsp. vegetable oil

    • 5 small zephyr summer squash (or baby green and yellow zucchini), cut into ½-inch-thick rounds

    • ¼ cup agrodolce (recipe follows)

  • Agrodolce

    • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly julienned

    • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly julienned

    • 1 shallot, cut into thin rings

    • 2 cups white balsamic vinegar (red wine vinegar will work well too)

    • 1 ½ cups sugar


  1. Prepare the salsa verde: Process green tomato in a blender and strain into a bowl, discarding the solids. Combine reserved juice in bowl with parsley, chili, shallot, lemon juice and zest, anchovy, olive oil, and salt. Adjust flavor with more lemon or salt as needed. Set aside.

  2. For the squash: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Once oil is hot, place squash in the pan in a single layer, making sure one whole side is making contact with the pan. Generously salt the squash in the pan. Sear one side until very caramelized and starting to get tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add agrodolce peppers and syrup to pan and cook on high, stirring often, until agrodolce has thickened, caramelized, and is coating squash. To serve: Remove from pan and place on top of a bed of the salsa verde. Garnish with additional peppers. 

  3. For the agrodolce: Bring all ingredients to a simmer in a small sauce pot. Cook on medium low for 8 to 10 minutes or until reduced and beginning to thicken. This will make enough for multiple servings. Store in a jar in the refrigerator.